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Writing in journals

December 21, 2008

You know what people just don’t seem to do these days? Write in journals. I’ve asked a few people if they write in journals and invariably, the answer is a no. And a weird glare. Who would do something like that?

Journals -- Do you write one?

Journals -- Do you write one?

It’s something that has been emphasized by the church, but I can’t say that I began writing because of what the church said. However, it’s interesting to read about other members who write journals because they are heeding prophetic words. Hmm…I wonder what it was that led to the original fervor about journal-writing? It seems like such a strange thing to advocate.

I remember hearing a story about it in church. I don’t know if it’s an old Mormon wive’s tale or just some superficial part of culture that is utterly undoctrinal — of course, it probably is. What someone had said was that journals were like scriptures. Obviously, we probably won’t see our own words canonized any time soon, but the same spirit that the authors of the scriptures used, we should keep that in mind when we write in a journal. And as we enter trying times (and perhaps even the Millenium), it is our words that will be useful guidance to our children and their children.

I must admit that that seems a bit romantic to me: the idea that soon, we might be in the end of times and our advice and daily life occurences will be cherished by future generations. I mean, in the end, the idea of “end of times” is really morbid, but maybe I’m just a morbid person.

I think part of this is uniquely a Mormon phenomenon. Obviously, it wouldn’t make sense to informally liken journal-writing to scripture creation, because in other denominations, the canon is closed and the books were never meant to be seen as enlightened word-of-God’d journals. But in many ways the Book of Mormon is meant to be a history as told by several journalists. Maybe that’s not official doctrine, but things kinda felt better when I thought of it like that (haha, but it didn’t make me believe in any of it any easier). The idea that the scriptures were personal messages (yet written for our generation) I think resonates for many members, so the idea of writing documents for a future generation also resonates.

That being said, I probably don’t write in my journal enough. I definitely don’t write every day. And I probably would not want anyone to see it. Ever. Not even when I’m dead.

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7 Comments
  1. Journaling is one of the things I’ve always liked about Mormonism. I haven’t done it as regularly as some, but I’m glad to have the ones I did write. The only trouble is that teaching that if your journal is really good it will be used by angels as scripture — it has too many people trying to write like “I, Nephi.” Even my own journals are blighted by it here and there, but overall I was honest enough to admit that I was never terribly righteous or spiritual (but trying!)

    As usual, I can’t help but include my relevant cross-references ;)

    Sexuality vs. Spirituality: Which is more intimate?: “Now I’m actually glad I recorded this stuff in a sense because it is so alien to my normal personality that I would hardly believe I ever felt this way if I hadn’t written it down.”

    and

    This review.

  2. Does obsessive commenting across the religious blogosphere count?

  3. To Seth (first):

    I wouldn’t say that obsessive commenting across the religious blogosphere counts. I originally wrote this article because I realized that I blog a LOT more than I write in my journal.

    But at the same time, the subject matter of what I write in blogs is vastly different than what I journal about, and probably for the same reasons that chanson alludes to. I just wouldn’t want to put intimate stuff online.

    To chanson: The thing I regret about my journals is that I don’t really talk about experiences…I talk about feelings and introspective things.

    Fortunately, I can say that I didn’t try to fake anything. So, my journal isn’t *too* despicable to me now, even though I do still get embarrassed about the way I felt or thought about things back when I was younger.

    My journals are surprisingly candid about my lack of spirituality, so really, I’m embarrassed that it took me so long to take a stand and say, “I’m tired of pretending.” Among other things.

  4. That’s one nice thing about my old journals: I think I wrote a good mix of introspection with recounting tales of things I did.

    And for the spirituality, I wouldn’t say I was faking it. It was sincere, but forced.

  5. I write in a journal, mostly because in my study of history I have come to really appreciate how important journals can be for preserving history. Of course, with the advent of the Internet all of that will probably change. The historical documents of the future will be blogs, Facebook pages, and emails. As for the early Mormon emphasis on journal-writing, I think the comparison to scripture is actually quite apt. The Book of Mormon is a record written by the great Nephite patriarchs. Joseph Smith saw himself as the first great patriarch of a new dispensation, and placed great importance on record-keeping. He kept journals meticulously and wrote some half-dozen different versions of his history. I think that when he told the members to keep journals, it was with the consciousness that they would write about *him* and posterity would remember him. Egoistic, yes, but of course posterity *did* remember, so obviously it worked!

  6. I’m not a Luddite or anything, but I’m skeptic of the internet’s preservative ability.

    Actually, I can see it both ways: there are old 1997 geocities websites (with their terrible font colors and their terrible tiled backgrounds) that just won’t die (thanks to that perpetually lasting free webhosting). But I’ve had my hard drive crash enough times to know that computers aren’t necessarily flawless. I guess that doesn’t usually affect hosting servers and websites, and even paper quality can degrade.

    Good analysis on Joseph Smith’s outlook!

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