Journal keeping is a sill that all prospective missionaries could or should develop in preparation for a mission. And a journal as a missionary is a special blessing – both now and forever after. Journals can bless ourselves and all of our family members – and maybe others too.
I began keeping a journal on May 20, 1973 – when I was age 18. On that Sunday morning, I was in a young adult Sunday school class taught by a former Bishop, J. Darwin Gunnell. On that occasion, he taught us from the words of the current prophet – President Spencer W. Kimball.
The Lord Jesus Christ himself emphasized the great importance of record keeping to the Nephites and Lamanites. “And Jesus said unto them: How be it that ye have not written this thing.”
“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.
“Early in the American life of the family of Lehi, his son, Nephi, said:
“Having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God, therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days. …
“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.” (1 Ne. 1:1, 3.)
“This great record included not only the movements of his people but events from his own personal life.
“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. The truth should be told, but we should not emphasize the negative. 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.”
And then here was the clincher … the challenge from a prophet (and just as good today as it was back then):
“Get a notebook, my young folks, 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.
So, my friends, I took the challenge from my former Bishop and from the Prophet. I went home that day and found a little notebook and began writing. Later I began purchasing nicer journal volumes. And the truth is that from that day forward – from May 20, 1973, I have literally made a DAILY entry in my journal for EVERY day since that time. That now equates to over 150 volumes and 30,000 plus pages on my life and those I love or whom I come in contact with.
My first 100 volumes were hand written and I loved handwriting in the journals. It was fabulous. Then I started doing weekly packages on the computer. (And when I get another 200 pages, I print these and put them into a bound volume.) Now I admit that I have not made the final journal entry for every day of my life. I now write daily notes at the end of the day – on my characteristic 3×5” index cards. And then when I get time, I type these up into the full entries (and the notes give me the detail to do so). This system has worked real well for me. (When I had missionaries out, I typed the full week’s entry package in time to e-mail to them on their P-Day.)
These journals have been a great blessing to me and to our family. We are very frequently found researching past volumes and it is amazing and wonderful to read these entries. There has been much that is mundane that has been recorded but in the process of daily entries, there is much that is fabulous. The journals show my progress made in life, how the Lord has guided my life and the great blessings given us of the Lord. And this has been magnificent!
A suggestion for any missionary: … Keep a detailed journal of your experiences. Then on your weekly P-day, use your camera or a scanner and take pictures of each journal page. You can actually do this the night before the P-Day. You can then send this home as your weekly letter. (And this will save you time at the computer on your actual P-Day.) Several of my children did this while on their missions and it worked wonderfully. (And as Dad, I typed up the entries and sent them out in e-mail messages to a large list of their friends – both family, members and friends (including as many non-members as possible.) I highly recommend this system to you.
Some suggestions for your journal writing:
- Decide TODAY to write and to do it each day
- Develop a set time each day to write and do this religiously – this could be at lunch time, study time, just before dinner, at the end of the day, etc. The key is to be VERY CONSISTENT!
- Write even when you feel too tired to do so
- Carry the journal with you everywhere and write whenever you have a few spare minutes (especially as you’re waiting for something or someone)
- Don’t read past entries until six months or a year has passed … then the trauma will be over and you can see it all in perspective and can recognize the growth, progress, and blessings that have come in that time
- Keep consistent in the type of books or files that you keep – so that you can keep them together and can research them easily
- Develop a plan for archiving the records – and giving copies to key people or organizations (children, BYU, Church History Library or whatever)
Well, there you have it! There is your challenge! I hope you will take up the journaling challenge (at whatever your age) and that you will find great joy and happiness through the years as you and your posterity reap the blessings of such an effort.