Many people have a hard time keeping a journal. If you’re one of the few who manage to write every day, you’re rare. And there are reasons why some don’t like it: Perhaps they were criticized in school and feel they’re not good writers, they get to the end of the day and can’t think what to write, they think their lives are boring, or they simply feel too busy.
So, I’m going to suggest a journaling method that will prime the pump and get you started. Not only that, you’ll love what happens.
First, choose your method. It could be that you dictate into your cell phone, type on your home computer, or hand-write in a notebook. Maybe you’ll jot a letter to a loved one. In any case, your goal is to record every time you have a spiritual experience.
These don’t have to be grandiose, and they don’t have to be every day like a regular journal. It can be the way you felt singing a particular hymn last Sunday. It could be the genuine caring that came through when someone asked how you’re doing. Maybe it’s a prompting you felt, to call someone you minister to. It could be an insight you gained during Sunday School class. Or a humbling moment during the passing of the Sacrament, when you prayed for forgiveness.
Write it down. Then watch for other such moments. Maybe it will be an opportunity you have to share the gospel with someone. It could be an inspiring quote you came across. Or just a feeling of calm when you’re discouraged.
What this is not, is an accounting of your daily appointments and duties. It’s not a travel or weather report. It’s not a complaint about something, or a collection of woes. It’s only those tingly moments when you feel the Spirit. Each entry can even be one line.
Now, here’s what happens: Just as with keeping a gratitude journal, you find what you’re looking for. If you’re committed to writing down spiritual experiences, you’ll be on the lookout for more of them and you’ll find them.
But even better, Heavenly Father will know you’re of this mindset now, and are open to messages from the Holy Ghost. This personal revelation will come with more frequency and will guide your life in unexpected and exhilarating ways. You’ll wish you had started this years ago.
This will truly bolster your testimony and bring into your life the warmth of a connection with the Holy Ghost. You will find more and more moments that shine, that beg to be written down. You’ll experience spiritual growth. As President Russell M. Nelson has counseled, “Because of the Savior’s Atonement, His gospel provides an invitation to keep changing, growing, and becoming more pure.”
Pray for such moments. Let God know you want to receive them, grow from them, and follow any promptings you might get. Even in our trials—perhaps especially during our trials—we can receive strength from beyond. Our circumstances do not dictate our ability to connect. As Elder Dean M. Davis said, “Spiritual experiences have less to do with what is happening around us and everything to do with what is happening within our hearts.”
In his amazing talk, Lest Thou Forget, Elder Ronald A. Rasband urged us all to remember these spiritual moments—and how better than to write them down and save them? He spoke of a struggling friend and said, “When I have counseled individuals such as my friend, I have explored their decisions made over the years which led them to forget sacred experiences, to weaken, and to doubt. I encouraged them, as I encourage you now, to recall, especially in times of crisis, when you felt the Spirit and your testimony was strong; remember the spiritual foundations you have built.
“I promise that if you will do this, avoiding things that do not build and strengthen your testimony or that mock your beliefs, those precious times when your testimony prospered will return again to your memory through humble prayer and fasting. I assure you that you will once again feel the safety and warmth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
President Dallin H. Oaks enumerated eight purposes of revelatory communication: To testify, to prophesy, to comfort, to uplift, to inform, to restrain, to confirm, and to impel. As you collect more and more experiences, you may see these come into sharper focus.
When we have moments of heavenly connection, Lucifer may fight to give us doubts and fears. Just as Joseph experienced thick darkness prior to the First Vision, we may find Satan struggling to block our spiritual moments, or make us doubt them afterwards. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, in his talk, Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence, reminds us, “…Sure it is tough—before you join the Church, while you are trying to join, and after you have joined. That is the way it has always been, Paul says, but don’t draw back. Don’t panic and retreat. Don’t lose your confidence. Don’t forget how you once felt. Don’t distrust the experience you had. That tenacity is what saved Moses and Joseph Smith when the adversary confronted them, and it is what will save you.”
I have shared some of my ever-increasing experiences here in Meridian Magazine, and I hope to have many more. As I re-read those precious moments it strengthens my faith again and again. Do this for yourself and for your loved ones. It may be a future descendant will be facing a trial just like one of yours, and will turn to your faithful record to learn what to do.
Try the experiment, just for one month. I’ll bet you keep going forever.
Hilton teaches Seminary. She is also an award-winning playwright, and the author of many best-selling Latter-day Saint books. Those, her humor blog, and YouTube Mom videos can be found on her website.