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Monday, October 10, 2016

Don't Let Telling Tales Trip Up Your Truthfulness


Big Lies, Big Lies Can Start with a Little Yarn. May 1984.
Accessed October 10, 2016 from the LDS Media LIbrary.
Some people seem able to turn every life experience into a faith promoting story. This applies to ordinary mortals, as well as prolific newspaper columnists.

Writers, especially LDS writers and bloggers, seem to have a constant supply of inspiring experiences and they seem able to publish them on demand.


We all like to hear good stories. So, why am I complaining? I don't believe these story tellers are telling the complete, unvarnished truth. In other words, they are lying. In the Church, we called it false witness. It is just downright dishonesty.


Why did it take me so long to come to this conclusion? Well, I've been one of these writers and I nearly exhausted my repertoire with just 17 stories. Sure, I've got a few more but not nearly as many as I would need to match all these other writers and bloggers. Even my eventful life couldn't keep up with demand.


I don't believe the human experience can produce enough stories through just one person to justify what is attributed to them.


Lately, I had become attached to some columns and writers. They always seem to have a good story. After some good hard thought, I just can't believe them anymore.


We all like to tell good stories. We like looking clever and funny and especially inspirational at church. We like being popular.


Do we all have the self-discipline, mastery and moral sense to confine ourselves to the truth? History tells us this is unlikely. There are two prominent LDS examples:

  1. Paul H. Dunn
  2. Douglas Stringfellow
Paul H. Dunn, a General Authority, tried to justify his good stories. We don't know what penalties and loss of privileges he had to endure as a result, but we know they were imposed on him by the Church.

Douglas Stringfellow hails from the 1950s. You can find out more about him on page 40 of the Sunstone issue devoted to Dunn's unmasking.

These sorts of problems start out innocently enough. We all want to hear something uplifting, enlightening or entertaining. We all want to be uplifting, enlightening and entertaining.

However, it is almost like we get addicted to the adulation our stories produce. This results in an attempt to tighten up our stories, make them flow better and proceed seamlessly to the punchline, spiritual point or doctrinal concept we wish to emphasize.

We tell ourselves we are more effective in teaching the gospel. Maybe we are. However, most of it is about us. It makes us feel good. It makes us more popular. It may even make us more respected, at least in this life.

We tell ourselves there is no initial harm in the small embellishments, right? We're just tweaking the facts a little, right?

Soon, stories get wilder and more complex. We always end up looking clever in our stories; while others look like twits, silly or completely idiotic. Surely you've been the victim of these stories at some point in your life.

We may end up convincing ourselves that our stories are accurate and they really happened the way we claim. Exaggerations typically multiply. Ask yourself if you are really the author of that snappy comeback or brilliant retort.

This is a slippery slope. Once we tell a story we are stuck with it. It isn't possible to retract it without damage to ourselves. These stories will hurt both ourselves and others.

Heavenly Father is our ultimate fact checker. You will never put one over on Him, however much you fool people in this life.

Honesty is more important than stories. Being truthful is more important than being entertaining. Being factual is more important than being engaging.

During a rare visit to my own family, a relative remarked that they had heard so-and-so's version of the stories and now they got to hear my version.

My version? This thought was horrifying to me. Do they expect to hear embellished stories? Do they think no one can be truly honest?

Telling embellished stories can, and should, result in a loss of trust and a loss of respect.

So, the next time you are tempted to fracture the facts, recheck your moral compass and reattach yourself to the iron rod of truth. You are not under the pressure Scheherazade faced. We should be more concerned about our eternal life, not our mortal life.

Truth is hard enough to come by in this modern world. Don't clutter it up with your lies or more lies. Your version should be the honest one.

In the end, we all know where liars go.

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