This evening I was invited to speak to a group of young women at a girls camp at Mutual Dell in American Fork Canyon. They asked me to talk about Journal Writing and why it’s important. That’s a topic I love! My notes are below.
Pleasant Grove North Field 2nd Ward Girls Camp at Maple Dell 4 June 2019
I’m here today to talk to you about Journal Writing!
[get to know them a bit, ask about their journals?
Who’s behind? Who’d caught up, etc.]
I’ve thought a lot about the prophet Malachi, the last prophet in the OT, who’s prophecies show up in every single one of our standard works in Epic Moments:
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest the whole earth be smitten with a curse (Malachi 4:5-6) (or utterly wasted at his coming D&C 138:48).
These words have been repeated in every dispensation of time, to every people. They were some of Moroni’s first words to Joseph Smith.
I used to think being Utterly Wasted meant that at the end of the world, we’d see nuclear fallout with peoples eyes falling out of their sockets and flesh falling from their bones.
Now I think it means something very different.
A wonderful storyteller name Donald Davis said,
“We are what we remember.
If we don’t remember something, it’s as if it never happened.”
When we write in our journals or record our stories, we are literally Saving Lives–the lives of those who live in those stories.
When the memory is gone, it’s as if those events never happened, or those people never lived.
It’s like our lives or theirs are utterly wasted.
If I try hard my whole life and I learn things, and make mistakes and repent and try again and learn more things, and then I die, leaving no record, my life is of no worth to those who come after I die, because they will not know me or know what I learned. My life will be wasted to those who come after me.
We must save our lives, and the lives of those who have gone before us.
Sid Lieberman, another famous storyteller said, “Everyone has a right to exist.”
People exist in stories and in journals and in photos.
Who can tell me one thing you know about one of your ancestors?
How or where did you learn these things about them?
Ancestors who left journals or photos or stories are the easiest to get to know. Journals help us know what they did and why. They help us understand the challenges they dealt with. People who left journals speak to us even after they are gone.
We are able to connect with them when we know something about them.
We can relate our lives to theirs.
We can see how choices they made played out in their lives.
(At the time great-grandma wrote about meeting great-grandpa, she didn’t know she’d end up marrying him!)
We can see from our perspective what they couldn’t see from theirs.
They wrote day by day or year by year, not knowing what their future would bring. But WE can look back and see their whole lives and how things played out. We can see how keeping the commandments blessed lives and how wrong choices caused trouble and sadness. We can learn from their choices.
I think that’s one of the most important reasons why HF wants us to Write!
We often talk about the Spirit of Elijah in relation to Family History work. When I do FH work, I feel my heart turning to my fathers and ancestors and I feel that they are aware of me when I notice them.
If I don’t pay attention them, they don’t pay attention to me.
I often sense the presence or influence of those loved ones who have gone before.
In most cases, I never knew them here, but have learned to love them since.
Some I feel especially close to and I feel them particularly near.
One day it occurred to me that it’s when I’m paying attention to them that I feel them paying attention to me. It’s like they’re given permission to be near me. Perhaps because I love and care for them, they get to return love and care for me in a way I can feel it. I feel them watching out for me and protecting me and my family.
That never happens with the ancestors I don’t know.
MAYBE if we write in our journals today, our future descendants will get to know us and love US and maybe long after we are gone, they will get to feel Us near them!
That’s one of the biggest reasons why I write in my journal. I want my children who will never know me on earth to know me and to know why I lived the way I lived.
I want them to know why I went to girls camp,
why I read my scriptures,
why I try to be good, and
why I went on a mission.
I want them to know how much I love my Savior Jesus Christ.
I want them to know ME.
And if they know ME, maybe I will get to hover near THEM!
In that day, maybe they will feel ME because they have my words and they know me! In that day, I hope I can watch over and protect THEM!
We live in a wonderful day where it’s easy to capture and record memories.
How many of you have written in a journal this week?
How many of you have taken a picture this week?
How many of you use facebook or instagram to post things about your life?
So, when you write and record things about your life, you are preserving your life, so it won’t be Utterly Wasted.
You are helping fulfill Malachi’s prophecy in a way that turns the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to the fathers/mothers.
This is why Journals are so Very Important. They are part of God’s Plan.
We should write about the things we do and the things we believe.
I’ve spent a good deal of time in libraries and archives reading journals and histories of people who lived near where my ancestors lived.
My 3rd Great-Grandparents and their family lived in Nauvoo. They were the Prophet Joseph Smith’s neighbors.
Sometimes I read things in the journals of others that change me and how much I love my ancestors. A man named Joseph Lee Robinson who also lived close to Joseph Smith and my 3rd Great-Grandparents made such a journal entry one day, describing the living conditions in Nauvoo in those days. I have never forgotten his words.
My great-great grandmother, Charlotte was a little girl in Nauvoo at the time he wrote this journal entry. I often think of her curled up in her bed at night and wonder.
Here’s what Joseph Lee Robinson wrote in August 1841:
Joseph Lee Robinson Journal:
“When we arrived in the city of Nauvoo, I soon found my brother Ebenezer. He had a house for us to go to. It was a big log house near his printing office. Ebenezer was the printer for the church. (He was writing the Church Organ,) so had built a large two-story house. The top floor was used for his home and the bottom for the printing press. It was near the river, not far from the Prophet Joseph’s home. The worst enemy we found here was the long-tailed rat, that would bite the lips and nose[s] of our little children while they slept.” (Page 6)
That one sentence someone else wrote in their journal helps me love my ancestors more. They did hard things for me. I love them because I know what they did. And because I know them, I feel them close to me now.
