Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when the rising generation understands the importance of learning and teaching in a family setting. We can assist this understanding by preparing them to share with their families the eternal truths about the importance of marriage and family in Heavenly Father’s plan. One of the ways they can prepare is by learning more about their own families through family history.
Since the time of Adam, the Lord and His prophets have emphasized the importance of keeping records, particularly the history of our families. One of the records we should keep is a personal journal. A personal journal is part of our family history and brings blessings to individuals and families. When we write in our personal journals, we have the opportunity to reflect on our lives and recognize the hand of the Lord in them. Our journals should include a record of the Lord’s many blessings and tender mercies in our lives. They can also be a source of inspiration and strength to our posterity.
The scriptures include many examples of why we should keep personal journals. Moses spoke with the Lord face to face and saw in vision the time of Adam. He later recorded, “And a book of remembrance was kept, in the which was recorded, in the language of Adam, for it was given unto as many as called upon God to write by the spirit of inspiration;
“And by them their children were taught to read and write, having a language which was pure and undefiled….
“And death hath come upon our fathers; nevertheless we know them, and cannot deny, and even the first of all we know, even Adam.
“For a book of remembrance we have written among us, according to the pattern given by the finger of God; and it is given in our own language” (Pearl of Great Price, Moses 6:5-6, 45-46).
As he began his record, Nephi explained why he was keeping a journal and testified of its truthfulness: “I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father; and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God, therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days.
“Yea, I make a record in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians.
“And I know that the record which I make is true; and I make it with mine own hand; and I make it according to my knowledge” (Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, 1 Nephi 1:1-3).
As Alma prepared his son, Helaman, for leadership, he taught the importance of keeping records and included these reasons: “And now, it has hitherto been wisdom in God that these things should be preserved; for beyond, they have enlarged the memory of this people, yea, and convinced many of the error of their ways, and brought them to the knowledge of their God unto the salvation of their souls.
“Yea, I say unto you, were it not for these things that these records do contain, which are on these plates, Ammon and his brethren could not have convinced so many thousands of the Lamanites of the incorrect traditions of their fathers; yea, these records and their words brought them to repentance; that is, they brought them to the knowledge of the Lord their God, and to rejoice in Jesus Christ their Redeemer” (Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Alma 37:8-9).
From these three examples from the scriptures, we know some of the reasons why keeping journals is so important: (1) It is a commandment from God to write with the spirit of inspiration. (2) We leave a record of our lives, proof that we once existed. (3) Children can learn to read and write by keeping their own journals. (4) Writing our records is an excellent opportunity to remember the blessings that God has bestowed upon us and to show gratitude to God for them. (5) Our records can help us and other remember the things that have happened, convince us of the ways we can improve, and bring us to repentance.
Nephi taught the importance of keeping records as well as the information that we should include in our journals. “And it mattereth not to me that I am particular to give a full account of all the things of my father, for they cannot be written upon these plates, for I desire the room that I may write of the things of God.
“For the fulness of mine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved.
“Wherefore, the things which are pleasing unto the world I do not write, but the things which are pleasing unto God and unto those who are not of the world.
“Wherefore, I shall give commandment unto my seed, that they shall not occupy these plates with things which are not of worth unto the children of men” (Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, 1 Nephi 6:3-6).
Nephi kept two sets of records, one in which he wrote more of the day to day happenings and one in which he wrote of more spiritual experiences with just enough reference to the events of his days to help us understand. We have only one of his records and are fortunate that it includes more of the spiritual experiences. Several of our leaders today have suggested that we keep a record of our spiritual experiences. We should be sure to include our spiritual experiences in our journals.
When Jesus Christ visited the inhabitants of ancient America, He commanded a later prophet named Nephi to bring forth the records. He read through them and discovered that something important had not been included: “And now it came to pass that when Jesus had said these words he said unto them again, after he had expounded all the scriptures unto them which they had received, he said unto them: Behold, other scriptures I would that ye should write, that ye have not.
“And it came to pass that he said unto Nephi: Bring forth the record which ye have kept.
“And when Nephi had brought forth the records, and laid them before him, he cast his eyes upon them and said:
“Verily I say unto you, I commanded my servant Samuel, the Lamanite, that he should testify unto this people, that at the day that the Father should glorify his name in me that there were many saints who should arise from the dead, and should appear unto many, and should minister unto them. And he said unto them: Was it not so?
“And his disciples answered him and said: Yea, Lord, Samuel did prophesy according to thy words, and they were all fulfilled.
“And Jesus said unto them: How be it that ye have not written this thing, that many saints did arise and appear unto many and did minister unto them?
“And it came to pass that Nephi remembered that this thing had not been written.
“And it came to pass that Jesus commanded that it should be written; therefore it was written according as he commanded.
“And now it came to pass that when Jesus had expounded all the scriptures in one, which they had written, he commanded them that they should teach the things which he had expounded unto them” (Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, 3 Nephi 23:6-13).
President Spencer W. Kimball was a great record keeper and had many volumes of journals. He often counseled us to keep our own personal records. He reminded us of the blessings we have because Moses wrote his history of the world, the first five books of the Old Testament. “Where would we be if Moses hadn’t written his history ….? He had the background, the data, the record, and the inclination, and he has blessed us throughout the eternities for the service he rendered in writing the first five books of the Bible.”
President Kimball also reminded us that we should be grateful “that Abraham wrote his own life story and that important segment of the history of the world and his own revelations, thoughts, feelings, and rich experiences.” He also reminded us of the emphasis that Jesus Christ placed on the importance of record keeping when he visited the Nephites and Lamanites on the American continent.
Then President Kimball said, “I am glad that it was not I who was reprimanded, even though mildly and kindly, for not having fulfilled the obligation to keep my records up to date.”
After giving several other examples of people who kept records, President Kimball urged “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?
“A 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” (“Angels May Quote from It,” New Era, Feb. 2003).
A nephew of President Kimball is one of our current leaders and often counsels us about keeping personal records. President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently spoke about recording the tender mercies of God in our lives and the blessings that come from doing so. “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 or pay attention to when they happened” (“O Remember, Remember,” Ensign, November 2007).
President Eyring suggests that we record the ways that God has touched our lives or the lives of those we love. He suggests that we ask ourselves two questions while we ponder what to record in our journals: (1) Did God send a message just for me? (2) Did I see His hand in my life today?