29 April 2015

Oh Say, Where Is Truth? Part 3: Facts or Feelings?

This final post in a trilogy on discerning truth recounts a poignant example of memory distortion that has bittersweet connotations for our family now that my husband has passed on.

Genuine tragedies have occurred when false memories have resulted in false accusations. Fortunately, most false memories are relatively harmless, and easily corrected when brought to light. Our family has a “false memory” story, which we laughingly bring up whenever we doubt one another’s recollection of an event.

During a time before everyone had cell phones, when we were living in a suburb of Baltimore, our seventeen year-old daughter J called from a friend’s house to ask for an extension of her curfew. My late husband, David, was in Europe on business, and as I listened to J’s request, I prayed I would make a decision that he would agree with.

28 April 2015

Oh Say, Where Is Truth? Part 2: Do We “Remember It Well?”

Part 1 of this trilogy of posts about truth posited that fiction could sometimes be more “truthful” than non-fiction. This follow-up post deals with the challenge of finding truth in memories.

When faced with conflicting memories of our past, my husband and I often smiled as we quoted the opening lines from a duet “I Remember it Well.” They epitomize the tendency to we have to believe that we personally remember things correctly, even when faced with evidence that others remember the same events quite differently.

               We met at nine.
                        We met at eight.
 I was on time.
                        No, you were late.
Ah yes! I remember it well[1]

We all tend to believe that we remember things correctly, and often misunderstandings arise when people disagree about what “really” happened. But psychologists have discovered that our minds definitely can be fooled.

27 April 2015

Oh Say, Where Is Truth? Part 1: Fact or Fiction?

This is the first in a trilogy of posts about finding truth.

While traveling across Australia by train with my husband in 2006, I became engrossed in a highly-acclaimed biography of one of the prophets of this dispensation, which was written by a believing, committed member of the LDS Church. As the author began referring to the accounts of certain incidents, however, I became at first uncomfortable, and finally very disturbed.

My unease did not come from fears that my testimony would be shaken, but rather because I sensed that much of what was being considered as "history" or "facts" was not really how things actually happened. I doubted the accuracy of some of the original reporting, and the memories of those being quoted, because they didn’t ring true to me.

I put the biography aside, and resumed reading a work of fiction which is loosely based on the life of a prophet of this dispensation, and which was written by another believing, committed member of the LDS church. A few pages into my reading I was struck by the realization that I felt a much stronger sense of "truth" while I was reading that fantasy novel, than I did while reading certain parts of the supposedly non-fiction biography. How could this be?

23 April 2015

Strength through Submission

The following is a revised version of a post originally published on  “A Prayer of Faith”  6 July 2006.  It was inspired by Elder Henry B. Eyring’s talk “As a Child” delivered in the LDS General Conference of April 2006:

From the time I was a child, foreign languages fascinated me. Growing up, my father taught me some Esperanto and a few German phrases; and after dabbling in Latin and Spanish in high school, I decided to take on the challenge of Russian at Brigham Young University. Soon after beginning my study, I began to have an intense desire to visit Russia—to see for myself the land of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov, Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, which was then under the iron rule of Communism. This was back in the early 1960’s, when the Soviet Union under Khrushchev routinely issued dire threats to the free world, but welcomed the chance to earn dollars by conducting carefully chaperoned showcase tours for Americans.

I was thrilled when BYU announced that they would be participating for the first time in a Russian summer study program. I immediately applied, was accepted, and started saving money for the trip. I obtained a passport. My whole family sacrificed to help fund my study abroad experience, and I was elated at the opportunity to realize my dream.

24 February 2015

Getting it Right

Inspired by a post originally published on “A Prayer of Faith” 12 October 2006

Sometimes I think that the main reason why we have computers is to help us develop one of the most important virtues for a Latter-day Saint woman: patience.

Back in 2006, I got a new laptop computer to replace my old built-in-a-third-world-country-and-updated-over-the-years PC. I was able to transfer everything I wanted to keep, and all was well—except that on my new laptop, my preferred software for copying my music CDs to my hard drive now gave me an error message: I couldn’t copy and save anything in the MP3 format, because for some unknown reason there was supposedly no MP3 encoder on my computer. After following a lengthy series of links to other messages, I finally reached one that told me to contact my computer manufacturer.

Through the fascinating procedure called “remote connect,” the technician I was speaking to on the telephone was able to view what I could see on my monitor. He could then direct me verbally and by drawings that appeared on my screen, so that together we could discover why my software was not functioning properly, and exactly how to correct the problem.

After about half an hour of interaction with the technician, I was told to change just one letter in an entry in the Windows registry, and from then on the program worked perfectly. Just one wrong letter kept a program from doing what it was designed to do.

That set me thinking. How often do I fail to live up to my potential, or fail to be an effective instrument in the Lord’s hands, because I have put off repenting of just one small sin; or neglected to open my heart to the influence of the Spirit. Am I letting pride or selfishness keep me from doing what I was designed to do, or being what I was designed to be as a daughter of God?

I was very pleased to allow a qualified technician access to my computer so that he could guide me through a diagnostic procedure until I could rectify the error on my computer. Am I as willing to allow the Lord to help me discover and correct the errors in my actions, my attitudes, or my thinking? Do I take full advantage of the divine “remote connect” available to me through prayer and Scripture study?

Getting a computer problem fixed often takes considerable time and patience. Getting our spiritual glitches corrected obviously requires a lot more time and patience. I hope I can remember that more peace and joy will come into my life as I accept correction and make the changes I need to. Because of the Atonement of our Lord, eventually “getting it right” is indeed a reachable goal.

22 February 2015

Why the Prohibitions in the Word of Wisdom?

Originally published on “A Prayer of Faith” 04 November 2006

For years, many Latter-day Saints have focused heavily on scientific findings to support the Word of Wisdom prohibitions on tobacco, alcohol, coffee, tea, and illegal drugs. Perhaps for many of us, the Word of Wisdom has come to represent 1) scientific truth about nutrition, and 2) obedience to a commandment of God.

Now there seem to be an increasing number of articles in the media reporting the results of health studies which can be interpreted as showing that green tea, black tea, wine, and even coffee may have significant health benefits. Marijuana has been advocated by many in the medical profession for certain kinds of pain relief. Although tobacco, the over-consumption of strong alcoholic drinks, and the use of certain drugs may always remain frowned upon by scientists, we may soon find that moderate amounts of wine, black and green tea, coffee, and even presently illegal drugs are routinely recommended by researchers and doctors to treat or prevent certain illnesses.

Is it possible we have the priorities reversed?

Entering a New Stage of Life, and Returning to Blogging

October 4, 2014 marked the beginning of a new stage in my life. My beloved husband of more than 48 years passed from mortality into the Spirit World, and I passed from being a wife, to being a widow.

As I have been pondering what I would like to spend my time on, the thought of returning to blogging has come back into my mind. I originally used a pseudonym in my writing, because my husband was serving as a general authority in the LDS church when I started to blog, and I didn’t want him to suffer from any backlash that my opinions might engender. But he was released from that calling many years ago, and now that he has embarked on a mission in another realm, I am content to allow those who read my words to know my real name.

While I mull over what new subjects to write about, I have decided to publish here some of the essays that originally appeared on “A Prayer of Faith,” a group blog which has since disappeared from the Internet.