What Have You Learned

We lost our first child coming up on 33 years ago.

From that experience and others, I have learned that often the most important things that happen to us in life cannot be changed or avoided.

We can only learn from these experiences. I learned a greater appreciation for blessings that I may have otherwise taken for granted.

I learned greater compassion for people, knowing that everyone I meet is suffering or has suffered in ways that I cannot comprehend.

What have you learned?

Social Media Doomed to Fail

Consider for a moment the following headlines.

Now read Twitter's official policy position.

If the hypocrisy and cruel irony escapes you, it may be wise to check the news more often.

Facebook and Twitter have recently banned a variety of voices, including that of President Donald I. Trump, from their platforms. They claim falsely that the President actually invited the violence that occurred at the Capitol last Wednesday. He certainly did not help, but it's a major leap to accuse him of giving the criminal trespassers on the Capitol actual marching orders. To arrive at that level of blame, we must also hold a variety of politicians to blame for the riots in a variety of cities throughout the year 2020.

Then as a result, Apple, Google, and Amazon decided to pile onto the virtue signaling censorship movement and shut down Parler, the open social media competition. The violence at the Capitol gave all these players the pretense to silence their political enemies, and the results in Georgia assured them that nobody in Washington would hold them accountable. All impediments to their fascist rage against the right being removed, they acted swiftly.

But apparently the global policy boys at Twitter object to the same thing happening to their users as a consequence of the actions taken by a totalitarian regime in Uganda. How ironic. The Twitter pot seem to be calling the Twitter kettle black. 

I'll copy a comment I made in reply to a comment made on another post:

If we can't tolerate speech with which we disagree, we can't have freedom of speech. In high school, at the height of the cold war, our American Studies teacher asked if we were willing to allow the Communist Party to operate as a political party in the U.S. I was the only one who raised my hand. My classmates booed. My teacher chided them and gave me a guaranteed A.

If we begin to stifle speech because we fear it, rather than countering it with persuasion, we will produce a violent and unpredictable response from radicals who have been shut up rather than simply beaten on a fair and open playing field of ideas.

Will the rash actions of social media and other big tech players have unintended consequences? I think that is certain. Have they signed their own roadmap to decline and failure? Time will tell. Freedom will ring. Freedom will prosper. History is clear. Those who suppress the voices of millions are doomed to eventual failure. 

 

 

How to Find Truth on the Web

Here's a few things I do. They are not fool proof and I don't always follow my own advice, so take them for whatever value you find in them.

1. Find at least two sources from left leaning media and two from right leaning media. I have my favorites on both sides. 

2. Try to find original content rather than a simple duplicate copy of an AP story or two sources with nearly identical copy. There is a lot of intellectual plagiarism out there.

3. Ignore the headlines and pull quotes (the enlarged quotes of the article). These are designed only to get clicks and lead you to a biased conclusion.

4. Ignore opinions and conclusions. Anything that characterizes the facts or statements of people quoted in the story is not journalism; it's activism, designed to mislead.

5. Look for details that are common between the ideologically opposed sources. These are often truths. 

6. Look for details included in one side and excluded in the other. You won't immediately know if these are true. Often they lack complete context and are included in the way that they are in order to support the characterizations being made by the writer or editorial staff.

7. Assume that there is always more to the story than meets the eye.

8. Take photographic and video evidence with a grain of salt. It is altogether too easy to edit these and remove context that contradicts the slanted narrative. I've been caught by this more than once. We want to believe what we see and hear. This is where we are all most easily manipulated.

9. Assume that all media sources have an angle, a narrative, that they are pushing. 

10. Watch for stories that are covered only by one side. Ask yourself why. Dig for multiple sources. Often when a story hurts the narrative, the story is still covered but it's buried under a bland headline designed to avoid clicks.

11. Use more than one search engine. Every search algorithm has bias built in. Mostly that bias leans left, so you may need to dig deep to find opposing coverage from the right, but you will find it.

12. Distrust bloggers, podcasters, straight up opinion talking heads, and so-called independent fact check sites. Listen to them but do not believe everything they say. Research whatever they say using the steps above.

Again, this is not foolproof, but it does help me.

Where to Put Our Trust

I love Nephi. Especially his powerful words of reflection and prayer in 2 Nephi chapter 4. Here's just one gem for a thought today.

"O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm." (verse 34)

I am reminded that we, as a people, altogether too often put our trust in men. They have names like Trump, Biden, Romney, Monsen, Nelson, and many others. This is not to say there is nothing good in these men. Indeed there may be much to be admired, but our trust, our faith, these we should reserve for the Lord, and Him alone. 

How are we cursed if we put our trust in man? Other words for cursed may be damned or doomed. I have wondered at these words. I have observed the pains we suffer when men we trusted have failed us. If we believe that a mere mortal is beyond the reach of weakness, failure, and sin, we will nearly always be disappointed. More dangerously, if we allow such trust to replace or stand in for our faith in God, then surely we walk on the razor's edge of doom.

