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Developing Christlike Attributes - Writing in a Journal

From a speech delivered in the Cedar Hollow 4th congregation, Lehi, UT, Dec. 2013. I was asked to speak on developing Christlike attributes. This was the result. They are notes meant to speak from, so they are not necessarily great reading flow - yet.

Developing Christlike Attributes.

DC98:11 And I give unto you a commandment, that ye shall forsake all evil and cleave unto all good, that ye shall live by every word which proceedeth forth out of the mouth of God.

Christlike virtues:
4:5 And faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work.
4:6 Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence.

How do we maintain a healthy balance between feeling overwhelmed about how far we have to go and focusing on an attribute to make some progress.

98:12 For he will give unto the faithful line upon line, precept upon precept; and I will try you and prove you herewith.

DC50:24 That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.

DC93:39 That wicked one cometh and and taketh away light and truth through disobedience.

Some of you will like this and some of you may not like this. But I have to share what works for me.

Young Women's personal progress:
"Develop a pattern of service in your life by choosing a family member you can help. Serve that person for at least a month. Record in your journal your actions and feelings about how this improved your relationship with that person."

Another one ...
"Others often give service you may not notice, such as preparing meals, reading to or listening to younger children, repairing clothing, or helping a brother or sister. For two weeks record in your journal the quiet acts of service your family members and others perform. Acknowledge their service in some meaningful way."

Janet Brigham: Ensign 2006.
A journal can also be a tool for self-evaluation and self-improvement. Sister Brigham quoted Elouise M. Bell, assistant professor of English at BYU “We examine our lives as we come to know ourselves through our journals,” says Sister Bell. “Even if you take your journal and go back a year, you learn things about yourself you didn’t know at the time. You understand things about yourself. In knowledge begins real freedom of the soul and the spirit, and a real chance to be all that we can be and all that we should be."

Janet Brigham 2006: When I was visiting a friend once, I realized the journal’s potential for encouraging spiritual and emotional growth. After hours of bantering with a philosophy student who wanted to argue about the gospel, I wrote a long entry about my beliefs. Putting it on paper was like testifying. That night, as I wrote with a purple felt-tipped pen, I realized how open and honest I was with my journal—probably more candid than I was with any friend. Because of my frustration with my ability to think and express myself I wrote: “My brain has been like a vacuum cleaner, sucking in all sorts of garbage and dirt. And gold dust. So I must empty the bag and sort out the particles one by one until only the gold dust is left.”

Brigham - Writing out my ideas gave me a chance to analyze them. Sometimes, in writing, I realized that my attitudes were based on selfishness or faulty judgment. Other times I was glad to realize that my ideas were sound.

Brigham - Keeping a journal can have what psychologists call “postmortem effect,” Brother Wells says. After the emotion is gone from a difficult situation, a person can “go back to the situation, see what happened, and see what might have been a better way to handle it."

Brigham - “Writing can help you express some of the emotions—until you can let go of the feelings, learn from the experience, and consider appropriate alternatives.”

I quoted sister Brigham because she spent time to articulate these thoughts. I can testify that they are true from my own experience.

Life is too complex to do this alone. We need a helper by our side all the time to help us and coach us. That helper is the Holy Ghost.

Sister Brigham quoted brother Wells: “Keeping a journal gives you a chance to let some whisperings trickle through you from your own spirit, as well as from the Spirit of the Lord,” says Brother M. Gawain Wells, a psychologist with the Brigham Young University Comprehensive Clinic who has been interested in the effects of family record-keeping on mental health.

“Too many of us listen carefully to others’ voices and never our own,” he says.

Elder Scott, education week 2007 - Throughout the remainder of my life, I will seek to learn by what I hear, see, and feel. I will write down the important things I learn, and I will do them.
Scott - I suggest that you write down what you see projected above me. If I were to end this message at this point, you would have received one of the most meaningful ways to learn that I could impart. If the principle just shared doesn’t seem that important, think again. Many of the vital lessons I have learned and treasure, I have learned by carefully following it.

Scott - You can learn vitally important things by what you hear and see and, even more, by what you feel, as prompted by the Holy Ghost. Many individuals limit their learning primarily to what they hear or read. Be wise. Develop the skill of also learning by what you see and particularly by what the Holy Ghost prompts you to feel. Consciously and consistently seek to learn by what you feel. Your capacity to do so will expand through repeated practice. Significant faith and effort are required to learn by what you feel from the Spirit. Ask in faith for such help. Live to be worthy of such guidance.

Scott - Write down in a secure place the important things you learn from the Spirit. You will find that as you record a precious impression, often others will come that you would not have otherwise received. Also, the spiritual knowledge you gain will be available throughout your life. Always, day or night, wherever you are, whatever you are doing, seek to recognize and respond to the direction of the Spirit. Have available a piece of paper or a card to record such guidance.

Scott - Express gratitude to the Lord for the spiritual guidance you receive and obey it. This practice will reinforce your capacity to learn by the Spirit. It will enhance the guidance of the Lord in your life. You will learn more as you act upon the knowledge, experience, and inspiration communicated to you by the Holy Ghost.
Spiritual guidance is direction, enlightenment, knowledge, and motivation you receive from Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. It is personalized instruction adapted to your individual needs by One who understands them perfectly. Spiritual guidance is a gift of incomparable worth bestowed upon those who seek it, live worthy of it, and express gratitude for it.

