Although I had been to Kirtland in the 1960’s, my first solo trip there was about 42 years ago. I was an eager student of the gospel and wanted to visit all the church historical sites from Palmyra to Carthage. I had a goal to read all the revelations of the Doctrine and Covenants out loud in the very places where they were received. I wanted to hear the revelations in my ears as well as in my heart. This was no small task.
The Church of Jesus Christ had recently obtained the Newel K. Whitney Store in Kirtland, Ohio, but it was not yet open for organized tours, just casual look-around-visits. One missionary couple was assigned to answer questions and keep the key to the door of the store. At that point in my life, as a twenty-something, I knew that a lot of revelations were received in Ohio in those early days, but I had no idea that there were ten different physical locations for the 65 revelations received in what we often refer to as “the Kirtland period” or “the Ohio period.
I deducted that many revelations must have been received in the Newel K. Whitney Store and I was right—an astounding 16 or 17 were received there! I told the caring missionary couple what I was doing, and that I would like to go upstairs in a place where I wouldn’t bother anyone and read all the Kirtland revelations aloud. They heartily agreed and said that if anyone came while I was up there, they would just show them the main floor of the store. Well, nobody came, but I was up there for about 5 hours, carefully reading all the revelations aloud that had Kirtland listed in the headnotes. The exercise worked for me, my voice was pretty well shot at the end of my hours of reading out loud, but the revelations became deeply set in my mind and in the fleshy tables of my heart. I remember that experience as if it happened yesterday.
Because of Meridian Magazine, we are press and so, on May 17 and 18 of 2003, we were invited to join a small group in Kirtland to tour the newly renovated or reconstructed sites just before President Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated them. Elder Neal A. Maxwell and Sister Colleen Maxwell were in the small group, and I took this photograph of him waving goodbye.
He was a friend of ours and this was the last event where we would see him in person before his death 14 months later. Colleen later told us that was one of her favorite pictures of him. In his talk at the members’ meeting in Kirtland, he called the heavenly knowledge given there a “cascade of revelations”, a term that implies an abundance, a waterfall of light. Kirtland was that kind of place. His talks were always like a cascade of revelation for me personally. He, like President Russell M. Nelson, always encouraged members to seek personal revelation. “God the eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ are giving away the secrets of the universe if we will only not be offended at their generosity,” he once taught. I believe that with all my heart.
During this past year I have used three of my 2021 Nauvoo Diaries, daily, to record various things from my life. The first diary is just a little events journal. I record what I did today, something significant we saw or someone significant we met. The second Nauvoo Diary I use is a gratitude journal. What am I especially grateful for on this particular day? What has filled my heart that day with thanks? I never have a problem recording something—the problem is deciding which of all the things I’m grateful for that I should record. The third Nauvoo Diary has been strictly for recognizing the hand of the Lord in my life that day. I only average 65-70 words per entry, per diary, but sometimes I spill over into the little weekly extra section for “Thoughts and Ideas” or to the larger lined spread at the end of the month.
I have loved this exercise every day this past year. I look forward to it every night. Oh, I have missed a few days, but not very many. It’s been the best year in many for me in recording personal journal entries. I practice good penmanship so my posterity will be able to actually read what I have written, but more importantly, this daily habit has made me much more aware of how the Lord blesses me each day and how I hear Him.
Now, because of my own experience with The Nauvoo Diary, I have happily changed the proposed purpose of The Kirtland Diary from an week-at-a-glance type engagement calendar to a diary for thoughts and personal revelation. This is what has been most rewarding for me this past year—I have even taken all three diaries on trips with us so that I can keep recording these amazing observations every day. It has become a deeply spiritual part of my day.
I have to tell you a quick story from this past summer: Maurine and I were heading to the Salt Lake Airport to lead our Ultimate Church History Tour. When we came to check in, I realized I forgot my wallet—left it at home. This has never happened before but it happened and there I was with no ID and no credit cards and no money. I tried everything I can to get the wallet to me. Our son-in-law had driven us to the airport so I sent him back to our home to pick it up. I could see the time ticking away and did the math—I wasn’t going to be able to get on that plane with Maurine. Long-story-short—the wallet got delivered but they closed the door for the departing flight 30 seconds before I got there and would not open it.
Trust me, Maurine can do everything by herself on this tour if needed, but I certainly felt so badly for what I had inadvertently done. I would not arrive into Boston until two-and-a-half hours after Maurine and after all our introductions of the tour members and orientation to the tour. I was, for a few minutes, a little bit bummed. I sat down to wait for the next flight—there was truly nothing else I could do. As I sat there, I decided to pull out my Nauvoo Diary gratitude journal and just read about 100 of the entries. It wasn’t long before I just felt so cheered, so lifted, so happy! I truly did—my own recordings of gratitude were what lifted me from an otherwise rotten situation.
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Yes, I know we all have electronic devices these days. Yes, I know that there are online journals and journal apps that we can use. Yes, I know that writing things by hand is “so yesterday.” But I have to say, there is something organic and connecting that happens when you are putting ink to paper—it is refreshing. It is delicious. It is transforming. It is old school and I love it. I personally do not want it to become a lost art in my life—writing some things by hand.
I have neighbors here in Alpine, Utah who remind me that they have not missed writing daily in their Nauvoo Diary since the moment they got it. I have had people tell me that there is just enough space to record some important thoughts or insights and not too much space so they are feeling pressured to fill something up. I have experienced that same thing. And I’ve found that the photographs give the diary a real, palpable feeling and a touch with the past. I have loved the quotes as well and have received numerous emails from people saying how a specific quote has truly inspired them on a particular day when they needed it. That makes me so happy,
That day back in 2003 when we were touring the sites in Kirtland with President and Sister Hinckley, and Elder and Sister Maxwell, we learned a great deal, and we were given some unforgettable experiences. Three of our children were with us, Andy, Mariah and Michaela, ages 19, 13 and 8 respectively. It was a Saturday evening when we were waiting outside the stake center for the member meeting to begin. President Hinckley arrived with his entourage.
As he got close to the door (see accompanying picture) he stopped and spent a few moments joking with our children. How utterly gracious that was. He had been with them a number of hours that day and he still took those moments to bring them to laughter. Another moment was in the Ashery. The little girls were standing by the prophet and Elder Woodbury, the site director, said, “Now, if you’ll come around here, I’ll show you what those early saints would do to make potash and pearl ash.”
President Hinckley turned to the girls and said, gesturing with his hand, “Shall we go?” That little three-word question has become part of our family culture. “Time to go to church everyone.” “Shall we go?” “We need to be on our way or we’ll be late to the reception.” “Shall we go?” “We need to go down to the studio and record the podcast.” “Shall we go?” We speak these simple words and every time we do, it brings us back to that moment of courtesy and kindness from a prophet to our daughters. We remember it so well, because we wrote it down. Simple and powerful.
I know you will love The Kirtland Diary for Thoughts and Personal Revelation. Use it every day. Write down those significant moments, those flashes of inspiration, those sacred ideas that come from the Spirit. You’ll be glad you did and this little Kirtland Diary will become a treasure for you and your posterity for years to come.
Oh and I’ve added a new feature I think you will like to this year’s diary. After the last week’s calendar, I’ve inserted a “Photo Captions” section where I identify where every picture was taken and a little bit about that place. These places are part of our sacred heritage—I think you will feel that.
CLICK HERE to order your Kirtland Diary today. Expected shipping date to you: November 15.