Monday, October 6, 2014

Record Your Story, Part I: Reasons for Keeping a Journal

I hosted a journal workshop at my church not to long ago, and it went so well that I thought I should share it with you here. It's going to be in four parts. Part I: Reasons for Starting a Journal, Part II: Different Kinds of Journaling, Part III: Journal Prompts that Focus on Your Present, and Part IV: Journal Prompts that Focus on You Past.

So without further ado, here's Part I of my journal workshop.

Reasons for Starting a Journal

I've always kept a journal just because I enjoy getting thoughts out of my head and onto paper. It wasn't until I read the journal of my great-great-great grandpa that I truly understood the amazing things a journal could do. 

William Butler was born in Scotland 1825 and immigrated to America because he had no financial prospects at home. After moving to the US, he met Orson Hyde, one of the original founders of the Mormon church, and traveled to Salt Lake City as one of the first pioneers. My family has been members ever since. 

After getting married, Brigham Young asked him to serve several missions in Europe. His mission was filled with miracles of curing illness and avoiding danger through the power of God. (I wish I had time to share them with you.)

At one point, his third wife (yes, I have many polygamous ancestors) and two of his children got attacked by a murderer with an axe. He hunted the man down, beat him within an inch of his life until the man begged for death, and shot him. (Welcome to my crazy family.) 

When he went home, his wife and one of his daughters was still alive, and his wife asked for a blessing. (In my religion, that is a special prayer to help people who are sick or troubled.) He blessed her even though she was on the brink of death and she miraculously recovered. They had two children after that, one of whom - Heber Close Butler - was my ancestor.

These are stories that everyone in my family knows. My family history has been done nearly up to the 14th century, but only a few of my ancestors kept journals, and those journals are still being read by their descendants. 

You might think that's all well and good for him, but we can't all have such interesting lives. If you think your descendants won't want to read your journal, think of this:

Anne Frank was a normal 13-year-old girl when she got a journal for her birthday. In one of her first entries, she wrote, “It’s an odd idea for someone life me to keep a diary, not only because I have never done so before, but because it seems to me that neither I – nor for that matter anyone else – will be interested in the unbosomings of a thirteen-year-old school girl. Still, what does that matter? I want to write, but more than that, I was to bring out all kinds of things that lie buried in my heart.”

She and her family went into hiding when the Nazis started taking Jews away from Holland, and she continued keeping a journal throughout her time there. The journal has sold millions of copies world-wide and it is one of the most poignant and influential books written in the 20th century.

The fact of the matter is, no one thinks they live in extraordinary times. You don’t know what your life has in store that people will want to read about. We all have something to say that people will treasure when we are gone.

That's my reason for keeping a journal.


  1. I can agree with this system, but it's funny how easy it is to not journal or scribble things down. Now though, I find myself writing notes that I want to add into my book onto my phone. That way, when I come to edit my book, I go back to my notes and add it what I wrote down.

  2. Fascinating - and true, Teralyn. What is ordinary to you will not be to your descendents. In fact that is the whole reason behind my blog Record of a baffled spirit. Once we had hearths and close families were stories were told and handed down. Hearths are few and far between now and families are global. The journal or blog provides some connective tissue for the now and the future.


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