Last Sunday’s “Come, Follow Me” lesson encouraged LDS youths to dedicate themselves to record keeping through personal journals.
We quoted President Spencer W. Kimball’s “The Angels May Quote From It” where he taught that great men and women didn’t start out that way but incrementally discovered talents and passions. He said similarly, teenagers who write about the seemingly mundane will begin to see progress toward their own potential.
One thing we didn’t talk about Sunday was the fact that today’s technology makes our young people great record keepers already. Because they were born at the advent of digital cameras, most have more pictures of their young lives than all the members of their family tree combined. They carry around cameras on their smartphones and can chronicle every single day with a snap, post and tweet.
However, a good old-fashioned paragraph written on journal paper with quality ink is the place where deep feelings are conceptualized, testimonies are cemented and heavenly promptings can be recorded.
President Kimball encouraged young autobiographers to record the way they faced challenges, to write about their true self without whitewashing vices, to avoid negativity, to weed out the irrelevant and “seek the strong, novel and interesting” aspects of their lives to record. He said our stories should be written now while events are fresh and true details are available. He called a journal “the literature of superiority.”
The problem is, without records, our memories become dangerously diluted and narrow. Record keeping in all its forms helps “enlarge the memory” as taught in the Book of Mormon in Alma 37:8.
A mission companion of mine recently posted a slew of 20-year-old pictures to a Facebook page dedicated to those who served in our area. While many of her posts were familiar because I’d either taken the picture or was in the picture, I couldn’t believe the flood of memories and feelings that unearthed as I scrolled through the images. Suddenly, I remembered the names of cherished people I haven’t seen in decades. I remembered lessons learned through good times and bad. I remembered with angst what the humidity does to my hair.
For an instant, 1992 seemed like yesterday, except that now my trainer has seven children, my AP is a United States senator and Corpus Christi is only visited in my dreams.
With my companion’s request for more names to be labeled with the pictures, I lugged out three fat three-ring binders full of my letters, pictures and mission mementos. I wouldn’t have traded those experiences for anything and am grateful for the chance I had to serve.
Because I was a more prolific letter writer than my companion, she would often photocopy my letters home in exchange for cooking or cleaning chores on p-day. It was a fair trade and motivated me to share the details that would be interesting and inspiring to both of our families. The result is hand-written records that rival the Book of Mormon in page numbers.
I love that today’s missionaries can email their families, can post inspirational thoughts on social media and can communicate with those interested in learning more no matter where they are on earth. However, I hope that missionaries still take time to open a bound book and fill blank pages with feelings, experiences and lessons learned for now, for the future and, as President Kimball supposed, so “maybe the angels may quote from it for eternity.”
It’s all the more likely, if teenagers start writing today.