We write our stories to preserve them.
If we don’t write our stories, our lives are wasted.
I know this is true.
Ronald O. Barney, of the Church History Department: If you do not write your story, your name will be obliterated from the human record and you will not speak from the grave. You will not have any influence on those who come after you. Those who write about the things they have done and learned in life have a huge impact on posterity. Write your story. You have overcome things your children need to know about.”
Give the Girls Journal Prompt Bookmarks with Ronald O. Barney quote.
Handouts: Journal Do’s and Don’ts, What You’ll Wish You’d Written (below)
After we visited about journals, the girls had a bit of time before dinner to go and write. I encouraged them to write at least 8 minutes a day, beginning now!
KEEPING A JOURNAL
How to keep a journal properly:
DO – remember that you are writing a journal for several reasons: for your posterity, for a record of your life, as a marker for growth and progress in your life, as a source of inspiration for yourself and others.
DO – write with a black ball point pen. Pencil and colored pens will fade or smudge over time.
DO – always date each entry with Month, Day and Year and sometimes even the time of day.
DO – number the pages.
DO – set aside a block of time either daily or weekly to write like a Sunday afternoon.
DO – keep your journal handy or take loose pieces of paper with you on trips that can be added later.
DON’T – ever, ever think, “I’ll never forget this day, this person, this lesson, or talk” . . . 40 or 50 years is a long time and you might not be able to remember your phone number let alone who Michael was in the third grade.
DO – always use a person’s full name at least once. The best thing to do is make a list on the back page of your journal with the full name and a brief reminder description plus nick name used.
DO – write a couple of sentences about a special lesson, talk, or activity to help you remember it.
DO – take a note of medical history, both personal and family. When did you have your tonsils removed? When your sister had her baby .
DO – take a note of family events, vacations, weddings, deaths, special activities.
DO – write about good and bad days. It can be a source of inspiration and comfort for your descendants to see that “Grandma” was human too.
DO – talk about how you feel about what is going on in your life.
DO – tell about the funny or embarrassiing things that happen in your life, running oover the skunk and stinking out the car on a trip, having your skirt tucked into your panty hose at a church dance .
DO – collect and save important papers, poems, etc.
DO – make a record of music you listen to, movies you watch, books you read, and what you think of them.
DO – write a letter to yourself on your birthday examining what you did with yo ur past year and making goals and wishes for the coming year.
DO – take note of the prices of things– a gallon of milk, stamps, a candy bar, ticket to the movies . . .
DO – record typical outings with your family and friends. in 100 years they will think it quaint that you would spend Saturdays walking around the mall with your friends.
DO – be honest about yourself. DONT lie – even if someone reads your journal you will read it later and kick yourself for not telling the truth to yourself and your posterity.
DON’T – treat your journal as some kind of holy thing that you can only put deep thoughts in. This is about your REAL life.
DO – pick up and write each night. If you forget one night, don’t give up, just catch up the next night.
DO – Be merciful to others. Don’t write gossip or trash about others.
DO – add letters, cards, awards received etc to your journal.
DO – write about deaths, births, marriages, baptisms, and endowments; personal triumphs, failures and struggles and how they are met, personal counsel, promises, and blessings received and the circumstances surrounding them, important events, personal feelings, impressions, current local, national and world events that impress you or influence your life and last but not least simple occurrences in your daily life.
Things I will really wish I’d recorded when I’m older
Who were you named after, do you like your name, why, why not?
Detailed description of your outward appearance
Things you would change about your body if you could
Traits you’ve inherited from other family members
What 3 words would you use to describe yourself?
Description of the types of clothing you wear day to day
Things you like/don’t like about today’s fashions
Describe how you do your body grooming each day
Describe schooling you’ve had so far, favorite classes or teachers
Describe jobs/employment you’ve had
Describe your bedroom and closet
Do you have a car? Why or why not? If yes, describe the car
Describe the electronic devices you’ve used in your life time
Are there other technological devices you wish you had?
Describe what you eat in a typical day
What is your favorite home-cooked meal?
What is your favorite place to eat out?
What is your favorite music?
What TV shows to you watch? How do you watch them?
What are your top 5 favorite movies?
What books have you read this year?
What things do you collect?
What are your hobbies and interests?
If you had $500.00 what would you do with it?
Who are you living with?
What are 3 insights you’ve recently gained from scripture study?
Name 3 things about each grandparent you admire
Name 3 things about each of your parents that you admire
Describe the physical appearance of your parents
Where do you attend church? Who do you admire in your ward?
What do you hope to be doing in 5 years?
If you could have any 3 wishes, what would they be?
What’s the best advice you’ve received?
Have you taken any trips this year? Where?
What are some of the current news headlines?
Describe your state of health
Describe the most recent good date you’ve had
Do you have a pet? Describe
What church callings have you had?
What are 10 things you are really grateful for?
If you will answer these, or similar questions once every 5 years, it will be a treasure to you and your posterity in the future. Don’t put it off!