Some time ago, while preparing for a Book of Mormon class, I reread the book of Omni, a slender compilation of thirty verses by five different record-keepers. Although I was already familiar with the recorders, I was particularly impressed this time with their methods of journal-keeping—or better, lack of methods. In fact, by contrasting their example of recording events for posterity with that of Nephi and Jacob, I learned a great lesson about the relationship between the Book of Mormon records and the admonition to keep a journal.
The purposes behind record-keeping in both are, after all, somewhat the same. Nephi declared that the people needed the records in order to keep the commandments of God; without them, they would “dwindle and perish in unbelief.” (1 Ne. 4:13.)
President Spencer W. Kimball reiterated Nephi’s declarations when he said that “those who keep a book of remembrance are more likely to keep the Lord in remembrance in their daily lives.” (Ensign, May 1978, p. 77.)
By contrast, I find an arresting thought in Chemish’s summary of the record-keeping practices recorded in the book of Omni. All four of the first four record-keepers recorded very little on the small plates of the religious events that occurred during their lifetimes. In fact, Chemish makes it clear that his brother Amaron recorded his five verses on the very day that he turned the records over to his successor: “And after this manner we keep the records.” (Omni 1:9.) It is possible that these record-keepers wrote more on the large plates. However, on the small plates they relayed little information about that which contributed to the state of the people of Zarahemla when they were discovered by the people of Mosiah:
“Their language had become corrupted; and they had brought no records with them; and they denied the being of their Creator; and Mosiah, nor the people of Mosiah, could understand them.” (Omni 1:17.)
In contrast, Nephi’s awareness of the importance of records when he was commanded to slay Laban in order to obtain the brass plates teaches a great deal about how record-keepers can benefit posterity:
“I remembered the words of the Lord which he spake unto me in the wilderness, saying that: Inasmuch as thy seed shall keep my commandments, they shall prosper in the land of promise.
“Yea, and I also thought that they could not keep the commandments of the Lord according to the law of Moses, save they should have the law.” (1 Ne. 4:14–15.)
Jacob also provides an interesting contrast to the writers of the book of Omni:
“And he gave me, Jacob, a commandment that I should write upon these plates a few of the things which I considered to be most precious; … that I should preserve these plates and hand them down unto my seed, from generation to generation.” (Jacob 1:2–3.)
Unlike Jacob and Nephi, I had not been dedicated to keeping a personal journal, and I realized that even Omni, Amaron, Chemish, and Abinadom, in spite of their performance, had done a better job with their stewardship than I was doing with mine. Their examples helped my determination to keep a personal journal.
One further experience from the Book of Mormon has had a profound effect upon my journal-keeping. In Third Nephi, the Savior reminded the Nephites of Samuel’s prophecy that at the time of the Savior’s resurrection, many Saints would arise from the dead and would appear to and minister to many. He asked the Nephites if this prophecy had not been fulfilled. When they acknowledged that it had, he asked, “How be it that ye have not written this thing, that many saints did arise and appear unto many and did minister unto them?” (3 Ne. 23:11.)
Perhaps the day will come that the Savior will point out the experiences of my life and ask, “Wasn’t that important? Significant? Sacred?” And when I agree, perhaps he will say, “Why are these things not recorded in your journal?”
With all the inspiration that the Book of Mormon has given me over the years, it has now also become a prime motivator for me to keep a personal journal. Besides enjoying the soul-satisfying feeling of doing what I have been asked to do, I have felt a constant spiritual witness that what I am recording is important not just for me, but especially for my children. I have found great comfort in President Kimball’s words:
“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 … and maybe the angels may quote from it for eternity.” (New Era, Oct. 1975, p. 5.)