Lesson 17: Personal Journals

Aaronic Priesthood Manual 1, (2002), 56–60


Each young man will understand the importance of keeping a personal journal.


  1. 1.

    Materials needed:

    1. a.

      Scriptures for each young man.

    2. b.

      Paper and pencil for each young man.

  2. 2.

    Come prepared to relate a personal experience (see the beginning of the lesson).

  3. 3.

    Prepare a copy of the handout “Hints for Keeping a Journal” for each young man (see page 58).

  4. 4.

    During the week, ask two or three young men to come prepared to share an experience or journal entry about themselves.

Note to the adviser

Before attempting to help young men appreciate the value of journal keeping, you must first understand its importance. Seek the Spirit to help you feel the value of this lesson and to gain inspiration as to how to present it. If you have not already done so, take time this week to write in your own journal and share your feelings about this experience with the young men.

Suggested Lesson Development

Each of Us Should Keep a Journal

Adviser presentation

Tell the young men of an interesting or spiritual experience you have had. Tell it as interestingly as possible, and then tell them how and why you hurried to write it in your journal. If you did not keep a journal at the time, tell them why you wish you had been able to preserve it. Or you could read an entry from one of your ancestors’ journals that the class might enjoy. Express how grateful you are that this experience was written down so that you and others could know that ancestor better.

Invite the assigned young men to share their experiences or journal entries.

  • How many of you keep a personal journal?

Scriptures and discussion

Have a young man read Moses 6:5–6.

  • Why do you think that since the beginning of mankind we have been commanded to keep records?

Let the young men respond; then tell them that King Benjamin gave one very important reason to his son.

Have a young man read Mosiah 1:4–5.

  • What reason did King Benjamin give for keeping accurate records about our dealings with the Lord?


Explain that President Spencer W. Kimball challenged everyone to keep a journal:

“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” (“The Angels May Quote from It,” New Era, Oct. 1975, p. 5).

Record Keeping Is an Important Principle


“I can remember as a child wanting to know what my mother was really like. … I wanted a mother so much.

“I had had a mother, of course, Mary Black Rawlins, but she had died when I was only nine weeks old, and she was only twenty-six. When my father came home from work one afternoon, he found her lying on the kitchen floor, a victim of heart failure. Those who knew Mother best found it too painful to talk about her, so I never found out much about her.

“Then, when I was seventeen, my father’s mother came to visit me. She told me that my mother had known about her heart condition when she had married. She had known that if she had a baby she would probably die. But my mother, undaunted and determined, felt strongly that she should have a baby. She decided that I, the child born to her, was worth life itself. When I learned that, the love I had for my mother swelled, for I knew that she had loved me too, loved me enough to willingly give her life for me.

“It was then that my father brought to me a journal that my mother had written. She had kept it each day for one short year of her life. I had now in my hands one year of my mother’s life. She had been a school teacher in Wyoming that year, and through her own words she became for me a real person at last. She cried, she struggled, she laughed, she grumbled, she learned of her heart condition, and I … I shared it all with her!

“That record, that precious, loved record—it’s all I have of her. What if she had not kept it?” (“For Your Remembrance: A Presentation on Record Keeping” [audiovisual presentation, 1975 MIA June Conference]).


  • What important reasons for keeping a journal are brought out in this story?

  • Who might read your journal?

  • How might it benefit them?

Explain that journals are a special way of sharing our lives with our children and grandchildren.

Each Aaronic Priesthood Holder Should Keep a Personal Journal

Adviser presentation

Explain that we all tend to think that the things we have done or are doing now are not interesting enough to record. But in future years—whether to us as we grow older, to our children, or to our grandchildren—those things may be exciting glimpses into our life and our world. With each new generation come new ideas, new spiritual experiences, and new opportunities for growth and development.

Suggest to the young men that a personal journal is an ever-growing record of who we are, where we are going, and what we are accomplishing. Our journals are an excellent place for us to record our goals and our daily attempts to become more like the person the Lord would have us be.

Readings, chalkboard, and discussion

Ask several young men to read aloud, and then paraphrase, the following suggestions on journal keeping. Summarize the ideas on the chalkboard.

  1. 1.

    What kind of journal should I use? Select a journal in which you can record your daily activities. It might be an inexpensive, expandable looseleaf or a hardbound diary. The main requirements are good quality paper and a protective cover. You could also use a computer.

  2. 2.

    How often should I write in my journal? Your own personality, interests, and time will determine how often you will write in your journal. You need not catch up on all past events each time you make an entry. Record highlights or notes from past happenings; then continue with the present. The more often you write, the more accurate your record will be. Some write daily, others two or three times a week. Set a goal and work toward it.

