I received my first journal as a birthday gift when I turned eleven years old. I started writing in it little more than paragraph about the day. It took a few years, but I filled it up and bought my next journal with my own money. I was hooked on filling up blank pages. The entries lengthened as I wrote about nothing and everything. I have a record written by my own hand from then until 21 years of age. They’re fun to have and look through and all the things that consumed my thoughts and pages. I was not nearly so consistent with journaling during my twenties, but I kept up the habit that has evolved through the years.
When I was a sophomore in college, I took a religion class “Keys to Scripture Study.” One of the requirements of the class was to read the scriptures for thirty minutes everyday and write something about what you read in some journal form. I had done something similar my senior year of high school though not as structured. My scripture journal as I termed it, was a blue notebook with notebook paper. I would rewrite in my own words things I liked, what images verses brought to mind, explore concepts and themes. I noted things I didn’t understand. I wrote down questions. Nothing in it was especially profound or earth shattering. I found great value in it and kept it up even after the semester was over.
The next semester ended up being particularly trying for me. One evening I was reviewing things that I had written and started seeing a pattern and theme in things that I was drawn to note and explore. I saw that a lot of that had prepared and taught me for the trial I was experiencing by giving me increased faith and understanding of Jesus Christ, His role, and attributes. Particularly those attributes I was more heavily relying on trying to make sense of the setbacks. I had no idea that I was being influenced by God and His Holy Spirit day by day with this one habit. I felt closer to God and more awareness, humility, and awe of His regard and care for me.
I have continued to keep a study journal that has evolved over the years. Sometimes I make outlines to pull key points from a chapter. I’ve made diagrams to see if that helps me understand a principle. I express wonder and awe. I write what I know to be true. I write what I hope to be true. I write what I don’t understand. I write questions. I write about my doubts. I write what I learned. I write what I like about what I read.
I write about what I notice of individuals in the different accounts. I imagine myself in their place and find new meaning in stories I’ve read over and over. I explore and note definitions of words that seem particularly pertinent to a principle. I feel the words.
Those I read about become my friends as I write to learn, understand, and know them better. This has become most amazingly true of Jesus Christ. As I have explored His gospel, teachings, and principles through such a simple exercise of writing, He feels closer. He feels knowable. He feels more reachable.
I record impressions, promptings, whisperings, thoughts, ideas, whatever you want to call them, that don’t seem to simply be products of my own thinking or mind. There have been things written or typed by what I know was my own hand that have astonished me when I reread them. Honestly, I can’t credit anything other than the influence of God that something profound came through my busy, scattered, and tired mind.
The Book of Mormon in Ether 12:25 has a phrase I’ve always be drawn to: “when we write we behold our weakness.” The writer is referring to the method of writing on metal plates and a language used just for writing. I’ve often felt that I see much of my weakness as I write, both in being able to adequately express and describe what I want and seeing my own weakness.
However, when I write in my scripture journal as I’ve described, I’ve found something else to be true and fulfilled:
“And when I had said this [referring to weakness in writing], the Lord spake unto me, saying: Fools mock, but they shall mourn; and my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness; And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”Ether 12:27
My weak attempts at writing down my musings as I study and try to live the Gospel has truly shown how sufficient and strong the grace of God is. My journals have become a source of strength and evidence of God’s goodness and presence in my life to strengthen me. The Lord is not put off or dismayed by our weakness, sloppy writing, misspelled words.
Have you tried coming unto the Lord through writing your own record? If you have, how has it strengthened you? If you haven’t, now is not too late to start.