3 And after I had made these plates by way of commandment, I, Nephi, received a commandment that the ministry and the prophecies, the more plain and precious parts of them, should be written upon these plates; and that the things which were written should be kept for the instruction of my people, who should possess the land, and also for other wise purposes, which purposes are known unto the Lord.
4 Wherefore, I, Nephi, did make a record upon the other plates, which gives an account, or which gives a greater account of the wars and contentions and destructions of my people. And this have I done, and commanded my people what they should do after I was gone; and that these plates should be handed down from one generation to another, or from one prophet to another, until further commandments of the Lord.
5 And an account of my making these plates shall be given hereafter; and then, behold, I proceed according to that which I have spoken; and this I do that the more sacred things may be kept for the knowledge of my people.
6 Nevertheless, I do not write anything upon plates save it be that I think it be sacred….
(1 Nephi 19:3-6)
I was an occasional journal-writer up until about 1999. Since that time, I’ve been much more consistent, and I’ve filled approximately one journal each year since then. I know that writing in my journal serves multiple purposes, including helping me to clear my mind at the end of each day and place the events of the day into a bigger context. I hope that my journal will also be useful to my children, which is why I’m particularly intrigued by Nephi’s comments above.
He tells us again, as he did in 1 Nephi 9, that he has made 2 sets of plates — one for the secular history of his people, and one for his ministry and prophecies. He also tells us, as he did in 1 Nephi 6, that he is careful what he writes on these plates. In fact, even though these plates contain “the more sacred things,” while the other plates contain more temporal content, he makes it a point to clarify: “I do not write anything upon plates save it be that I think it be sacred.”
I was impressed when President Henry B. Eyring shared his own experience with journal-writing. His journal has been a blessing both to him and to his children. Notice what he did to ensure that what he wrote was important:
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 (“O Remember, Remember,” General Conference, October 2007).
Today, I will be careful as I write in my journal to include only content which is of value. Some of the content may be more spiritual in nature and some may be more secular, but I will make it a point to fill the space with content which will benefit my children: which will elevate their thoughts, and which will bring them closer to the Savior.