Editor’s note: “The Spoken Word” is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square broadcast. This has been previously broadcast and will be given again on Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021.
In our day, finding answers to questions has never been easier. When we have questions, we simply search the internet — which is now as simple as talking to a handheld device — and we expect immediate responses. And we often get them! But how often do we stop to consider if we are asking the right questions of the right sources — and if we are getting the right answers?
In the information age, our problem isn’t that we have too many unanswered questions; it’s that our questions have too many answers. How can we discern between good and bad information, between truth and error, between fact and fiction? It’s one question that the internet isn’t really equipped to answer — the same question the Roman governor Pilate asked Jesus of Nazareth thousands of years ago: “What is truth?” (John 18:38).
Sam Wineburg, a respected Stanford history professor, has noted that in previous generations, research meant going to a library and reading countless books that had been carefully vetted by editors and respected publishers. Today, for many people research means typing a phrase in a search engine and clicking on the first web page that appears — one that may not have undergone the scrutiny or peer review that was once associated with being published. Now anyone can create a website or write a blog and appear to have authority or expertise that they might not have (see “Why Historical Thinking Is Not about History,” History News, spring 2016, page 13–16).
Professor Wineburg observes: “What once fell on the shoulders of editors, fact-checkers and subject matter experts now falls on the shoulders of each and every one of us” (see “Why Historical Thinking Is Not about History”). The internet has saved us the trouble of finding information but reserves for us the responsibility of evaluating that information. So we check and double-check sources, assess the author’s motive and consider context. And then, when it comes to our deepest questions, regarding eternity and matters of the soul, we remember Jesus’s words to Pilate: “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth” (John 18:37). For all questions — but especially those questions whose answers matter the most — we seek out the best and most trustworthy sources.
Tuning in …
The “Music and the Spoken Word” broadcast is available on KSL-TV, KSL Radio 1160AM/102.7FM, ksl.com, BYUtv, BYUradio, Dish and DirectTV, SiriusXM Radio (Ch. 143), the tabernaclechoir.org, youtube.com/TheTabernacleChoiratTempleSquare and Amazon Alexa (must enable skill). The program is aired live on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. on many of these outlets. Look up broadcast information by state and city at musicandthespokenword.org/schedules.