Top 10 Reasons for Journal Keeping

I can’t find my journal. *Poof!* Just like that, I am unable to find part of my life. (And I was pretty pleased with some of the things that I had recorded, too!)

So in the interim, while I decide to keep looking, or to just forget it and find a new one, I’ve decided to compile a list of reasons why journals are so fantastic!

1. “Angels may quote from it”

In a talk by President Spencer W. Kimball, (Ensign, October 1975) he stated, Get a notebook, my young folks, a journal that will last through all time, and maybe the angels may quote from it for eternity.  That was an idea that really struck me when I was a young girl.  The entire talk is worth a read. Here is another thought from that talk that I love –

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.

2. “O Remember, Remember”

In a talk by President Henry B. Eyring, General Conference, October 2007, he discussed the fact that one of the problems with mankind is that they continually forget the Lord and the wonderful things that He has done for them.  He stated that one way to remember is to write down the experiences that you have daily.  President Eyring talked about a time when he had a spiritual impression to write down an experience that he and his family had just had. He stated:

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. 

3. Shows where you’ve been

Going back to old journals gives you a memory of where you have been and helps others to relate.  One day, (not so very distant from today) my girls will go through junior high.  They will have heartbreaks and crushes and silliness.  When they open my journal, they will see that I did too, and though I thought that my heart would break from unrequited love from that skater guy – Brent, something-or-other, I survived, things got better.  And hey, at the end of it all, I really did have a vibrant testimony then. 🙂

4. Can give revelation for the future

Years ago, when I was doing poorly in college, I got a blessing.  It told me to start focusing on my calling in life which would be to be a teacher of the Youth of Zion and even of the World. Twice it referenced this in my journal.  Typically, I record impressions from blessings, and I like to go back later and review the blessings and see how they came to pass.  In this case however, I thought, “well my poor Dad, he probably just got the revelation wrong” because, you see, I was going to be an Elementary School teacher.  So I wrote, “You are called to be a teacher of the Children of the World” two times.

After a day or so, I got a very strong impression from the Spirit.  It stated, “I didn’t say that.  You go back and write down what I said.”  “Okay,” I thought as I whited-out the words and wrote the words from the blessing over the top, “I don’t know how you’re going to do that, but whatever…”.  About seven years later, I pulled out the journal and showed my seminary students the whited-out words, and testified about the sacred priesthood power of Father’s blessings.

5. A place to record your spiritual learning

Nephi kept the small plates, they were a record of his learning.  He taught us about going and doing, about promised land, the tree of life, the covenants of the House of Israel, and the great words of Isaiah. And that’s just part of 1st Nephi!

Nephi desired to learn and know what his father and the prophets knew.  He recorded his testimony and his learning to teach others to come unto Christ.  Nephi teaches us that we can learn all of those things too.

For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round (1 Nephi10:19).

What better place is there to write down the things of God, that the Spirit teaches us, than in our journals?

6. Place for special events

Isn’t  it sad that we don’t have the actual date of the First Vision.  All we have is Spring 1820.  I have to wonder if the date just wasn’t recorded.  We have the approximate time and the year, so maybe it doesn’t matter, but the principle that I’m getting at is the importance of writing things down –  thoughts, ideas, impressions, and details.  How precious are the experiences of mortal life, especially the sacred or special ones?  I wrote down impressions about my daughters right before they were born.  Those thoughts take me back to the pregnancies and how wonderful those experiences were.

7. The scriptures are journals – God’s dealings with man

Nothing less.  What a blessing to see how the Lord works through men, women, and children.

Remember the scripture – And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them! (Numbers 11: 29).

And another scripture on this topic that I love – And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit (Joel 2:28-29).

We have been promised that revelation will come, line upon line, and that all we need to do is ask and seek.  Remember –  knock and it shall be opened unto you?  So just as the scriptures are a record of God’s dealings with man, your journal can be a record of God’s dealings with you.

8.  A place to work out your thoughts and feelings

Knowing that my journals could be read by others, I’ve tried to keep them uplifting, however here is no better place to work out struggles and deep inner thoughts and frustrations than in a journal.   Look at Nephi’s Psalm –

 Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities (2 Nephi 4: 17, see also 16-35).

