writingThe act of writing something down on paper can be called by various names. We can refer to writing in a diary, or we can talk about taking notes, recording impressions, journaling, or any number of other designations. No matter what we call it, or how we do it, we are doing the same thing – putting our thoughts on a piece of paper.

Modern challenge

Most of us stopped writing when we finished our final class in school, unless our job required it. Very few people actually write for fun or fancy. I guess that is what makes authors a species to gawk at. They actually write things on purpose, and they write a lot! If term papers weren’t your favorite thing in school, can you imagine how it would feel to have to write books worth of material?

Even though that is not most people’s stuff of dreams, it is what the prophet has told us we need to do. Here is the final Book of Mormon challenge given to the Church by President Thomas S. Monson in the April 2017 General Conference.

This morning I speak about the power of the Book of Mormon and the critical need we have as members of this Church to study, ponder, and apply its teachings in our lives. The importance of having a firm and sure testimony of the Book of Mormon cannot be overstated.

We live in a time of great trouble and wickedness. What will protect us from the sin and evil so prevalent in the world today? I maintain that a strong testimony of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and of His gospel will help see us through to safety. If you are not reading the Book of Mormon each day, please do so. If you will read it prayerfully and with a sincere desire to know the truth, the Holy Ghost will manifest its truth to you. …

If you do not have a firm testimony of these things, do that which is necessary to obtain one. It is essential for you to have your own testimony in these difficult times, for the testimonies of others will carry you only so far. However, once obtained, a testimony needs to be kept vital and alive through continued obedience to the commandments of God and through daily prayer and scripture study.

My dear associates in the work of the Lord, I implore each of us to prayerfully study and ponder the Book of Mormon each day. As we do so, we will be in a position to hear the voice of the Spirit, to resist temptation, to overcome doubt and fear, and to receive heaven’s help in our lives.

That was the parting counsel of our dear President Monson. How did his “associates in the work of the Lord” receive his counsel? What did some of them do to make his counsel a living thing in their lives? Here are the words of President Russell M. Nelson given in the October 2017 General Conference about his response to President Monson’s challenge to study the Book of Mormon.

Since President Monson’s challenge six months ago, I have tried to follow his counsel. Among other things, I’ve made lists of what the Book of Mormon is, what it affirms, what it refutes, what it fulfills, what it clarifies, and what it reveals. Looking at the Book of Mormon through these lenses has been an insightful and inspiring exercise! I recommend it to each of you.

The items President Nelson learned and discovered in the Book of Mormon are listed at the bottom of this article.

After President Nelson accepted the directive of the prophet to study more earnestly the Book of Mormon, in April of 2018 he, in turn, gave us these words that take us even beyond what President Monson had challenged us to do.

I urge you to stretch beyond your current spiritual ability to receive personal revelation, for the Lord has promised that “if thou shalt [seek], thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.”

Oh, there is so much more that your Father in Heaven wants you to know. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught, “To those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, it is clear that the Father and the Son are giving away the secrets of the universe!”

Nothing opens the heavens quite like the combination of increased purity, exact obedience, earnest seeking, daily feasting on the words of Christ in the Book of Mormon, and regular time committed to temple and family history work.

The prophet has told us we need to not only study the Book of Mormon with an intensity we have not had before, but that we need to be more pure, live with exact obedience, and spend regular time “committed to temple and family history work.” Wow! Talk about an expansion of responsibilities from the original suggestion!

That counsel of the prophet was given in April of 2018. In October of 2018 President Nelson expanded what the Lord requires of us by announcing the “new home-centered, Church-supported integrated curriculum.” The first year of study using this new approach will be in the New Testament.

The new home-centered, Church-supported integrated curriculum has the potential to unleash the power of families, as each family follows through conscientiously and carefully to transform their home into a sanctuary of faith. I promise that as you diligently work to remodel your home into a center of gospel learning, over time your Sabbath days will truly be a delight. Your children will be excited to learn and to live the Savior’s teachings, and the influence of the adversary in your life and in your home will decrease. Changes in your family will be dramatic and sustaining.

During this conference we have strengthened our resolve to execute the essential effort to honor the Lord Jesus Christ every time we refer to His Church. I promise you that our rigorous attention to use the correct name of the Savior’s Church and its members will lead to increased faith and access to greater spiritual power for members of His Church. …

My dear brothers and sisters, the assaults of the adversary are increasing exponentially, in intensity and in variety. Our need to be in the temple on a regular basis has never been greater. I plead with you to take a prayerful look at how you spend your time. Invest time in your future and in that of your family. If you have reasonable access to a temple, I urge you to find a way to make an appointment regularly with the Lord—to be in His holy house—then keep that appointment with exactness and joy. I promise you that the Lord will bring the miracles He knows you need as you make sacrifices to serve and worship in His temples.

