Sunday, January 18, 2015

Of Journals, Unconditional Love, and Discipleship by SueAn Stradling-Collins

      In 1975, President Spencer W. Kimball invited the youth to “… Get a notebook, a journal that will last through all time, and maybe the angels may quote from it for eternity. Begin today and write in it your goings and comings, your deepest thoughts, your achievements, and your failures, your associations and your triumphs, your impressions and your testimonies. Remember, the Savior chastised those who failed to record important events. ... This is what the Lord has commanded and those who keep a personal journal are more likely to keep the Lord in remembrance their daily lives." (New Era, Oct. 1975)
     I was obedient to that counsel and started writing in a Holly Hobbie spiral notebook.  I filled up two with things like, “I'm so excited that _______________ (insert boy's name here) talked to me today.” or “I can't believe _____________ (insert boy's name here) is such a jerk.”
     While in college at ASU in 1985, I had to take a class on how to teach writing to teenagers.  The professor, Dr. G. Lynn Nelson, told us that we would need a journal for the class.  “I want you to go to a place that sells journals and stand among them and let one choose you.”  At the time, I was pretty sure Lynn was crazy, but I had been told by a prophet to keep a journal, so I chose one instead.  (In the ensuing 30 years, many journals have chosen me.)  Throughout the semester (and in every other class and seminar I could take from Lynn), he taught us how to really write in a journal.   We were to look inside, to be honest, to set goals, to evaluate who we were, to deal with feelings of happiness, sadness, hurt, pain, and joy.  He admonished us to pray in our journals.  No hard and fast rules except writing and writing and writing and using words to discover and heal.  He told us in his ultra-quiet voice that writing and praying had healed his throat cancer.  We believed, and we continued to write and write and write.  And having taught us how to write and keep a journal, we were then ready to teach our students the same.
     In the Church, we often teach that we keep journals for our posterity, but I testify with Lynn that the keeping of and writing in a journal is an amazing power to us in this lifetime.  I know that when I am truly writing in my journal, I am healthier mentally, physically, and spiritually, and it is easier to keep the Lord in remembrance daily.

     One of the other lessons Lynn taught me was unconditional love.  If I was not his favorite student, I never would have known it, and I believe that all/each of his students felt the same.  He accepted each of us as we were, never criticizing, only correcting, and encouraging us to improve.   Lynn was my student teaching adviser, and if I needed advice, he gave it.  If I wrote him a letter, he wrote back;  if I needed to talk, he listened; if I was in town, he made time to visit.  After I married Chuck, he showed Chuck the same love, because he knew that I loved Chuck.  I called him a few months back after not visiting in years, and there was his calm voice, “Ahhh, SueAn, my friend, how are you?”
     Again, through example, Lynn showed us how to treat each student as an individual.  As Lynn's students and disciples, we set out to help teens learn to write in a way that really mattered.  And we tried to love our students unconditionally. 
     As Christ's disciples, are we trying to share the good news and joy of His gospel with others and love them unconditionally?

     I called Lynn again last month to visit.  His wonderful wife, Lorrie, answered the phone and told me of his passing in November.  We cried together.

            “...but the raindrops still shimmer on the green leaves and the morning star still floats in
             the eastern sky at 5:00 a.m. and sometimes I hear children singing....
            “ I hold your friendship like a flower in my heart - - know that I am with you, my friend.
                                                                                            peace and love,
                                    (from a letter Lynn wrote me in November of 1991)       

I would be happy to share journal writing with anyone on an individual basis or in Family Home Evening, as well as with a class or any large group. 


  1. What a beautiful friend and advisor he must have been! I'm so sorry for your loss, but I can see that his spirit and courage continues to live on.

  2. He was so amazing, that's why I wanted to pay tribute to him. Thank you for your well wishes.

  3. I love this, SuAnn. I am a believer in the power of language, but I had never thought about the way journaling can impact our lives. I'd say Lynn must have rubbed off on you because you are certainly all those things you admired in him.

  4. Elder Kevin LongJuly 8, 2015 at 9:56 PM

    Thank you SueAn! I know that my 28 journals are mainly for me. However we can hope that they may influence others too. Cheers.