The first sentence in the Book of Mormon is about the importance of keeping records. Nephi tells us that, because the Lord had blessed him with “goodly parents,” who taught him, and because he had been “highly favored of the Lord” in spite of enduring many afflictions, “therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days” (1 Nephi 1:1).
Nephi engraved a history of his people on metal plates, patterned after the brass plates he had obtained from the treasury of Laban. Nephi’s brother Jacob explained the rationale for recording their history in this way:
Whatsoever things we write upon anything save it be upon plates must perish and vanish away; but we can write a few words upon plates, which will give our children, and also our beloved brethren, a small degree of knowledge concerning us, or concerning their fathersJacob 4:2
Because it was impossible to record everything that happened, Nephi and his descendants had to prioritize. (See 1 Nephi 6, Jacob 3:13, Jacob 4:1, Words of Mormon 1:5, 3 Nephi 26:6.) But even if it was impossible to record every detail, they had a sacred duty to record the most important events. When Jesus visited the American continent, He asked a descendant of Nephi (also named Nephi) to show Him the record he had kept. Reviewing what Nephi had written, the Savior reminded them of an important recent event which had been omitted. “How be it that ye have not written this thing?” He asked. Nephi and his associates updated the record to include that information (3 Nephi 23:7-13).
In the meeting where The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized, Joseph Smith received a revelation which began with these words: “Behold, there shall be a record kept among you” (Doctrine and Covenants 21:1). In response to this instruction, Joseph appointed Oliver Cowdery to serve as Church Historian (“There Shall Be A Record Kept Among You,” Ensign, December 2007). John Whitmer was later called to succeed Oliver. (See Doctrine and Covenants 47.)
Elder Steven E. Snow, who served as Church Historian and Recorder from 2012 through 2019, explained some of the benefits of record-keeping:
Records help us see and understand the hand of God and His dealings in our lives (see 1 Nephi 19:22; Omni 1:17; Mosiah 1:3). Reviewing sacred records and histories can lead to revelation and knowledge (see 1 Nephi 5:17; Doctrine and Covenants 93:53). The records of the Church are also shared to strengthen the rising generations…(see 1 Nephi 5:21; Mosiah 1:4; Abraham 1:31). These same records also present the truth of the restored gospel to the public (see Joseph Smith—History 1:1) and broaden their understanding of and respect for the early members of the Church.“The Sacred Duty of Record Keeping,” Ensign, April 2019
Elder Snow went on to emphasize the importance of record-keeping in our personal lives. “Remembering spiritual experiences that touched our lives reinforces our faith,” he said. “Your journal might not be highlighted in some future Church history display, but I can assure you it will be treasured by your children and grandchildren for many generations to come.”
Today, I will review my record-keeping practices, to ensure that I am recording the most important information and that I am maintaining it in a durable way. In particular, I will improve my approach to journaling, maintaining family photographs, and preserving information about our ancestors.