07 September 2015

Maintaining Trust When God’s Ways Seem Inscrutable, Part 2: Reflection vs. Reality

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” I Corinthians 13:12 

In the verse above, from a letter the apostle Paul wrote to the relatively new church members in Corinth, he used an analogy that was particularly meaningful to them when he described how we  understand God and his ways. That analogy becomes clearer for 21st century English speakers if we know that the words translated into English as “glass” and “darkly” have slightly different meanings in the original Greek. “Glass” meant a looking-glass, or mirror, many of which were manufactured in Corinth out of polished brass. Those mirrors often revealed a distorted or discolored image of the thing being reflected. The Greek words translated as “darkly” meant “in a riddle or puzzle, by an enigma.”[1]  Paul’s analogy helped the Corinthians resolve questions that were creating disunity in their congregation. I believe it can help us, in our day, to deal with questions about spiritual matters that some find puzzling, or even disquieting.

06 September 2015

Maintaining Trust When God’s Ways Seem Inscrutable, Part 1: Understanding the Meaning of Revelations

While a student at Brigham Young University, my husband had a very intriguing personal experience with President Hugh B. Brown (an apostle and a counselor in the First Presidency of the LDS church at the time), his wife, and one of their granddaughters who was a good friend of David’s. The four of them had lunch together in a restaurant in Salt Lake City sometime in 1963 or 1964.

Considering himself a lowly university student, David remembered feeling very much in awe of President Brown. One part of the conversation in particular stuck in his mind, and he told me about it after we were married in 1966, because it raised such interesting questions and possibilities regarding the policy of Priesthood ordination not being available to men of black African ancestry at the time.

14 June 2015

An Answered Cri de Coeur

The anguished cries of my three-year-old grandson, combined with a statement by Dostoyevsky and hymn lyrics by Isaac Watts, prompted me to ponder how we can discover and attain our deepest desires.

While visiting the family of our youngest son some years ago, the adults in our group were startled one evening by the sudden, impassioned crying of our three-and-a-half-year-old grandson, D. He was apparently having a nightmare. Our daughter-in-law attempted to calm him with soft words and rocking, but he continued to cry out and talk nonsense which related to what he was dreaming.

She carried him downstairs to join the rest of us, and mentioned that this sort of thing had happened before. Once D was fully awake, she assured us, he would calm down. For a couple of minutes he continued to wail and display deep distress, despite his mother’s efforts to awaken and reassure him.

02 June 2015

Being of Good Cheer

Inspired by a post I originally published on “A Prayer of Faith” in 2006.

Nine years ago this month, my father passed away peacefully just eighteen days short of his hundredth birthday. Even as his physical capacities gradually diminished during the last few years, he continued to live by himself, fixing his own meals, and using his own recipe to bake his super-nutritious bread. Both he and my mother, who had died seven years previously, impressed all who knew them with their positive, cheerful outlook on life, even in the midst of their challenges.

I have sometimes wondered if my own basically cheerful nature was inherited, or more a result of seeing and following my parents’ example. Both genetics and observation no doubt come into play, but shortly after my father’s passing I found evidence that they were actively trying to teach me the value of being cheerful when I was very young.

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?