Seek, Ask, Knock: A Progressively Closer Relationship with God

seek ask knock closer relationship with GodLast week, during our family’s morning scripture study, I was reviewing with my children some highlights from President Nelson’s January Liahona article called, Grow into the Principle of Revelation. In the article, Pres. Nelson quotes the Lord from D&C 88:63 which says, “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”

As I read that verse, I felt prompted that this was a good time to share with the kids that the Lord was not repeating himself over and over again, expressing the same thought in three different ways. But rather, through the order of the verbs, the Savior was teaching how to draw near to God and illustrating a progressively more intimate relationship we can have with God. I made an illustration on our white board for the kids that was something like the one attached to this article and I explained the following:

  1. “Seek me diligently and ye shall find me.” This indicates a long-distance relationship. If we seek diligently, we will find God, though it may be at a distance.
  2. “Ask, and ye shall receive.” The two verbs here, ask and receive, are both indicative of a more intimate relationship. While seeking can be one way, asking is a two-way verbal communication with God. And receiving indicates God has physically given you something, which is a much closer relationship than seeing from afar.
  3. “Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” To knock and have something opened up unto us indicates the potential for the most intimate relationship of the three. It implies passing through a door and entering into God’s presence and being one with God—the closest relationship of all.

As I studied this more, I realized most scriptures that teach this principle have the verbs in a slightly different order: they have ask first, seek second, and knock third. For example, see Matt 7:7 and 3 Nephi 14:7, “Ask, and it shall be given unto you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” Why the difference exists, I don’t know, but the lesson of a progressively more intimate relationship with God still works there. To ask and receive an answer is a long-distance verbal communication relationship. To seek and then find something, however, is more than just verbal communication—it indicates a more physically close relationship that involves seeing in addition to hearing. But again, and perhaps most importantly, to knock and have something opened up unto us indicates the potential for the most intimate relationship, passing through the door, being with God, and having oneness with Him.

The Parable of the Lost Drone

Parable of the Lost DroneSkip to the bottom if you want the lessons learned and the pictures and videos from the drone. But if you want the whole story, here it is…

For my most recent birthday, I decided to splurge and get a toy that would be fun for me and the kids. Usually, I tell Heather not to get me anything for me birthday, and so usually she ends up getting me some clothes or some snacks for work or some practical need. This year, though, for some reason I felt like we should branch out and get something impractical yet fun, and so I decided to get myself a drone that I could fly around the yard with the kids.

As I researched the options, I thought I better get an inexpensive one because I have heard of many people crashing, destroying, or losing their drones. I didn’t want to make a huge investment in case it turned out to be nice very fun and one that I wouldn’t be devastated if it got destroyed by the kids or me crashing it. I decided on one on Amazon with good reviews that was relatively inexpensive and it was delivered just before my birthday.

As anticipated the kids and I both enjoyed the drone. Truman and Abe both tried it but ultimately it stressed them out too much to fly it, so one short flight was enough for them. The other four kids (Hannah, Max, Eliza, and Scotty) all flew it several times over the first week. Then disaster happened after only a week of ownership of the drone and only a dozen or so flights.

It was the weekend after my birthday and Eliza asked if she could fly the drone. She and I went into the back yard and set it up. She flew it for a few minutes, and then I decided to give it a fly. I decided to go a little higher than I had previously taken it. I got it up to about 50 or 75 feet, it’s hard to say how high exactly, and then a mighty wind came by of maybe 5 miles per hour. Now, I should back up a little and tell you that as we had been flying the drone around the yard for the last week, I had been unimpressed with the ability of the drone to navigate with the slightest breeze in the air. The drone had been blown multiple times into trees and fences in our yard.

On this day, the sky was clear and it didn’t seem windy. I was also feeling more confident in my abilities to steer the drone and so that’s why I dared to take it higher than before. The drone manual said it had a range of 200 to 300 ft, so I thought I might venture up to 100 feet or so. But long before I got to that height, a near hurricane force of around 5 miles per hour swept the drone in a southwest direction, out of our yard and across the street.

I first tried to steer it back to our yard, but the drone was unresponsive and continued its southwest trajectory. The drone was higher than all the trees in the neighborhood, so it had a clear path to go wherever the wind was taking it. Fearing it would fly out of sight, I ran out the back gate of our yard and chased it down the street, all along continuing to try and steer it back to my position. But it was all for naught. After I crossed the street, I followed it about half way down the block. The drone was over some trees in the back yards of these neighbors but soon it was out of sight. The drone disappeared as it cut sideways, crossing into another section of the neighborhood and I never saw it again. It likely crashed into some trees or a house; hopefully it didn’t crash into a person or a pet, though it’s pretty harmless, lightweight, and you can stop the propellers with your hand without much discomfort.

In the first day or two with the drone, I came up with a rule of thumb that I kept telling the kids that if you see yourself losing control of the drone, just hit the emergency land button right away. However, when I realized the drone had been blown far out of our yard and the steering wasn’t bringing it back in my direction, I didn’t follow my own advice. The problem was that at that moment I realized I had lost control, the drown was over a street and I feared it would be hit or hit a car if it landed right then. In retrospect, I should have hit the emergency land button and taken my chances with the car, though it was not being responsive to the remote control, so it probably wouldn’t have worked anyway.

Instead of hitting the emergency land button, I thought up a new strategy and tried to make the drone go higher. At a higher altitude, I thought, it would go above the trees and I would still be able to steer it back to me. Of course, none of this worked either. The drone was unresponsive to the lateral directional input at that point, so the altitudinal controls, up or down, was probably also ineffective and any altitude gains were likely from the wind.

I then ran back to my house, put on some shoes (I had been out in the yard in my flip flops) and started driving around the neighborhood looking for the drone around the area where it was heading when it went out of sight. I was still hopeful at this point that I could retrieve the drone, but soon realized that finding it could be harder than finding a needle in a haystack. I drove around for ten or fifteen minutes, looking in trees and yards and everywhere I could think of, but realizing the futility of it, I came home and broke the bad news to my wife and kids.

We all shed a tear or two (okay, not really), but I did pull out my phone to take a final look at the pictures and videos we had taken with the drone. It was then that I realized, the drone emitted a WiFi signal, which is how it transmitted the photos and videos back to my phone. If my phone got near the drone, that WiFi signal would show up on the list of networks on my phone and I would know the drone is near. Again, I went back to the streets where I thought the drone might be, and drove up and down the road, but once again, my plan was frustrated. The phone didn’t pick up the WiFI signal from the drone. The battery life of the drone was pretty short, so even if the power stayed on through the crash, the wimpy battery had probably died out by then. Or perhaps the drone had powered off when it crashed, or perhaps it was blown miles away. Who knows.

So that’s the sad tale of the lost drone. I call it a parable because I hope that someday, I’ll see past losing my favorite new toy and see the bright side of the story and realize what great life lessons I learned from the incident. For now, I can at least say a few things I would do differently, if I had it to do over again. And if you can think of any other great morals to the story, do let me know in the comments below. 🙂

  • 1. Print a sticky label with my name and contact information on put it on the drone. That way, if it escapes again, maybe a good person will find it and return it.
  • 2. The moment the drone seems out of control, land it immediately. Even if that means landing it in the street or in the neighbor’s yard. The chances of recovering it are greater that way than if it is blown a mile away and lands who-knows-where.
  • 3. Don’t fly the drone high enough to be blown away until I am more experienced and skilled at controlling it. And don’t be arrogant about your skill level. After only one week and a dozen flights, I was no pro and obviously flew the drone too high for my skill level and for the quality of the drone. And if you do decide to fly it high, go to a park or somewhere with LOTS of open space.
  • 4. Get a better-quality drone. For it’s price, this was a good drone, but I realize now that it had major limitations and weaknesses. I don’t have anything to compare it with because it’s the only drone I have flown, but from the beginning I was shocked at how easily this drone was blown off course by the slightest wind. There are higher quality drones on the market that are much more wind resistant.
  • 5. Along those same lines, next time, I would get a drone with better controls and more features, such as a self- navigating return home feature. Again, the nice drones have a feature that, with the touch of a button, will use GPS to bring the drone back to you. From day one with me and the kids using it, we knew we needed that feature.
  • 6. Get a drone that takes higher resolution pictures and videos. This drone’s camera was 1080p and it had no microphone, so the video has no sound. And as you can see in the pictures and videos attached to this post, the imagery is pretty low quality compared to what we are all used to on the most basic of smart phones.


“Is There a Monkey on My Back?” Short Story

Is There a Monkey on My Back Cover“Is There a Monkey on My Back?” is a short story I wrote for my kids in December 2016. A year later, my daughter Hannah Smith added the illustrations. I write a lot, usually, though, it is on topics such as digital marketing or politics. I know that good writing takes a lot of time, but writing a fictional short story turned out to the much more difficult than I imagined. The story didn’t turn out as perfectly as my brain imagined before starting, but my kids seem to enjoy me reading it to them each Christmas. I hope your family enjoys it too and benefits from some of the life lessons I tried to include as morals to the story.


Long ago, there was a monkey named James who lived in a forest with a large tribe of his fellow monkeys. When James was a boy, he loved to climb to the highest branches of the tallest trees. From there, he could see distant mountains, rivers cutting through valleys, and birds flying with freedom, power, and majesty. James imagined the other tribes of monkeys that surely must live those faraway lands. He thought up stories in his mind about what life was like with those other monkeys in those distant mountains and valleys and longed to travel there someday.

Is There a Monkey on My Back - James Mountains Distance

Most of the other monkeys in James’ tribe thought he was weird for climbing so high. There was no food or warmth on those high branches and all the other monkeys stayed in the lower branches or on the ground, gathering food and monkeying around for fun with all the others.

In the forest where James lived there was a lake where all the monkeys would come to get a drink each day as they were out searching for food and playing. One day James met a girl monkey named Diane at the watering hole. They enjoyed each other’s company and they began to date. For dates, they went swinging through the forest, and James even took Diane up to the highest branches of the tallest trees. Diane loved seeing these amazing views that James shared with her. James and Diane fell in love and were soon married.