It’s amazing to look through your life to see patterns, and cycles, and personal growth.

9. Snapshot in time

When I was very young, sometimes, my mom would sit us down on Sundays and have us draw pictures and write down what we were thinking or feeling.  It is so precious to me to look at those few pages.  On one page, I talked about my mean brother Karl-Heine and how he flipped rubber bands at me and wouldn’t let me watch my favourite Mr. Roger’s programme (my mother is British).  I loved that she wrote exactly what I said and I resolved to do the same things for my children.

I have large notebooks that serve as scrapbooks and journals.  I’ve written about them (what they were like as babies) and what they’ve said.  I’ve included pictures (I took a picture of them each month during their first year of life so that we could see how they’ve grown), their artwork, blessings, impressions, etc.  They LOVE to look through the books, and I know it will be something even more special for them as they get older.

10. Writing teaches you more

In several talks in the past few years, Elder Richard G. Scott has discussed the important process of recording our spiritual impressions, and that when we do, more information will come to us.

Here is a quote from a devotional talk given at BYU Campus Education Week on 1 August 2007  – 

Write down in a secure place the important things you learn from the Spirit. You will find that as you record a precious impression, often others will come that you would not have otherwise received. Also, the spiritual knowledge you gain will be available throughout your life. Always, day or night, wherever you are, whatever you are doing, seek to recognize and respond to the direction of the Spirit. Have available a piece of paper or a card to record such guidance.

And from a talk in General Conference, Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge, October 1993

Knowledge carefully recorded is knowledge available in time of need. Spiritually sensitive information should be kept in a sacred place that communicates to the Lord how you treasure it. That practice enhances the likelihood of your receiving further light.

I know that recording Spiritual impressions strengthens and deepens our love of God and our testimony of Him.  I know that He will teach and guide, through the Holy Spirit, anyone that truly seeks Him and that one of the best places to go for more knowledge about Him is through the scriptures, the living prophets,  and those who live their lives to be in tune with His ways.

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Daily Communion

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I had about thirty minutes of glorious alone time yesterday morning before class. My plan was to take a much needed nap (up late, up early is the life of a Mom).

But I couldn’t sleep. I felt like I needed some Communion time. I feel so blessed by modern technology. I was able to use my phone (see the picture above) and open up these free apps from the church.

In thirty minutes, I felt blessed, recommitted, loved, and inspired.

Thirty minutes to feel filled.

How wonderful Heavenly Father is to give us the tools we need.

Grace: The price has been paid, the opportunity has been opened.

I had a wonderful Sunday School lesson today.  At the beginning, the teacher decided to stray from the lesson momentarily and share an excerpt from a talk that he had come across.  I am so thankful that he did.  It was worth the trip to Colorado to learn (of course road trips and visiting with family and friends is fantastic as well).  I think that acquiring gospel knowledge is like putting together a gigantic puzzle.  There are parts that you are working on, and then you get that one piece that illuminates the area that you had been focused on.  Today, I got one of those pieces.

It was from a talk by Brad Wilcox, BYU Professor and Sunday School General Board member, given at a BYU Devotional, 12 July 2011.  The  talk is entitled,  His Grace Is Sufficient and the full transcript can be found here.

He began by discussing a conversation that he had with a female student about grace.  I quote from the talk here (excerpts of the talk will be in italics) –

Christ’s Grace Is Sufficient to Cover Us

She said, “I know I need to do my best and then Jesus does the rest, but I can’t even do my best.”

She then went on to tell me all the things she should be doing because she’s a Mormon that she wasn’t doing.

She continued, “I know that I have to do my part and then Jesus makes up the difference and fills the gap that stands between my part and perfection. But who fills the gap that stands between where I am now and my part?”

He went on to draw on a paper two dots – one that represented God, and the other her, and asked if she would draw a line to God that represented how much was her part.  She drew a line just over her dot to which he answered, “Wrong.”   He said the following:

“The truth is, there is no line. Jesus filled the whole space. He paid our debt in full. He didn’t pay it all except for a
few coins. He paid it all. It is finished.”