Fast and a lot

In the last year and a half we have gone from President Monson’s counsel to more earnestly read the Book of Mormon to President Nelson’s urging to not only read and study the Book of Mormon daily, but now we need to add the New Testament, more faithful temple attendance, more time doing family history, but also “invest time in your future and in that of your family.” That is a lot!

How are we supposed to invest time in our family? One of the ways to do this has been spelled out in the Come Follow Me curriculum for the New Testament in 2019. In each and every reading assignment the very first thing we are asked to do, after reading the scriptures for that week’s study, is to record our impressions.

Recording impressions

What does it mean to record our impressions when we read the scriptures? For those who are in tune with how the Spirit speaks and communicates with them, that is easy peasy. But many of us only recognize his promptings or urgings when they are strong and distinct from our own thoughts and feelings. This makes recognizing His more subtle forms of revelation difficult.

Take the second lesson of the Sunday School manual as an example. In that week’s lesson we study Matthew 1; Luke 1. What might you write down as an impression? As you read the “begats” at the beginning of Matthew 1, what thoughts go through your head? Are there any questions? Why would Matthew think this genealogy was important enough to include all these names we obviously wouldn’t know personally. What point was he trying to make or demonstrate? As you read Luke 1, it stands in stark contrast to what Matthew wrote for his first chapter. Luke includes almost none of the same information. Why? Who was Luke’s or Matthew’s audience? Were they both trying to teach the same thing or was the intent for each of them different?

When questions start to pop into your head, those are impressions. Write them down. Give them a voice by putting them on paper. Once written, you are free to forget them and move on, because they have now become concrete and visible. You can go back and refer to them as you study more throughout the week. Just remember that when reading the scriptures, your intent is to find something. What that something is will be different for you than for anyone else. As long as you are seeking to learn something, anything, the Spirit will help you find your way there.

Some impressions will come in the form of feelings. You may suddenly understand something about what is written, or about something you heard earlier in your life, or perhaps you will suddenly remember an old thought you may have had years ago that will flash into your mind. But now you are able to connect it to something you just read and now it makes more sense. That can be very satisfying. Some feelings come in the form of a flood of gratitude, a sense of joy or a feeling of sorrow connected to what you are reading. Anything can come to the table when we seek to have the Spirit teach us as we read the scriptures and seek for understanding. This is what President Nelson is asking of us. This is one way we can receive personal revelation. All communication from the Spirit is revelation, for He is teaching us to do right, or avoid wrong, planting new information in our hearts and heads, or expanding our understanding. This is His whole purpose in the Godhead, to lead us to God.

What to write

The Come Follow Me manual tells us we need to write or record our impressions. How is that to be done? The good news is that there is no one right answer! However, you need to record what is in your mind or heart, that is important. This is usually clumsy when we first start doing it, but we get better at it as we do it over and over again. We may start only with some simple lists. Look at the bottom of this article to see the list President Nelson generated from his study of the Book of Mormon. I can almost assure you that when he first recorded this information it wasn’t in this clean and clear format. He probably had bits and pieces of information in multiple places and had to reword them and combine them to eventually come up with this final list. That would be normal.

We may start by writing down things that look like bits of sentences, or partial thoughts. As long as you can interpret what you write, that is fine. Just remember that a partial thought, left too long, becomes nonsense later on. So as soon as you can, go back and write out enough that you can tell what you were thinking about when you need to reference it in a week or two.

Some of us have to write full sentences and background information or we have no clue as to what we were talking about when we wrote that phrase or word in the margin or on our scratch paper. You will learn quickly what you are required to write and how you are required to record something. When you go back and look at what you wrote a week or two ago, and you have no idea what you were talking about, you will realize you need to write more than what you did. If you can write only key words, and still know what you were talking about weeks after the fact then I tip my hat to you, because I certainly can’t do that.

Finally, when it comes to writing down our impressions, here are a couple of thoughts to consider. When you go to Sunday School class consider bringing your journaling book or thoughts book with you for reference. You may have even more impressions to write down during class. And did you know that you can also journal online at churchofjesuschrist.org? When you sign in you can study the scriptures and make notes, set bookmarks, and do all your essential scripture studying right there online. If you are an adult and doing private studying, this might be a great option for you. This way you will always have your notes with you on most any device you might be carrying.

