Preserve life story

Ask any professional writer what his or her biggest obstacle is, and likely the answer will be "getting started." So it is with our own personal histories - we may have trouble getting started.

No amount of pleading or prodding will get some to write their histories. They feel no urgency to commit their life stories to paper, or they may simply feel inadequate as a writer. You don't have to be a professional writer to write about yourself. No one - no matter how well he or she writes - can write the history you can write about yourself.Writing your own history involves much more than "just the facts." Facts about your personal life can be assembled by anyone. What brings "the facts" to life is how you reacted to the events surrounding you. What were the circumstances? What was the significance and why? These are the questions you need to answer for your posterity.

Fathers and mothers should compile their own histories and should encourage each family member to keep a journal. They should gather all written materials about their lives they can find, including documents, certificates, important letters, photographs, clippings and other items. When family members have all these materials, they should begin to write their personal histories. Parents should help younger children begin their own personal histories.

President Spencer W. Kimball advised, "Those who keep a book of remembrance are more likely to keep the Lord in remembrance in their daily lives." And then he gave this counsel about journals: "Journals are a way of counting our blessings and of leaving an inventory of these blessings for our posterity." (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 349.)

The process of writing a personal history is threefold: organizing, writing and re-writing. You might follow these suggestions:

Work from an outline. Whether you are writing your history or recording your words onto a tape recording, an outline functions as a reliable guide to make sure you include the highlights.

Say it in your own words. How many of us have read a family member's history and realized it doesn't sound like that person? If we can't say it in our own words, we risk not teaching the lessons we have in mind for our posterity. The writers of the Book of Mormon all spoke in their own voices. Whether it was the concise teachings of Jacob, the warnings of Mormon or the pleadings of Nephi and Moroni, each prophet used his own voice to convey the message he wanted. We need to do the same.

An easy way to determine if what you have written sounds like you is to read it out loud. If it doesn't sound like you, rewrite it until it does.

President Kimball said, "Your own private journal should record the way you face up to challenges that beset you. Do not suppose life changes so much that your experiences will not be interesting to your posterity. Experiences of work, relations with people, and an awareness of the rightness and wrongness of actions will always be relevant." (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 350.)

Stress the positive. Each of us has had experiences we would just as soon forget. What is important is what we learned from them. We should heed this counsel from President Kimball: "There is a temptation to paint one's virtues in rich color and whitewash the vices, but there is also the opposite pitfall of accentuating the negative. Personally, I have little respect for anyone who delves into the ugly phases of the life he is portraying, whether it be his own or another's. The truth should be told, but we should not emphasize the negative. Even a long life of inspiring experiences can be brought to the dust by one ugly story. Why dwell on one ugly truth about someone whose life has been largely circumspect? The good biographer will not depend on passion but on good sense. He will weed out the irrelevant and seek the strong, novel and interesting." (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, pp. 350-351.)

Bear your testimony. By bearing our testimonies, we strenghten ourselves and others. We leave for our posterity our love of the gospel, and the importance of living up to our covenants and expressing joy in doing good.

"You are unique, and there may be incidents in your experience that are more noble and praiseworthy in their way than those recorded in any other life. . . . What could you do better for your children and your children's children than to record the story of your life, your triumphs over adversity, your recovery after a fall, your progress when all seemed black, your rejoicing when you had finally achieved? Some of what you write may be humdrum dates and places, but there will also be rich passages that will be quoted by your posterity." (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 351.)

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