  3. 3.

    What should I record? (Ask a young man to reread the statement by President Kimball.)

  4. 4.

    How can I be creative in my journal keeping? Perhaps you could occasionally list your tastes in clothes or food or reading, your present religious feelings, your problems, your opinions about school or government, or the current state of your finances. You might want to add sketches, designs, photographs, or poems to your entries.


Tell the young men they are going to have an opportunity to write something to include in their journals. For those who have already been keeping a journal, they may include this as an entry when they get home. Give each young man a piece of paper and a pencil. Ask them to write their experiences of the previous day, making sure to include their feelings about whatever they did. If there isn’t time to finish the assignment in class, encourage them to finish at home. Remind them that a journal should be a place where they record the significant events and feelings of their lives.



Challenge the young men to continue writing in their journals either daily or weekly. Then periodically check with them over the next several months and encourage them often.


Give each young man a copy of the following handout, which he may want to put inside the cover of his journal for reference.

  • What are some helpful hints to remember when keeping a journal?

Optional Activity: Finding Your Ancestors with FamilySearch™


The adviser will explain what FamilySearch™ is, how it can help the young men identify their ancestors, and what they can do to help make it more useful.

This activity will take the young men to a site where FamilySearch is available.


In preparation, determine where the activity will be held. Depending on local circumstances, this could be at the family history center, the stake center, a local meetinghouse, or a member’s home. If possible, select a location that has more than one FamilySearch workstation so that more than one young man can be working at a time. You may want to ask the ward family history consultant to help with this part of the lesson.

Note: If the quorum is very large, it may be wise to divide it into smaller groups.

Plan additional alternate activities for the trip. While some young men are using FamilySearch, the others could learn about family record extraction and then participate in an extraction project. This should be coordinated with the ward family record extraction director. Other activities might include instruction about temples or games that help the young men focus their attention on their ancestors.

Before the activity, assign the young men to work with their parents to fill out a pedigree chart as completely as possible.

Identifying Our Ancestors through Family History Work

Adviser presentation

Tell the young men that we search after our ancestors to give them the same opportunities to be sealed within the family of God that we receive here in this life. These saving ordinances (baptism, priesthood ordination, the endowment, and sealings) allow us to enter the celestial kingdom if we are worthy.

FamilySearch is a computer system that enables you to find information about your ancestors. When you type an ancestor’s name into the computer, FamilySearch scans quickly through millions of names in its computer files, finding names that match. It guides you from the names to full screens of information, such as dates and places of birth, marriage, and death; and names of parents, children, and spouses.

The information in FamilySearch comes from such sources as family genealogies, church records, and government records.

FamilySearch consists of several files of information. The file that will be most helpful to you is Ancestral File. This file contains family history information contributed by members of the Church and others throughout the world. It contains the names of millions of persons linked in family groups and pedigrees.

Note: You can illustrate to the young men the importance of contributing their family history information by holding up a “book of remembrance” full of pedigree charts and family group records. You can explain that the information in the book is very valuable, but in this printed format it is useful to only a few people. However, when this information is converted to a computer format (using the Personal Ancestral File computer program), it can be included in Ancestral File, where many others would benefit from it.

Also point out that Ancestral File is not complete. It has much information, but there is much more that could be added—including the information the young men may have about their own ancestors.

Ancestral File also includes the names and addresses of the people who have contributed information to it. This way the young men may be able to discover relatives they have never met.

To further help the young men understand the significance of FamilySearch, explain that without the computer they would have to look through rolls of microfilm and pages of books to find information about their ancestors. For many who have done this, it has taken a great deal of work. The computer makes it possible to search the same information in just minutes.

Computer activity

Have the young men practice using FamilySearch to find information about their ancestors. Help them call up names on their pedigree charts. If there is nothing about their ancestors in Ancestral File, remind them that they can do a great service by seeing that information about their ancestors is contributed to the file.

As the young men use FamilySearch, they should print out information they find. In Ancestral File, they could print out a pedigree chart.

After all the young men have had a chance to use FamilySearch, review what they have accomplished. Challenge them to continue to find information about their ancestors and to contribute information to Ancestral File.

Follow-Up Activity

Service activity

Some members of the ward may have large collections of family history information in printed format (Books of Remembrance). The young men could perform valuable service by computerizing the information and helping members contribute it to Ancestral File. For the young men to be able to do this, a sufficient number of personal computers with Personal Ancestral File would need to be available. Ward family history consultants could help you organize such a service project.