Is There a Monkey on My Back - James Diane Watering Hole

About a year later, James and Diane had a baby monkey they named Mae. Mae was a very beautiful little girl monkey and James and Diane loved her very much. Like all baby monkeys, Mae rode on her parents back wherever they went. Baby monkeys are too small and weak to climb the trees of the forest to get the food they need. By riding on her mom or dad’s back, Mae got food to eat each day and learned how to be a grown-up monkey and take care of herself.

Every time James and Diane were about to head into the forest for their daily gathering of food, James would crouch down and Mae would climb on his back. James would say, in a playful voice, “Is there a monkey on my back?” Mae would giggle and say “Yes, Daddy. It’s me Mae.” And they would head off into the forest to find food and seek adventures.

Is There a Monkey on My Back - Mae

James still climbed to the highest point in the trees when he had the time but he didn’t dare take his little monkey to those dangerous heights. He thought, though, that he should put the stories sparked in his imagination from those amazing views into a book for his little ones and other monkeys in the tribe to read.

James soon finished his degree at Primate University and then got a job at the tribe newspaper, the Gorilla Gazette. Diane wanted to give their baby monkey the best care possible so she stayed at home in the treehouse with Mae and took care of her all day while James went to work.

At work, James helped the newspaper print stories about politics and sports and all kinds of other things that were interesting to most monkeys. It was easy for James to get interested in those things too, but when he was honest with himself, he realized those things were not the most interesting stories that could be written.

James longed for the day when he could write his own book and fill it with the stories inspired by what he had seen as he gazed at the distant mountains at the tops of the trees. He thought those stories were too wonderful not to share and that if the other monkeys in the tribe read his book, they would have greater appreciation the beauty and majesty of the world around them.

Is There a Monkey on My Back - Idea

Soon James and Diane welcomed another baby monkey to their family. This time it was a baby boy monkey named Russel. Now when James and Diane went out each day to gather their food in the forest, they each had a monkey on their back. When James went to work during the day, then Diane did all the work of caring for the little monkeys and she did so joyfully, realizing that her time together with them was short. They would soon grow up and she wanted to teach them all they could before they left the treehouse.

Having a monkey on the back isn’t just work, it is also fun, and James and Diane had tons of fun with their two little monkeys. When it was time each day to go gather food in the forest, James and Diane would crouch down. Mae would climb on her dad’s back and Russel would climb on his mom’s back. The parents would ask: “Is there a monkey on my back?” The two little monkeys would giggle, say “It’s me Mae” and “It’s me Russel” and they would head off for a day of hunting and family togetherness.

Is There a Monkey on My Back - Mae and Russel

A few more years passed and another baby monkey joined the family of James and Diane. They called this baby monkey Maximillian and he was a very happy, smiley monkey. Now, with three little monkeys to take care of, James and Diane had a real balancing act to manage, but with a little practice, and a lot of patience, they kept the family fed and happy.

Is There a Monkey on My Back - Baby

James continued to work at the newspaper. He was learning to be a good writer, but he hadn’t yet found the time to write down his stories in a book, and the desire to do so continued to press upon his mind. James feared if he didn’t write his book soon he may never have the opportunity. Writing the book in the little spare time he had, at night and on weekends, would take a long time but was doable. James decided that now was the time to begin, and he started writing.

A couple of nights a week, after the little monkeys went to bed, James could find an hour or two to work on writing his book. As the weeks and months went by, he was able to complete drafts for a handful of chapters in the book. James felt inspired as he wrote and was confident that this book would be the pinnacle of his life’s achievements.

Is There a Monkey on My Back - Sleep

James was making good progress on the book when Diane became pregnant with their fourth baby monkey. Growing a baby monkey in your tummy is no easy task, though Diane handled it as well anyone could. But still, she was sick and uncomfortable often. James tried to help more with the little monkeys, carrying all three of them on his back as much as possible so Diane wouldn’t have to. This meant less time to work on his book, but he thought once the new little monkey was born, Diane would be back to her old self and he continue writing his book.

Soon baby monkey number four was born, a little boy named Gerry. Gerry was healthy and happy and he soon joined the family’s daily venture out into the forest to hunt for food. James and Diane would kneel and the four little monkeys would climb on, two on each of their backs. “Is there a monkey on my back?” said James in the familiar way. The four little monkeys giggled and off they went to forage for food.

Is There a Monkey on My Back - Four Kids

James was now more determined than ever to complete his book, but time to work on it was harder and harder to find. Diane, knowing James’s desire to work on his book, made a suggestion one day. Baby Gerry was a little sick and needed to stay home, so Diane volunteered to take the other three little monkeys on her back and go hunt for food, and James could stay home with Gerry.

Gerry would most likely stay in his bed and rest and this would let James have a few extra hours to work on the book. This sounded like a good plan so Diane crouched down and Mae, Russel, and Maximillian climbed on her back. “Is there a monkey on my back?” said Diane in the familiar way. The three little monkeys giggled and off they went for a day of foraging for food and fun.

James got Gerry settled on the couch with a sippy cup of milk and his favorite movie to watch, Tarzan the Ape Man. Then James sat down in front of his computer and started to write. But soon Gerry cried out for help because he wanted a different movie. James changed the movie and went back to writing but within a few minutes, Gerry cried out again because he wanted something different to drink. James patiently helped him get a new drink and then went back to writing. But only another few minutes went by and Gerry cried out again. This time, James lost his patience. He got mad at Gerry for complaining about silly things and sent him to room for an extra early bed time.

Is There a Monkey on My Back - Gerry

Now, James thought, he would be able to work on his book in peace. But as James sat down and attempted to write, no thoughts came into his mind. Usually he could hardly type fast enough to keep up with the thoughts in his head. Several minutes passed and still the writer’s block remained. Try as he would, James could not continue writing his book that night.

James couldn’t stop thinking about how he had gotten upset with little Gerry and he felt horrible about it. Then James thought about his dear wife Diane, off in the forest with three little monkeys in tow, doing the work by herself that was meant for two parents.

Is There a Monkey on My Back - Tired Mama

James knew that he couldn’t shirk his family responsibilities in order to write his book, regardless of how wonderful and inspiring it would be. James also had a thought that night—perhaps the best way to pass on his knowledge of the spectacular views at the tops of the trees was to instill his experience and wisdom in his own little family of monkeys. James realized that the real pinnacle of his life’s achievements, the work most important for him to do, wasn’t in a book he would write but in the children he would raise and in the family he would have with his wife.

That thought James had, that his greatest influence on the world would be through teaching his family, resonated with him all night and into the next day. He knew that nothing was a higher priority than raising a good little family of monkeys and James vowed then that his desire to write and publish a book would never again stop him from treating his family right.

Is There a Monkey on My Back - Family Hug

From that day on, James had a better perspective about his life, his work, his family, and how to prioritize his responsibilities. Over the next few years, two more little monkeys joined that family—a little girl named Ruthy and a little boy named Charlie. James and Diane are busier than ever, but they somehow manage to juggle all the little monkeys on their backs.

Is There a Monkey on My Back - Six Kids

Now, on their daily journey into the forest to forage for food, James and Diane crouch down and the six little monkeys climb on their parents with three on each of their backs. As always, James asks, “Is there a monkey on my back?” and all the little ones giggle. James has learned this vital lesson, that having monkeys on your back isn’t a burden to try to get rid of but rather a blessing to be enjoyed. And one day, when those little monkeys are grown, they will all be able to climb together to the highest branches of the tallest trees, share wonderful stories, and enjoy the most spectacular views.

The End

Is There a Monkey on My Back - Family Mountains Distance

Word Clouds from Biden and Trump Presidential Candidate Websites

Summary: Word clouds from each of the major parties’ 2020 presidential candidate websites, joebiden.com and donaldjtrump.com, reveal much about the candidates, their messaging and tactics, and what they feel will motivate the American voters. And as an added bonus, I do a brief SEO analysis of the candidates websites. 

Compare and Contrast of Word Clouds from Biden and Trump Presidential Candidate Websites

Word clouds can be a fun and informative way to quickly assess a large body of text, so I thought it would be cool to create a word cloud for each of the 2020 presidential candidates from the major parties, Joe Biden and Donald Trump, that would encapsulate the primary messages of their candidacies. Word cloud software, for those who don’t know, allow you to input large quantities of text and it will put the text into a cloud of words where the bigger the word, the more frequently the word was used in the text.

I thought it would be interesting to place the Biden and Trump word clouds side by side to compare and contrast them, and that is exactly what you’ll find in this completely non-partisan analysis. I wanted to grab all the text from the joebiden.com and donaldjtrump.com websites and plug them each into a word cloud generator. However, I couldn’t find any free and easy software to do that, so then my professional search engine optimization (SEO) brain kicked in and thought to use SEO software to scan their website. After completing the SEO scan of each site, I grabbed all the page titles and meta descriptions of each page, as well as all H1 and H2 headlines, and dumped them into the word cloud generator.

I started this project to see if I could get a word cloud to represent what each of the candidates stand for, what are the primary issues they care about, and what are the main messages they are trying to communicate. I think I definitely got that, but the exercise also taught me a lot of other things like common political campaign tactics used and what the American people likely care about when making their voting choices. This exercise also demonstrated how poorly the presidential candidates optimize their websites, which was an interesting tangent, but secondary to my purpose. If you are interested, click here to jump directly to the end to the SEO analysis of the presidential candidates’ websites for Joe Biden and Donald Trump. But now, let me take you step by step through my analysis and the insights I have drawn out of it. And please comment to share your insights as well after you look through the details.

Round 1: All Words from SEO Scrape of Biden’s and Trump’s Websites

In round one, I used all the words from the titles, descriptions, and headlines of the Joe Biden and Donald Trump campaign websites. First, in blue, is Biden’s, followed by Trump’s in red.

Obviously, the most prominent words on each of their websites are their own names. (It’s no wonder so many of our politicians suffer from narcissism.) After generating these first word clouds, I didn’t think it was telling me much about what I was aiming for, like the substance of their campaign message and issues. Of course, later I realized it was telling me exactly what the presidential race is all about–Biden, the person vs Trump, the person.

