Nephi opens his record by explaining why he is writing it:
I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father; and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God, therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days.1 Nephi 1:1
Good things had happened to him. His parents had taught him, and the Lord had blessed him. He felt it was important to record his experiences so that future generations could benefit from them.
He kept two records: one contained a “full account of the history of [his] people,” and the other specifically contained an account of his ministry (1 Nephi 9:2-3). He considered both records to be important:
I do not write anything upon plates save it be that I think it be sacred.1 Nephi 19:6
When W. W. Phelps was serving as a church leader in Missouri, Joseph Smith wrote him a letter clarifying some church policies regarding the immigration of members. In that letter, he reiterated the importance of written records:
It is the duty of the Lord’s clerk, whom he has appointed, to keep a history, and a general church record of all things that transpire in Zion.Doctrine and Covenants 85:1
This record should not only contain official actions, but also “their manner of life, their faith, and works” (Doctrine and Covenants 85:2).
Wilford Woodruff encouraged all members of the church to keep their own personal record, and not to rely on the records of others:
The Presidency of the Church who are now leading us … keep a history of the dealings of both God and man with them … which will be interesting to millions of future generations. But does this excuse the many thousands of elders and high priests and Apostles who have traveled for many years and built up this Church and kingdom and had the gifts of the Holy Ghost with them so they have had power to heal the sick and cast out devils, open the eyes of the blind, unstop the ears of the deaf, cause the lame to leap … , and commanded the demon and they obey them, and have had guardian angels to preserve them from danger and death? I say, shall the elders be blessed with these things and not count them worth recording? Not even make the mark of a pen to leave the account on record for their children and future generations to read? I say they should. I think the Lord requires this at our hands, and it is a rich and holy legacy which is justly due our posterity.Journal of Wilford Woodruff, November 18, 1855, quoted in Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, Chapter 13: Journals: “Of Far More Worth than Gold”
Malachi prophesied that Elijah would come “to turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers” (Malachi 4:6, 3 Nephi 25:6). Elder Gerrit W. Gong recently highlighted the importance of the possessive pronoun, “their,” in this passage. The hearts of our descendants will be turned not to prior generations in general, but to us specifically: their direct ancestors.
Wilford Woodruff said, “If there was no other motive” for keeping a journal than “to have the privilege of reading…and for our children to read, it would pay for the time spent in writing it” (Journal of Wilford Woodruff, September 6, 1856).
Today, I will record the events of the day in my journal. I will recommit to consistently recording my experiences, with the hope that my children and grandchildren will benefit from what I write.