Sunday, April 17, 2016

Lesson Eight -- Overcoming the Walls of our Minds.

“The purpose of the gospel of Jesus Christ is to bring about love, unity, and brotherhood of the highest order,” he said.

        When you think about church on Sunday, what do you expect out of your meetings?

In the message of the gospel, the entire human race is one family descended from a single God. All men and women have not only a physical lineage leading back to Adam and Eve, their first earthly parents, but also a spiritual heritage leading back to God the Eternal Father. Thus, all persons on earth are literally brothers and sisters in the family of God.

          How often do you feel like you are with family at church?  How often do you feel like you are with family with other people?

This is a message of life and love that strikes squarely against all stifling traditions based on race, language, economic or political standing, educational rank, or cultural background, for we are all of the same spiritual descent. We have a divine pedigree; every person is a spiritual child of God.

          What does that mean?
          Does that change anything about how you feel you should deal with other people?

In this gospel view there is no room for a contracted, narrow, or prejudicial view. The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “Love is one of the chief characteristics of Deity, and ought to be manifested by those who aspire to be the sons of God. A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race”

          What does that make you think?
          When you hear of earthquakes or storms or tragedy or war, what does this mean we should think or do?

“Based upon ancient and modern revelation, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gladly teaches and declares the Christian doctrine that all men and women are brothers and sisters, not only by blood relationship from common mortal progenitors but also as literal spirit children of an Eternal Father”

As members of the Lord’s church, we need to lift our vision beyond personal prejudices. We need to discover the supreme truth that indeed our Father is no respecter of persons. Sometimes we unduly offend brothers and sisters of other nations by assigning exclusiveness to one nationality of people over another. …

          Is it hard to not think of ourselves as better and more special than anyone else?
          What can we do to be free from that mindset?

Do you imagine our Heavenly Father loving one nationality of his offspring more exclusively than others? As members of the Church, we need to be reminded of Nephi’s challenging question: “Know ye not that there are more nations than one?”

          How do we bring ourselves to think this way?

As members of the Church of Jesus Christ, we seek to bring all truth together. We seek to enlarge the circle of love and understanding among all the people of the earth. Thus we strive to establish peace and happiness, not only within Christianity but among all mankind. …

Any time we experience the blessings of the Atonement in our lives, we cannot help but have a concern for the welfare of [others].

          How does the message of the gospel relate to the Atonement?
          How does the Atonement teach us to have the love of Christ that extends to all others?

“As ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
“Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life” (Mosiah 18:8–9).
          Did you think of being baptized this way?
          What about when you were ordained?
          Can you think of others in this ward who you feel would morn with you?
          Can you think of others you would morn with?  That you have comforted?
          What else can you do for others?

May the Lord bless us that the walls of our minds may not obstruct us from the blessings that can be ours.

          This is the core of this lesson.
          That God can overcome the walls of our minds so that we can share the love of Christ with others.
          What walls prevent you from helping others?

          Group Discussion:

          What barriers do you see to your being able to help others?

          What ways do you think you can overcome those?

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Memory, Simplification and Lies

I realized recently that by the standards of some people who insist that all simplification is a lie that I am a gross fraud and liar.

After all, I have said many times that my wife and I buried three children in a five year span.  That is a lie.  It was really four and a half years.  That isn't even true.  It was from January 26, 1993 to August 31, 1997. Which isn't accurate. It was late at night on the 26th, early in the morning on the 31st.

Which isn't even accurate, since the funerals followed the deaths and I don't really have strong memories of when the funerals were by date.  Except by the time Robin died, we didn't have a funeral, we just had a grave-side service, we couldn't take a funeral.

And though I've been asked to write on the topic, I've not included all the details.  Like what it felt to attempt CPR on someone too dead for it to have any effect.  Or the autopsy they did on Robin that was so botched a police officer launched a desecration of a human corpse investigation.


I obviously disagree that all simplification is a lie.  Sometimes we simplify because the details are not ones that add to the discussion.  Sometimes because the message is enough from the simplification. Sometimes because the details are enough.


And when we get to memory, memory is about lessons learned, rather than facts, and for most people it is a matter of labels rather than pictures (all the more for me since I lack visual memory for the most part).
  • Every time you use a memory, it changes.
    • Turns out your memory is a lot like the telephone game, according to a new Northwestern Medicine study. Every time you remember an event from the past, your brain networks change in ways that can alter the later recall of the event. Thus, the next time you remember it, you might recall not the original event but what you remembered the previous time. 
    • The Northwestern study is the first to show this. “A memory is not simply an image produced by time traveling back to the original event -- it can be an image that is somewhat distorted because of the prior times you remembered it,” said Donna Bridge, a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and lead author of the paper on the study recently published in the Journal of Neuroscience. “Your memory of an event can grow less precise even to the point of being totally false with each retrieval.” 
  • Memories are edited every time we share them.
    • One implication of Schiller’s work is that memory isn’t like a file in our brain but more like a story that is edited every time we tell it. To each re-telling there are attached emotional details. 
    • So when the story is altered feelings are also reshaped. Schiller says, “My conclusion is that memory is what you are now. Not in pictures, not in recordings. Your memory is who you are now.” So if we tell our stories differently, the emotions that are elicited will also differ. An altered story is also an altered interior life.
  • Memories are physical as well as mental.

A simplified memory may be more accurate, especially if it is a label used to avoid recalling and editing the detailed memory in order to preserve that memory unaltered.

Or a simplified story might be as much as an audience really has time or energy to hear -- or more importantly, since memory is the lesson learned and not the fact -- it may capture the lesson better than other things would.

But it is not necessarily a lie to simplify a story or to limit the details shared about it.