Round 2: Word Clouds Excluding Their Names and Text like Official, Campaign, and Website

Still, I wanted to get to more substance, so I removed the candidate’s own names from the word clouds, along with heavily used filler words like Official, Campaign, and Website. And here’s what round two of the word clouds looked like–again, first is Biden in blue, then Trump in red.

Now we are starting to get somewhere. In the round-two clouds above, the primary message of each campaign shines through bright and clear. You can see the frequent repetition of Biden’s two main campaign slogan’s, “Together, we will beat Donald Trump” and “Battle for the Soul of the Nation”. And you can’t miss Trump’s slogan coming through either, “Help continue our promise to Keep America Great.”

Round 3: Word Clouds additional excluding of their Primary Campaign Slogans

As revealing as the campaign slogans are, still I wanted to get to more substantive information on issues facing our country and where the candidates stand. So I conducted another round of word clouds, this time removing the additional words from the prominent campaign slogans revealed in round two. From Biden’s word cloud, I removed the words Together, Beat, Donald Trump, Battle, Soul, and Nation. From Trump’s I removed the words Promise, Continue, Help, Keep, America, and Great. Below is the result, Biden in blue, Trump in red.

These round 3 word clouds offered insights into the candidate’s next priority–connecting with supporters for get-out-the-vote purposes and for fund raising, directly or through merchandise sales. Again, this should not have surprised me, but it still didn’t get to the heart of what I was looking for. On to round four.

Round 4: Word Clouds excluding additional Words about Connecting with Voters

In my final round of removing additional words to try to get to the heart of the candidates’ message to voters, I removed the words Join, Team, Store, and Plan from the Joe Biden website. From the Donald Trump website word cloud I removed these additional words: Joe Biden, Vice, Mike Pence, Get, Involved, Watch, New, Live, Stay, Informed, SMS, and Email. And here are the results, Biden in blue, Trump in red.

As you can see, on the fourth round, I am finally getting to the details of a wide variety of issues that the candidates are talking about. Many more filler words are obviously still in the word clouds, but some substantive messaging words start to stand out as well.

For Biden, I see these words stand out:

  • COVID-19 and Crisis: those are usually coupled together on the website.
  • Violence: a reference to his stand against gun violence and violence toward a variety of minority groups.
  • Education: a reference to a plan written about much on the site for education beyond high school.
  • Build, Community, and Women: These words are used in a variety of contexts and I think the message comes through regarding issues and constituency groups he is emphasizing.
  • Animal and Crossing: These words seemed odd to me, so I looked into it and apparently, you can download Biden campaign yard signs and other digital merchandise to integrate into the popular video game, Animal Crossing. That’s an interesting tactic.

For Trump’s website word cloud, these words stand out:

  • MAGAnomics: a reference to Trump’s economic plans but also seems to imply his energy plan.
  • Defense, Religious, and Liberty, often together: This is a reference to articles and policy statements about freedom of religion.
  • Hunter: This is a reference to Hunter Biden, Joe’s son, and the recent discovery of new information about his dealings in Russia, China, and Ukraine.
  • Supreme and Court: Obviously, the filling of the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court is a big issue for all parties.
  • Other words like Coronavirus, Seniors, and Condemns, which is used in conjunction with a wide variety of things about which he is condemning the other party and candidate.

Summary of Messages Revealed through Presidential Candidate Websites

Here’s a chart I put together to summarize the stand out messages from the four rounds of refinement I completed while developing the word clouds from the content of the presidential candidate websites.

Summary of Messages Revealed through Presidential Candidate Websites

Overall, I expected both Biden and Trump to have more substance and to make those substantive messages more prominent on their websites. But I guess I understand the approach taken, emphasizing first the candidate, then a major slogan, then connecting for communications and fund raising, and then, finally, the issues.

I suspect this order of messaging is also a reflection, for better or worse, on the American electorate and how they decide who to vote for. It is likely that people decide to vote based on, first, the personality of the candidate and if they like the person, second, on high-level yet largely meaningless slogans, third, on who has the most money and means of mass communications, and fourth, and unfortunately last, on where the candidate stands on important issues. I could comment more on the messages the two candidates selected to emphasize on their websites, but to keep this article non-partisan and since it is quite lengthy as it is, I think I’ll withhold further political analysis.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Analysis of Each Presidential Candidate Website

For those of you still with me (and I thank you for that), this exercise also revealed how poorly the presidential candidates’ websites employee search engine optimization (SEO) best practices. At first I was shocked at how miserable the SEO was on these sites, then I realized the staff operating these sites may operate from the perspective that they don’t need to optimize for search engines because their sites will rank well no matter what–search engines will direct users to these sites when it is clear they want information about the candidates.

But the thing is, SEO is NOT about optimizing the website for search engines, but rather optimizing it for search engine users. And so the fact that SEO best practices are not employed is a unfortunate sign of missed opportunities to connect with site visitors. Not optimizing implies a disregard for the user experience and means the site operators are more interested in pushing their message than helping the visitors find the information they seek.

Here’s some more details on the SEO analysis. For the SEO scan, I used Screaming Frog (the free version). This is not an endorsement of the product; I just wanted to be transparent. After completing the scan of each site, joebiden.com and donaldjtrump.com, I grabbed all the page titles, meta descriptions of each page, and all H1 and H2 headlines and placed them in the word cloud generator. Of course, in that process, I noticed much about the content of the sites and their lack of SEO-ness.

I first looked at the scan of joebiden.com and was surprised to find a third of all page titles starting “Joe Biden for President: Official Campaign Website”. That’s 50 characters, leaving little room for anything else in the title before the search engines truncate it on the results page. Then I looked at meta descriptions for the pages and found that most of Biden’s pages don’t have a meta description, and for those that do, there is a lot of repetition and some outright duplication. The H1 headlines had some duplication, but overall, they weren’t bad. H2 headlines, though, stated almost exclusively either “Together, we will beat Donald Trump” or “Battle for the Soul of the Nation” which leaves much to be desired from an SEO perspective.

Then I looked at donaldjtrump.com, thinking it couldn’t be worse than Biden’s, but I was wrong as I found it was just as bad. Trump had similar issues with lengthy and duplicate page titles. The scan returned a single phrased used as the meta description for almost every page that had one, “Help continue our promise to Keep America Great!” and a great many pages didn’t even have a description. Like Biden, Trump’s H1 headlines had some duplication, but overall, they weren’t bad. H2 headlines on Trump’s website were scarce.

Overall, it was clear in this brief analysis that these websites could do much better at communicating their messages in a search-engine-user-friendly fashion if they would just follow some of the most basic SEO best practices, like having:

  • Unique and meaningful page titles
  • Page descriptions that accurately and honestly convey the content of the page
  • Headlines that provide valuable additional detail

8 Ways Our Freedom of Religion Is Being Taken Away

8 Ways Our Freedom of Religion Is Being Taken AwayIn the church and in politics, we often hear about the need to defend religious freedom. Still, many people wonder, is this happening now or is this a warning about what could happen in the future? Is our freedom of religion being taken away? If so, in what way is our religious freedom being impeded?

As an example of that train of thought, I point you to a video of Ben Shapiro having a debate with a man on religious liberty (go to the 2:00 mark to see it). The man, a college professor who goes unnamed in the video, says those of us who think freedom of religion is being taken away are paranoid. He says in America, you are free to join whatever religion you want or have no religion. He says, “move to Egypt, or Pakistan, or Saudio Arabia, and then you can complain about a lack of religious liberty but not in America.”

If you feel the same as that college professor, keep reading. There are voluminous, alarming instances of freedom of religion being taken away, in the US and abroad. Most big media outlets are quite secular and thus their editorial boards often don’t find the loss of religious liberty to be newsworthy. But it is happening all around us, sometimes overtly, and often times in subtle ways.

In this article I will highlight eight ways our freedom of religion is being taken away. Some of these instances are about laws or situations that affect every one of us. Others are instances that only directly affect one person. But all of these instances affect us, directly or indirectly. Even if it is someone else’s freedom being eroded and not our own, we must speak up. As the German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller said after the holocaust:

They came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist

Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew

Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me (“First They Came” by Martin Niemöller)

Before I get to the eight points where we are losing freedom of religion, let’s review the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution and that first inalienable human right enumerated there.  The Constitution says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Freedom of religion doesn’t just mean that you are free to believe what you want–it means you are free to exercise your religion. Having religious freedom means that people have the right to live, speak, and act according to their beliefs peacefully and publicly, without prohibition from the government.

Here are the eight ways, in no particular order, I have identified that our freedom of religion is being taken away:

Though this is not a comprehensive list, it should provide a good idea for the perilous situation we are presently in regarding freedom of religion. Let’s explore each one of these in more detail.

#1 We Are Forced to Financially Support Abortion

Most Christian churches and other faiths are religiously opposed to abortion. My church teaches that it is sinful to “submit to, perform, encourage, pay for, or arrange for” abortions. Yet, in our country today, we are forced to financially support it in two ways: 1) if you are an employer, you must pay for employees’ abortion coverage, and 2) our tax dollars are given to abortion providers.

The Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010, mandated that employers pay for medical insurance, including abortion coverage and abortion inducing drugs. As originally passed, this law had only very few exceptions for churches. For private companies with Christian values, there was no exception and the ACA (Obamacare) required them to pay for abortion coverage even if they have a religious objection to it. Companies owned by devout Christians like Hobby Lobby and Chick-fil-A had no exemption.

For 10 years, religious people have been fighting that aspect of the ACA and we’ve recently made some headway. In July 2020, the Trump administration won a key victory in the US Supreme Court and broad exemptions to the ACA’s contraceptive mandate are now available, “ensuring that most moral and religious objectors to birth control will not be required to cover it in employee health plans.” (see Supreme Court upholds exemptions to the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate, a victory for religious objectors) So thanks to God, and many good people fighting for it, this is a way religious liberty has been restored, at least a little.

