Several years ago, my wife and I knelt at an altar in the Salt Lake Temple, my beautiful bride placed her hand in mine, and we were sealed together for time and all eternity. I realize now more fully than I did then the impact of the promises made to us as part of that sealing ordinance.
That day a foundation stone was laid for a new kingdom—our eternal family unit. As the years have passed, I have begun to catch glimpses of the importance of the kingdom thus established in my name. With the promises of blessings given at the temple altar has come a solemn responsibility to care for and keep a record of “my kingdom.”
Records are important to all of God’s kingdoms—the Church, its units, and especially to individual families. Early in this dispensation, the Prophet Joseph Smith felt the importance of keeping records:
“After prayer by President Joseph Smith, Jun., he said, if we heard patiently, he could lay before the council an item which would be of importance. He had for himself, learned a fact by experience, which, on recollection, always gave him deep sorrow. It is a fact, if I now had in my possession, every decision which had been had upon important items of doctrine and duties since the commencement of this work, I would not part with them for any sum of money; but we have neglected to take minutes of such things, thinking, perhaps, that they would never benefit us afterwards.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 72)
The Church as a whole has an obvious need for records of the work of the Kingdom. On keeping records of our individual kingdoms, Elder John A. Widtsoe wrote:
“As I view it, in every family a record should be kept of the immediate family: the father, the grandfather, the great-grandfather—at least of those of whom we have a memory. That record should be the first stone, if you choose, in the family altar. It should be a book known and used in the family circle; and when the child reaches maturity and gets out to make another household, one of the first things that the young couple should take along should be the records of their families, to be extended by them as life goes on. It does no harm if there is duplication. There is a strength, an inspiration, and a joy in having such a record near at hand, to be used frequently, the story of our ancestors, their names, the times in which they lived, and something about their lives and accomplishments. Each one of us carries, individually, the responsibility of record keeping, and we should assume it.” (Church News, Oct. 31, 1942.)
Such records as those suggested by Elder Widtsoe and other of the Lord’s servants can become, in the hands of wise parents, extremely effective tools in teaching their children and grandchildren. But what kinds of records should be kept, and in what format?
Most of us have heard something about keeping records of such things as personal histories, family histories, the book of remembrance, the personal journal, records of sacred experiences, financial records, etc. The list appears to be somewhat overwhelming until one puts them in the proper perspective.
1. In the October 1975 New Era, President Spencer W. Kimball emphasized to the youth of the Church the importance of keeping a journal. After carefully explaining what a journal should contain, he summarized in this way:
“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.” (Pp. 4–5; see also 3 Ne. 23:7–13.)
2. This is only one of several recent reminders to keep records of our lives. In stake conferences for the first half of 1976, emphasis was given to the importance of preparing and keeping another kind of record—a personal history. Many of us have tried to find written material on our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on. Generally, the earlier the generation, the less information about their lives we can find. Will our posterity meet with the same frustrations we have experienced when they search out information about our lives?
Do we want our posterity to make the same mistakes we have? Or do we want them to know of the testimonies we have of the gospel and what experiences gave us those testimonies?
We already have much of the information needed to begin compiling our personal history. We may have such things as a personal journal or diary, annual calendar books, a written history or biography compiled earlier, scrapbooks, photographs, tape recordings, records of Church activity, letters, and much, much more. All we have now been asked to do is to organize this material and write a history of our life that summarizes all the important events in our lives, especially those events which would be of use in teaching our posterity. When the writing of this personal history is completed to the present, then it only remains for us to review and update it regularly (perhaps every two to three years).
In some cases, it may be easier to tape record a personal history, rather than write it, since not all persons are adept at writing. Perhaps a child or spouse or someone else could transcribe it later.
I have found that one of the most effective ways for me to remember the events I want to include in my personal history is to carry a set of three-by-five-inch cards with me for about two weeks. On the top of each card is written each year of my life. As past experiences occur to me, I write down under the year they happened enough to remind me of the event. Sometimes I cannot remember exactly what year they happened, so I write them under a general time period, such as “preschool” or “grade school” or whatever applies. The cards then provide the basis for writing my personal history.
