“These were days never to be forgotten. To [sit] under the sound of a voice dictated by the inspiration of heaven, awakened the utmost gratitude of this bosom!” Oliver Cowdery described the experience of being the scribe in the translation of the Book of Mormon.
Have you had experiences that you hoped to never forget? Have you felt the divine and hoped that it would be a constant guide in your life? Have you recorded those experiences as a way of recognizing, remembering, and honoring God?
God has invested more than we can now comprehend to provide us our perfect and personalized mortal experience. He does not merely sit us in a classroom and lecture us to help us grow. No—He equipped an earth with everything from molybdenum to moonbeams, from trace elements to towering trees. He has made an earth perfectly suited to endow us with everything we need to build, organize, and grow life on earth. His attention to experience is even greater than His attention to the physical environment. He provides us with friends, interactions, challenges, and encouragements perfectly suited to move us toward godliness. They provide this education for us gladly. And They ask that we cherish our experiences—that we ponder them, record them, and use them to guide our lives.
If I asked you what blessings God gave you last Wednesday, could you tell me? If I asked you what miracles God granted you a year ago today, do you have a record?
For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift. (D&C 88:33).
Having moved heaven and earth to provide us our earthly experience, He asks simply that we be attentive students. God is indeed the Perfect Parent. Just as an earthly parent would plan conversations, vacations, and outings to provide a beloved child with experiences to bring joy and growth, so our Perfect Father drawing on all the resources of eternity does that for each of His beloved children. He asks merely that we notice His gifts and acknowledge His immeasurable wisdom in the timing of them. “He who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious,” (D&C 78:19).
I testify that wise efforts to notice and appreciate the hand of God in our lives are rewarded extravagantly. Gratitude is the fuel for a joyous faith journey.
There are thousands of ways of keeping a record of God’s doings in our lives. The surest way to fail at keeping a record is to do something that doesn’t work for you. The surest way to succeed is to customize practices to fit your life and personality.
Years ago, with fresh resolve to be a better record keeper, I bought a lovely journal and decided I would make an entry every night. That worked for two nights. But it was just too hard to see the shape and substance of God’s work at such proximity. So, I went a long period doing nothing.
At some point, I bought a month-at-a-glance calendar and used the little 2-inch by 2-inch square each day to record the major events of that day. Using only about 40 words, I would describe the main doings that day. I decided to put a plus sign (+) next to any experience where I distinctly felt the Spirit. I put an asterisk (*) next to any where I felt notable joy. Every evening before going to bed, I took 5-10 minutes to capture the main events of the day. Because it is easily done, I have sustained that practice for over 50 years. I can tell you basically what I’ve done every day of my life for approximately the last 20,000 days. This is a simple way of showing Heavenly Father that I am trying to pay attention to His sacred tutoring.
Some people use apps to prompt them to record events of the day on their phones. Others take pictures. Some write a line a day. Some record thoughts and impressions in their daily planners. Some people use their phones to voice dictate the day’s events. For many years, I kept index cards in my pocket and promptly wrote down any impression or spiritual experience. There are many ways of creating a record.
Though a simple daily record system is adequate for recording an inventory of experiences, there are even greater blessings ahead as we use this inventory to search for patterns in our lives and blessings God is creating for us. So how do we make sense of experience? What does it all mean? There are other processes that are better for finding meaning than merely making a daily list of experiences.
Currently, I use a common journal to record inspirations and insights. Every day, after filling out my calendar (described above), I write down thoughts and feelings that seemed inspired. I call this journal the small plates of Wally—the record on which I write “a few of the things which I [consider] to be most precious” (Jacob 1:2). This is not an essay or even complete sentences; it is only a line or two most days noting the experiences and ideas that seemed to glow. On the Sabbath, it is several lines and includes my important experiences with talks, hymns, the sacrament, and personal inspiration. I do NOT write down notes from every talk and lesson. I write only the things that are highlighted for me by the Spirit of God.
There is another important way of making sense of the varied ideas and inspirations sent by Heaven. Those who have written weekly letters to missionaries know that a week is a great unit of time for seeing the hand of God. So, even though our children have been home from missions for decades, I still pull out my calendar and small plates and write a letter every Sunday evening (unless we are traveling). I would like to make it extremely personal and send it only to Father. But, in the Spirit of sharing with loved ones, I email the somewhat-less-personal letter to our family and a few friends. I print and keep a copy of each letter in a file and have a pretty thorough family history as a result.
If you are interested in gargantuan blessings, there is another practice that reliably fills a soul with wonder and heavenly gratitude. Sometimes, at the end of a year, I take my year’s calendar and read through it day by day and record the most important people and events of the year. I note the people to whom we minister and the special occasions in the family. I pay special attention to unexpected blessings and opportunities. I may make about 12-20 entries for each month. As I proceed month by month, I start to see a pattern. I see ways that God is weaving wonders into our lives. I discover answered prayers and glorious blessings. Many of those things are not seen when we only look one day at a time. But, when we look at weeks, months, and a year, the hand of God is fully evident. When I take the time to make such an inventory, I weep with joy.
So, the point of keeping a record may be to find evidence that God loves us and is blessing us in spectacular ways. But God is infinitely subtle. He will only be caught by those who are attentive.
When God is creating the painting that is our lives, we may marvel at some of His brushstrokes. But, if we really want to see His full genius, we look to the combination of strokes that creates people, objects, landscapes, and purpose—the portrait of our lives created by the greatest Artist in the universe. When we are attentive students, we will see God in the hours, days, weeks, months, and years of our lives.
So, I rejoice in President Eyring’s counsel
Tonight, and tomorrow night, you might pray and ponder, asking the questions: Did God send a message that was just for me? Did I see His hand in my life or the lives of my children? . . . I will find a way to preserve that memory for the day that I, and those that I love, will need to remember how much God loves us and how much we need Him. I testify that He loves us and blesses us, more than most of us have yet recognized. I know that is true, and it brings me joy to remember Him. (O Remember, Remember, October 2007)
I hope you will make God’s work in your life a focus of serious study and reflection. I promise it will bring you great joy.
Thanks to Annie Foster for her wise contributions to this article.