A Great Story Doesn’t Have To Be Headline News

by Ros West

October 2023 was designated ‘Family History Month’, and wards and branches around the country celebrated by organising firesides, putting on displays, offering research help and giving talks in sacrament meeting. It prompted me to reread my journals, and the stories I had gathered about my ancestors.

I am always delighted when I can find out more about my ancestors than merely their names and dates of birth, marriage and death. The stories of their lives don’t have to be headline news to be of interest- their everyday lives, how they felt about the important events of their day, their religious beliefs and other matters of importance to them.

President Spencer W Kimball said: “On a number of occasions I have encouraged the Saints to keep personal journals and family records. I renew that admonition. We may think there is little of interest or importance in what we personally say or do—but it is remarkable how many of our families, as we pass on down the line, are interested in all that we do and all that we say. Each of us is important to those who are near and dear to us—and as our posterity read of our life’s experiences, they, too, will come to know and love us. And in that glorious day when our families are together in the eternities, we will already be acquainted.” (We Need A Listening Ear - October 1979 General Conference)

Everyone has an interesting story to tell. There is no such thing as an “ordinary” person, and you don’t have to be Shakespeare to inform and inspire. A great story simply needs to come from the heart, written in the way that you speak, and your personality will shine through. That’s what makes you special, and what your family loves about you. Your experiences, however mundane they may seem, could be of great help to future generations as they battle problems and seek inspiration in difficult times.

Getting started is the biggest problem, especially for anyone who had a difficult childhood. Your story doesn’t have to be written chronologically; if you use loose-leaf paper and a lever arch file, or type straight onto a computer, it can later be rearranged into any order you wish. So, start with something easy– maybe an inspirational teacher, how you came to join the Church, or even the games you played as a child. Just imagine if one of your grandparents or a favourite aunt had written their life story. What would you want to know? The answer is everything. When you are learning about people you know and love, no detail is too small.

Don’t worry if you get writer’s block, it happens to all of us. Think about what you wanted to write in the first place, re-read what you’ve already written, or talk to a friend or family member who shared that experience. This all can help you rediscover your train of thought.

You can also capture something of the lives of those special to you- perhaps parents or grandparents no longer around. When we die we take with us precious memories of the generation above. This is your chance to honour them, to tell what you have learnt from them, and what they meant to you. Once recorded or committed to paper, your memories become a permanent treasure trove to be enjoyed by future generations.

Elder M. Russell Ballard said: “This is God’s plan: father and mother, grandfather and grandmother teaching their children; children learning from them and then becoming a more righteous generation through their own personal experiences and opportunities. Learning the lessons of the past allows you to build personal testimony on a solid bedrock of obedience, faith, and the witness of the Spirit.” (Learning the Lessons of the Past - April 2009 General Conference)