I think scrapbooking saved my kids. Granted, family prayers, family home evening and scripture reading played a big part, but I refuse to overlook the hidden benefits of scrapbooking.

Imagine how it feels to be a child. Your mother places a photograph of your cute smiling face boldly on a 12X12 page and then spends hours embellishing your photograph with stickers and glue, calligraphy and ribbon, chalks and brads. You are a star, the focus of awe and admiration. Clearly, Mom thinks you are pretty darn special. How can a child whose every expression is painstakingly preserved not know he is loved?

Utterly Lovable

Loving oneself is not narcissistic, it is necessary in order to make good decisions. The Young Women’s theme begins with the statement, “I am a daughter of Heavenly Father who loves me and I love him.” One of the eight young women’s values is individual worth. The scriptures teach, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” meaning, you have to love yourself, and then love your neighbor just as well as your are loving yourself. Children who do not feel they are lovable will not love themselves, and therefore make self-destructive choices. They may not feel they are worth saving.

Mothers show their children love in lots of ways: making meals, driving them all over town, cleaning their clothes, tending them when they are sick, comforting them when they are down, listening when they need to talk. Mothers teach, discipline, sacrifice, and set an example, all as a way to show their love. Cataloging a child’s life, recording their funny sayings, their cute antics and their milestones is among the ways a mother can show her love. It’s a concrete way to communicate to the child their infinite worth.

Photographs as a Mirror

Carol Lynn Pearson wrote a song for her play “My Turn on Earth” with the following lyrics:

“I’m the one who writes my own story,
I decide the person I’ll be.
What goes in the plot and what does not
Is pretty much up to me.
Just in case I need to erase,
it was figured out before,
a thing called repentance
can wipe out a sentence
a page, or a chapter, or more.”

When a child sees his life as a story that somebody else might read, he is more motivated to tell a story that he will be proud to tell.

In order to encourage children to do good things we sometimes tell them that God is watching. When we record their stories here on earth, it becomes very real, very possible that someone is actually watching and taking notes, evaluating their behavior. Knowing that others are watching is a powerful incentive not to do something shameful, but instead to do things that we will want others to watch. Shameful things generally happen when we think no one is watching. We are on our best behavior when we are aware that someone might be watching.

When they were little, I’d catch a candid shot of a child by interrupting his play with the question, “Hey, whacha doin’???” As they grew older, the children began to recognize what they called my “picture voice.” They knew when Mom suddenly asked, “Whacha you doin’?” that I had a camera in my hand with the lens aimed their way. They went through a stage where they would play shy and hide their faces so I couldn’t make a recording of their life. When they became teenagers, that shyness disappeared, and they became camera clowns. They had a blast mugging for the camera, and we have scrapbooks full of hysterical faces, and poses, and antics they wanted preserved as evidence of their creative, humorous lives. Instead of hiding their faces when Mom showed up with a camera, they begged Mom, “Here, take a picture of this…”

Remember, Remember

Throughout the scriptures we are admonished to remember how good God has been to the children of men. We encouraged by our prophets to remember when we have felt the spirit, to remember when God has intervened in our lives, and in the lives of our ancestors. Remembering blessings from the past is a great way to acknowledge that God is blessing us in the present and will bless us in the future.

A visual record will help our children remember. They remember good things they might forget without such evidence. Children may not actually remember a certain event, but because they have seen a photograph of the event, they know it happened and they can tell it was good.

We have all kinds of photographs of our family playing together. We have photographs of snowskiing, waterskiing, mountainbiking, kayaking, hiking, surfing, and climbing. They are great memories. If a child ever wanted to stray from the family, all he has to do is remember the good times we have as a family, and he will think twice about abandoning the group that he has enjoyed so much in the past.

Recently my adult children wanted to schedule a float trip down the Ichetucknee river. I reminded them that the last time I floated the Ichetucknee with them it poured buckets of rain. One of my sons recalled that day, “Yea, I have a picture of you and me huddling together under a tube, trying to stay warm. It was the most fun I have ever had on the Ichetucknee.”

Prophets have taught us that it is not only the family that prays together that stays together, but also “the family that plays together stays together.” Remembering the feeling of the family playing together will remind the children how important it is to stay together.

Fancy, embellished pages are certainly not essential when recording a child’s life. A simple photograph with nothing but a date written on the back still shows that somebody regarded that child highly enough to create a record of his existence. Likewise, a bunch of smiling faces will remind the viewer of the joy that exists when that family gets together. If a picture is worth 1000 words, pictures are an effective way to record a family’s history, and assure that it is a history the family will be pleased to remember.

JeaNette Goates Smith is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Jacksonville, Florida, specializing in adolescents. Her most recent book is Unsteady Dating” Resisting the Rush to Romance available at www.amazon.com