It is upon that edge of doom that our own faith may be shattered when the men we trusted turn out to be just that, mere mortal men, subject to the buffetings of Satan, able to make mistakes, and equally in need of mercy as we are every day.

Let us harken to the words of Nephi and escape the fate of such a curse.

We Are Mortal - Weak and Imperfect

I believe it's healthy to realize that all people make mistakes and have weaknesses and fall far short of perfection. This includes all who serve in Church leadership.

It's equally unhealthy to assume that Church leaders are infallible or beyond reproach. There has been far too much of that and it has damaged many lives. We must stop doing that.

As long as it's run by mortal men, the Church will make mistakes and eventual corrections. For decades many tried to convince us otherwise. It often resulted in testimonies, based on false assumptions, too easily assailed.

Only the Lord is perfect. Thankfully He has an amazing capacity for patience as He works with weak men to bring about His purposes on earth.

I fully sustain Church leaders but have never believed they are more than men and women who struggle every day, just like the rest of us, to serve God in the best way they know how.

We Are Not Gods

There is a risk that we, as technologists, may become drunken with the power that knowledge gives us over the non-technical folk. They look to us for answers because we have the Dilbert Knack, and they trust us to really know.

Capricorn

And just when we fall through the rabbit hole of illusion that such power creates, when we have decided that we are gods, knowing and seeing all, those pesky humans, mere mortals they, go off and make a business-driven decision that runs contrary to every tenet of elegant design and best practices that we have graciously delivered to them at great sacrifice to ourselves on digital tablets for their own good because they cannot possibly know what is good for themselves.

Our ego blinds us to the truth. We are not gods. And when the business people reject our ideas, only humility will prevent us from making complete fools of ourselves. 

Indeed, we can only be truly effective when we come to understand that we serve at the pleasure of our employer, and we want to serve their interests but understand our place as a servant. We can gently persuade. We can teach. And we can be there when things go south, having the wisdom to never say, "See. I told you so."

Keith D. Jensen - A Son's Tribute

(Thoughts I shared at my dad's given funeral today.)

The greatest compliment I ever received was, “You look just like your dad.” And the greatest compliment of my dad that I’ve ever heard, I heard last night at the viewing from Jim Young when he said, “Keith was my best friend.” I think there are a number of people who would say the same.

I want to begin with the most important thing about Dad. It’s what makes him my hero. It’s what makes me want to be more like him in my life.

Dad was born the youngest boy of 8 children. He has one younger sister. His father suffered from allergies, so dad did all the farm work as a teenager. His father also struggled with alcoholism and was not often a kind or tender man. Dad’s parents were divorced because of this after all the kids had left home. 

We all know that the cycle of abuse often goes from generation to generation. But Dad broke that cycle. Neighbors would take him to church where he learned to love the Lord and formed a desire to serve Him all his life. 

Dad’s testimony of Jesus Christ and the Atonement is deep and profound. He worked all his life to emulate the Savior, loving everyone and taking every opportunity to serve them. He was kind, gentle and patient with his family and neighbors. They saw in him a spiritual power that exceeded his tremendous physical strength.

I never saw him raise his voice or a hand to anyone. He was never vengeful, nor did he demand payment for hay that others had taken on credit. As a child, I could not understand that. Eventually I came to understand it. Truly he lived the phrase, “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”

Dad taught me many things that have served me well in my life. 

He taught me to be inventive. Our first bale wagon had two rod levers to control hydraulic operations. The furrows in the fields often tipped bales flat, so they needed to be turned up on their edge before the bale wagon could pick them up.

I would ride on the tractor wheel fender and jump off to run ahead and turn the flat bales. That was not particularly safe or efficient, so Dad got inventive. He selected an old steel seat, probably from a horse drawn hay rake—you never knew when something like that was going to come in handy, he’d say.

With the seat welded to the side of the bale loader, we went back to work. I would sit there and jump off and run ahead to turn the flat bales and wait for the seat to catch up to me. The only trouble was that the bale loader needed to be raised just an inch or two at the end of the field to turn around without gouging the hay with the skid. 

Dad would pull on the lever that operated the chain on the bale loader a little further and raise it up just a little with me riding on that seat. On one of those turns, the lever got stuck. The bale loader launched me up and over to the other side of the wagon. Dad stopped hauling and we went straight to the shop where he promptly cut off the seat.

And that is how we got our first motorcycle. Todd and I would take turns riding that Kawasaki up and down the furrow rutted hay fields turning the fallen bales up on their side. It was great fun.

