Journals: Write ‘Em, Read ‘Em
By Marvin Payne
I feel an urgency to respond to Gary Bascom, who wrote me an e-mail (very easy to do through Meridian – or firstname.lastname@example.org – or, heck, through any of the first ((I was going to write “the first 23 pages
that pop up on Google,” but I just looked, and although 20 of the first 23 Marvin Paynes are actually me, only about six of those pages will get you and me hooked up)) ) because he testifies to the very thing I want to write about this month. Also I feel this urgency to respond to Gary Bascom because he wrote me the e-mail just four days earlier than six years ago.
I will actually quote him here twice. The first quote has nothing in particular to do with what I want to write about this month, but I’m using it anyway.
“I already love your column!”
Now, on to the second quote:
I think my most compelling reason to continue to write a weekly journal entry is that I love to read them later and realize I have made progress – however little, from the time I wrote the entry. Our spiritual progress is often very gradual and almost imperceptible, but when we read our thoughts and feelings from days past it is usually evident that we are moving – either in the right direction or the wrong direction!
And this is what I want to write about. Reading our own journals. I was led to this intent last Sunday when my elders quorum president asked me to look in my journal and tell everybody what Elder Uchtdorf said in October Conference. On my way there (or back again, I can’t remember which), my eye fastened for a moment on each of these testimonies (of mine):
- “Following Laurie’s faith (Laurie is my wife), our family prays to find the simplest of lost things, and we find them.”
- “This brother (a new Seventy – can you keep track of them?), while reading the Book of Mormon on his mission, felt the simple assurance that what he was reading was not fiction. I have felt exactly that.”
- “The Lord’s arm is, as always, reaching out from this conference.”
Also my eye similarly attached to these sort-of commitments:
- “I should read Rough Stone Rolling about Joseph Smith.”
- “I have rifles mounted above the front door, but I’m not protecting my family from looming temporal crises. Have I made mistakes that I need to face and correct?”
- “I should put some vintage nickel butterbean tuners on my rosewood Martin.”
And, with attached eyes, a combination of testimony and commitment:
- “Tonight for a bedtime snack I spread some good Deseret jam on some really good bread Johanne Perry made and gave to us. It made me wonder, idly, just how much we have that has been given to us. It took me about three seconds to realize again that all that we have has been given to us.”
- “All that anyone gets from me should therefore be a gift.”
This list of testimonies and commitments were merely what my eyes fastened on between now and a month ago – fifteen pages. Let me go downstairs and grab another book, at random. [passage of time] Okay, back again, with Book 9. Pick a number between 1 and 141. How about 58? What kind of testimony / commitment list will I find between page 58 and 73, fifteen pages later? (I’m writing out the number “fifteen” because a consciousness of how this word is spelled makes it more entertaining. I find fifteen to be the most entertaining number under twenty, with the possible exception of eleven. It’s too bad that no number begins with “k.” “K” is almost always funny.) Give me a minute to read. [passage of time]
This experiment is not going over with the proverbial bang. Only one clear testimony and one clear commitment in these pages.
The testimony: “Funeral for Norton McDaniel, a neighbor… I am absolutely certain that this man is vibrantly alive.”
The commitment (and this is a biggie–every word of this paragraph was underlined): 3 October 1987 “The Prophet says that nothing but God Himself should receive a greater portion of our love and
attention than our wives. This message is aimed like a rifle at my heart. I have a strong personality and a command of language that I find myself using as weapons… These swords must be beaten into
A Big Testimony, a Big Commitment. But only one of each, so I’ll include this entry I just found on page 65:
12 September 1987
“With all the talk of adversity surrounding this Scripture Scouts work, it never really hit me until about midnight last night that we really are at war with the powers of Darkness, and they fight dirty. So this beautiful autumn afternoon I choose to do battle in the treehouse, armed with Joshie’s little tape player, my new little scriptures, and Rosanna’s little word processor. There is already evidence of weakness in the Enemy’s strategy. He arranged to have our telephone disconnected in order to dishearten us, but instead it has brought a marvelous peace into our headquarters. He has also foolishly made an ally of the power company, which could result in our defeating the television.“I feel confident of a small victory today, although my sentinel in this treehouse, Frisky the cat, is asleep at his post.”
So you see? Testimony, Commitment, Real Warfare. Reasons to check up on yourself.
Go to your journal to find out what you once knew. “…If you have felt to sing the song of redeeming love I would ask, can ye feel so now.” (This scripture was at hand because my former elders quorum teacher, now deceased, asked me one Sunday morning nineteen years ago to write it down, which I immediately did on the second page of the fifteen we’ve just been fiddling with.)
What have you promised yourself you would do that you haven’t done? Is your mouth now full of plowshares? (No, really, this would be a good thing.)
It’s Election Day. What was I doing on election days of yore chronicled in my journals? Easy! Hmm, let’s go back to 1992. Oops, voted for Bill Clinton. (There goes half my readership!) I didn’t write this down, but I seem to remember that President Bush (the dad) seemed at the time like somebody who would talk down to me (Do you remember the televised announcement of Operation Desert Storm? He
smiled all the way through – it was surreal!), and Ross Perot always had to be asked really simple questions by the people who interviewed him, and so that left friendly Bill, who played the saxophone.
Let’s stick with this for another example. 1996, Election Day. Hmm… oops. Well, here’s the entry:
“I voted for Bill Clinton for President again, not because he’s good, nor because I want him to win, but he surely will… and when the dust settles, I want to feel like I’m the President’s boss.”
Sometimes reading your journal is the only way to restore perspective, get your bearings by the local life-landmarks, and move ahead in testimony, honoring the commitments you’ve made in writing.
Like, I now have vintage nickel butterbean tuners on my rosewood Martin.
(Also, I have this idea for saving the country. Get all the national politicians who are proving themselves to not smell exactly like a rose and write them in for local offices! Get the latest Jack Abramoff-payee senate-page-lusting Iraq war-bumbling pornography-funding Katrina-ignoring cash-refrigerating national statesman and draft him onto your city council! Where you can keep an eye on him! Far away from Washington! I’m about to leave for the elementary school gym, which is where we’re voting this time around, and I’m supposed to choose between two candidates to represent us in our little state senate in the desert. It’s a friendly little race, very polite. One candidate lives around the corner and his little Hannah plays with our little Cait ((playing together right now)). Very nice fellow for a democrat, and his opponent is so inoffensive and upright that nobody has even noticed that his day job is working as a tax
lobbyist for huge corporations. No offense to Hannah’s dad, but I think I’ll write in Bill Clinton – I mean, the last two times I voted for him, he won!)
“…come unto Christ, and lay hold upon every good gift…” (from the last page of the Book of Mormon)
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