Sunday, November 19, 2017


I spoke today in my home ward as the high council speaker. I had self-reliance as the topic for my talk. On the one hand, I had plenty to say since I've had my head in that space for the last couple of years. On the other hand, I had too much to say for the same reason. I wanted to create something I could share with others and I wanted to make sure I said it right, so I wrote everything out. I think that allowed me to say the right things, but then I also read too much from my talk and spoke too fast. I opened with a reference from Indiana Jones.
Google Doc for text (also copied below):

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Conflict and the gospel

I spoke in the Methuen Ward today. I received "Captain Moroni being angry a lot even though he is the most righteous man on the planet" as my original topic, but proposed modifying it slightly to "conflict in the gospel." I found the topic very interesting academically and theologically, but worried about my ability to appropriately convey it through a Sacrament meeting talk. My preferred medium for this topic would be a Sunday School or Quorum lesson, but oh well.

Per my MO, I over-prepared in general and under-prepared my conclusion. One of my problems is that I know exactly what I will have already said at the beginning of my talk (which is nothing), but for the end of my talk I cannot know ahead of time what I had to cut and can no longer reference while concluding. I still think I can prepare the conclusion a bit better for next time.

I did not manage my time particularly well. Ironically, that meant I cut out most of my text about Moroni. Luckily, the previous speaker had already hit two of my most important points from that section of my talk. In fact, he gave a really good talk on Christ-like leadership, and the two talks worked really well together. At least in my head as I was listening to his words.

You can see my notes for the talk at this link, or I have also posted them below.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Pioneering and the search for temple worship

I spoke in the Lynn branch today of the North Shore Stake. They're in-between buildings over in Lynn, so they currently meet in the Lynnfield building. I gave the talk in Spanish. I probably could have use a couple more run-throughs of practicing the pronunciation, but I think it went fine. The branch members were very gracious and complimentary, which I appreciated. I didn't feel like it came together how I originally envisioned the topic, but it fit perfectly into the time I ended up having to deliver it. After the talk I went outside and caught a photo of a couple of turkeys:

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Skittleworms on TV

As I mentioned previously, my daughter's Destination Imagination team is currently fundraising for their trip to Globals. We are very proud of her and her team. You can support them here:

They were interviewed on Bedford TV last week (at 38:15 of the program).

My wife and daughter also opened an Etsy shop as part of their fundraising effort:

Please check out the GoFundMe page and the Etsy shop, then share on social media!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Eyes on the Ground: Why You Need Security Agents

I have a new post on the Threat Stack blog based on my presentation last week at SOURCE Boston!

Talk description from SOURCE agenda:
Whether you build, buy, borrow, or steal it, you need a security agent on your endpoints. We can already hear your cries of "agent fatigue" and we sympathize. Any agent, no matter how lightweight, has costs associated with running it. Minimize those costs and get an agent, because you need the information that only an agent can harvest from the endpoint. We talk about various types of security agents, including their respective strengths and weaknesses. We explore how agents can interact and interfere with each other, and provide some tips for evaluating agents. We cover open-source, custom-built, and vendor perspectives, from cloud to IoT. We need information to do our jobs, and we need agents on our digital assets to provide that information. 

I exported the keynote slides to slideshare.

Check out my other recent Threat Stack posts!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Welcome SOURCE visitors!

Maybe you've stumbled onto this blog after hearing of me through SOURCE Conference Boston. Welcome! While this blog has links to my professional blog posts, they actually live on my company's blog.

Things that make it onto this blog tend to be things that do not fit elsewhere. That includes the notes for religious talks I give as part of my volunteer position in the LDS (Mormon) church, among other things. Feel free to ask me about them!

Send the Skittleworms to Globals!

Please take a minute to visit the GoFundMe page for my daughter's Destination Imagination team. Donate if you can, but please at least share on social media even if you cannot. Thank you very much!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Teaching others to recognize the Spirit

Text from a talk I gave today in the Revere 2nd ward:

In Star Wars Episode VII: The seasoned veteran Han Solo discusses strategy for infiltrating an enemy base with the young, ex-stormtrooper Finn:

Han Solo: What was your job when you were based here?
Finn: Sanitation.
Han Solo: Sanitation? Then how do you know how to disable the shields?
Finn: I don't. I'm just here to get Rey.
Han Solo: People are counting on us. The galaxy is counting on us.
Finn: Solo, we'll figure it out. We'll use the Force.
Han Solo: That's not how the Force works!

Finn has some learning to do about the “mystical energy field that controls [his] destiny” over the next couple of movies. I like Star Wars analogies, but won’t be submitting you to any more during this talk.

Personal revelation as received through the Holy Ghost forms a rock upon which the church stands, but what does that even mean?

Matthew 16 (after feeding the 4k, warn against doctrine of Pharisees and Sadducees):
13 ¶ When Jesus came into the coasts of C├Žsarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Christ built his church on the rock of revelation, but can we define that any better? From that account we know it does not come from flesh and blood, and that it comes from God (like everything does). Some people might say a revelation comes from “an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato.“

How can we recognize it in our own lives? In answer to the question, “How do we recognize the promptings of the Spirit?” President Gordon B. Hinckley read Moroni 7:13, 16–17

13 But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.
16 For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
17 But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.

Then President Hinckley said: “That’s the test, when all is said and done. Does it persuade one to do good, to rise, to stand tall, to do the right thing, to be kind, to be generous? Then it is of the Spirit of God. …
“If it invites to do good, it is of God. If it inviteth to do evil, it is of the devil. … And if you are doing the right thing and if you are living the right way, you will know in your heart what the Spirit is saying to you.
“You recognize the promptings of the Spirit by the fruits of the Spirit—that which enlighteneth, that which buildeth up, that which is positive and affirmative and uplifting and leads us to better thoughts and better words and better deeds is of the Spirit of God” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 260–61).