As families organize themselves and begin to find out more about their ancestors, they may find that they want to record some of the experiences of those ancestors in family histories. This can be done in a number of ways. They can be researched, compiled, and published in a family history. Or individual histories can be written and kept in a family book of remembrance. These histories could be made available to any member of the family who wished to copy them for his own records, but the compilation would be accomplished cooperatively.
3. For many years, we have heard of the book of remembrance as a family history. Yet the stress has been on keeping pedigree charts, family group records, and personal record forms in that book. While these records are all important in carrying out research on our lines and in submitting names for temple work, they are not all that was meant anciently by the term book of remembrance.
In Moses 6:5–6 we read:
“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.”
Since those who “called upon God” taught the children in Adam’s day to read and write, it would seem likely that they used the things written “by the spirit of inspiration” to accomplish that assignment. It also seems that charts and forms would not accomplish that end, used alone. There must have been more in the book of remembrance than we have been putting in them recently.
We should have, as part of our family records, a record of God’s dealings with each member of our family, written “by the spirit of inspiration.” Imagine the impact it would have on the lives of our family members if we taught them the great gospel principles of revelation, tithing, fasting, prayer, etc., from personal family experiences, using them as a second witness to the same truths found in the standard works. Imagine also the many times these sacred family records could be used in family home evenings and other teaching situations to personalize the gospel truths.
Our immediate family has a three-ring, 8 1/2″ x 11″ binder in which we file records of sacred experiences of our family members. We have included such things as:
1. Copies of patriarchal blessings of each member of our family who has received one.
2. Summaries of blessings given when we are set apart to various positions in the Church.
3. Summaries of special blessings given at times of illness or other needs.
4. Summaries of blessings given as part of the blessing of a child, confirmation, or ordination to the priesthood.
5. The impressions received at the time of baptism or other important events in the life of each member of the family.
6. Our testimonies of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
7. Other records of experiences we want to hold in sacred remembrance.
This record is known and loved by each of our children and they read it often. We also use it whenever we feel the need in our family home evenings. For instance, last fall when our daughter, Kerrie, was preparing for her baptism, the most effective tool we used in teaching her what to expect was the experience her older sister, Jamie, had recorded 3 1/2 years earlier. The impressions felt by Jamie also inspired Kerrie to record her feelings when she was baptized.
When I was set apart as a high councilor, our stake president, President Clarence D. Samuelson, gave me a very special blessing. As soon as it was convenient, my wife and I sat down and wrote out as much as we could remember of that blessing. As time has passed, the promises made to me by my stake president have been kept in remembrance and many have been fulfilled.
Photographs, scrap books, handiwork, furniture, or other keepsakes may be important reminders of sacred events in our own lives or the lives of those who have lived before us. If they bring to mind a memory which should be held in sacred remembrance, then they also should be a part of our family records.
There are many different ways of keeping records and several different types of records. But they are not so overwhelming when one considers that the Lord, through his prophets, has commanded us to keep records of the important events in our lives. And he had the prophets of the Book of Mormon set the pattern for keeping records, particularly Nephi, for we read in 1 Nephi 9:2–3: [1 Ne. 9:2–3]
“And now, as I have spoken concerning these plates, behold they are not the plates upon which I make a full account of the history of my people. …
“Nevertheless, I have received a commandment of the Lord that I should make these plates, for the special purpose that there should be an account engraven of the ministry of my people.
“Upon the other plates should be engraven an account of the reign of the kings, and the wars and contentions of my people; wherefore these plates are for the more part of the ministry; and the other plates are for the more part of the reign of kings and the wars and contentions of my people.”
If we could consider our record of spiritual experiences as Nephi did his small plates, and liken all the other records which we have been requested to keep unto Nephi’s large plates, then we would have a perspective that would allow us to make wise decisions as to what should be in each kind of record we are asked to keep.
As the heads of our families, we should consider these things as we decide what and how the records of our kingdom are to be kept:
1. What is most important for my posterity?
2. What format will impress my posterity with the importance of this record in their lives?
3. What are my personal limitations in preparing such a record?
4. Since my kingdom is a miniature of God’s kingdom, how closely can I pattern my records after his?
5. What would the Lord have me do?
It seems unlikely to me that our Heavenly Father has no records of the beginnings of his kingdom. And I am also certain that I want to have, for my posterity in this life and eternally, a record from which I may teach them of the beginnings of my kingdom.