The other way our freedom is restricted regarding abortion is when the government gives money, our taxes dollars, to Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the country. This is done on the federal level and by some state governments. “Planned Parenthood reported a record-high number of abortions and government funding for 2018-2019. …the annual report shows the group received $617 million in taxpayer funds for the fiscal year ending in June. That number represented roughly 37 percent of its overall funding and about a 9 percent increase from the previous year.” (see Planned Parenthood reports record-high abortions, taxpayer funding)

And another thing to consider for those religiously opposed to abortion is that the Hyde Amendment, which has prevented direct federal funding of abortion for 40 years, could be eliminated the next time a Democrat is elected. Repealing the Hyde Amendment has become a near universal plank of the Democrat party platform and the party’s presidential nominee, Joe Biden, has pledged his support to repeal it (see Joe Biden Endorses Abortion ‘Under Any Circumstance’).

#2 Employers are firing people over their religion

Over the past few years, there have been several high-profile cases of people being fired from their jobs because of their religious beliefs. Here is a sampling:

  • In 2014, Brendan Eich, the CEO of Mozilla, the company that created the Firefox browser, was forced to resign because of his religious beliefs. Eich donated $1,000 in support of California Proposition 8, ballot initiative that successfully, yet temporarily, amended the state’s constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman. The resignation took place “under pressure after gay rights activists demanded that he step down or recant his support of traditional marriage laws” (see Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich forced to resign for supporting traditional marriage laws). “The company’s actions send the message that people are not entitled to hold their own beliefs, and said there was no evidence that Eich was trying to merge his beliefs with those of the company he led. Regardless of your views on marriage, any American who values the First Amendment should be deeply troubled that this man was essentially driven from his job because of his personal beliefs” (see Ouster of Mozilla CEO a ‘silencing of dissent,’ says lawmaker).
  • Also in 2014, HGTV was set to air a new series called “Flip It Forward” starring conservative Christian twin brothers David and Jason Benham. However, when efforts surfaced to “seeking to paint their views as hateful”, HGTV quickly cancelled the series (see HGTV Cancels Reality Show Starring Christian Twin Brothers Who Oppose Abortion, Homosexuality, Divorce).
  • In 2016, ESPN fired Curt Schilling for saying that biological men don’t belong in women’s bathrooms (see ESPN Has a Right to Fire Curt Schilling. What Rights Do People of Faith Have?).
  • More recently, in 2019, and across the pond, a UK doctor was forced out of his job after refusing to identify clients by their chosen gender instead of their biological sex. “Dr David Mackereth, who had been an NHS A&E doctor for 26 years, was forced out of his job working for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) after refusing to use ‘transgender pronouns’.” He said: “I believe gender is defined by biology and genetics. And that as a Christian the Bible teaches us that God made humans male or female.” A perhaps even more disturbing aspect of this case is the language the judge used in ruling against him.  The judge ruled that “belief in Genesis 1:27, lack of belief in transgenderism and conscientious objection to transgenderism in our judgment are incompatible with human dignity and conflict with the fundamental rights of others, specifically here, transgender individuals” (see Doctor’s Biblical belief ruled ‘incompatible with human dignity’).
  • Earlier this year was a story of Reagan Escudé who was fired over her religion. She “posted on social media a message about how to respond to the Black Lives Matter movement with Christian principles in mind. Well, chaos ensued, and soon Reagan’s employer told her they were doing an investigation.” Ultimately she was fired (see Cancel Culture at Its Worst: Conservative FIRED for posting Christian message on ‘Black Lives Matter’)
  • Just this week, it was reported that two Kroger workers were fired after refusing to wear an LGBTQ apron. “The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a religious discrimination lawsuit against supermarket chain Kroger on behalf of [the] two women.”
  • And the following article is couched as a free speech issue, but I see it as a freedom of religion issue as well since we believe that God created “male and female” (Gen 1:27). Denver Post fires conservative columnist after he criticizes leftist notion that ‘there are more than two sexes’.

I could keep going. You may think these are isolated incidents that do not infringe on your personal religious liberty, but it certainly infringed on the religious liberty of those people. And if we don’t stand up and defend them when their rights are being trampled, what’s the likelihood anyone will be there to stand up for us when our freedom of religion is being violated.

#3 Business owners are being forced to participate in LGBTQ weddings

There have been numerous cases of wedding photographers, florists, and cake bakers who have been ordered to participate in gay and lesbian weddings or suffer the penalty of losing their businesses. Here are some of those:

#4 Adoption agencies’ freedom to place children with heterosexual couples is up in the air

Christian adoption agencies frequently exclude gay couples and unmarried people from receiving children based on their beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman and that such a family is the best situation in which children should be raised. However, that could all change depending on how the US Supreme Court rules on a case now before it.

In June 2020, the Justice Department submitted a brief to the Supreme Court “arguing that a taxpayer-funded organization should be able to refuse to work with same-sex couples and others whom the group considers to be in violation of its religious beliefs.” (see Adoption agency should be able to reject gay couples, Trump administration argues)

This case is ongoing, so the ultimate outcome is still up in the air. See these other related stories:

  • “A Syracuse Christian adoption agency says it doesn’t take gay or unmarried couples as adoptive parents because it’s not “in the best interests of children.” New York has said New Hope Family Services will face closure if it doesn’t comply with the state’s anti-discrimination law.” (see Can CNY Christian adoption agency exclude gays, unmarried couples? NY law faces high-profile court test)
  • In 2013, “After Massachusetts redefined marriage to include same-sex relationships, Catholic Charities of Boston faced a mandate to place children with same-sex couples. Rather than go against its principles, Catholic Charities decided to get out of the adoption business.” (see Yes, Threats to Religious Liberty Happen Here)

#5 Churches’ worship services and religious practices are being cancelled by government

This issue has come up during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it reveals a much more deeply rooted problem of religious observations being trampled by the government. In June 2020, Elder David A. Bednar of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gave several examples of the loss of religious freedom. He said: “we can no more disregard the valid claims of religious freedom in a time of crisis than we can disregard the valid claims of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, or freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. …religion should not be treated less favorably than analogous secular activities.” He continued…

“For example, the orders of one state barred Catholic priests from anointing a parishioner with holy oil in the performance of last rites—even if the person was not sick with COVID-19, even if the priest and parishioner were protected with masks and gloves, and even if the oil was applied with a swab. In the same state, my Church could not perform baptisms even under the safest of conditions. Protecting a person’s physical health from the coronavirus is, of course, important, but so is a person’s spiritual health. That same state allowed lawyers to meet with people to administer to their legal needs, allowed doctors to meet with people to administer to their health needs, and allowed caregivers to administer food to satisfy nutritional needs. But it did not allow a clergyperson to administer to a person’s religious needs, even when the risk of all these activities was essentially the same. This example and many more like it illustrate a profound devaluing of religion. We can and must do better.”

Here are some other recent examples of governments restricting the freedom of religion:

  • June 2020: “New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio dismissed a reporter’s question about why mass protests are allowed in New York City while COVID-19 is still present, but the mayor aggressively cracked down on religious gatherings.” (see Mayor de Blasio questioned for allowing protests but not church)
  • July 2020: Mike Lee and nine other Republican senators sent a letter to Trump saying there are “reported cases of state and localities prohibiting [churches] from reopening safely despite compliance with safety precautions ..discriminatory behavior violates our Constitution’s guarantee of religious freedom” (see GOP senators urge Trump to defend religious freedom)
  • In April 2020, in Greenville, MS, “church congregants stayed in their cars with their windows rolled up while listening to Pastor Arthur Scott preach from inside the empty Go Church building.” Yet “police shut down its drive-in service this week in accordance with a city ban on the practice amid the COVID-19 pandemic” and “police officers reportedly issued $500 tickets to congregants who refused to leave a parking lot where a drive-in service was being conducted” (see Mississippi church sues police after congregants ticketed during drive-in service).

#6 People of faith are being prevented from participating in sports activities

In Aug 2016, “25 groups dedicated to advancing the LGBT rights’ movement have signed on to a letter urging the Big 12, which is considering a team expansion, to turn a blind eye on Brigham Young University (BYU).” Why do they want to exclude BYU from the Big 12? It is because of BYU’s religious standards that homosexual behavior is inappropriate. (see LGBTs vs. First Amendment: The Fight for Religious Freedom Ratchets)

In July 2019, Jaelene Hinkle was in the news because of her respectful but firm religious stance about LGBTQ issues. In this case, her faith seems to have cost her a spot on the U.S. national women’s soccer team. “Christian soccer player Jaelene Hinkle has withdrawn from the U.S. Soccer team just two weeks after the organization announced that members of both the men’s and women’s teams will be donning rainbow-colored jerseys in honor of LGBT pride month.” (see Christian soccer player withdraws as US team is set to wear LGBT pride jerseys)

#7 Schools Are Undermining Parental Rights on Morality and Sex Education

Again, the cases are numerous in which parents’ God-given rights and responsibilities to education their children about morality and sexual activity is being circumvented by government schools. Perhaps the most alarming is what is coming with what is called Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE). In CSE, which has been adopted in many states in our country, “they’re teaching kids — as early as kindergarten — masturbation, anal sex, transgenderism, and abortion” (see The radical sex agenda corrupting your kid). Couple that with many teachers viewing parents as the enemy and doing their best to hide what is being taught, and you’ve got a school taking away parents’ rights (see Teachers Openly Fret That Might Hear Them Brainwashing Children, Call Parents ‘Dangerous’). One teacher said, ”I am most intrigued by the damage that helicopter parents can do in the conversations about gender/sexuality. And …conservative parents are my chief concern.”

