Sunday, October 24, 2004

I was asked to speak in Sacrament meeting. The following is the part of my talk I got written down. The rest I did to fit the time available in Church.

In Matthew 5:48, Christ says: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”

The word for ‘perfect’ in the Bible is Teles or Teleos, a word meaning complete, finished or fully developed. It is also a word used to describe one who has been through an endowment or initiation, one who is married and one who is fully adult. Looking at just the word ‘perfect’ can leave one confused as to what Christ meant and just exactly what he wanted us to do.

Because Christ wanted us to act, to do, to use his words and to find meaning, my talk today is on one small part of what Christ intended us to do when he told us to “Be ye therefore perfect.”

A good place to start is Luke 6:36 where Luke records the same sermon in a slightly different way. Luke records “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father is also merciful.” The then follows up with “forgive and ye shall be forgiven” (at 37).

Matthew also reprises this theme when he records Jesus as saying “But go ye and learn what that meaneth: ‘I will have mercy and not sacrifice.’” (Matthew 9:13).

It appears that an important part of what Christ wants us to learn, and to learn how to do, is to have mercy. That in commanding us to “be perfect” he is telling us to learn what mercy is.

But the real question is what does that really mean and what should we really do? Everyone knows, for example, that “be reverent” doesn’t mean much without more. That “to be reverent” is more than just another way to say “be quiet” and that the reason we are reverent helps us understand what we are to do on the inside as well as the outside.

The same process applies to that small part of being perfect that is being merciful. To understand the ‘why’ of being merciful as a part of being perfect, I look to two scriptures.

The first is D&C 64:9: “Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another, for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.”

The second is D&C 86:5 “Behold, verily I say unto you, the angels are crying unto the Lord day and night, who are ready and waiting to be sent forth to reap down the fields.”

Have you ever wondered how it can possibly be worse not to forgive someone than to be the one whose unrepented sins have provoked anger? What does that say about the mortal and the eternal worlds, about justice and mercy and us?

And what does it say about our world that the angels would just as soon see the day of judgment come without regards to giving any of us time to repent and be found with the wheat instead of the tares. It is Christ who says to wait.

How and why we should be better than the angels and become like Christ is what my talk is about.

I've been thinking a lot about this topic, about what it means to be children of God (rather than the assumption that once we are grown up we are adults in God) and a number of related topics.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Philosphy and theology from an exploring and learning view are at the heart of a website I found and added to my links. is a link I've added to my links -- a Philosophy and Theology site. I almost had a minor in philosophy, but I had one of those little accidents where you fulfill all the requirements of graduation and get a notice in the mail that your time in school is over -- a semester early. Minors didn't count to the computer.

I've followed the area since, with interest.

Friday, October 22, 2004

"Beowulf writers and Dante writers appear to have the same job, but in fact there is a quite radical difference between them ..." and Neal Stephenson explains the difference at:

Very interesting blog.

I need to enter a new essay (I have the talk I gave in Sacrament meeting), but this site is an enthralling mix of philosophy and interesting links.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Just ran across some blogs I had not visited before. (love the name, enjoyed the blog)


There was a time when blogging was about logging where you had been on the web, especially places new. These were both new, and both interesting.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

I really enjoy the human drama at -- the author, a nameless celibate PhD student at what I hope is a top tier program, writes with immediacy and passion about her life. She has hardships I can only guess at, her life surely seems harder, all in all, than mine, though I was celibate (in the sense she means it) until I was married at age 29.

Reading her blog makes me love my children and my wife all the more. I'll try not to let this theme dominate my blog, but I love my wife with all my heart, in many real ways, she is my life, and our children too.
Here is an essay from Heather (my daughter), in her own words.

I saw it and asked if she minded if I posted it here, and she told me "ok, as long as you give me credit." So I have.

