Thou Shalt Keep a Journal – A Prophetic Mandate

Consider these evidences that the most important reason to learn to write is so that you can keep a journal (it’s also a good way to learn to write).


-“Although I was tired, I took out some paper and began to write. And as I did, I understood the message I had heard in my mind. I was supposed to record for my children to read, someday in the future, how I had seen the hand of God blessing our family…. I wrote down a few lines every day for years. I never missed a day no matter how tired I was or how early I would have to start the next day. Before I would write, I would ponder this question: “Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?” As I kept at it, something began to happen. As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day. As that happened, and it happened often, I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done. More than gratitude began to grow in my heart. Testimony grew. I became ever more certain that our Heavenly Father hears and answers prayers. I felt more gratitude for the softening and refining that come because of the Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ. And I grew more confident that the Holy Ghost can bring all things to our remembrance—even things we did not notice or pay attention to when they happened. The years have gone by. My boys are grown men. And now and then one of them will surprise me by saying, “Dad, I was reading in my copy of the journal about when …” and then he will tell me about how reading of what happened long ago helped him notice something God had done in his day. My point is to urge you to find ways to recognize and remember God’s kindness. It will build our testimonies…It won’t be easy to remember. Living as we do with a veil over our eyes, we cannot remember what it was like to be with our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, in the premortal world; nor can we see with our physical eyes or with reason alone the hand of God in our lives. Seeing such things takes the Holy Ghost. And it is not easy to be worthy of the Holy Ghost’s companionship in a wicked world. That is why forgetting God has been such a persistent problem among His children since the world began…Tonight, and tomorrow night, you might pray and ponder, asking the questions: Did God send a message that was just for me? Did I see His hand in my life or the lives of my children? I will do that. And then I will find a way to preserve that memory for the day that I, and those that I love, will need to remember how much God loves us and how much we need Him. I testify that He loves us and blesses us, more than most of us have yet recognized. I know that is true, and it brings me joy to remember Him.” (President Henry B Eyring “O Remember, Remember” Oct. 2007

-“we urge our young people to begin today to write and keep records of all the important things in their own lives and also the lives of their antecedents in the event that their parents should fail to record all the important incidents in their own lives. Your own 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…. No one is commonplace, and I doubt if you can ever read a biography from which you cannot learn something from the difficulties overcome and the struggles made to succeed. These are the measuring rods for the progress of humanity. As we read the stories of great men, we discover that they did not become famous overnight nor were they born professionals or skilled craftsmen. The story of how they became what they are may be helpful to us all. Your own 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? The good biographer will not depend on passion but on good sense. He will weed out the irrelevant and seek the strong, novel, and interesting. Perhaps we might gain some help from reading Plutarch’s Lives, where he grouped 46 lives in pairs, a Greek and a Roman in each pair. He tried to epitomize the most celebrated parts of their stories rather than to insist upon every slightest detail of them. 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; you should truthfully record your real self and not what other people may see in you. Your story should be written now while it is fresh and while the true details are available. A journal is the literature of superiority. Each individual can become superior in his own humble 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. 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 goings 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.” (President Spencer W Kimball “Angels May Quote From It” Oct. 1975 New Era

-“Behold, there shall be a record kept among you” (D&C 21:1)

-“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” (“President Kimball Speaks Out on Personal Journals,” New Era, Dec. 1980, 27).

-“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” (“President Kimball Speaks Put on Personal Journals,” New Era, Dec. 1980, 26).

-“We are living in one of the most important generations that man ever lived on earth, and we should write an account of those important transactions which are taking place before our eyes” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff [2004], 130)

-While presiding over the Church in England in 1840, Parley P. Pratt asked a rhetorical question: “Do you keep a journal?” And responded, “If not, we would again enjoin it upon you, and upon all who have not before heard the admonition, to commence forthwith to keep a Journal, or write a history; and see to it, that what you write is strictly true and unexaggerated; so that in the end, all may know of all things concerning this last work, and all knowledge may flow together from the four quarters of the earth, when the Lord shall make his appearing, and we all may be ready to give a full account of our mission, our ministry and stewardship” (“Do You Keep a Journal?” Millennial Star, Oct. 1840, 160–61).