Here are some more articles over the past few years about schools undermining parents’ God-given rights to oversee their children’s education, particularly sex education:

  • Several years ago, the state of California passed “a bill that would make the state the first requiring public schools to include the contributions of gays and lesbians in social studies curriculum…It also would prohibit material that reflects adversely on gays…Republicans called it a well-intentioned but ill-conceived bill and raised concerns that it would indoctrinate children to accept homosexuality.” (see Bill Mandating Gay History in Schools Goes to Calif. Governor)
  • Over the years, several states have followed the lead from CA. In Aug 2019, Illinois became “the latest state to expand its definition of American history. …Illinois the fourth state to requiring public schools to teach LGBT history.” (see These States Require Schools to Teach LGBT History)
  • 2013: “Girls dress as boys and boys dress as girls. Gender switching is what a group of young school children are learning at one Milwaukee school” (see ‘Gender Bender Day’ at school)
  • In Colorado in 2020: “Among the most controversial laws that passed last year was the comprehensive human sexuality education mandate which ripped local control away from your neighborhood school board. Now if your school district wants to teach even basic sex ed, the teacher must also teach the “health needs” of LGBT individuals. Among the most controversial laws that passed last year was the comprehensive human sexuality education mandate which ripped local control away from your neighborhood school board. Now if your school district wants to teach even basic sex ed, the teacher must also teach the “health needs” of LGBT individuals.” (see Colorado Dems should let sun shine on their hospital fees and sex-ed curriculum)
  • This and the follow article are from Great Britain, so this should be a warning that similar issues could reach our shores soon. In 2017, a book explaining sex changes and gender diversity given to to UK primary school children sparked a fury.
  • And in 2009 in the UK was this headline: Parents lose right over sex education. “Sex education will be compulsory in all schools, it was announced today, as thousands of parents lose the right to opt their children out of the lessons.”

#8 Some government institutions are banning God and religion

In 2015, “a student at Yulee High School said ‘God bless America, keep us safe’ at the end of the school announcements.” Two offended atheist students “sent a lengthy email …demanding the school not say ‘God bless America’ again. That student was called into the principal’s office, and now the phrase is banned in morning announcements.” (see Florida School Bans ‘God Bless America’ From Announcements)

Also in 2015, in Kentucky, the government requires religious volunteers to sign a document promising not to say the homosexuality is a sin. Basically, Christians need not apply to help youth in prison. When one chaplain refused to sign the paper, “the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice revoked his volunteer credentials as an ordained minister – ending 13 years of ministry to underage inmates at the Warren County Regional Juvenile Detention Center” (see The Christian purge has begun: Chaplains banned from preaching that homosexuality is a sin).

I could go on and on, but I think this gives a good sampling of what we are up against. Our society is becoming more and more hostile to religion.

Critics may argue and disagree with my assessment that our freedom of religion is being taken away. They might say that many of these cases do not apply to everyone, and in a way, I see their perspective. But when one person’s freedom of religion is taken away, doesn’t that affect us all? Doesn’t it set a precedent? Doesn’t the preponderance of evidence point to the eroding of our first amendment right to free exercise of our religious faith?

To quote David A. Bednar again, the encroachment on our freedom of religion displayed during the COVID-19 pandemic should be wake up call to all of us.

“The COVID-19 crisis has presented us with a unique opportunity to reaffirm and shore up religious freedom. We have witnessed the government’s swift, well-intentioned, but often dangerous breaching of the boundaries that protect the free exercise of religion. Do we hear the buzzer on the alarm clock? This is a wake-up call for all of us. Those fundamental boundaries and protections must be healed, renewed, and fortified. While believers and their religious organizations must be good citizens in a time of crisis, never again can we allow government officials to treat the exercise of religion as simply nonessential. Never again must the fundamental right to worship God be trivialized below the ability to buy gasoline.”

I pray that we will all wake up, realize the severity of the situation in our country today with religious freedom, and take steps to restore and strengthen our right to worship God in word and deed.

Why I’m Voting for Trump in 2020 After Voting Against Him in 2016

Why I'm Voting for Trump in 2020In 2016, I was not a Trump fan, but in the four years since then, I have slowly turned from an opponent to a solid supporter who will pull the lever and vote for Trump for President in 2020. The following is my explanation of the evolution of how and why that transition happened as well as other factors I considered in my 2020 choice for US President.

This article is quite long article, and even then it is by no means comprehensive, so it is divided into sections that you can easily jump to with the following links:

The decision to vote for Trump was not something I took lightly or came to quickly. I have thought and prayed long and hard about it, and done much research. I read news articles from sources all across the political spectrum–left, right, and center. I have tried to document as many of those sources as possible in the hyperlinked text throughout the article. Please check out those references for more details on a given subject.

Why I Was Against Trump in 2016

I should set the stage by briefly going over why I voted against Donald Trump in the first place back in 2016. I am a registered Republican, so you might think I would vote for the party’s nominee. But I vote for the person, not the party (a principled stance more people ought to take), and I had major concerns about Donald J. Trump. I could not bring myself to vote for Trump for a myriad of reasons, and voting for the Democrat party candidate, Hillary Clinton, was not an option either, since she seemed corrupt and her policies were not my idea of good government. I ended up voting for a third party candidate in 2016, and honestly, after Trump was elected, I felt homeless, politically speaking. I thought the Republican party had elected someone who would not only ruin the party, but could ruin the country as well.

  • Mixed Feelings on His Policies. I liked some of Trump’s policy positions, but others I did not. Trump had some good financial policies, such as theoretical tax cuts. I also liked that Trump took a tough stance against China and other nations that threaten us. But I disagreed, and still do, on Trump’s stance on tariffs. He likes to raise taxes on goods coming into our country and this only makes things more expensive for us. Trump’s stance, as I recall, on government’s roll in healthcare also differed from my own. While Trump supported the repeal of Obamacare (the Un-Affordable Care Act), he supported the continuance of a large role of the government in the healthcare system which I believe in contrary to our Constitutional freedoms and contrary to good policy.
  • Is He even a Constitutional Conservative? Even if I could overlook the policy positions I didn’t like, Trump had an unproven track record, and therefore I doubted whether or not he would govern as a Constitutional conservative. He had a history of donating to Republicans and Democrats alike. He had close ties to the Clintons and other Democrats. I even wondered if he might even switch parties or become an independent after being elected. Overall, I didn’t think he was a good representation of the Republican Party, at least not the Constitutional/Libertarian/Individual Rights wing of the party.
  • His Perceived Character Short-Falls: I wasn’t sure I could classify Trump as honest, wise, and good–three of the main character traits I look for in elected officials. “Honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold” (D&C 98). In the debates and interviews during the 2016 campaign, I found Trump often stretching the truth or telling outright lies. Trump had a well-publicized extra-martial affair many years ago, definitely not a good thing, and in just weeks before the election, audio was released of him using some incredibly foul language.

Before the 2016 election I had a conversation with a friend in which we both agreed that we should vote for people who are morally good. Of course, unless Jesus Christ is running for office, no one is going to be perfect, therefore everyone you vote for will have some good and some bad elements. At that time, I came to the conclusion that Trump did not meet my minimum threshold for goodness. My friend, and many other Republicans, thought he did meet the threshold. So we agreed on principles but differentiated on where to place Trump in respect to that threshold.

Four years later, however, while I still think Trump is far from perfect, he does now meet my threshold of good enough to vote for. Let me explain why.

Why I’m voting for Trump in 2020

Overall, I have been pleased with Trump’s handling of the Presidency. Of course, there are things I wish he would do differently (more on that below), but overall, many of my fears about Trump turned out to be unfounded and he has implemented many good policies that I believe are benefiting the country.

Things I Don’t like about Trump, Some I’ve Learned to Deal With, Others I Wish He’d Change

In balance, I think Trump has been a good president, but I’m not blind to the inappropriate, wrong-headed, and sometimes idiotic things he says and does. For example…

  • He Says a Lot of Stupid Things. Perhaps this goes without saying, but often times Trump says things that I think are just idiotic. But I shake this off pretty easily because I learned to pay more attention to what he does than what he says. I wonder if many of the dumb things he says are part of his personality or ingrained tactics he has learned as a business negotiator. Regardless, it is clear that hes has learned that he can have a major influence on the news narrative through his Twitter account and he loves to use that platform to tweak his political enemies. When looking at Trump holistically, I’ve learned that you you have to bake this in, and when you do, you don’t become outraged at every little outrageous things he says. You realize that much of it is only hot air. As reporter Salena Zito said, you have to take Trump seriously, but not literally.
  • Printing Money and Dramatically Increasing the National Debt. This is one I can’t shake off as easily. Our politicians, on both sides of the isle and in all branches of government, are burying future generations in debt that will cripple them. Republicans are supposed to be fiscally responsible, yet under the Trump Administration, the national debt has continued to soar, and the printing of money is sure to cause massive inflation. There will be major economic repercussions for these actions that are unavoidable. I thought it was bad when the U.S. budget deficit hit an all time high in November 2018, of course that’s nothing compared to the COVID-19 budget deficits. These heavy spenders in government claim they are saving the country when really they are doing the opposite, dooming us and our children and grandchildren to an ever-greater bondage of debt.
  • Other Miscellaneous Things. There are numerous other thing Trump does that I don’t approve of like how he can be short-tempered and have knee-jerk reactions at times. I think he tends to associate at times with shady characters which is a concern (like Paul Manafort and Steve Bannon). Thankfully, he seems to correct those things and get it straight in the long run, distancing himself from people like that and getting good people around him.

These are all weaknesses of Trump, and with time we could list even more. I wish he didn’t have these weaknesses, but as Abraham Lincoln and Peter Drucker have said, in picking a leader, you should focus on their strengths, not their weaknesses, and when you look at that holistic picture, I think Trump brings many more positive strengths to the table, and certainly more than Joe Biden.

