Not so long ago, Spencer W. Kimball, then president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, admonished members of the Church to keep a personal journal. He used scriptural writings of Nephi, a prophet in the Book of Mormon, to back his plea:
“Having had a great knowledge of the goodness and mysteries of God, therefore, I make a record of my proceedings in my days” (1 Nephi 1:1).
President Kimball reasoned, “We may think there is little of interest or importance in what we personally say or do — but it is remarkable how many of our families, as we pass on down the line, are interested in all that we do and all that we say.”
Doris Kearns Goodwin, the American biographer and one of my favorite authors, wrote, “Our stories may not be in big name books, on Mount Rushmore or in a movie. But who we are and what we’ve learned in life will be shared with our posterity in the stories we pass down to our children.”
Throughout my life, I attempted to write my personal history but encountered several false starts. In the early 1980s, when Janna and I bought our first computer (a 64K Kaypro II), I wrote several chapters of the first 25 years of my life. Floppy discs have since gone the way of the abacus, but I still have the printed 8 x 14-inch pages stuffed away in one of our memory boxes. In a family history class several decades ago, our Sunday School teacher Shirley Wright, starred me down and said, “Charlie, you better be writing your personal history.” I wasn’t. Later, I took a correspondence college course and wrote three or four decent stories. They too are stashed in a dust-covered box.
President Kimball promised that our journals and histories will be a source of inspiration to children, families and others. “People often use the excuse that their lives are uneventful and nobody would be interested in what they have done,” President Kimball said. “Each of us is important to those who are near and dear to us — and as our posterity read of our life’s experiences, they, too, will come to know and love us.”
A wise person said, “If it is important to you, you will find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse.”
Personal histories have also been of value to me. A little over a year ago, I ran out of excuses and decided to finally compile my personal history.
In a RootsTech conference six years ago, Mike Leavitt suggested writing 100 personal stories as a way to record our personal histories. Our former governor and I differed on numerous political points, but I used his point to compile my personal history.
I was surprised at how quickly stories flowed once I started scribbling down ideas from my childhood, school antics, college and mission memories, and how I convinced Janna to marry me. Career changes and the numerous experiences in the world of work sprouted more experiences to record.
Of course, experiences and memories with my brother, sisters, parents, grandparents, and children dominated the project. It surprised me how thumbing through photos sprouted a host of interesting and sometimes humorous stories.
Over the course of one year, I compiled stories and photos that I believe will be of interest to my family.
So, what did I learn from this experience?
1) I developed a deeper love and respect for both my mom and dad.
2) Coaches – especially my brother – inspired my life greater than I anticipated.
3) Experiences with my friends influenced more profoundly than I thought, and
4) Most importantly, God played a bigger role in my life and decisions than I initially realized.
Charlie Roberts is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints living in Stansbury Park.