“Be true to yourself.” Stand up for yourself.” “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.” These words ring though my mind sometimes, reminders that while tolerance and acceptance are drilled into us from birth; opposition and persecution wait around every corner. The need to be true comes into my life because often hatred and disapproval exist just for my practicing the right to choose my religion.

My teachers like to think that such nasty things such as prejudice and bigotry were exterminated in the 60’s and 70’s or are confined to the color of your skin. My teachers are willfully blind. When confronted by any other specimens of the darker side of human nature, my teachers tend to turn away and ignore it all.

The first time I experienced this turning away, I was seated by a friend in my Spanish class. Since she had enquired about my beliefs, I answered her questions. A boy that overheard us interrupted to let us both know that since I was a “dirty Mormon” I was “going to hell to burn for all eternity.” My quiet retorts were drowned out in a torrent of curses, lies and swear words.

His friends got up and crossed the room, to join in shouting me down, so that the volume would better enlighten me of the atrocities that I am guilty of performing. I looked to my teacher for help, but when I caught her eye she quickly flushed with shame and turned way, to hunker down at her desk until this storm of hatred and lies had passed. My friend, Cara, who had missed the betrayal, called our teacher’s name, begging for an intervention. Our teacher merely hunched her shoulders more, ducking her head and preparing to work on paperwork.

I fled the room sobbing. Shouts of “Satan lover,” “b**ch” and “you are going to buurrrn!” rang in my ears. I was innocent of the accusations, so they had no truth, and the boys were just ignorant, typically blind and stupid, so I forgave them and tended the bruises on my heart. The teacher was a different matter. I had counted on her to intercede, especially when the volume rose and it became a matter of disorder in the classroom. At the very least I expected her to quiet the boys down when they got out of their seats, crossed the classroom and began shouting.

When Cara and I cried for help, I felt that surely she would aid me. It was the sudden realization that she would never help and seemed to agree with some of the statements that caused me to run.

Another teacher saw me sobbing in the hallway and coerced me into visiting the counselor who spoke to the young men who tormented me. For the entirety of the remaining year, my teacher failed to meet my eyes and I endured the muttered words of hate and threat as I passed the boys in the hallways.

Every week at church, at least one person will talk about standing up for what is right or speaking up for yourself when others will not. When they talk, I listen quietly, wishing I did not have to be my own voice, but knowing that I will be the only person to stand up for myself at school or other places.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

A law professor whose blog I regularly read seems to have a dislike of economists. Probably stems from a brush with Marx. At he questions if Economics is really a science.

The real question ought to be if Economics is really engineering. The Art v. Science debate is really a Religion v. Engineering debate. One of the triumphs of modern medicine is that it is slowly, over time, becoming engineering rather than religion.

The answer to the question seemed obvious to me until my daughter pointed out that my background is in applied economics which is a matter of statistics and observation. Do people living under powerlines have worse health than those who do not and is that a result of the powerlines (yes, to the first question, no to the second -- once you correct for economic differences -- if you live under a powerline you are poorer than those around you -- the difference goes away).

So when I think of Economics, I think of the engineering type applications that work, mostly statistical analysis driven ones, from the days when most analysis of that type was done by economists regardless of the academic field it fell in.

The same is true of the "time and motion" guys -- who were responsible for modern surgical teams. Or the people who did the original critical path analysis.

My favorite theoretical economist was a Yugoslavian who came up with the theory that describes worker managed firms and that works well in looking at law firms, academic departments, small steel plants, and union owned railroads. Definite limits ("who" is a worker with ownership, issues of changing intellectual property, etc.), but nice, clean, useful theory.

To the extent I thought of theory I was looking at observationally and statistically informed micro-economics (i.e. determining what the elasticity of demand for a product is, measuring workflow issues, etc.). Studies that showed that after 35-40 hours of labor a week, you hit diminishing returns.

On the broader scale, on things such as "can one consider Marxist macroeconomics a science?" -- I think that Leiter has a point. I read him, after all, because I don't agree with him -- and so I learn from his posts (and sometimes change my mind). Observational macroeconomics differs a great deal from theoretical. The one says "change this and measure what happens" the other predicts what will happen. Interesting differences.

