On May 26, 1844, the Prophet Joseph Smith made a statement that demonstrates the importance of record keeping. “For the last three years I have a record of all my acts and proceedings, for I have kept several good, faithful, and efficient clerks in constant employ: they have accompanied me everywhere, and carefully kept my history, and they have written down, what I have done, where I have been, and what I have said” (in History of the Church, 6:409).
We all benefit from the records kept by Joseph Smith, as well as the priceless records kept by other early Church members. Our faith is strengthened as we learn how the Lord fortified these Latter-day Saints during their times of trial and adversity. Our hope and confidence increase when we understand the obstacles they were able to overcome with the Lord’s help. Historical records are particularly poignant if they were written and preserved by our ancestors. They give us an increased sense of identity and heritage.
Collecting and preserving today's history
Just as we benefit from the records of prior generations, those who follow us will benefit from our records. We must collect, preserve, and prepare to share our history with future generations. They will want to know how we lived and what we felt. They will want to know that we were true to our covenants and testimonies in the face of many challenges, for they will have many challenges to face in their day.
The history of the Church and its members is unfolding at an accelerating rate throughout the world. In order to effectively capture significant events, the work of Church History is being decentralized. As an Area Presidency, we have been given the responsibility to collect, preserve, and share the history of the Church in the Africa Southeast Area. We are committed to gathering historical records, implementing a system for capturing and preserving current events as they unfold, and sharing the records with current and future generations. We extend an invitation to each member to assist in this undertaking. Each of us can contribute in some way, and we invite you to prayerfully consider what you can do to preserve the history of the Church.
Oliver Cowdery wrote of his remarkable experiences with the prophet Joseph Smith, “These were days never to be forgotten....” (Joseph Smith-History 1:71) Thankfully the days of Joseph Smith have not been forgotten because they were recorded! Thank you for your assistance in recording, collecting, and preserving Church history records for our time, for these are also days which should never be forgotten. I know the Lord would have us preserve our history, and I pray that each of us will be blessed as we do. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Tips for Collecting, Preserving and Sharing
-Journals- There are a number of ways to be involved in preserving Church history. The simplest way is keeping a personal journal. Personal and family histories with relevant dates are also valuable, as well as preservation of other personal items. You may want to begin by writing about your conversion to the Church.
-Documents- Documents related to Church meetings and activities can also be preserved. Church history advisers are being called in each unit. They will be trained later this year and will be able to assist and answer questions.
-Histories- The Africa Southeast Area is collecting branch, ward, district, stake, mission, and country histories. Country history advisers are assembling records of the history of the Church in each country of the Africa Southeast Area that has over 1,000 members. Wherever you live, begin now collecting and preserving your records for the future.
-Church History Archive- In the coming months a Church History archive will be established in the Africa Southeast area offices, conveniently located near the temple in Johannesburg, South Africa, where historical records of the Africa Southeast Area will be made available to the public. We are currently gathering items and histories for display.
With the special help of Clive Nicholls, who has worked tirelessly throughout his life to collect and preserve Church historical records, many records are available from the beginning of the Church in South Africa, the first country of our area to have the gospel preached. We are grateful to Brother Nicholls for his inspired leadership and work in this area.
Leaders speak regarding record keeping-
President Henry B. Eyring taught the Church in a general conference address how he was schooled by the Spirit in record keeping: “… just as I got to the door, I heard in my mind—not in my own voice—these words: “I’m not giving you these experiences for yourself. Write them down.” (“O Remember, Remember,” October 2007 General Conference)
Elder Marlin K. Jensen, Church Historian and Recorder, said, “Remembering the past gives us needed perspective as God’s children to have faith in our future destiny and thus to live more faithfully in the present” (“There Shall Be a Record kept Among You,” Church magazines interview with Elder Marlin K. Jensen, Ensign, Dec. 2007, 28-33).