Why I Cannot Vote for Joe Biden

  • He is a Career Politician. To preface this, please note that I believe that an elected government official should not be a life-long career. I think career politicians breed corruption and thus it is a major strike that Joe Biden has spent nearly his entire adult life in politics. On top of that, I don’t see any major accomplishments in his record that show that he should be put back in public office. He was in the Senate for 36 years, and the vice presidency for 8 years. He’s had his turn and done little with it except enriching his family and increasing the partisanship and dysfunction of Washington. He is the epitome of the swamp that needs to be drained.
  • Joe Biden is Pro-Abortion. Pro-life groups are calling Biden and Harris the “Most Pro-Abortion Presidential Ticket In American History.” While I haven’t personally verified that, I did check out Joe Biden’s website, and he talks a lot about ensuring what he calls a “right” to an abortion. For 50 years the Democrat party has supported and is now even promoting abortion, a practice which I consider like unto murder and a violation of one of God’s most basic commandments. The 2016 Democrat party platform reiterates five times that they believe having an abortion is a woman’s right–neither Joe nor the Democrats make any mention of the baby’s right to life, though.
  • He Could Be the Most Corrupt VP in History. Peter Schweizer, a New York Times best selling author who I have followed for years and found to be trustworthy, has said that Joe Biden is the most corrupt vice president in the history of our country. When he was VP, Biden traveled to Ukraine on official state business and his son Hunter tagged along and came away with a multi-million dollar business deal. In China, it was even worse, with Hunter once again tagging along with his dad and coming away with a multi-billion dollar deal. Biden has replicated this ability to enrich family members many times and here is an article outlining how five members of Joe Biden’s family got profoundly rich through his connections.
  • Even the Left Thinks Joe Biden is Corrupt. Zephyr Teachout, a left-wing reporter for the Gaurdian who is no fan of Trump, had this to say: “Biden has a big corruption problem and it makes him a weak candidate. I know it seems crazy, but a lot of the voters we need – independents and people who might stay home – will look at Biden and Trump and say: ‘They’re all dirty.’ It looks like ‘Middle Class’ Joe has perfected the art of taking big contributions, then representing his corporate donors at the cost of middle- and working-class Americans. Converting campaign contributions into legislative favors and policy positions isn’t being ‘moderate.’ It is the kind of transactional politics Americans have come to loathe.” (see ‘Middle Class’ Joe Biden has a corruption problem – it makes him a weak candidate.)
  • Picked Most Partisan and Liberal Senator as His Running Mate. Biden’s selected Vice Presidential running mate, Kamala Harris, scored as the “most liberal” U.S. senator in 2019, according to a GovTrack analysis. “The score can be interpreted as a conservative-liberal scale” but what it also indicates is how partisan and extreme she is. Harris joined bipartisan legislation “the least often compared to Senate Democrats.”
  • Joe Biden Clearly Has Racist Tendencies. Just a couple of months ago, Joe Biden had the temerity to say to black people that they aren’t truly black if they don’t vote for him. “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.” To think that all black people should vote for him is by definition racist, on top, of course, of being arrogant and condescending. To further his racist viewpoints, Biden also recently generalized the black community as lacking diversity. Said Biden, “unlike the African American community with notable exceptions the Latino community is an incredibly diverse community.”
  • He is an Authoritarian: Joe Biden has taken the authoritarian and unconstitutional approach to calling for a mandate requiring all Americans to wear a face mask. Even if there’s no cases of COVID-19 in your city, he would make you wear a face mask. On the contrary, Trump has resisted efforts to to take unconstitutional powers during this pandemic. Said Trump: “My administration has a different approach, we have urged Americans to wear masks.” But ultimately, “I trust the American people and the governors want to do the right thing to make the smart decisions and Joe doesn’t.” (see Trump: No Power to Require Masks or Enforce)
  • Joe Biden’s Deteriorating Mental Health. If all that isn’t enough to scare you away from Joe Biden, it is clear that his mental faculties are quickly slipping away. This is not an insult or attack, it is the unfortunate result of his advanced age (77). You can see the mental struggle Biden has had in many videos and speeches over the past few months like this interview on MSNBC where Biden struggled to speak coherently. Or this example where Biden struggles to complete a sentence. I feel bad for the guy, but what’s worse is that when he’s mentally checked out, he will likely become a puppet for the political extremists who surround him–people like his VP candidate Kamala Harris who has vocally supported the Black Lives Matter protests through and beyond election day–people like the Democrats in LA taking money away from police and redistributed to their favorite social justice organizations and Seattle cutting officers and slashing the budget of their police force–and people like the variety of attorneys general who let rioters get off the hook with no punishment and no justice.
  • I Disagree with His Socialist Policies. The public policy preference differences between Joe Biden and I, if listed out, would be lengthy. I won’t bore you with that level of detail, but as examples, I disagree his unconstitutional stance on guns and the second amendment, his pushing of harmful environmental and green energy policies, his overreach in the federal government’s role in local education, and his seemingly endless spending on government programs that destroy our country financially, physically, and spiritually. Bernie Sanders, a self-described Socialist, says if Biden’s “proposals are implemented…Joe Biden will become the most progressive president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt.” And he’s not talking about generic human progression, he’s talking about progression towards socialism. And socialism is the path to communism, an anti-family, anti-God, and anti-freedom ideology I cannot support.

There is much more that could be discussed regarding why I cannot to vote for Joe Biden. Suffice it to say, I don’t think he would be a good president on any level–honesty, wisdom, or goodness.

Other Candidates Considered, Like Libertarian Jo Jorgensen

For those who are wondering if I considered any third party candidates, the answer is yes. I have often voted for people outside the two main, Republican and Democrat, political parties. In fact, there are many problems with the two-party-only system–I think it contributes to the corruption and the swamp environment that exists in Washington. So I considered third parties like the Constitution party, but they are on the ballot in only about half of the states, and therefore have no chance to win. I also gave Jo Jorgensen, the Libertarian candidate for president, a good look. She has a lot of pros, but some cons as well, and ultimately, I didn’t see the net benefits as so great to push me over to her side. But here’s a summary of the pros and cons about Jo Jorgensen, the Libertarian candidate for president.

Jo Jorgensen says a lot that I agree with. Here are some examples taken from her website, jo20.com:

  • “Tariffs that are destroying markets for American farmers.”
  • “We need to make government smaller – much, much smaller.”
  • “We can reduce the cost of health care 75% by allowing real price competition, and by substantially reducing government and insurance company paperwork.”
  • “I will veto any spending bill that would lead to a deficit, and veto any debt ceiling increase.”
  • “I will work to remove government barriers to … allowing off-grid use of solar power.”
  • “Eliminate trade barriers & tariffs, and work to repeal arbitrary quotas on the number of people who can legally enter the United States to work, visit, or reside.”
  • “I will use my Constitutional authority to end federal civil asset forfeiture prior to conviction”
  • “The real cure for poverty is a vibrant economy that generates plentiful jobs and high wages, combined with an affordable cost of living.”
  • “I will work to repeal laws and regulations that prevent individuals and charitable organizations from helping those in need.”
  • “I will work tirelessly to slash federal spending, make government much, much smaller, and let you keep what you earn.”
  • “I will work to eliminate the Department of Education and return control of education to where it belongs – with parents, teachers, and students.”

While all of those are great statements, I also have my share of concerns about Jo Jorgensen, like the following:

  • She is a full-time academic, and I’m not a big fan of putting academics in government positions of power. She had a career in marketing at IBM for a while, so that’s good, but now she is a teacher/lecturer in Psychology. Honestly, after browsing through her website, I am still left wondering if she is really qualified to be an effective chief executive for our country.
  • She says, “I will also work with Congress to end the failed War on Drugs and other victimless crime laws.” This concerns me because Libertarians tend to favor legalizing all drugs, which is too far for me.
  • Her website talks a lot about Republican and Democrat politicians failing us, and while that’s true, she seems to place the blame equally on both parties. While, there is corruption in both, I think the Democrats are far more nefarious, with their foot on the accelerator towards socialism and all the anti-family, anti-God, and anti-freedom evils that are brought with it.
  • She says we have “the highest imprisonment rate in the world; even higher among racial minorities and the poor.” Playing the race card and class-warfare card like that, to me, is not a good sign. With an attitude like that, it makes me think she will make unwise decisions to placate the progressive mob that pushes divisions based on race and economic class.

Having surveyed the field of third party candidates, none stand out to me, and given the dire circumstances of our country today, I think it is more important to rally around a pretty good candidate, like Donald Trump, who has the best chance to defeat the socialists and other extremists in our country. The time may come when we need to vote for 3rd party candidate but it is not this year. Donald Trump, despite his shortcomings, has been an effective chief executive for the nation, and given the track record he has, I think he will continue to be a good president and we should unite behind him. Unity to defeat the radicals in our political system is vitally important in this election cycle because, if we don’t, I fear we won’t have a country left to save.

Conclusion

All things considered, I think Donald Trump is the best choice for president in 2020. He is not the perfect candidate, that’s for sure, but his record shows that he will enact mostly good policies. And perhaps more importantly, he has shown himself to be one of the few politicians willing and able to stand up against the extreme elements of our society that would surely bring anarchy, violence, injustice, and ruin to our country. Few decisions in life are clear cut–absolutely right versus absolutely wrong–and the decision of who to vote for as president is no different, therefore, I don’t fault friends and family who think differently and vote differently. But if you are on the fence about Donald Trump, perhaps this article will give you courage to come on over to the Trump side.

Why I Turned Off Google as My Search Engine: to Stop their Indoctrination

Earlier this year I finally turned off Google as my primary search engine. I have been considering it for a long time because of concerns around privacy and manipulated search results. The bottom line is that Google has a socialist, progressive world view with which I strongly disagree and the evidence is clear that they are using their position of power to push that agenda on others. I’ve decided not to take the abuse anymore, and if I can get the word out and help encourage others to free themselves from Google’s manipulations, then the world will be a better place for it.

Being a Search Engine Marketer Made the Decision Difficult

The switch to other search engines came as the culmination of many factors, but now that I did it, I’m very glad and wish I had made the switch years ago. One of my fears in switching away from Google’s search engine was that I would have a hard time finding what I needed from other search engines.

You see, I have worked as a search engine marketer for twelve years and I know that Google has traditionally delivered the best results to help you find the information you need fast. Most of my days at work are consumed with understanding how my website ranks on Google and how to get more traffic from Google search engine users. This made the decision to turn off Google as my primary search engine even more difficult, and honestly, in my work, I still have to use Google search from time to time.

More and more topics are being politicized in our country, therefore more and more of Google’s results are showing that company’s political leanings. For example, Robert Epstein’s research found, in the 2016 US presidential election campaign, that Google filtered out negative results for searches related to Hillary Clinton to surface primarily positive ones–more on that below. But regarding the fear of not getting high-quality search results, I can personally attest to the fact that my fear was unfounded. I have been able to find information just as quick and easily from other search engines, and even better, I am free from Google’s attempts to influence me with their filtered, politically biased results.

Google’s Politics Leans Far Left and They Try to Manipulate Voters

The socialist, progressive political leanings of the management and culture at Google are well-known, but let me give you just two examples.