So, the Spirit is not flesh and blood, comes from God, persuades us to do good, and does not invite us to do evil. That’s progress, but still not a something I can really get behind as a definition. How do I know what it sounds like?

1 Kings 19:11-12 (Elijah hiding from Jezebel, goes to Horeb, feels lonely and depressed):

11 And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:
12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

We get a few more negative definitions here: the Spirit was not in the strong wind, the earthquake, or the fire. However, we also get a positive definition: a still small voice. So the Spirit is a still small voice that entices us to do good.

“The Spirit does not get our attention by shouting or shaking us with a heavy hand. Rather it whispers. It caresses so gently that if we are preoccupied we may not feel it at all. (No wonder that the Word of Wisdom was revealed to us, for how could the drunkard or the addict feel such a voice?)
“Occasionally it will press just firmly enough for us to pay heed. But most of the time, if we do not heed the gentle feeling, the Spirit will withdraw and wait until we come seeking and listening and say in our manner and expression, like Samuel of ancient times, ‘Speak [Lord], for thy servant heareth.’ (1 Sam. 3:10.)” (“The Candle of the Lord,” Ensign, Jan. 1983, 53).

Do you remember that story? 1 Samuel 3:

1 And the child Samuel ministered unto the Lord before Eli. And the word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision.
2 And it came to pass at that time, when Eli was laid down in his place, and his eyes began to wax dim, that he could not see;
3 And ere the lamp of God went out in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was, and Samuel was laid down to sleep;
4 That the Lord called Samuel: and he answered, Here am I.
5 And he ran unto Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou calledst me. And he said, I called not; lie down again. And he went and lay down.
6 And the Lord called yet again, Samuel. And Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou didst call me. And he answered, I called not, my son; lie down again.
7 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, neither was the word of the Lord yet revealed unto him.
8 And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou didst call me. And Eli perceived that the Lord had called the child.
9 Therefore Eli said unto Samuel, Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he call thee, that thou shalt say, Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth. So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
10 And the Lord came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel. Then Samuel answered, Speak; for thy servant heareth.

Let’s look at what we can learn from this story. Samuel lived righteously, so he gave himself the opportunity. He heard a voice and he did not recognize it at first. I note that he got more than one shot here! We want to get so that we can recognize and respond at the first prompting, but the Lord helps us learn and understands. I’ve found this in my own life.

I also find Eli’s behavior interesting here. First, the teaching opportunity didn’t come when it was convenient. It didn’t even come when Eli was awake! He also missed it the first couple of times, pretty understandably I would say. But he got it in the end, and helped Samuel along the path to becoming a prophet.

Aside from working in the tabernacle and adopting a future prophet, what can we do to help others around us to learn to recognize the Spirit?

“You cannot force spiritual things. Such words as compel, coerce, constrain, pressure, demand, do not describe our privileges with the Spirit. You can no more force the Spirit to respond than you can force a bean to sprout, or an egg to hatch before its time. You can create a climate to foster growth, nourish, and protect; but you cannot force or compel: you must await the growth” (Boyd K. Packer, “The Candle of the Lord,” Ensign, Jan. 1983, 53).

That patience is extremely difficult, especially for those we love and care for. It might be tempting to use a shortcut and attempt to manipulate people into feeling the Spirit.

President Howard W. Hunter offered this counsel: “Let me offer a word of caution. … I think if we are not careful … , we may begin to try to counterfeit the true influence of the Spirit of the Lord by unworthy and manipulative means. I get concerned when it appears that strong emotion or free-flowing tears are equated with the presence of the Spirit. Certainly the Spirit of the Lord can bring strong emotional feelings, including tears, but that outward manifestation ought not to be confused with the presence of the Spirit itself” (The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, 184). The Spirit of the Lord always edifies.

So we cannot force people to feel the Spirit and we should not confuse strong emotions with the Spirit (they’re orthogonal). So what do we do?

I like how Alma taught it to the poor Zoramites on the hill Onidah:

Alma 32
27 But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.
28 Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.

That makes sense to me as an engineer and scientist. We can do experiments: plant the seed and see how it goes. If we want to help others, help them plant more seeds, and tell them about your experience with planting seeds.

That scripture also describes how the Spirit feels according to Alma: swelling within your breast, enlargening your soul, enlightening your understanding, and being delicious. That’s pretty close to how I feel the Spirit in my life, but the simplest definition can be found in D&C 50, the Lord’s constitution on teaching:

D&C 50
22 Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together.

I know that I’m feeling the Spirit when I feel edified, when I feel built up. I felt that during my preparation of this talk, [I felt it at points while delivering the talk], and I hope you felt it too.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Citizenship in the Ward

I spoke in the Lynnfield LDS Ward today. What an amazing ward! While I found many parts of their services edifying, perhaps the most startling was how early their chapel filled up. I showed up about ten minutes early to the building. At my ward, that would be a near-empty chapel, but in Lynnfield the chapel was pretty full and the overflow was already filling up. I almost wanted to ask if the congregation was really full of Mormons, as nobody seemed to abide by "Mormon standard time." In the end they had to open up into the cultural hall.

The other speaker in the program covered the material really well, so I just had to not mess it up too badly. That's always nice. My assigned topic was "reaching out to our community, strengthening our ward family, then outward." The Bishopric member pointed me at Elder Perry's talk, which focused on Alma, Peter, and John Taylor as examples. I over-prepared as usual, but since I wanted my wife's feedback I actually delivered some of the talk to her the night before. I think that really helped hone the message, and it helped me get rid of things I thought were interesting but that weren't as central. I think the talk ended up covering things pretty well.

Here's the notes, or you can look at the Google doc: