"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
May 1, 2013
Five Minutes to Treasure
by Kathryn Grant

"I don't have anything interesting to say."

"No one will care about what I write."

"I don't want anyone else to read what I write."

"I'm not a writer."

"I'm too busy."

In case you haven't guessed, those are reasons people give for not keeping a journal.

Okay, now that we've covered the obstacles (there will always be obstacles), let's talk about all the wonderful reasons to keep a journal.

My sister and I recently received a copy of the journal written by our great-grandmother, Henrietta Dell, who was born in England. She wrote about her life as a young teenager in these words:

At 12 years I went out to work. Sometimes I would stay all summer, then go home for the winter part-time to school when I was 13 I worked out all the time. I went from one place to another. I lived with a family who had 6 children and a nurse. I did the cooking every night. We had fish and potatoes for supper. I went to Hastings, a sea port with them for 7 weeks. After staying there 15 months, I got tired and went nearer home as I had to take the train every other Sunday. Then I got a place where there were only two in the family. He was Secretary to Cal Gruro or Lord Gruro. Her Ladyship came at times in a carriage to visit. She had a dress with a tail 3 yds long which the page carried for her up the steps.

How we treasure these words left by our great-grandmother! I wonder if she ever imagined that one day her words would be like a window on a world long gone, and even more, would help her posterity feel a connection to her. She probably saw her life as commonplace and may have even wondered if anyone would ever be interested in what she wrote.

If you think about it, we have many scriptural accounts because people like the Apostle Paul, Luke, Nephi, and Alma recorded their experiences. We've been encouraged by their example, and also by our leaders, to keep a record of our lives: to record our experiences, thoughts, and feelings in our journals (see, for example, "The Angels May Quote from It," by Spencer W. Kimball). You never know what value your words may have to someone else.

On the other hand, you may be among those who don't want others to read what you write, and that's fine too. There are quite a few benefits to keeping a journal just for yourself (see a creative and thorough list at 101 Reasons to Write a Journal).

Often you discover what you think or feel by expressing it. Journaling helps you process triumphs and trials. It allows you to identify problems and think through solutions. It gives you perspective. It can also be a means of discovery and even personal revelation. And even if you don't want to share your journal, it can be the basis for something to share.

Most importantly, as President Eyring taught, a journal can help you see the hand of the Lord in your life. It can serve as a way to keep your covenant to "always remember him" (D&C 20:76-79). And as Brad Wilcox wrote, "My personal journal is helping me become more like Jesus Christ."

If you've always meant to start your journal but haven't yet, or if you haven't written for a while, there's no better time to get started than now. Memory is perishable. We lose much of the detail and richness of our experiences if we don't record them soon after they happen.

And keeping a journal doesn't have to be time-consuming. Could you find just five minutes in your day? I suspect most of us could. It might mean getting up five minutes earlier, or on some days even cutting out a few minutes of Twitter or TV or Facebook. It's amazing how just five minutes of writing a day adds up.

So here's the challenge for today's column: for the next week, take at least five minutes each day to write in your journal. It doesn't have to be fancy: you can hand write in a notebook or type into a word processor or even a blog. But write something. Chances are that you'll find it easy, valuable, and worth continuing.

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About Kathryn Grant

Kathryn Grant is a user assistance professional with a passion for usability and process improvement. She also loves family history and enjoys the challenge and reward of building her family tree.

As a child, she lived outside the United States for four years because of her father's job. This experience fueled her natural love of words and language, and also taught her to appreciate other cultures.

Kathryn values gratitude, teaching, learning, differences, and unity. She loves looking at star-filled skies, reading mind-stretching books, listening to contemporary Christian music, attending the temple, and eating fresh raspberries.

Kathryn teaches Sunday family history classes at the BYU Family History Library, and presents frequently at family history events. For more information, visit her Family History Learning Resources page

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