In 2018, Breitbart released a video of Google leadership team discussing the 2016 Trump election results and demonstrating the company’s bias against conservatives and Republicans. “A video recorded by Google shortly after the 2016 presidential election reveals an atmosphere of panic and dismay amongst the tech giant’s leadership, coupled with a determination to thwart both the Trump agenda and the broader populist movement.” The New York Times also covered this story saying the video showed “Google executives bemoaning the election of President Trump at a company meeting in 2016.” Sergey Brin, the co-founder of Google, said in the video that he was “deeply offended” by the election of Mr. Trump.

Last year, Dr. Robert Epstein, a Democrat who supported Hillary Clinton, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that in the 2016 presidential election, Google gave Hillary Clinton “between 2.6 and 10.4 million votes depending on how aggressive they were in using the techniques that I’ve been studying, such as the search engine manipulation effect.” Dr. Epstein went on later to say in an op ed that “when it comes to election manipulation, left-leaning American technology companies make the Russians look like rank amateurs.” Dr. Epstein, a Harvard PhD and well respected psychologist, professor, author, and journalist, has shown through his research how big tech, particularly Google, is aggressively pursuing tactics to keep Republicans out of office. And he has sounded the alarm, not because he wants Republicans to win, but because he wants freedom and democracy to win.

Google News and Google Discover Pushes Left-Wing Sources

google news feed supposedly personalized for me but notOne of Google’s strengths as a search engine is that they know individual users and serve up personalized results that are more likely to deliver the information the person is looking for. Google knows the political leanings of their users because they track search history, the websites you visit, and they have countless other ways to track your personal data.

Regarding me personally, Google knows I prefer conservative, Republican, libertarian, and Constitutionally-minded sources. Why then, does Google push CNN and other left-wing news results on me so relentlessly? I occasionally have clicked CNN articles over the years, but CNN is a socialist, progressive leaning news source that I rarely read.

Despite knowing that about me, if I visit the Google News website, logged in as myself with Google’s personalized results for me, 5 of the top 15 (33%) news results are from CNN (see the screen shot and count them for yourself). Only 3 of the top 15 (20%) are from FoxNews, a source I’m much more likely to read. Of course, if it wasn’t for the fact that Google knew me, perhaps I wouldn’t see FoxNews at all and even more of the results would be from CNN.

In Google Discover, it’s the same story of pushing left-wing news even though they know I don’t prefer it. Google Discover is the news, pop culture, and other internet content feed that comes up on your mobile phone browser’s home screen if Google is your default home page. Google Discover says “we’ve made it our goal to help you uncover fresh and interesting content about things that matter to you.”

They are clearly failing at that goal with me, because my Google Discover feed has a constant influx of Trump-hating news from CNN and other socialist and communist-friendly internet articles that are of no interest to me. I’m no big Trump fan, but I’m not a Trump hater, and Google knows that, yet they bombard me with it anyway.

Final Straw: Google Couldn’t Find a News Story I Wanted to See

The final straw in getting me to turn off Google as my search engine was earlier this year when Google buried an unflattering story about a prominent socialist. I was listening to talk radio one day and heard the host mention that Marc Lamont Hill, a long-time political contributor at CNN, had told his followers to stop being not to be nice to the police because it is disrupting his Marxist revolution. He said, so I heard, that all police are part of a racist system in America so the race protesters should stop taking their pictures with police. Being nice to police, in his view, reinforces the view that the George Floyd death was the fault of a single bad police officer, rather than Marc Lamont Hill’s preferred narrative that all police are bad. This was an appalling statement, to me, so I wanted to find out if it was true and learn more.

 

marc lamont hill google vs duck duck go searchWhen I searched on Google, I could not find the story. I tried numerous search keyword variations, and scrolled through dozens of search results pages on Google, but I could find nothing about what Marc Lamont Hill said about not taking pictures with police. If Google was my only source of information on the subject, I would think he never said it. The source on the radio was a trusted one, so I decided to do the same search on Duck Duck Go, a search engine that differentiates itself on searchers’ privacy and unfiltered results. On the very first Duck Duck Go search, the results page was full of articles about what he said about not taking pictures with the police, like this RedState article that quotes Marc Lamont Hill as saying:

“Don’t believe your lying eyes. If you and your community have been brought up with a respect for law enforcement, if you have come to see police as friends or even friends of the family, that doesn’t serve our Marxist, revolutionary purpose. So, cut it out or stay home!”

Conclusion and How to Turn Off Google as Your Search Engine

This is not a comprehensive list of all the reasons why I am abandoning Google as my search engine of choice. But in summary, Google has long abandoned the unofficial motto they had early in their history to “not be evil.” They clearly want to use their position of power to push information they want to be seen and hide information they don’t want seen. I hope to stem that tide of this indoctrination by not using the Google Search engine, and I would encourage all others to do the same.

Now the question is how to get the other Google products out of my life, which they are also using to collect information in an attempt to have power over me–products like Google Maps, Gmail (I don’t use it but family members do), Google Classroom (again, not for me, but it has infiltrated my kids schools), Google Chrome, Google Home, YouTube (owned by Google), etc. This purging of Google could take a while.

If you want to join me in turning off Google as your search engine, there are many ways to do it. You can start your internet journeys at Bing.com, Yahoo.com, DuckDuckGo.com, or other search engines. If you use the Chrome browser, you should also go to “Settings” located under the three vertical dots in the top right corner of your Chrome browser. There you can click “On startup” to set what page, often a search engine, comes up when the browser is launched. You should also set the “Search Engine” on the left menu to be Bing or Yahoo or something else. To use Duck Duck Go as the default search engine, you will need to add their Chrome extension which you can find by clicking here.

My Experience Attending a Conversation on Racial Inequality

My Experience Attending a Conversation on Racial InequalityIn early June 2020, I received an invitation to attend an online “conversation on racism and racial inequality.” This was just a week after the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer–a week that saw riots in many major cities across the United States. Cries for racial equality and “black lives matter” were dominating media, news media and social media, as were the stories of much violence, property destruction, and looting.

Like anyone with a heart, I was appalled by the senseless death of George Floyd. His murder was tragic and unjust, and to the extent that things like this happen in our country, they need to be rooted out and eliminated. In the wake of all these events, the invitation to the meeting piqued my curiosity. I wondered if the meeting be a real, open discussion on race relations and the problems facing our society and potential solutions, or if it would be more of the extreme rhetoric and hollow virtue signalling that was dominating the media.

Placating the Mob with Statements that Perpetuate the Guilty Until Innocent Mentality

I had my suspicions of what the meeting might discuss, but I wanted to give the organizers the benefit of the doubt. You see, in the days prior to this meeting, many organizations were making public statements condemning racism against the black community. The organizers of this event were part of one of those statements. And like most of the ones I saw, the statement this organization put out said nothing to condemn the violence, rioting, and looting by the protesters, which was disappointing and indicated their lack of sincerity. A good example of this kind of statement was made by Apple.

It seems that thousands of people causing millions of dollars of damage that destroyed the livelihood of countless people (a great many of which are minorities) deserved as much a mention in a statement like that as the police brutality towards a black man. But the writers either disagree with that, or willfully ignore the criminal behavior of the mob, likely due to fear and a desire to appease the mob. A statement by the NAACP and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was a notable exception. While condemning racism, prejudice, discrimination and hate, their statement also had the courage to “renounce illegal acts such as looting, destruction, and defacement of public or private property.” (see Locking arms for racial harmony in America)

On the one hand, if you are a business owner, I understand the pressure to make a statement in support of racial equality. There seems to be no harm in it–after all, if you are not racist, why not get behind a statement that denounces racism. On the other hand, it seems like making the statement only due to societal pressure feeds the guilty until innocent mentality that is so prevalent in the media and in our country. Meaning, the mob makes you feel like if you, or your company, don’t make a statement condemning racism, then you are guilty of racism. But let’s get back to the “conversation on racial inequality.”

Started Meeting by Declaring White Privilege

While I knew what I was likely in for in this meeting, I was still interested in what would be said. The person who spoke first introduced the topic and in the process, acknowledged their “white privilege” and made other statement like, “to our black colleagues, we see you.” The virtue signalling was thick. When the topic of white guilt came up so quickly, I wanted to throw up, mentally, if not physically. For this person, who has had a very successful career, to attribute their success in life to white skin seemed inaccurate and probably insincere.

Regarding the remark about “seeing” black community, of course we see them, but hopefully not only for their race—because that would be racism. The black civil rights movement was about seeing people for the content of their character, not the color of the skin. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

At some point, I’d like to write more about why I find confessions of “white privilege” problematic, but for the time being I’ll just say that if you feel the need to confess the source of your success, then consider giving credit to God. Thank the Lord for the bounteous blessings and privileges he has given you.

Presentation by Diversity and Inclusion Professional

After the brief intro, the remainder of the hour-long meeting was turned over to a university director of Diversity and Inclusion. The following are some notes on what this person said, along with my thoughts. The presentation had a Q&A at the end, but due to a prior commitment I couldn’t stay for that. So I’ll use my platform here to offer my comments and rebuttals.

