My husband’s recent blog post about journal writing reminds me of his faithful example in following the Prophet’s counsel on keeping a personal record of one’s life. It reminds me why I blog, in the grander scheme of things.
I received my first journal for my 9th birthday. It’s fun to flip through every once in a while and see my childhood through that lens. It was in Junior High, though, that I realized why I enjoyed keeping a journal and writing in general. It wasn’t until my senior year in High School, however, that I learned why it was so important to Heavenly Father that we keep a record of our lives…
The Summer before my Senior year was a particularly difficult one for me. I had tried out for the Drill Team for my Junior year and didn’t make it. For my Senior year, I didn’t make the cut again. And then I did. The coach had compassion enough to add two alternates to the team and asked if I would like to be one of them. Since I spent my Junior year watching my best friends do what I loved and wanted to do, I was thrilled to be allowed to join the team.
The sting from not making the team twice and then being taken as one of two ‘second string’ dancers was hard on my self-worth. In addition to that, my boyfriend was on an LDS mission and I was concerned that in my small school I would have no social life because of my “missionary’s girlfriend” status.
In a state of worry I became depressed. My ever loving mom observed my despondency and asked what I would like to do about it. I told her the first thing that came to mind: I wanted to go to Grandma Sammy’s for a few days. So we went.
One night before bed at Grandma Sammy’s I sought out wisdom from her book shelves. Like a magnet, my eyes were drawn to the gold lettered title “Missionary Journal” and I pulled the book off the shelf. I opened to a random page, read a few of the cursive words, and walked back to the Brown Room (as we all called that guest room), eyes still glued to the book in my hands.
At first I thought I was reading my Grandma’s handwriting, but as I read further it became clear that it was my Grandpa Loren’s…
My Grandpa Loren is my step-grandpa and my great-uncle. He and my grandmother married after both of their spouses had passed away; my Grandma Sammy married her husband’s brother. Grandpa Loren and his first wife had one child, but she died as a baby. He was the only Grandpa most of us grandkids and great-grandkids knew.
There are many things I remember about Grandpa Loren. I can still see his hands as he handed out quarters from his pocket; I can hear his voice as he gave his long prayers at Thanksgiving dinner or other family events; I hear his laughter from the middle of the living room, surrounded by my aunts and uncles; I remember that he jumped off the house boat into Lake Powell in his undies because he didn’t have a swim suit; I remember his die hard patriotism stemming from serving in World War II; I remember eating his Apple Jacks and fried eggs; I remember him working hard in the yard; I remember his big whiskery kisses on my small child face; I remember how he loved my grandma, as well as her children and grandchildren; and I remember how he loved the Gospel.
My Grandpa Loren’s Missionary Journal is short and sweet; hundreds of pages are blank. In it, he re-writes “sermons” that he gave in Sacrament Meetings on their full-time, Senior Couple mission in Washington State. In his “sermons” he tells of some WWII experiences, listing examples of how he gained a stronger testimony despite those awful circumstances. He talks of Sammy’s dedication in writing in her journal. He writes about not feeling sure about why he’s writing except that the prophet, President Spencer W. Kimball, asked us to keep a record of our lives.
And he writes about having no posterity–his primary reason for wondering why he should keep a journal.
There is a feeling that comes when I talk or write about my time with Grandpa Loren’s Missionary Journal. That feeling confirms everything I experienced in that hour when I feasted upon his words. He may not have felt like he had any posterity, but I knew as I read his words, of his love for Jesus Christ, that I was the posterity he was writing for.
I consider that event to be the birth of my testimony. I felt the Holy Spirit stronger at that time than I had ever felt up to that point in my life. I knew for myself that I was a daughter of a loving Heavenly Father and that Jesus Christ was my Savior and Redeemer. I was converted.
Turns out my Senior year in High School is a good memory on the whole. I know part of that had to do with learning there was more to me than being second string or Miss Popular.
My upbringing in the LDS church taught me the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but when challenges come, I always turn to those moments spent with my Grandpa Loren’s words. His obedience in writing further strengthen’s my love for the Book of Mormon and all the prophets who obeyed the Lord and wrote their history, to Mormon and Moroni for preserving the record, so that we could have the fullest picture of Jesus Christ possible.
This is the source of my abiding testimony. When life feels like it’s crumbling–a little or a lot–I recall that event with Grandpa Loren, I read The Book of Mormon, I feel those feelings, and I believe in myself again.
This is what I am most grateful for, as I add another post to my personal history this Thanksgiving season.