“External facts about a life can be researched generations later, but the inner life is irrevocably lost unless written during one’s lifetime.” Pondering this quote from author Nan Phifer spurred me to write my own personal history, which I recently completed. No one else who might compile my history after I am gone, would be able to capture the deep personal feelings of my heart and soul if I hadn’t written them.
No one but me can describe the power of the Spirit that overwhelmed me at age 18 while reading and praying about the Book of Mormon. No one else could relate the depth of my gratitude for temple covenants, for my wife and family, for the opportunity to serve missions with my wife, and as a young elder in Switzerland. No one else could describe how I feel about the Savior, the love and grace of His Atonement or my relationship with Father in Heaven. And no one else could describe the exhilaration and profound gratitude I felt twenty years ago returning to consciousness after ten days in intensive care following surgery for a brain aneurysm. I awoke with a keen awareness of who I was and that I still had a life to live.
Many blessings come from publishing an autobiography. I found that writing has helped me to clarify, synthesize, internalize and appreciate the meaning and purpose of life. I hope that by describing life’s challenges — the trials and insecurities overcome — as well as life’s joys and successes, my posterity will be able to relate to me as a real person.
Through documenting my own story I realize how blessed I’ve been. I have enjoyed assessing my life and have included pictures, letters, clippings and a “statement of personal beliefs.” At age 73, I hope to add new chapters to my autobiography, but having published and shared it, I now have greater perspective in discussing my experiences and values with loved ones, inquiring about their lives, and responding to the questions they ask me about mine.
Elder Dennis Neuenschwander said: “A life that is not documented is a life that within a generation or two will largely be lost to memory. … Knowledge of our ancestors shapes us and instills within us values that give direction and meaning to our lives. … That which I do not in some way record will be lost at my death, and that which I do not pass on to my posterity, they will never have.”
It is deeply satisfying — much more rewarding than I had thought it would be.
— Don A. Carpenter, River Ridge 10th Ward, South Jordan Utah River Ridge Stake