Every day for the year of 2003 I read a diary entry by Samuel Pepys, the incomparable 17th century English diarist. The ten-year Pepys diary is being put online a day at a time by Phil Gyford, a British computer person, (www.pepysdiary.com) and the international community that has gathered and comments on the daily entries is similar to this, a tight ingrown, but very learned and witty group.
I read Pepys for lots of reasons. My high school English teacher Marian Doughit wrote her MA thesis on Pepys and I well remember her comments about him, that he wrote daily in shorthand, that he was unsparing in his comments about himself and others, that he was a frequent–if fumbling–philanderer, that he played many instruments and collected many books, and that he was a close witness to history’s great events. I thought then that I would read him some day. I also read him to see what should go into a daily diary. I believe we should all keep journals and that they should have more than comments on the scriptures and faith-promoting-incidents in them. As a historian, I read lots of journals and autobiographies and am always aware of what is put in and what is left out. Many people have formulas. John Walker, a 19th century Virginia farmer on whom I have written, writes on the (1) the weather; (2) the work done by his slaves; (3) any sickness among the 50 people on the place and how he, a Thompsonian practicioner as Willard Richards was, has treated them, and (4) how grateful he is to God for His kindness to him, a “poor illiterate worm.” Not a bad format.
I talk about things I have done and, anxiously, about things I have to do. I compose important documents in my journal and copy them to send to others. I describe such scintilating events as I attend and include menus. I try to be frank and honest, knowing that in 25 years no one will be offended. What I am trying to do is to write my own scriptures, putting in the narrative of my time, the minutia of my life and the big events swirling around me. I make it the story of an LDS woman, including the frequent revelations I get and sometimes their results. I put in the things that I wish were included in the canonized scriptures. I try to make it a diary I would love to read. What do others do?