One of Wilford Woodruff’s greatest contributions to the LDS Church is his meticulous collection of journals. For more than half a century, President Woodruff kept a daily record of his amazing adventures and spiritual experiences, marking this modern prophet as one of the Church’s most successful missionaries. I started learning about him about a year into my conversion back in 2006.
What fascinated me about his character is his calling to write many of Joseph’s revelations while they were happening at the exact moment. Most of his journals were preserved to assist with the history of the church. I found it interesting that he used a red pen when he was being impressed by the Holy Ghost in his journals. He would sit by Joseph many weeks and sup from his knowledge and some of his classic oratory moments. There was one example where he ran out of paper and he was able to remember everything Joseph said when he spoke for two hours without any paper to jot down any notes. He hurried to the barn and began writing all the inspired points as if he had it all inscribed in his heart.
In the times of Christ…
Most people don’t realize that the apostles wrote the scriptures a few years after Christ passed away. Sometimes we have a picture in our mind where the apostles would write down everything they saw in the night-time when all the other apostles and Jesus were sleeping. This is definitely not the case. When I watched a film called The Case for Christ, they were very clear that people would pass down information for 3 generations. The microwave society we live in where we need information on our fingertips did not exist back then. Our ancestors were story tellers and they made studies where information can go down through three generations and no information was deluded or lost. We have to also remember that Jewish culture would have to memorize the scriptures before they would teach principles from it. It was very common for rabbis to memorize the whole Torah as far as a spiritual obligation and admiration for God’s words in their life. I truly love how they would accomplish such a feat!
L. Michael White explains:
We have to remember that Jesus died around 30. For 40 years, there’s no written gospel of his life, until after the revolt. During that time, we have very little in the way of written records within Christianity. Our first writer in the New Testament is Paul, and his first letter is dated around 50 to 52, still a good 20 years after Jesus, himself. But it appears that in between the death of Jesus and the writing of the first gospel, Mark, that they clearly are telling stories. They’re passing on the tradition of what happened to Jesus, what he stood for and what he did, orally, by telling it and retelling it….
The fact that we’re dealing in oral medium of story telling is very important to the development of the tradition itself because stories tend to be told in some units that can be passed along easily, easily remembered. Sometimes they may even be put in different order or you may only tell certain parts of the story. They’re indications that we may have collections of miracle stories that circulated independently and maybe collections of teachings, as well. But, probably the core of all the oral tradition is the summary of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, the Passion tradition.
Oral Tradition and Modern Times
In the development of the oral tradition then, it seems that over time some of these stories came to be written down, and the use of these summary statements about the contents of the story of Jesus are what came to be thought of as the gospel, the good news, the story of Jesus. But the term gospel, or good news, itself, means just a proclamation of the information, of what happened – The Great Story. And that’s what the gospels are, a narrative tradition, the story of Jesus Christ written by those who understood oral tradition and were inspired to write what they saw many years later. Christ told them that he Comforter was coming so that they remember everything in an inspired manner. Hence, now we have scriptures that have been passed down through oral tradition where studies show we can count them as reliable.
What does this have to do with us?
We have our own personal scriptures that we write for our family. We don’t have inspired writing unless God tells us to write it, but we have stories that inspire others since we acknowledge God’s hand in our lives. After I was baptized in 2006, I found great comfort in knowing that the Mormon faith was big on journals and keeping records. I began to keep a record since 2006 and have kept over dozens of journals waiting for a time to compile my most sacred experiences and share them with the world.
Back in 2007, I was ready to go to the temple for the first time. I had plenty of doubts and questions when I first entered. I have the birth right and agency to ask such questions. This was also a time when I read portions of Wilford Woodruff’s journals. I heard about these red pen moments when he felt like inspired words were coming from Joseph Smith Jr. Sometimes he would speak inspired words and other times it would be the Lord speaking through him while his face was shining with luster. I decided to carry two pens with me: one would be for writing in my journal and the other one would be when I felt God was speaking to me. (a red pen)
I recently went to an institute class where my favorite teacher would be teaching concepts from the Book of Mormon. His background consisted of a psychology degree and family counseling. He would insert things about what the world believes keeps our family together and what our church believes. I came questions and doubts about the temple. My bishop always told me to write a question on the top of your journal entry and to seek for the answer. He would especially tell me to do that if General Conference was coming up. I sat in congregation…hungry and desperate for answers. I wasn’t fasting, but I was so spiritually hungry that I felt like my body didn’t want to eat until I got some answers. I had a SURE faith that I would get my answer at his talk and teaching.
While he was sharing information about 2 Nephi , he paused. I will never forget what he said mid-way during his talk. (I will try to recount the exact words)
“Someone came with a question tonight. I need to divert in what I am teaching and share something personal to you guys. I would like to share with you what the temple means to me. I am not sure which brother and sister needs to hear my testimony, but I feel very impressed to tell you this. I know that the temple is the house of the Almighty God.
He then began sharing his testimony about temples. He paused. ”
I want to let that one person who comes asking that I hope you have received your answer today.”
(I was writing it all down in red pen, and started writing on cursive on the right hand side; Revelation, Revelation , Revelation.!
Joseph Smith Jr once said:
We may come to Jesus and ask Him; He will know all about it; if He comes to a little child, he will adapt himself to the language and capacity of a little child.
People ask me all the time how does God communicate with you? I read your book 25 Catholic Mormon 26 and I am curious how He does it. I answer with the quote stated above where Joseph Smith Jr. which talks about how God adapts his language to the way we speak. I would also like to add further: God speaks to us the way we tend to receive information and listen. If you read books, he may speak to your through your books since your head is buried in it. If you do art, he may speak to you through a painting (It reminds me of What dreams May Come). If you consistently journal, he may remind you how he already answered your prayers while you’re reviewing your day. I want to testify to you that God Lives. God is a loving Father and you are a child that has received special attention equal to your other family members. He is a perfect Father and his view of you being a daughter and son have never changed since before you were born on this earth. We are fortunate to know that Perfect Parents never turn their attention aside to those who disobey. Their arms are stretched out still. Whenever you feel low, they are there. Whenever you commit sin, they are there. We must seek Christ so that we may build a relationship where Heavenly Father and the Lord feel you are ready to endure their presence. I love how God speaks to us in these days where we need it the most. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Have you ever experienced a special or unique way the Lord talks to you? Did you write it down or have you ever shared it to your friends? How does this knowledge that Christ talks to us in our own way help you throughout your life ? Please share this article and subscribe for weekly entries.