Wednesday, March 9, 2011

On spiritual experiences and record keeping

"Revelation and spiritual experiences are sacred.  They should be kept private and discussed only in appropriate situations. . . .  Resist the temptation to talk freely about these experiences."  --Preach My Gospel, p. 99

"I have learned that strong, impressive spiritual experiences do not come to us very frequently.  And when they do, they are generally for our own edification, instruction, or correction.  Unless we are called by proper authority to do so, they do not position us to counsel or to correct others.

"I have come to believe also that it is not wise to continually talk of unusual spiritual experiences.  They are to be guarded with care and shared only when the Spirit itself prompts you to use them to the blessing of others."  --Boyd K. Packer (Ensign, Jan. 1983, 53)

I've been enjoying reading through posts on my old blog.  It's highly entertaining to go back and explore the memories from before my mission--some already forgotten outside the written record--and see what kind of person I was, who I surrounded myself with, and how I lived my life.  It truly is a treasure chest of cherished experiences, and I'm glad I wrote as much as I did.

But I also find things that give me reason to be glad I've made the blog private: for example, deeply personal stories and "preaching."  The principle taught in the above quotes was something I really didn't understand too well back then, and I made public a lot of things that I probably shouldn't have.  Not that they weren't good things or that no one benefited anywhere along the line; simply, the habit of over-sharing would have harmed me more than anyone else, because I neither had the authority nor was prompted to share most things.  And I can't help but wonder what I might have missed out on by speaking so openly of my spiritual experiences. 

I learned more as I prepared for and eventually served my mission.  Especially in the teaching situations that were a part of everyday life as a missionary, I had to learn how to be in tune well enough with the Spirit to know what kinds of stories I should share with the people I taught.  Everyone responded uniquely to different things, and sometimes it did become appropriate to share a more personal experience here and there.  Since then, that's the approach I've tried to take with all my sharing--especially on this blog.  Every so often I will feel right about sharing such experiences here--for instance, my thoughts on General Conference back in October--but it's toned down a lot from what my blogging used to be.  And I've received blessings associated with that.

But you know, now that the old blog is private, I couldn't be more pleased that I recorded all those experiences somewhere.  When I read those old posts, I not only feel entertained: I feel uplifted, because I am reminded of the many ways the Lord has made Himself manifest throughout my life.  That motivates me to improve myself, and I hope that someday my children will read those stories and also find strength in them.

And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.  --2 Nephi 25:26

For me, that's the number one reason to keep a journal.  Yet to be honest, I haven't done so well at that lately.  I do faithfully keep a study journal, where I record spiritual promptings during my studies, church meetings, and Institute classes.  That's been a great spiritual record on its own.  But what's missing are the experiences that would be found in a regular journal--the applications of spiritual principles.  The old blog supplied that quite well, but because of everything I've learned--not just about personal sharing, but about blogging in general--profound spiritual experiences and day-to-day narrative typically just won't be found here.  I view this blog as a place for me to discuss ideas more than anything; blogging is no longer my choice method for record keeping.

But blogging is really what got me big into record keeping in the first place.  Back then I was motivated by having an audience, and it was a good start.  Not only that, it was easier to sit down and type something online than it was to write things out in a book that probably no one would really discover until I had kids old enough to read.  The audience kept me accountable--they kept me writing, because theirs would be a more immediate discovery of my record.  Because of that, now I actually have a good collection of writings: experiences I've had, lessons I've learned, pretty much what a valuable record should be.

In my record keeping these days, I am only accountable to God and my posterity.  That can make it a little more tricky to actually get around to writing in my journal sometimes, because there's no immediate readership.  But I'm motivated a little more whenever I read those old blog posts and find something uplifting, because I realize how important it is to constantly leave reminders of God's hand for myself when I come back to read again.

And that's about all I've got to say about that.  Not really sure where I wanted to go with it, so there's not gonna be some ending point to tie everything together.  I started wanting to make one point, but it developed into something I hadn't planned to write about and I think more than anything, this was a call to repentance for myself--something to motivate me to build up a habit of regular journal writing again.  But I'm curious to hear others' thoughts on their own record keeping--mostly ideas that have helped you keep it going, but feel free to speak your minds.  I'm sure we've all tried something different.

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