Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Keeping a Journal - The Door to Family History

I began writing a journal in 1975. My main regret is that I did not start sooner. I have become convinced that many of the world's problems would be solved in more people just wrote a journal consistently. Wilford Woodruff, the 4th President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said, about journal writing:
There is one subject I wish to speak upon and that is the keeping of a journal with respect to the dealings of God with us. … When the Prophet Joseph organized the Quorum of the Twelve, he counseled them to keep a history of their lives, and gave his reasons why they should do so. I have had this spirit and calling upon me since I first entered this church. I made a record from the first sermon I heard, and from that day until now I have kept a daily journal. Whenever I heard Joseph Smith preach, teach, or prophesy, I always felt it my duty to write it; I felt uneasy and could not eat, drink, or sleep until I did write. (in Matthias F. Cowley, Wilford Woodruff: History of His Life and Labors [1964], 476–77)
I am not so consistent about writing in a journal but I do write several times a week. The perspective that it gives to your life is irreplaceable.  President Spencer W. Kimball, the 12th President of the Church wrote about journals:
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. There may be a flash of illumination here and a story of faithfulness there. … Your story should be written now while it is fresh and while the true details are available. … 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 that will last through all time, and maybe the angels may quote from it for eternity. Begin today and write in it your going and comings, your deepest thoughts, your achievements, and your failures, your associations and your triumphs, your impressions and your testimonies. Remember, the Savior chastised those who failed to record important events. ... This is what the Lord has commanded and those who keep a personal journal are more likely to keep the Lord in remembrance their daily lives. (New Era, Oct. 1975)
We can keep journals on our computer now, but we need to be aware of the changing technology and make sure we keep migrating our files to newer programs so that they can be read in the future. Originally, I was keeping my journal on paper but transitioned to a computer when they became available. My original program was MacWrite, but after a few years, I realized that the program was no longer available and almost lost much of my writing but was saved at the last possible minute when my brother dug up an old copy of MacWrite on an older computer and was able to move the files to a newer format.

That happened again when I began using Microsoft Word and discovered that the newest versions of Word could not read the older files. I went through a long process of making sure that the whole archive of journal pages were moved to a later format.

My experiences with writing a journal are similar to those expressed by our current Church President, Thomas S. Monson, the 16th President of the Church, who said,
I would like to share with you just a tiny sampling of the experiences I have had wherein prayers were heard and answered and which, in retrospect, brought blessings into my life as well as the lives of others. My daily journal, kept over all these years, has helped provide some specifics which I most likely would not otherwise be able to recount. (General Conference, Oct. 2012)

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