I began keeping a daily journal when my children were young and the clamor and concerns of parenting filled my days.
This habit began when I found myself wishing I could read my grandmother’s journal. She raised six children, and I wondered how she had managed the challenges of motherhood. Unfortunately, such a record does not exist, but I still longed to know how my grandmother ministered to the needs of her family while maintaining her individuality and spiritual strength.
Also pressing on my mind was President Spencer W. Kimball’s admonition to “begin today and write … your goings and your comings, your deeper thoughts, your achievements, and your failures, your associations and your triumphs, your impressions and your testimonies. We hope you will do this, … for this is what the Lord has commanded, and those who keep a personal journal are more likely to keep the Lord in remembrance in their daily lives.” 1
I desired these blessings and also wanted to leave a written legacy for my posterity. At that time I committed to the practice of daily journal writing. Since I began in 1981, I have filled 38 journal volumes.
In more than 25 years of journal writing, I have learned far more than I ever imagined about the blessings President Kimball spoke of. Following are some of the things I have gained through journal writing.
I acquired a written family record of details that are a practical source of information. I appreciate searching through my records and finding answers to family history questions such as “What month did Grandpa retire from the Air Force?” It is satisfying to know that family history details are readily accessible in my journal.
I have a clearer, richer memory of the past. It is wonderful to review the thoughts and feelings I felt at my daughter’s baptism or on the day my son entered the missionary training center. I recall the emotions I felt at those events, and a flood of memories returns as I review moments of days gone by.
I found a practical method of setting goals, tracking my progress, and following through on commitments. The pages of my journal are filled with my personal ambitions. I am reminded of my goals, and because of this I feel I have accomplished much more in my life than I might have otherwise.
I discovered a therapeutic means to resolve emotional, social, and spiritual issues I face. As I record thoughts on the pages of my journal, I have learned to quickly get to the heart of the matter when something disturbs me. I am also able to retain the lessons of life easier without having to repeat mistakes of the past.
I have improved my writing skills. I have never taken a writing course, but I have become a better writer simply because I practice writing each day. Recently I have drawn on past experiences to create stories and articles that have been published. A satisfying venue has opened to me because I obeyed the counsel of the prophet.
I have discovered that many of my righteous desires are eventually fulfilled. Many times I have recorded righteous aspirations, and years later I have found that those desires have been granted. This form of importuning the Lord has been so dramatic to me that now, much of what I write is simply an expression of the righteous desires I have for my life and my family. “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened” (Matthew 7:7). This scripture brings new understanding to me as I humbly ask the Lord for my wants and needs on the pages of my journal.
I have created a form of personal scripture by recording the inspiration and revelations I have received. I’ve come to realize the truth in the words of Elder John H. Groberg, a former member of the Quorum of the Seventy: “There is something eternal in the very nature of writing, as is so graphically illustrated by the scriptures themselves. In a very real sense, our properly written histories are a very important part of our family scripture and become a great source of spiritual strength to us and to our posterity.” 2 Occasionally I return to my journal to reflect on former thoughts and am filled with the Spirit as I read previous spiritual promptings.
For me, journal writing is another way I can beseech the Lord. Often my thoughts are drawn to Him as I write, and I feel enveloped by His love.
Record the Story of Your Life
“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. …
“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?”
President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985), “The Angels May Quote from It,” New Era, Oct. 1975, 5.
Helps for Home Evening
Invite family members to share their version of a special family event. Have each add some detail no one else has mentioned. Discuss how recording the event would have helped them remember it and how these memories create a family legacy. Have each family member record an event by writing or drawing a picture of it.
Discuss the different ways to keep a journal—for example, diaries, letters, scrapbooking, picture albums, drawings, and blogging. Ask family members what their favorite method is. Read the blessings (italic headings) Sister Hollenzer gained as a result of her journal writing. Discuss the blessings your family has received.
Photography by Robert Casey; family photographs and journal courtesy of the author