-“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 urge all the people of this church to give serious attention to their family histories, to encourage their parents and grandparents to write their journals, and let no family go into eternity without having left their memoirs for their children, their grandchildren, and their posterity. This is a duty and a responsibility. … Those who keep a book of remembrance are more likely to keep the Lord in remembrance in their daily lives. Journals are a way of counting our blessings and of leaving an inventory of these blessings for our posterity.” (General Conference. April 1978)

-“As I view it, in every family a record should be kept. … That record should be the first stone, if you choose, in the family altar. It should be a book known and used in the family circle; and when the child reaches maturity and goes out to make another household, one of the first things that the young couple should take along should be the records of their families, to be extended by them as life goes on. … Each one of us carries, individually, the responsibility of record keeping, and we should assume it.” (Elder John A. Widstoe, Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, July 1920)

-“In a very real sense, our properly written histories are a very important part of our family scripture and become a great source of spiritual strength to us and to our posterity. … I have a strong feeling that when this life is over, our personal and family histories and the influence they wield will be of much greater importance than we now think.” (Elder John H Groberg, General Conference, April 1980)

-“Knowledge carefully recorded is knowledge available in time of need. Spiritually sensitive information should be kept in a sacred place that communicates to the Lord how you treasure it. This practice enhances the likelihood of receiving further light.” (Elder Richard G. Scott, 1993 October General Conference)

-“A life that is not documented is a life that within a generation or two will largely be lost to memory. What a tragedy this can be in the history of a family. Knowledge of our ancestors shapes us and instills within us values that give direction and meaning to our lives.” (Elder Dennis B. Neuenschwander, General Conference, April 1999)

-“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.” (President Thomas S. Monson, General Conference, Oct. 2012)

-“According to the Center for Journal Therapy, “reflective journal writing” has been used effectively to help individuals suffering from grief and loss, recovering from addiction, or battling eating disorders. Other studies have reported that journal writing can result in health-related benefits that range everywhere from improved lung function to reductions in pain intensity ratings after surgery. Research has shownthat journal writers can experience improved sleep, reduced blood pressure, improved memory, and accelerated physical performance.”

(LDS Living Magazine “Surprising Health Benefits from Keeping a Journal” by Lynnae Allred, ; sites and


-Some scriptures on journaling from

1 Nephi 1:1–3Alma 37:8–9Moses 6:5, 45–46 (Examples of record keeping in the scriptures)

1 Nephi 6:3–6 (What to include in a personal record)

3 Nephi 23:6–13 (The Savior chastises the Nephites for the incompleteness of their records)


-at 2am the lights were often still on the Spencer Kimball home. He would be writing in his journal responding to letters and thanking them for any bit of faith they had in such letters. In his journals he not only wrote of the things of the day, but he opened his heart. There are 33 black binders of these journals he kept. He said that in journals don’t put your sins in neon but write you have weaknesses and quickly get on to the good stuff, to the inspired. (see Truman G Madsen book on the Presidents of the church)

-JS told people your journals will be sought after as history etc. (from On Sacred Ground: Reflections on Joseph Smith by Truman G Madsen)

-BH Roberts said Journal of Wilford Woodruff is one of the greatest historical treasures we have.
(from On Sacred Ground: Reflections on Joseph Smith by Truman G Madsen)

– Woodruff’s daily journal is over 7,000 pages. (see Presidents of the Church book by Truman G Madsen)

-JS wouldn’t sleep until he had written down sermons he gave, this has been a great blessing to us. (this might be a typo on my part, it might be that Woodruff wouldn’t let himself sleep until he had transcribed JS’s speeches) (from On Sacred Ground: Reflections on Joseph Smith by Truman G Madsen)

-they were strict to keep journals from the beginning days of the Church for they knew that they were making history and that one day people would refer to those as scripture. (see Presidents of the Church book by Truman G Madsen)

-Spencer W Kimball regularly admonished the Saints to keep a journal (see book ‘In the Company of Prophets by D. Arthur Haycock)

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