President Kimball Speaks Out on Personal Journals


Spencer W. Kimball
His journal was 33 black binders on the shelves of his personal study when President Spencer W. Kimball was called to be President of the Church in 1973. Since then, he has frequently counseled and exhorted members of the Church to keep personal journals.

On a number of occasions I have encouraged the Saints to keep personal journals and family records. I renew that admonition. We may think there is little of interest or importance in what we personally say or do—but it is remarkable how many of our families, as we pass on down the line, are interested in all that we do and all that we say.

Any Latter-day Saint family that has searched genealogical and historical records has fervently wished its ancestors had kept better and more complete records. On the other hand, some families possess some spiritual treasures because ancestors have recorded the events surrounding their conversion to the gospel and other happenings of interest, including many miraculous blessings and spiritual experiences. People often use the excuse that their lives are uneventful and nobody would be interested in what they have done. But I promise you that if you will keep your journals and records, they will indeed be a source of great inspiration to your families, to your children, your grandchildren, and others, on through the generations. Each of us is important to those who are near and dear to us—and as our posterity read of our life’s experiences, they, too, will come to know and love us. And in that glorious day when our families are together in the eternities, we will already be acquainted.

Would every family, as they now hold their home evenings, train their children from young childhood to keep a journal of the important activities of their lives, certainly by the time they begin to leave home for schooling and missions?

From time immemorial the Lord has counseled us to be a record-keeping people. Abraham had a book of remembrance, and Adam had one. You may think of them as not being as highly educated as we are, but they were well-trained people. Adam spent much effort being the school teacher for his children. He and Eve taught their sons and daughters. He taught them the gospel in their home evenings, and he taught them reading and writing and arithmetic. And they kept their books of remembrance. How else do you think Moses, many hundreds of years later, got the information? These records had been kept, and he referred to them and got the history of the world, which wasn’t in any library other than that. Can you see your responsibility?

Early in the American life of the family of Lehi, his son Nephi said: “Having had a great knowledge of the goodness and mysteries of God, therefore, I make a record of my proceedings in my days. …

“And I know that the record which I make is true; and I make it with mine own hand; and I make it according to my knowledge.” (1 Ne. 1:1, 3.) This great record included not only the movements of his people, but his own personal life.

When the Savior visited this continent following his resurrection, he commanded the Nephites and Lamanites to bring their records up to date. He said to them: “Behold, other scriptures I would that ye should write, that ye have not.

“And it came to pass that he said unto Nephi: Bring forth the record which ye have kept.

“And when Nephi had brought forth the records, and laid them before him, he cast his eyes upon them and said:

“Verily I say unto you, I commanded my servant Samuel, the Lamanite, that he should testify unto this people, that at the day that the Father should glorify his name in me that there were many saints who should arise from the dead, and should appear unto many, and should minister unto them. And he said unto them: Was it not so?

“And his disciples answered him and said: Yea, Lord, …

“And Jesus said unto them: How be it that ye have not written this thing, that many saints did arise and appear unto many and did minister unto them?

“And it came to pass that Nephi remembered that this thing had not been written, … therefore it was written according as he commanded.” (3 Ne. 23:6–13.)

I am glad that it was not I who was reprimanded, even though mildly and kindly, for not having fulfilled the obligation to write the records and keep them up to date.

And again in our day the Lord said to the Prophet Joseph Smith, “And again, let all the records be had in order, that they may be put in the archives of my holy temple” (D&C 127:9).

You should continue on in this important work of recording the things you do, the things you say, the things you think, to be in accordance with the instructions of the Lord. Your story should be written now while it is fresh and while the true details are available.

Your private journal should record the way you face up to challenges that beset you. Do not suppose life changes so much that your experiences will not be interesting to your posterity. Experiences of work, relations with people, and an awareness of the rightness and wrongness of actions will always be relevant. Your journal, like most others, will tell of problems as old as the world and how you dealt with them.

Your journal should contain your true self rather than a picture of you when you are “made up” for a public performance. There is a temptation to paint one’s virtues in rich color and whitewash the vices, but there is also the opposite pitfall of accentuating the negative. Personally I have little respect for anyone who delves into the ugly phases of the life he is portraying, whether it be his own or another’s. The truth should be told, but we should not emphasize the negative. Even a long life full of inspiring experiences can be brought to the dust by one ugly story. Why dwell on that one ugly truth about someone whose life has been largely circumspect?

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? 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.

We hope you will begin as of this date. If you have not already commenced this important duty in your lives, get a good notebook, a good book that will last through time and into eternity for the angels to look upon. Begin today and write in it 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, our brothers and sisters, 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.

[photos] Photos by Eldon Linschoten

[illustration] Illustrated by Del Parson