We have been taught by the Lord and by His prophets to keep records. Since the time of Adam the Lord has emphasized the importance of keeping personal journals because it gives us an opportunity to reflect on our lives and recognize the many blessings God has given us. Our journals can also be a source of inspiration and strength to future generations of our families.
I know several women who are excellent journal keepers, and I try to follow in their footsteps even though we choose different methods of keeping journals. A dear friend named Dyanne keeps her personal record in a bound journal in order to put it in her own handwriting. She gains so much strength from reading the handwriting of her own mother that she wants to pass that strength down to her own posterity. I know that at least one of my daughters keeps a journal, and I know that she has done so since she was quite young. She has beautiful handwriting and writes in her journal at least once each week. I also have sisters who keep journals, one of which writes in her journal every day using her computer.
I wish I had kept a journal when I was in junior high school and high school. I did not even keep a “diary” of my feelings and experiences, and I have almost nothing to help me remember those years. I started keeping a journal when my children were very young and have used various means to do so. I have tried handwriting but could not write as fast as my thoughts came. I have typed many of the pages of my journal because I did it before the age of personal computers. Now I keep my journal on the computer and try to write something every day. I am getting to the age where I cannot remember what I did yesterday if I do not write it down! If I cannot actually write in my journal, I write a few notes to jog my memory.
The longer I keep a journal, the more I realize that I should be writing about more than simply what I did a certain day. I try to write something profound in my journal occasionally, but I have much to do in order to become a better journal keeper.
President Henry B. Eyring spoke about the importance of keeping journals and how to do it. “When our children were very small, I started to write down a few things about what happened every day. Let me tell you how that got started. I came home late from a Church assignment. It was after dark. My father-in-law, who lived near us, surprised me as I walked toward the front door of my house. He was carrying a load of pipes over his shoulder, walking very fast and dressed in his work clothes. I knew that he had been building a system to pump water from a stream below us up to our property.
“He smiled, spoke softly, and then rushed past me into the darkness to go on with his work. I took a few steps toward the house, thinking of what he was doing for us, and just as I got to the door, I heard in my mind – not in my own voice – these words: `I’m not giving you these experiences for yourself. Write them down.’
“I went inside. I didn’t go to bed. Although I was tired, I took out some paper and began to write. And as I did, I understood the message I had heard in my mind. I was supposed to record for my children to read, someday in the future, how I had seen the hand of God blessing our family. Grandpa didn’t have to do what he was doing for us. He could have had someone else do it or not have done it at all. But he was serving us, his family, in the way covenant disciples of Jesus Christ always do. I knew that was true. And so I wrote it down, so that my children could have the memory someday when they would need it.
“I wrote down a few lines every day for years. I never missed a day no matter how tired I was or how early I would have to start the next day. Before I would write, I would ponder this question: `Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?’ As I kept at it, something began to happen. As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day. As that happened, and it happened often, I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done.
“More than gratitude began to grow in my heart. Testimony grew. I became ever more certain that our Heavenly Father hears and answers prayers. I felt more gratitude for the softening and refining that come because of the Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ. And I grew more confident that the Holy Ghost can bring all things to our remembrance – even things we did not notice or pay attention to when they happened.
“The years have gone by. My boys are grown men. And now and then one of them will surprise me by saying, `Dad, I was reading in my copy of the journal about when …” and then he will tell me about how reading of what happened long ago helped him notice something God had done in his day.
“My point is to urge you to find ways to recognize and remember God’s kindness. It will build our testimonies. You may not keep a journal. You may not share whatever record you keep with those you love and serve. But you and they will be blessed as you remember what the Lord has done. You remember that song we sometimes sing: `Count your many blessings; name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.’” (“O Remember, Remember,” Ensign, November 2007, pp. 66-69).
President Spencer W. Kimball was another excellent journal keeper, and he spoke to the youth of the importance of keeping journals. “Again, how happy we are as we find our grandparents’ journals and follow them through their trials and joys and gain for our own lives much from the experiences and faith and courage of our ancestors.
“Accordingly, we urge our young people to begin today to write and keep records of all the important things in their own lives and also the lives of their antecedents in the event that their parents should fail to record all the important incidents in their own lives. Your own private journal should record the way you face up to challenges that beset you. Do not suppose life changes so much that your experiences will not be interesting to your posterity.
“Experiences of work, relations with people, and an awareness of the rightness and wrongness of actions will always be relevant….
“No one is commonplace, and I doubt if you can ever read a biography from which you cannot learn something from the difficulties overcome and the struggles made to succeed. These are the measuring rods for the progress of humanity.
“As we read the stories of great men, we discover that they did not become famous overnight nor were they born professionals or skilled craftsmen. The story of how they became what they are may be helpful to us all. Your own journal, like most others, will tell of problems as old as the world and how you dealt with them.
“Your journal should contain your true self rather than a picture of you when you are `made up’ for a public performance. There is a temptation to paint one’s virtues in rich color and whitewash the vices, but there is also the opposite pitfall of accentuating the negative. Personally I have little respect for anyone who delves into the ugly phases of the life he is portraying, whether it be his own or another’s. The truth should be told, but we should not emphasize the negative. Even a long life full of inspiring experiences can be brought to the dust by one ugly story. Why dwell on that one ugly truth about someone whose life has been largely circumspect?
“The good biographer will not depend on passion but on good sense. He will weed out the irrelevant and seek the strong, novel, and interesting….
“Your journal is your autobiography, so it should be kept carefully. You are unique, and there may be incidents in your experience that are more noble and praiseworthy in their way than those recorded in any other life. There may be a flash of illumination here and a story of faithfulness there; you should truthfully record your real self and not what other people may see in you.
“Your story should be written now while it is fresh and while the true details are available.
“A journal is the literature of superiority. Each individual can become superior in his own humble life.
“What could you do better for your children and your children’s children than to record the story of your life, your triumphs over adversity, your recovery after a fall, your progress when all seemed black, your rejoicing when you had finally achieved?
“Some of what you write may be humdrum dates and places, but there will also be rich passages that will be quoted by your posterity.
“Get a notebook, a journal that will last through all time, and maybe the angels may quote from it for eternity. Begin today and write in it your goings and comings, your deepest thoughts, your achievements and your failures, your associations and your triumphs, your impressions and your testimonies. Remember, the Savior chastised those who failed to record important events” (“The Angels May Quote from It,” New Era, February 2003, pp. 32-35).
My father read in Revelation 20:12, “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.” When he understood this scripture, he decided to be pro-active and write some of those books from which he would be judged!
Someone once said that a journal is proof that we existed. Remember the book entitled The Diary of Anne Frank. Would we know anything about Anne Frank and her family if she had not kept a record? The answer is no – or at least not as much.
I had a friend named Candy whose son was in an automobile accident, and she wrote about the incidence in her journal. When the case went to court, a copy of her journal entry became part of the court’s record!
I know the importance of journal keeping, and I know the importance of keeping good records. I continue to improve my journal-keeping skills, and I encourage you to “get a notebook” and start keeping a record of your life. “Maybe the angels may quote from it for eternity.”