  • Racial Profiling: She talked about her husband being pulled over by the police unjustifiably and other instances where he was racially profiled by the police. If true, these sounded like horrible events and I feel truly sorry that anyone would have to go through something like that. I sincerely hope we all can do our part to push for change in our country that will eliminate such injustices. Still, it concerned me when she took anecdotal evidence like that and jumped to the conclusions of systemic racism in the country.
  • The 1619 Project: She endorsed the New York Times series called “The 1619 Project.” I had heard a little about the 1619 Project prior to this meeting. I knew it was written by political extremists with a left-wing ideology, but little more. Since then, I’ve done more homework and found that the 1619 project is riddled with factual errors and presents a very negative view of the American founding. When confronted with the gross factual inaccuracies, the author defended her work by saying “The 1619 Project is not a history.” She said “It is a work of journalism that examines the modern and ongoing legacy of slavery.” Also see this statement by the NYT’s own fact checker of the 1619 project attesting to the many factual misrepresentations. You can reach your own conclusions about the 1619 Project, but it seemed inappropriate for the speaker to use this platform to further this work of opinion.
  • Police Incentivized to Imprison Black Children: She said that “it is in law enforcement’s interest to get black children into the prison.” I was floored by that generalization. She acted as if she had facts to back the statement up, but she never presented the evidence and I couldn’t follow her supposed logic. I thought it was quite unfair to make such a blanket negative statement about the police. In fact, the studies I have read, like this 2019 research by Michigan State University, shows no racial disparities in police officer actions.
  • Blacks Still 3/5ths of a Person: She said, “I would argue that blacks are still seen as 3/5ths of a person” in the United States. Obviously that is her opinion and I’m sorry she feels that way. But it is inconsistent and unfair for her to claim to be fighting against generalizing people based on race (racism), and then she makes huge generalities about the police and the people of our country. Furthermore, by referencing “3/5ths of a person” that way, she shows her own lack of historical context, as the 3/5ths clause was a method employed by the slavery abolitionists to take power away from the slave-holding south.
  • Our Criminal Justice System is the New Jim Crow: She said that “the new Jim Crow is the criminal justice system,” furthering her generalized views that there is institutional racism in our country. Again, her facts supporting this statement were weak. She cited the fact that black men are incarcerated at a much higher rate than whites and she left it at that. That statement is true, but the way she presented it was misleading because she implied that they are incarcerated unfairly. Studies show, however, that black men are incarcerated more because they commit more crimes than their counterparts in other racial groups. Take, for example, the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that black offenders committed 52% of homicides between 1980 and 2008, though they make up only 13% of the country. This is still a problem, but it is not a problem with the criminal justice system.
  • Only the Racial Majority can be Racists: At one point she echoed something I have heard for many years about how only people in the racial majority can be racists. By her definition, a black person cannot be racist against a white person and the problem of racism only exists among white people. This is obviously a perversion of the term racism. Maybe I’m going out on a limb here, but I think racism is any time you base your thoughts or actions solely on the color of a person’s skin–white or black or anything in between. There are obviously white racists and black racists, racists against Asians and against Native Americas. Racism is a human problem, not a white majority problem.

In conclusion, I was disappointed by the “conversation on racial inequality.” The “conversation” aspect was limited, and mostly it seemed like a platform for the speaker to air her grievances associated with her political ideology and to lecture about how unjust and racist our country is, all backed up with little more than anecdotal stories and opinions. Of course, there are pockets of injustice and racism in our country and I pray those will be eliminated soon, but overall, we are not an unjust country with systemic racism. Maybe next time the organizers can put together a “conversation on racial equality” that emphasizes the positive rather than the negative and talk about the progress our country has made in our 250 year history and focus on the steps we can take to continue to make the United States of America the greatest place to live on this planet.

The Quiet Majority

the quiet majorityI was listening to the Glenn Beck show the other day when one of his guests said that the silent majority needs to stop being so afraid and start speaking up. I would consider myself in the so-called silent majority–at least I hope rational, freedom-loving people like myself are in the majority. If you pay attention to big media (social media and news media), though, you probably will end up thinking we are in the minority.

Silently Living Our Lives the Right Way

As I listened to the podcast, I was taken back by the suggestion that we, majority or minority, are silent because we are afraid. Perhaps some people stay silent due to fear, but I’d like to think that most of us appear silent because we are busy trying to live our lives the right way. We are raising our kids, doing our jobs, spending time with family, volunteering at church, and trying to teach our children right from wrong. It is those apparently silent people who, to quote George Bailey, “do most of the working and paying and living and dying” in this country. It is the silent majority that has their heads squarely on their shoulders, has their priorities straight, and doesn’t pay too much attention to all the noise in mass media.

Quiet, Not Silent

As I thought about this subject, I decided the the word silent is not the right description of us—we’re just quiet, like the Still Small voice of God (1 Kings 19:12). In my experience, though sometimes God is silent, typically the reason we don’t hear Him is because we are not listening carefully. You do have to slow down, ponder, pray, and pay close attention to hear His Still Small voice.

The same is true with most of us—quietly letting our voices be heard for those with sense to hear it. We vote with our feet and at the polling booths. We peaceably and calmly participate in our democratic republic. We’re going to keep teaching our children that right makes might and not the other way around. Politicians and business leaders seem to be listening primarily to the loud voices these days, but if they were wise, they would pay attention to the quiet majority. In life and in politics and in business, if the only voices you listen to are the loud voices, you are likely to be go down the wrong path.

Though Quiet, There Is More to Do

Still, I think there is more that we, the quiet majority, can and should be doing—and I include myself in that admonition.

  • We need to find ways to quietly support the police, 99% of whom are great people. For example, my friend recently saw a policeman in line for food and paid for his lunch, and my wife’s friend took homemade cookies to a police station full of elated law enforcement officers.
  • We need to turn off TV and movies that insult our sensibilities. Too many of my family and friends tell me about the shows they watch that don’t follow good values and even glorify promiscuous sex, drugs, violence, and abortion. We have to stop watching these and when we do cease our viewing, the entertainment producers will hear our quiet protests.
  • We need to let media channels (online and over the air broadcasters) know when we can’t even watch theoretically family friendly sporting events because of inappropriate ads with sex, violence, and drugs for clearly TV-MA shows, half-time shows with nasty singers and dancers that have nothing virtuous about them, and so forth.
  • We need to find ways to course correct the education system that has been overrun with erroneous yet politically correct ideas. We need to stand up and say there is a difference between men and women and that’s wonderful. We need to teach that two wrongs do not make a right, and that there is objective truth in the world. We need to teach that all people are created equal—black, white, and any other color of the rainbow—and each is endowed by our created with inalienable rights.
  • Regardless of what happens with schools, in our homes, we need to quietly and confidently teach our children the truth about the past—the good and the bad. Erasing history and judging historical figures based on modern standards and incomplete information is arrogant and wrong. We stand on the shoulders of giants who came before us like Christopher Columbus, George Washington, Harriet Tubman, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King Jr. No one is perfect, but these imperfect men and women of the past paved the way for our blessed lives today and we ought to thank them for their contributions while learning from their mistakes.

The Loud Are Compensating with Volume

The loud voices in society would like us to believe that they outnumber us quiet ones. The real balance is anyone’s guess, but I know the quiet ones are larger in number than the loud ones want us to think. Take, for example, that Donald Trump was elected by half of Americans. Yet if you listen to most loud media sources (social or news), you’d get the impression that the majority of people hate Trump. Obviously, that’s not true. The country is divided politically, but the super loud media is using their volume and broadcasting reach to try to make the quiet ones feel like a small minority. Love or hate Trump (or feelings in-between like I have), it’s clear the loud media is trying to manipulate the truth and persuade our country to their way of thinking.

“Do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites”

We don’t have to be loud like the political and cultural extremists, but we do have to quietly go about doing good in this world and standing up for what is right. Followers of Jesus are taught: “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.” (Matt 6: 1-4, KJV)

It Only Takes a Small Light to Illuminate a Dark Room

The protests, boycotts, and seemingly endless virtue signaling is, in large measure, the trumpet sounds of hypocrites. Yes, we are supposed to be a light to the world (Matt 5:14), but it only takes a small light to illuminate a dark room. Therefore, I pray that the quiet, rational, freedom-loving, God-trusting people of this world will continue to go about doing good in “still small” ways and will stand strong for what is right in the face of loud pressure from the world.

10 Ways to Be Strategic with Web Analytics – Feb 2011 RootsTech Presentation

10 Ways to Be Strategic with Web Analytics RootsTech Feb 2011 by Jimmy SmithThis is a presentation I made many years ago at one of the first RootsTech conferences put on by the FamilySearch department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in February 2011. At the time, I was working as the Web Analytics Product Manager for the Church. They must have been desperate for speakers–not that I am a bad speaker, but because the content really wasn’t related to family history work or genealogy.

Anyway, I recently rediscover this presentation when I was looking through some old files. I was shocked at how relevant the content is all these years later. In fact, I could almost give this exact same presentation at a digital marketing analytics conference today and it would be just as true, relevant, and insightful as it was then. In fact, I may do that.

As I recall, as I was working with the team to put together the slide deck, there was some ruckus about what images could be used, and copyright issues, and so forth. Finally, I just decided to use my own pictures–photos I took so I could have complete control of how they would be used. So I ended up doing a photo shoot with my kids. I told them what poses to strike and it turned out very nicely. I’m glad I did it.

So without further ado, here were my top 10 ways to be strategic with digital analytics:

  • 10. Keep Your Eye on the Prize: Your Web site exists for a purpose, find it, articulate it, and work towards achieving it. Design the site around that goal. Look at metrics that relate back to that goal and continuously work to improve.
  • 9. Not everything that can be counted counts: Web Analytics cannot exist in a vacuum. It exists for no other purpose other than improving site performance. “You can learn many interesting things by analyzing data.  But you should only spend your time looking at info that identifies opportunities for improvement.” (Actionable Web Analytics Page 53)
  • 8. Be Compelling: You might not be a PhD statistician or know how to run a multi-variate test or know how to set intervals with two standard deviations, etc., but you can still be compelling.
  • 7. Data Beats Guesses: The probability of making the right decisions for website design is dramatically improved when you use even the tiniest amount of empirical data.
  • 6. Questions Before Data: We must understand the difference between a business question and a report request. Rather than trying to respond to report requests, ask: What business problem are you trying to solve?
  • 5. Ask “So What?” Three Times: “Ask every web metric you report the question “so what” three times. …If at the third “so what” you don’t get a recommendation for an action you should take, you have the wrong metric.” (Avinash Kaushik)
  • 4. Use a Balanced Scorecard: Any one metric can be manipulated. Instead, try getting multiple metrics to improve simultaneously.
  • 3. Look at trends rather than level: My boss once asked how confident I was in the precision of a web analytics figure. I said “low” but that I had a high degree of confidence in it’s upward trend over time and it’s context relative to other metrics.
  • 2. Align Goals and Tactics: If you have aligned your website content and features with your goals, the metrics on those tactics will be indicators of how well you are performing against your high level goals.
  • 1. Hold People Accountable. Accountability drives adoption and change. If there is no accountability for the performance of metrics, there will be no improvement.