The important point here is that you are looking for something all the time. If we are not actively trying to learn something new, chances are good that we won’t learn anything new. It is usually when we are seeking for new knowledge or seeking understanding that we are able to find what we need. I suppose that is why the Lord says, “Seek and ye shall find.” For too many of us, our problem is that we have grown comfortable and have stopped seeking.

What writing is

Writing takes what is floating in our minds or our hearts and gives it a body. Writing gives our thoughts or feelings flesh and blood – life. For many this is difficult to do, but like all talents, it is something we can all cultivate and become better at doing. Some are gifted at writing their feelings and their observations. Others of us struggle to find the words that appropriately says what we are feeling or want to convey. Again, this will improve with practice.

For families, their challenge will be teaching their children to write something, anything, that is not just a scribble on the paper. At first young children may need to draw a picture of the story you are reading. Perhaps acting it out will need to suffice. But once they are able to write for themselves, your task will be helping them find words to express their thoughts and feelings. This is a highly personal and intimate activity, and will require tremendous patience on the part of the parents. And at first the time spent in the activity will have to be VERY short. But repetition will engender comfort over time. And perhaps one of the most difficult parts of teaching our children to write down their thoughts and feelings is that we need to be able to model for them how to do it with our own work.

Ministering application

If you have ever thought about the prophets and where they developed their ability to communicate with others about the gospel of Christ, you may have made the connection that they all have two things in common. They are all avid readers, so they have developed good vocabularies that help them communicate better, and they all write a lot! They write letters, they journal, they write talks, articles, books, etc. Most of that we won’t ever need to worry about, but we all need to be able to express ourselves if we are going to improve in our ministering efforts. We don’t have to become glamorous speakers or glorious writers. We just need to be able to find the words that help us say clearly what we want to say so there is greater understanding on the part of those who hear us and read what we write. If we take seriously this opportunity to journal or record our impressions as we study the scriptures we will begin, over time, to see that we are, in fact, improving in our ability to communicate better with our self, as well as with others.

The following is material from President Nelson’s personal study of the Book of Mormon as written in his October 2017 Conference talk.

President Nelson’s Book of Mormon Lists

The Book of Mormon is:

  • Another testament of Jesus Christ. Its major writers—Nephi, Jacob, Mormon, Moroni—and its translator, Joseph Smith, were all eyewitnesses of the Lord.

  • A record of His ministry to people who lived in ancient America.

  • True, as attested by the Lord Himself.

The Book of Mormon affirms:

  • The individual identity of Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ.

  • The necessity of the Fall of Adam and the wisdom of Eve, that men might have joy.

The Book of Mormon refutes notions that:

  • Revelation ended with the Bible.

  • Infants need to be baptized.

  • Happiness can be found in wickedness.

  • Individual goodness is adequate for exaltation (ordinances and covenants are needed).

  • The Fall of Adam tainted mankind with “original sin.”

The Book of Mormon fulfills biblical prophecies that:

  • “Other sheep” shall hear His voice.

  • God will do “a marvelous work and a wonder,” speaking “out of the dust.”

  • The “stick of Judah” and the “stick of Joseph” will become one.

  • Scattered Israel will be gathered “in the latter days” and how that will be done.

  • The land of inheritance for the lineage of Joseph is the Western Hemisphere.

The Book of Mormon clarifies understanding about:

  • Our premortal existence.

  • Death. It is a necessary component of God’s great plan of happiness.

  • Postmortal existence, which begins in paradise.

  • How the resurrection of the body, reunited with its spirit, becomes an immortal soul.

  • How our judgment by the Lord will be according to our deeds and the desires of our hearts.

  • How ordinances are properly performed: for example, baptism, sacrament, conferring the Holy Ghost.

  • The Atonement of Jesus Christ.

  • The Resurrection.

  • The important role of angels.

  • The eternal nature of priesthood.

  • How human behavior is influenced more by the power of the word than the power of the sword.

The Book of Mormon reveals information previously unknown:

  • Baptisms were performed before Jesus Christ was born.

  • Temples were built and used by people in ancient America.

  • Joseph, 11th son of Israel, foresaw the prophetic role of Joseph Smith.

  • Nephi (in 600–592 BC) foresaw the discovery and colonizing of America.

  • Plain and precious parts of the Bible have been lost.

  • The Light of Christ is given to each person.

  • The importance of individual agency and the need for opposition in all things.

  • Warnings about “secret combinations.”

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The Power of Writing Our Thoughts