Though the real question may well be what claim does Economics today have on Applied Statistical Analysis? The days seem to be past when every major economist had resume credits in the space program and other areas of applied mathematics where the economists came in to deal with the math issues and called it applied economics.

I'll have to think. Maybe Leiter has changed my mind again, and maybe not

Sunday, October 10, 2004

My daughter got a call from the Bishop, asking if she would speak in Churuch today -- of course she got the call late Saturday night ...

Luckily, we had a pre-prepared talk or two around (you know how it is, be prepared) and it went well.

I thought I'd put the talk up for the first post here, as it covers some thoughts, even if I've had them before.

Why having a living prophet is important to me.

When we listen to a prophet's voice there are several things we can expect to hear. They are the things that make a prophet a Prophet of God and they are:

1. A Witness or Testimony of Christ.
2. A Call to share and act in the love of Christ.
3. A Call to repent of our sins.
4. Prophetic warnings against particular temptations or dangers of our time.
5. Changes in the procedure or course of the Church for our time.


The scriptures reflect, contain and record that all of the prophets have testified of Christ and have rejoiced in him. Paul goes so far as to say that the testimony of Christ is the Spirit of Prophecy.

Important to being a prophet is what is known as "the prophetic witness" -- a testimony and knowledge of Jesus Christ, our Lord, who is the core of the plane of salvation, the only name by which man can be saved and the good news of the gospel -- which is the gospel or church of Jesus Christ, and no other.

This prophetic testimony or witness of Christ has three parts. First, that Christ is real, he exists, he lives. As the Doctrine and Covenants says in Section 76: "And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony last of all which he give of him: that he lives!"

In every age the prophets have testified that the promised Messiah, Jesus the Christ, is real, that he lives, and that he is living water with a tangible presence and true certainty.

The second part of the testimony of the promised Messiah is that he is the path of salvation. If there was no salvation, an anointed Savior would be meaningless. Christ's reality has meaning to us because he is not only the author and finisher of our faith, but because our faith in him leads to salvation. "For God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world, but to redeem the world." "That whosoever believeth on him, though he were dead, yet shall he live."

The good news or gospel is that there is a Christ and that he can save us.

The third part of a prophet's testimony of Christ is the command to be like him. As Howard W. Hunter said on October 1, 1994 "I invite all members of the Church to live with ever more attention to the life and example of the Lord Jesus Christ ..." "Let us study the Master's every teaching and devote ourselves more fully to his example."

The second message a Prophet brings, after the prophetic witness of the reality of Christ, is the message that we should and must receive and act in the love of Christ. In the New Testament we have Paul's sermon on Charity in 1 Cor. 13 where he tells us that the love of Christ is "the greatest of all" spiritual gifts.

In the Book of Mormon we have the sermon captured in the 7th chapter of Moroni about how without love, faith and hope are meaningless.

Modern prophets have told us to be like Christ "especially the love and hope and compassion he displayed. I pray that we will treat each other with more kindness, more courtesy, more forgiveness." (Hunter, Oct. 1, 1994).

The love that leads to forgiveness is essential to salvation. God has warned us that if we fail or refuse to forgive those who have sinned against us, he will not forgive us of our sins. He has also said "I will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men."

Further, the Christ said "by this may men know that ye are my disciples, that ye love one another." To be saved, to follow, to become disciples, we must have the love of Christ within our hearts. Prophets teach us of Christ and then they teach us of love that we may come unto Christ and be his true disciples.

After all, if Christ did not love us, what could we really expect from him?


After teaching us of the reality of Christ and of his love, prophets next call us to repentance for our sins -- and call us to repent of our sins.

"To those who have transgressed or been offended, we say, come back. The path of repentance, though hard at times, lifts one ever upward and leads to a perfect forgiveness." (Howard W. Hunter, October 1, 1994. Continually, at every conference we hear that call from the Prophets and Apostles.