“And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more” (D&C 78:19).

Hales - In some quiet way, the expression and feelings of gratitude have a wonderful cleansing or healing nature. Gratitude brings warmth to the giver and the receiver alike.

Hales - Gratitude expressed to our Heavenly Father in prayer for what we have brings a calming peace—a peace which allows us to not canker our souls for what we don’t have. Gratitude brings a peace that helps us overcome the pain of adversity and failure. Gratitude on a daily basis means we express appreciation for what we have now without qualification for what we had in the past or desire in the future. A recognition of and appreciation for our gifts and talents which have been given also allows us to acknowledge the need for help and assistance from the gifts and talents possessed by others.

Faust - As with all commandments, gratitude is a description of a successful mode of living. The thankful heart opens our eyes to a multitude of blessings that continually surround us.

Eyring - You could have an experience with the gift of the Holy Ghost today. You could begin a private prayer with thanks. You could start to count your blessings, and then pause for a moment. If you exercise faith, and with the gift of the Holy Ghost, you will find that memories of other blessings will flood into your mind. If you begin to express gratitude for each of them, your prayer may take a little longer than usual. Remembrance will come. And so will gratitude.

Eyring continues. After prayer allowing the Holy Ghost to bring to your mind the things you have to be thankful for … - You could try the same thing as you write an entry in your book of remembrance. The Holy Ghost has helped with that since the beginning of time. You remember in the record of Moses it says: “And a book of remembrance was kept, in the which was recorded, in the language of Adam, for it was given unto as many as called upon God to write by the spirit of inspiration.” (Moses 6:5.)

Eyring - President Spencer W. Kimball described that process of inspired writing: “Those who keep a book of remembrance are more likely to keep the Lord in remembrance in their daily lives. Journals are a way of counting our blessings and of leaving an inventory of these blessings for our posterity.” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982, p. 349.)

Eyring - As you start to write, you could ask yourself, “How did God bless me today?” If you do that long enough and with faith, you will find yourself remembering blessings. And sometimes, you will have gifts brought to your mind which you failed to notice during the day, but which you will then know were a touch of God’s hand in your life.

Eyring 2007 Oct. Conference:
When our children were very small, I started to write down a few things about what happened every day. Let me tell you how that got started. I came home late from a Church assignment. It was after dark. My father-in-law, who lived near us, surprised me as I walked toward the front door of my house. He was carrying a load of pipes over his shoulder, walking very fast and dressed in his work clothes. I knew that he had been building a system to pump water from a stream below us up to our property.

He smiled, spoke softly, and then rushed past me into the darkness to go on with his work. I took a few steps toward the house, thinking of what he was doing for us, and just as I got to the door, I heard in my mind—not in my own voice—these words: “I’m not giving you these experiences for yourself. Write them down.”

I went inside. I didn’t go to bed. Although I was tired, I took out some paper and began to write. And as I did, I understood the message I had heard in my mind. I was supposed to record for my children to read, someday in the future, how I had seen the hand of God blessing our family. Grandpa didn’t have to do what he was doing for us. He could have had someone else do it or not have done it at all. But he was serving us, his family, in the way covenant disciples of Jesus Christ always do. I knew that was true. And so I wrote it down, so that my children could have the memory someday when they would need it.

I wrote down a few lines every day for years. I never missed a day no matter how tired I was or how early I would have to start the next day. Before I would write, I would ponder this question: “Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?” As I kept at it, something began to happen. As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day. As that happened, and it happened often, I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done.

More than gratitude began to grow in my heart. Testimony grew. I became ever more certain that our Heavenly Father hears and answers prayers. I felt more gratitude for the softening and refining that come because of the Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ. And I grew more confident that the Holy Ghost can bring all things to our remembrance—even things we did not notice or pay attention to when they happened.

Janet Brigham, 2006: But a question frequently arises: how honest should I be in recording events and feelings?

Sister Brigham quoted Elouise M. Bell, assistant professor of English at BYU “I believe in honest journals and in locks and keys,” says Sister Bell. “If you are worried about another reading your record without permission, make provision. Keep it well locked away.”

To be most effective, you must feel free to write whatever is in your heart. Do what you have to do to make that happen.
Laptop… off grid, lock box,

Seek inspiration

I don't know of a better way. I wouldn't say that other ways are completely ineffective, but considering the other reasons for keeping a journal - commanded to keep a record, blessing for posterity, emotional support, helping us through grief - let's just do it. Don't assume that what you write won't be as important to your posterity as the words of Nephi. You are becoming the leaders of the following generations and this record will help you do this. It has helped me develop character. If you are doing it right then sometimes You will weep for joy, you will weep for sorrow, you will weep out of frustration. Sometime you will laugh, you will smile, you will think deeply. If not, you may not be putting enough soul into it.

Developing Christlike attributes is not just a process but a state of being:
6:36 Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.
43:34 Treasure these things up in your hearts, and let the solemnities of eternity rest upon your minds.

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