To continue the topic of truth I started a few months ago here with “You can’t handle the truth”, let’s talk about the opposite, lying. The bases for my thoughts is a Hidden Brain podcast called Liar Liar. In the podcast the host talks to Dan Ariely, a professor at Duke University and author of the book “The Honest Truth About Dishonesty” Ariely also did a Netflix documentary in 2015.
Some interesting points that Ariely makes is that the most likely types of people to lie are not the smartest, or most dishonest, but the most “creative” type of people. Also, they usually don’t do a cost benefit analysis about lying, (if I get caught, this bad thing will happen, but if I don’t, then this benefit for me will happen), but it is usually just opportunity. People take lots of little steps that lead to the bigger lies.
But what I found most interesting is how not all truth is useful (sound familiar?) Ariely was burned over 70% of his body as a boy by a fireworks accident. He said on the podcast that if the doctors had been truthful about his prognoses and what kind of life he would lead, he probably would have committed suicide. He said there was probably a lot of self-deceiving that went on as he became older, recognizing that he would never be the same, and had a lifetime of painful surgeries ahead of him, but he chose to believe the doctors as a kind of self-medication.
In one story he told, he said that during a surgery as an adult, he had nails put into his hands to hold them steady for a skin procedure. When he set the appointment to have them removed three weeks ahead of time, he ask the nurse which surgery room would be used to remove them, thinking he would be under general anesthesia. The nurse said that it would be done in the office, and it would not hurt at all. Well guess what, it hurt a lot! But Ariely was grateful to the nurse for lying to him, because it saved him three weeks of agonizing anticipation. The pain was the same, but it only lasted a few minutes, not three weeks!
So did Elder Packard have a point when he said Some things that are true are not very useful? Is the pain of knowing that Joseph Smith married teenage girls, other men’s wives, and used a rock in a hat to translate the Book of Mormon worth the church’s deceitful handling of this history? Is lying about polygamy to not cause pain to new converts any different from a Doctor lying about how much the procedure will hurt? Would Elder Packard have made a good doctor?