Let Us Embrace the Light

The news of the day is so often a myopic pinhole view on the landfill of the worst aspects of our human existence that one might easily fall into the toxic cynicism promulgated by these modern equivalents of street corner criers.

But the world is full of good and loving people who work together in families, communities, companies, churches, and charities to embrace the Light within us.

Working toward common goals, setting aside our differences, and the ordinary strictures of self-limiting processes, rules, and policies, human beings have an almost infinite capacity to swarm on a problem, a real problem, and solve it in a way that no other form of life is capable of.

Let us embrace the Light within us. Try ignoring the news for three days. Use the saved time to contemplate in meditation. Apply the relief from its negative themes in a positive way to your interactions with the people within the sphere of your influence.

See what a difference it makes.

 #healing #humanity #embracethelight 

(Photo by Zac Durant)

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.”