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.