Dad taught me to embrace change. He installed pressurized irrigation and bought wheel lines and hand lines. He improved and upgraded his equipment lineup from time to time. He reclaimed ground that had been overwhelmed with salt grass and alkali. We chained two tractors together to plow that sod. He loved John Deere but wasn’t afraid to use something else when it made sense—which was not that often. Just get the job done. That was the important thing.

Dad taught me to read scripture. He would often gather the family at 6 a.m. to read the Book of Mormon. Each member of the family took turns reading. Dad would correct our pronunciation and prompt us if we got stuck. Whenever I hear someone struggle with reading scripture, I remember Dad’s love for scripture. They were sacred and we ought to read them properly.

Dad taught me to work. Once or twice, up and down the field, and he’d put me in the driver’s seat. Another round while he watched and corrected me when I messed up. Then he would go work on something else until I was done, broke down, or hungry. Later in my teen years, sometimes a friend would ride along with me as I worked. They were always amazed that I was able to operate machinery. I took great pride in that as a kid. Thanks, Dad.

Dad taught us to love the Lord. He would bear his testimony to us. He would have us all kneel in family prayer. He never shirked his duties in the Church. He read his scriptures nearly every day. He sat us down to watch General Conference every six months. He gave wise counsel and never had an unkind word for anyone.

Dad taught me to serve others. When it would snow heavily, he would send me with the old John Deere 3020 and blade to LaMar Sherman’s place to plow the snow all the way up the hill to his house. Doing that small act of kindness always made me feel warmer inside.

Dad taught me to solve problems with what I had. There was not always time to go to town to get a new part, so he would weld a fix and we would get back to work. I became an expert welders helper and I learned the fine art of holding a flashlight to help him work in the dark to get a machine fixed and running again. And that is a rare skill. 

Dad taught me that you go to the house and eat dinner ONLY when the work is done. And perhaps that was the most important lesson.

I testify that God lives and loves us. I know that Jesus is the Christ and that He suffered and died for our sins that we might be made pure and worthy to live with Him and the Father forever. All we need to do is have faith in Him, keep His commandments, make and keep covenants, and most importantly endure to the end. 

That’s what he taught me. And Dad did all of that. He loved his sons for the work they did on the farm, but he might have appreciated the hard work that my sisters did even more. He told Mom that the boys worked hard in the fields until they got hungry and then they’d come looking for something to eat. But the girls would stay out on the tractor all day until the job was done.

Even when Alzheimer’s was robbing him of his memories, he would put on his coat, hat and gloves and go feed the cows and horses twice a day, every day. After years of doing that, he had worn a deep trail from the house to the corrals under the red rock bench in Ioka.

Last summer when Mom wasn’t able to care for Dad, he spent the very last of his energies in mortality lifting the spirits of his new neighbors at the care center. He would go from room to room, shake everyone’s hand and tell them how glad he was to see them. He did not need to remember them. He knew they were his brothers and sisters.

Yes, Dad taught us all to stay until the job is done. He taught us to endure to the end. This lesson defines his life. He learned it at an early age and continued doing it until the very end. 

Perhaps his headstone could read, “He stayed until the job was done.”

Keith D. Jensen - A Life Sketch

(I wrote this life sketch of of my dad to be read by my sisters at the funeral today:)

Keith Devon Jensen was born June 4th, 1940, in Huntington, Utah. He was the youngest boy of 8 children. His parents were John Alferd Jensen and Ila Woolman. Until he was 9 years old, he spent summers at his father’s sawmill in Huntington Canyon. He played in the big piles of sawdust and loved the old steam engine whistle.

His parents sent him to Primary and Sunday School. Valiant leaders and neighbors helped Keith learn to love the Lord and to serve Him. His patriarchal blessing promised he would serve a mission, so he was disappointed that he could not afford to go. Much later in life he served joyfully as a ward and stake missionary, going with the full time missionaries to teach and serve many members of his community. 

Keith learned to work hard as young man. Fun and games were for other kids. There was always a cow to milk or farm work to do. His father had terrible allergies, so Keith did all of the farm work as a teenager. That work ethic showed in everything he did in his life.

In high school, Keith joined the pep club to be closer to LaRue McElprang, a cute sophomore in the band. Soon they began dating and became sweethearts. While LaRue finished high school, Keith sold his horse in order to attend college in Price. He studied auto mechanics.

Keith would catch a ride from Huntington to Price with his sister-in-law on her way to work in the morning and hitchhike back home in the afternoon to see LaRue. Date money came from a tool pusher job at the college.  

LaRue graduated from high school in 1960 and by December of that year Keith gathered enough courage to ask LaRue’s dad for permission to marry her. To his delight, Milton McElprang agreed and on Christmas eve that year, Keith proposed to LaRue. They were married on July 28, 1961, in the Manti Temple.

They moved to Salt Lake City and lived in the old Liberty Park ward. Todd was born a year and a day later and Tyler arrived about three years after that.