Not only do prophets call us to repent of sins generally, at times they call on us as a people to repent of specific sins. For example ... Isaiah and Ezra Taft Benson both warned in detail against pride. Nephi and Jeremiah preached against rebellion. Malachi was sent to preach about the failure to tithe. Abinadi was sent to call people -- especially the governing establishment -- to repentance from gross debauchery.

Elijah warned the people against the worship of false idols. Jacob denounced the love of riches and immorality.

As King Benjamin noted, the ways of sin are endless. But each age seems to have its favorite sins. Each age seems to grow comfortable with some sins, and as that happens, God sends us warnings when the familiar is still sin even though we have now embraced it as comfortable and normal.


Prophets also cry out warnings to the people. That is the fourth thing they teach. Some times they warn us of sins. There are times when their warning passes "just" the call to repentance, times when we come close to crossing the edge where our sins prevent agency and cry out for destruction from God.

At that time, God sends prophets first, to warn us. We are all familiar with the story of Jonah who warned Ninevah. We all know of the attempted warning of Sodom and Gomorrah. We all know of Noah who preached warning continually -- all the while building the ark against the failure of his warnings.

Finally, we have the story of Lehi who warned Jerusalem and then fled with his family. Thus prophets not only call on us to repent of sin in general, but they also warn us when our sins are about to bring about our destruction.

Prophets also warn us of other dangers. The Word of Wisdom warns against tobacco. Jeremiah warned against military alliance with Egypt. Joseph gave warning of seven years of famine in Egypt. Prophets have warned against many other dangers, from encouraging food storage prior to the great depression, to the prophecies about the end of time. Prophets are indeed watchmen to warn the people as the scripture states.


Last of the five things prophets teach us, prophets tell us of changes in the way things are or the way things are to be done. This message is the thing most people notice about prophets and the thing most people look to be told. I have left it last in my talk because it is sometimes the least important of the five messages prophets bring.

Christ is the core of the gospel.

Following the message of Christ is the message of his love, without which we are as hollow brass or vain noise, without hope.

Third is repentance and laying hold of the love of Christ and remission of sins.

Fourth is heeding the voice of warning lest we be destroyed.

Finally, we have procedural revelation about how things are to be done. In Moses' time that included the ten commandments and not eating pork, rabbits, lobster, shrimp or catfish. It included limiting the Priesthood only to the sons of Aaron and the tribe of Levi.

In Paul's time that included not eating meat butchered at pagan temples (in order to avoid offending members of the Church who were unable to accept the practice) and allowing gentiles to be baptized into the Church.

In our recent time changes have included the consolidated meeting schedule, extending the priesthood to all worthy men, and the reorganizations in church administration as well as President Hinckley’s command to build more temples. It will undoubtedly include many more things we do not yet even expect and which take us aback at first. After all, when Peter was told to "arise and eat" and partake of food such as pork, rabbit, lobster and shrimp, he drew back and remonstrated with the Lord.

When gentiles were baptized, it caused a scandal. No doubt as time and needs change, God will surprise us again. And he gives us prophets so that we may know that these surprises are the mind and will of God.

All of these things make having a prophet today important to me.

I know that when prophets speak, I can expect to hear them tell five messages, each of which is very important to me.

The five messages are:

1. The testimony of Christ, that he is, that he is the path to salvation, and that we should be like him.

2. The love of Christ, both that God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son, and that we should love one another.

3. That we must repent and return to Christ and his love.

4. Specific warnings for our time, and

5. Revelations regarding changes for our times.

These are the things we should remember from past prophets as we read their messages in the scriptures. These are the things we should look to hear and learn from when we listen to modern prophets. And these are the things we should retain when we come away from hearing the voice of God, for these are the message of the gospel that God gives us through his prophets.

I leave you with this, in the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.