She said, “Right! Like I don’t have to do anything?”

“Oh no,” I said, “you have plenty to do, but it is not to fill that gap. We will all be resurrected. We will all go back to God’s presence. What is left to be determined by our obedience is what kind of body we plan on being resurrected with and how comfortable we plan to be in God’s presence and how long we
plan to stay there.”

Christ asks us to show faith in Him, repent, make and keep covenants, receive the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end. By complying, we are not paying the demands of justice—not even the smallest part. Instead, we are showing appreciation for what Jesus Christ did by using it to live a life like His. Justice requires immediate perfection or a punishment when we fall short. Because Jesus took that punishment, He can offer us the chance for ultimate perfection (see Matthew 5:48, 3 Nephi 12:48) and help us reach that goal. He can forgive what justice never could, and He can turn to us now with His own set of requirements (see 3 Nephi 28:35).

“So what’s the difference?” the girl asked. “Whether our efforts are required by justice or by Jesus, they are still required.”

“True,” I said, “but they are required for a different purpose. Fulfilling Christ’s requirements is like paying a mortgage instead of rent or like making deposits in a savings account instead of paying off debt. You still have to hand it over every month, but it is for a totally different reason.”

Then he went on to provide a fantastic analogy, one that really resonated with me –

Christ’s Grace Is Sufficient to Transform Us

Christ’s arrangement with us is similar to a mom providing music lessons for her child. Mom pays the piano teacher. … Because Mom pays the debt in full, she can turn to her child and ask for something. What is it? Practice! Does the child’s practice pay the piano teacher? No. Does the child’s practice repay Mom for paying the piano teacher? No. Practicing is how the child shows appreciation for Mom’s incredible gift. It is how he takes advantage of the amazing opportunity Mom is giving him to live his life at a higher level. Mom’s joy is found not in getting repaid but in seeing her gift used—seeing her child improve. And so she continues to call for practice, practice, practice.

If the child sees Mom’s requirement of practice as being too overbearing (“Gosh, Mom, why do I need to practice? None of the other kids have to practice! I’m just going to be a professional baseball player anyway!”), perhaps it is because he doesn’t yet see with mom’s eyes. He doesn’t see how much better his life could be if he would choose to live on a higher plane.

In the same way, because Jesus has paid justice, He can now turn to us and say, “Follow me” (Matthew 4:19), “Keep my commandments” (John 14:15). If we see His requirements as being way too much to ask (“Gosh! None of the other Christians have to pay tithing! None of the other Christians have to go on missions, serve in callings, and do temple work!”), maybe it is because we do not yet see through Christ’s eyes. We have not yet comprehended what He is trying to make of us.

Elder Bruce C. Hafen has written, “The great Mediator asks for our repentance not because we must ‘repay’ him in exchange forhis paying our debt to justice, but because repentance initiates a developmental process that, with the Savior’s help, leads us along the path to a saintly character” (The Broken Heart [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1989], 149; emphasis in original).

Elder Dallin H. Oaks has said, referring to President Spencer W. Kimball’s explanation, “The repenting sinner must suffer for his sins, but this suffering has a different purpose than punishment or payment. Its purpose is change” (The Lord’s Way [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1991], 223; emphasis in original). Let’s put that in terms of our analogy: The child must practice the piano, but this practice has a different purpose than punishment or payment. Its purpose is change.

I have born-again Christian friends who say to me, “You Mormons are trying to earn your way to heaven.”

I say, “No, we are not earning heaven. We are learning heaven. We are preparing for it (see D&C 78:7). We are practicing for it.”

They ask me, “Have you been saved by grace?”

I answer, “Yes. Absolutely, totally, completely, thankfully—yes!”

Then I ask them a question that perhaps they have not fully considered: “Have you been changed by grace?” They are so excited about being saved that maybe they are not thinking enough about what comes next. They are so happy the debt is paid that they may not have considered why the debt existed in the first place. Latter-day Saints know not only what Jesus has saved us from but also what He has saved us for. As my friend Brett Sanders puts it, “A life impacted by grace eventually begins to look like Christ’s life.” As my friend Omar Canals puts it, “While many Christians view Christ’s suffering as only a huge favor He did for us, Latter-day Saints also recognize it as a huge investment He made in us.” As Moroni puts it, grace isn’t just about being saved. It is also about becoming like the Savior (see Moroni 7:48).

The miracle of the Atonement is not just that we can live after we die but that we can live more abundantly (see John 10:10). The miracle of the Atonement is not just that we can be cleansed and consoled but that we can be transformed (see Romans 8). Scriptures make it clear that no unclean thing can dwell with God (see Alma 40:26), but, brothers and sisters, no unchanged thing will even want to. …

The miracle of the Atonement is not just that we can go home but that—miraculously—we can feel at home there. If Christ did not require faith and repentance, then there would be no desire to change. Think of your friends and family members who have chosen to live without faith and without repentance. They don’t want to change. They are not trying to abandon sin and become comfortable with God. Rather, they are trying to abandon God and become comfortable with sin. If Jesus did not require covenants and bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost, then there would be no way to change. We would be left forever with only willpower, with no access to His power. If Jesus did not require endurance to the end, then there would be no internalization of those changes over time. They would forever be surface and cosmetic rather than sinking inside us and becoming part of us — part of who we are. Put simply, if Jesus didn’t require practice, then we would never become pianists.

Think about the difference between a person who has just started practicing the piano, and someone who has been playing for years.  What’s the difference?  Practice.  What’s the difference between someone who has just started to learn a language and someone who has been speaking it for years?  Practice.  But remember that the more effort you put into the task, the better you will become.  Can you imagine what a lifetime of someone trying to put the teachings of Jesus into practice would be like?  Brother Wilcox then began a section that I think is so important to understand because we all live in the world.  The world (as Elder Neal A. Maxwell put it) is a laboratory for learning to be Christlike.  And it can be a very harsh lab, very real, and very difficult –

Christ’s Grace Is Sufficient to Help Us

“But Brother Wilcox, don’t you realize how hard it is to practice?  I’m just not very good at the piano. I hit a lot of wrong notes. It takes me forever to get it right.” Now wait. Isn’t that all part of the learning process? When a young pianist hits a wrong note, we don’t say he is not worthy to keep practicing. We don’t expect him to be flawless. We just expect him to keep trying. Perfection may be his ultimate goal, but for now we can be content with progress in the right direction. Why is this perspective so easy to see in the context of learning piano but so hard to see in the context of learning heaven?

Too many are giving up on the Church because they are tired of constantly feeling like they are falling short. They have tried in the past, but they always feel like they are just not good enough. They don’t understand grace.

There are young women who know they are daughters of a Heavenly Father who loves them, and they love Him. Then they <graduate from high school, and the values they memorized are put to the test. They slip up. They let things go too far, and suddenly they think it is all over. These young women don’t understand grace.

There are young men who grow up their whole lives singing, “I hope they call me on a mission,” and then they do actually grow a foot or two and flake out completely. They get their Eagles, graduate from high school, and go away to college. Then suddenly these young men find out how easy it is to not be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, or reverent. They mess up. They say, “I’ll never do it again,” and then they do it. They say, “I’ll never do it again,” and then they do it. They say, “This is stupid. I will never do it again.” And then they do it. The guilt is almost unbearable. They don’t dare talk to a bishop. Instead, they hide. They say, “I can’t do this Mormon thing. I’ve tried, and the expectations are just way too high.” So they quit. These young men don’t understand grace.

I know returned missionaries who come home and slip back into bad habits they thought were over. They break promises made before God, angels, and witnesses, and they are convinced there is no hope for them now. They say, “Well, I’ve blown it. There is no use in even trying any more.” Seriously? These young people have spent entire missions teaching people about Jesus Christ and His Atonement, and now they think there is no hope for them? These returned missionaries don’t understand grace.

I know young married couples who find out after the sealing ceremony is over that marriage requires adjustments. The pressures of life mount, and stress starts taking its toll financially, spiritually, and even sexually. Mistakes are made. Walls go up. And pretty soon these husbands and wives are talking with divorce lawyers rather than talking with each other. These couples don’t understand grace.

In all of these cases there should never be just two options: perfection or giving up. When learning the piano, are the only options performing at Carnegie Hall or quitting? No. Growth and development take time. Learning takes time. When we understand grace, we understand that God is long-suffering, that change is a process, and that repentance is a pattern in our lives. When we understand grace, we understand that the blessings of Christ’s Atonement are continuous and His strength is perfect in our weakness (see 2 Corinthians 12:9). When we understand grace, we can, as it says in the Doctrine and Covenants, “continue in patience until [we] are perfected” (D&C 67:13). …

As dark as our trials, sins, and mistakes may appear, we can always have confidence in the grace of Jesus
Christ. Do we earn a sunrise? No. Do we have to be worthy of a chance to begin again? No. We just have to accept these blessings and take advantage of them. As sure as each brand-new day, grace—the enabling power of Jesus Christ—is constant. … The task ahead of [us is] never as great as the power behind [us].

Now, doesn’t that make you fell more confident in your ability to become something great with the opportunity that has been so greatly given.  It does for me.

Gifts – Both Good and Evil

Gifts - Good and Evil

I’ve always been fascinated by the scripture that states, “touch not the evil gift” ( Moroni 10:30). It seems to imply that the Devil gives gifts, just as the Lord does.

We know that the Lord gives gifts, both physical and spiritual, in fact, we are told to “covet earnestly the best gifts” (1 Corinthians 12:31) and to “lay hold upon every good gift” ( Moroni 10:30).  There are many, many scriptures that touch on the Gifts of the Spirit, their importance in our work here on the earth, and the ability that is ours to reach out to Father in Heaven and literally ask for the gifts that we stand in need of.

George Q Cannon (First Counselor in the First Presidency from 1880 -1901) stated this about Spiritual gifts, and  it is exquisite –

If any of us are imperfect, it is our duty to pray for the gift that will make us perfect.  Have I imperfections?  I am full of them.  What is my duty? To pray to God to give me the gifts that will correct these imperfections … They are intended for this purpose.  No man ought to say, “Oh, I cannot help this; it is my nature.”  He is not justified in it, for [that reason] God has promised to give strength to correct these things and to give gifts that will eradicate them … (Nov. 26, 1893, Deseret Weekly 48:34-5).

The Lord has said in a revelation to the Church that the Saints should “seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given; for verily I say unto you, they are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments” (Doctrine and Covenants 46:8-9).  How many Latter-day Saints are there who supplicate the Lord for the gifts that they need?  …

Every defect in the human character can be corrected through the exercise of faith and pleading with the Lord for the gifts that He has said He will give unto those who believe and obey His commandments (Oct. 1, 1896, Juvenile Instructor 31:572).

I’ve pondered these thoughts for a while, but recently had an experience which made all the ideas come together in a new and interesting way for me.  I can be such a lazy woman at times.  It’s terrible!  Ugh, to admit it to you makes me shudder, but there it is.  So, I’ve been asking in prayer to stop being lazy.  But the laziness continued…

Then it occurred to me that instead of asking for something to be taken away, I should ask for a gift that would replace the bad habit.  What’s the opposite of laziness?  I began to ask for the gift of industry.  It was amazing to see my focus shift, my will strengthen, and my desire and ability to do the mountain of tasks ahead of me, increase.

I began to think of the scripture (mentioned above), “touch not the evil gift.” Laziness, apathy, hatred, insecurity, sloth, etc.  all are gifts that Satan is more than willing to give us.  God, on the other hand, doesn’t even deal with those attributes – not even to take them away, as was my foolish prayer.  He focuses on “the fruit of the Spirit … love, joy, peace, longsufferring, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance”  etc. (see Galatians 5:16 -23).

He’s told us to ask for “whatsoever thing [we] are in need of,” (there are too many references to this one – just look up the word “ask” in the scriptures and see how many times the Lord has asked us to ask, I make it 405 – give or take).

Our future, our ability, our capacity, our abundance is truly in our own hands as we decide which gifts we will accept and which we will ask for.