Keith worked as a mechanic for about a year then went to work for Linford Brothers Glass. It wasn’t long before he became a journeyman glazer. He installed windows in the old Deseret Gym where he fell from a scaffold and broke his pelvis. Healing was slow but he was back at work some weeks later. As the new guy, it fell to Keith to install windows in the research facility at Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge south of south of Dugway Proving Grounds. On the long dirt road home in the dark, he fell asleep and drove of the road into the desert. When he woke up there was no road and no way to see where it was, so he turned the wheel in the direction he thought he should go until he found the road again, guessing which way was home. He guessed right.

In addition to working as a glazer, Keith and LaRue worked to manage several rental homes owned by LaRue’s father. They loved their friends but longed for a simpler life away from the city. LaRue’s father bought ground in Cedar View and Hancock Cove. Keith and LaRue moved to the Cove in 1966 into a little red brick house. A few years later, Keith and LaRue bought the farm from her father and continued to help manage the herds on the pastures in Cedar View.

Keith farmed and started a dairy which ended in devastation when the herd got out into a fresh alfalfa field and most of the cows died from bloat. It was a monumental struggle, but Keith and LaRue carried on and kept the farm. 

Keith gained a reputation among his neighbors as a friend to all with a kind smile, warm handshake, and generosity with his time. He often traded labor with fellow farmers, each helping to harvest silage. He was known to sell hay to many on credit when he knew they would never be able to pay him, and he never worried about getting paid.

Four daughters followed and then a son from 1967 to 1980, Ruth Ann, Melissa, Rebecca, Maria, and David. A few years later Leonardo was adopted from Colombia. A perfect crew for farming and moving handlines. All the children learned to work hard on the farm, acquiring skills and learning a work ethic that have served them all well throughout their lives.

Keith often leased additional farm ground. He was particular about producing good alfalfa hay. He would often rise at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning to go bale hay with the perfect dew on. On one morning, he drove through town to one of those farms just a little too fast. Two young Roosevelt City police officers pulled him over. He didn’t have his seat belt on, so he jumped out of the old Bronco and walked back to the police car.

“Does your mama know where you boys are at this time of night?” he asked.

They told him how fast he was going.

“Oh, that old thing. It can’t even go that fast,” he said.

They asked where he was going in such a hurry.

“I’m going to bale hay. Why? Do you want to come help?” he asked.

No. They did not want to help and waived him on his way.

The farm in Hancock Cove eventually became Sterling Meadows. Other farm ground was acquired and leased. Keith continued to work the farm while LaRue worked at the hospital in Roosevelt. In the mid ‘90s, they moved the family to Ioka where LaRue still lives.

Keith was a faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, serving over the years as Sunday School president, Elders Quorum president, High Councilor, Bishop, Young Men’s president, and dedicated ward and stake missionary and home teacher. He loved the people he served and did so because of his firm faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. His dedicated service to others led many in our community to renewed faith and activity in the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Keith and LaRue’s children have blessed them with 35 amazing grandchildren with 8 spirited great-grandchildren. Two more are on their way. They have all learned to love Grandma and Grandpa spanning many years, each with precious memories of days on the farm. Jaelise, one of the oldest grandchildren (my oldest), put it this way:

“Cowboy shirts. Mint gum. Baling twine. Puttin' around. Rodeo broadcasts. Always teasin'. Four-wheeler rides. Sandwich cookies. Silly faces. Farmers hands. Warm hugs. Sly grins. Morning chores. Biggest heart. Best gramps of a lifetime.

“I wish grandpas never died...”

Keith and LaRue also invited into their home four Navajo foster children, John Thomas, Dorothy Smith-Bain, Ruby Thomas Dickson, and Gilbert James. John has passed on. Mom and the older kids who knew them still stay in touch with the girls. Ruby and Dorothy still call them Mom and Dad. In all they spent a total of 6 years in Keith and LaRue’s home. John spent many additional summers working for Dad on the farm.

Some years ago Mom knew that Dad was losing his ability to remember. Eventually he agreed and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. One of the hardest days in his life was watching his farm equipment being auctioned off after accepting that he would no longer be able to work the farm. He kept a bright smile and appreciated all who came to help.

He continued to do the chores every morning and every night, putting on his coat, hat and gloves, and walking the well worn path to the corrals until finally he could not even remember how to do that. He retained his personality and love of others until the very last.

Mom cared for Dad until she was physically unable to adequately care for his needs. Her hardest day was leaving him at the care center in Vernal last summer. She visited him several times each week. 

The caregivers at the nursing home called Mom not many days after he was admitted. They asked if Keith had been a bishop. Yes, Mom said, and asked why. They told her that he spent his day going from room to room, shaking hands and telling residents he was glad to see them and cheering them up. The nursing staff said he changed the whole unit because of this.

His memory may have failed him but his heart never did.