by Jessica Friedman
For several years, I worked as an animal caretaker at an outdoor education facility in New Mexico. Every day, I introduced children to both the domestic farm animals in my care and the abundant native wildlife that called the area home. Many of these kids had never met an animal besides their dog or cat, and I found purpose in fostering a love and respect for the natural world in these young souls.
One summer, I faced a challenging circumstance in my personal life. The barn had become my refuge, a place where I often felt the Spirit teaching and comforting me, so on one particularly difficult day, I sat on the fence between classes and prayed for the Lord’s help.
While I prayed, three wild pronghorn walked up to drink from a large water trough not ten feet from where I sat. These normally skittish creatures looked at me with no fear in their eyes, drank their fill, and moved away as quietly as they had come. The whole encounter lasted mere seconds, but I had the distinct impression that my loving Heavenly Father saw my distress and sent these animals to calm my heart and bring me joy.
I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the scriptures are full of stories of people going to natural places to meet God. Whether it’s Moses on Mt. Sinai, Enos hunting in the woods, or Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove, these men all seemed to know that God often uses nature as the backdrop for life-changing spiritual experiences.
We only have these stories because those who were there kept a record of what they saw, heard, and felt. Without such records, the significance of these sacred moments would have been forgotten.
To quote President Spencer W. Kimball, “From time immemorial the Lord has counseled us to be a record-keeping people.” In fact, the very first revelation received by the newly organized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints begins with the commandment that “there shall be a record kept among you” (D&C 21:1).
As we spend time enjoying and appreciating God’s creations, we open ourselves to the possibility of having testimony-strengthening experiences that deserve to be recorded. Even if nothing apparently significant happens, President Wilford Woodruff counseled, “Should we not have respect enough to God to make a record of those blessings which He pours out upon us?”
Thankfully, we live in an era when technology makes it easier than ever to keep a personal record. If writing a journal doesn’t appeal to you, you can record your experiences using photographs, videos, audio recordings, or art. Still, many find the thought of keeping a personal history daunting, a reticence that often stems from uncertainty over how to start or what to record. Using a journal prompt can relieve some of the pressure, especially as you ponder the question and pray for the Spirit’s guidance.
To get started, you might consider questions like these:
- How has spending time in nature helped strengthen your testimony of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ?
- What is your favorite way to spend time in nature?
- Where is your favorite natural place? What makes it so meaningful to you?
- Spend 15 minutes observing nature. Record what you see and how it makes you feel.
- What service activities have you participated in that have benefited the natural world?
- What does the commandment to “multiply and replenish the earth” mean to you?
- What is your favorite kind of weather and why?
- What is your favorite season and why?
- How can you show gratitude to God for His creations?
- What have you learned about God’s Plan of Happiness by pondering the Creation?
- What was the most meaningful experience you have had in a natural setting?
The Book of Mormon prophet Nephi wrote, “For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God” (2 Ne. 25:23). As we keep a personal record of the ways God has spoken to us in natural places, not only will we help foster a love and respect for the natural world in our posterity, but we will also help strengthen their testimonies of God the Father and Jesus Christ. It is my hope that my posterity will read my journal entry about the pronghorn and feel inspired to look for how God uses nature to comfort them and bring joy to their own lives.
And then I hope they’ll make a record of their own.
Jessica Friedman is an illustrator and graphic designer who lives in Pocatello, Idaho, with her husband, their rescue dog, and a jungle of houseplants. Her love for the natural world was nurtured by spending summers at her grandparent’s lakeside cabin near Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada. She enjoys hiking, camping, and horseback riding, and someday, she’ll go back to teaching kids about animals on her own farm.
Photo above by Jessica Friedman.
Note: Blog posts are written by volunteer writers; the opinions of writers are their own and are not necessarily representative of Latter-day Saint Earth Stewardship.