How to Translate Content on a Low Budget

by Robert John Stevens, November 3, 2017

We sponsor BYU on-campus internship teams for translation. It takes longer but it is a win for all. The low-budget approach is to translate all your content using Google Translate. We keep ours in JSON format so it can be programmatically retrieved and displayed. You may decide to move it to a good computer-assisted translation service. Hire locals to improve it. Finally, have natives review it in the own countries. You can find and hire natives using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk.

Threatening vs Praying For the President

by Robert John Stevens, November 2, 2017

All Americans, regardless of their politics or opinions, should be very uncomfortable when people threaten the life of the President of the United States or use their celebrity position to say or do something similar.

While threats may give perpetrators a moment of media fame, they plant ideas into the heads of those who are mentally unstable. For example, we know that if a teenager commits suicide, more teenagers will entertain the idea.

Because of the First Amendment, the government cannot tell people what not to think or say, so what can be done?

If the mainstream and alternative medias practiced restraint and did not showcase the misdeeds of such people, then fewer ideas would be propagated.

If the media ignored such events then whether acts are committed by individuals acting alone, funded by criminal organizations or orchestrated by the deep state, influence would be greatly diminished.

At the very least Americans should know that the government takes all threats with the greatest concern and those who threaten will be questioned and investigated.

In contrast, Mormons pray for the President in temples many times a day. I’d like to see the Executive Branch highlight Americans who pray for the President, and urge the media to practice restraint as President Kennedy did1 so good is propagated and the President is persuaded to introduce peace on earth.

1 Listen to John F. Kennedy’s famous speech below:

Today’s Mormon Church May Not Have Sent Me on a Mission

by Robert John Stevens, October 22, 2017

On October 20, 2017, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released Standard Interview Questions for Prospective Missionaries (see also my saved copy).

If these new questions were in place, I wouldn’t have been able to serve a mission because I had a serious speech disorder—I stuttered so badly that when going door-to-door on my mission, people regularly slammed their front door before I could say my name.

In my first area, I ordered an $800 delayed auditory speech machine like the one BYU had my use for speech therapy about the time they filmed me for future study.

And yet my companions and I baptized dozens of people. At least two of those young men later served missions—one later became a speech pathologist.

I’ve only met one person who stutters worse than I did and he builds stain glass windows for Mormon temples.

Moses also had a speech disorder.

According to Mormon history, Jesus recruited Sidney Rigdon to speak for Joseph Smith who until the late 1830s was not mighty in speaking.

In the New Testament, we learn Saul consented to the stoning and murder of Christians and yet Jesus choose him. Saul (later named Paul) wouldn’t have qualified either under these new guidelines.

People who committed sin can relate to and guide those with similar problems. Jesus was required to feel the pain of all sins to accomplish his job.

The faithful will defend these qualifications as being inspired. The unfaithful may see them as uninspired, hypocritical and detrimental.

Response from a friend:

Having a focused conversation about a speech disorder to ensure the prospective missionary feels confident in their ability to proselyte seems pretty reasonable to me.

Yes, that’s true and a very good perspective—All discussions are reasonable. A church, entity or any government institution that discourages or shuns free and open discussion will have difficulty establishing the foundational mindset necessary to receive new inspiration necessary for advancements.

I felt confident that I could proselyte but if my Bishop asked me if I could say my name, teach a discussion or give a talk without severe stuttering, I would have admitted that I wasn’t confident I could. So would I have been denied going on a mission under the new rules?

I’ve observed that most close-minded people, especially those who are determined to comply with man-made rules, would enforce adherence.

Interestingly, note the phraseology on this subject used by Jesus in D&C 98:7 — “pertaining to law of man” — as though it was clear to Him the source of most laws.

As previously mentioned, our son Wesley was repeatedly denied missionary service because of his severe psoriasis. He was asked to interview with a psychiatrist who concluded that he was also depressed. Of course, Wesley was depressed–repeated denial of missionary service by “inspired Bishops.” Plus, who wouldn’t be if they had Wesley’s condition? Finally, a Bishop let him serve a local summer temple mission. He did. During his mission, his psoriasis mostly disappeared. He’s content. Work got done, he’s now a returned missionary dating a nice girl, and his future is bright.

Given regulations, without the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, most men will strictly abide by them. I think Jesus was clear about telestial leaning in Mark 2 when his disciples were plucking corn on the Sabbath. We could propose an unauthorized rephrasing for His solution, “Missionary work was made for man, and not man for missionary work: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the missionary work.”

I am sure the Twelve Apostles know that raising the bar will also increase virtue—That’s positive.

But if they want to discuss speech impediments, then why not also discuss impediments for all senses, including poor-functioning limbs? Where will it end?

Will Bishops also disqualify Tiny Tim? Consider this quote from A Christmas Carol:

“And how did little Tim behave?” asked Mrs Cratchit, when she had rallied Bob on his credulity and Bob had hugged his daughter to his heart’s content.

“As good as gold,” said Bob, “and better. Somehow he gets thoughtful, sitting by himself so much, and thinks the strangest things you ever heard. He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.”

Wesley’s mission was further evidence to me that a one-size-fits-all approach fits only the laws of man. Youth no matter what their sins may be, or having undesirable physical or mental conditions, with or without a testimony should know there is a mission available for them–whether it be proselyting, temple, physical service, mentoring, etc. If a mission can elevate the missionary one notch and help others then would there be greater youth retention and more determination for future blessings?

I still question why my mission was cut short to 18 months due to Church policy and then later raised back to two years. To me, that is plausible evidence of fallibility that I’d like discussed.

Reply from the same friend:

I’m not sure if the church would have sent you or not with these new questions…but everyone is talking about these new “rules”…when they are simply standardized questions that will be asked of every prospective missionary. Your interpretation is that the church is trying to “limit” who is going on missions. Perhaps this is from your experience with Wesley, which I’m sure has been difficult for you to observe. However, while the church must take seriously who it sends out to represent it, I can tell you that they are ultimately concerned about each young man. While it is true that a mission experience can help elevate some young men, for others, they go out either unworthily, unprepared, or unconfidently and then have to come home and face the embarrassment of coming home early. So these new questions simply ensure that bishops can have more focused conversations about issues that may ultimately cause a missionary to struggle in the mission field. To me, it makes total sense. I’m sure there will be bishops that don’t enact the intent perfectly, just like there were bishops who are way too lax or way too strict in the way they approach prospective missionaries before these questions were given.

Tiny Tim would not have been called as a missionary given that I don’t think he was LDS ;). However, assuming he had been converted, as his Bishop, I think it would make sense for me to have a conversation with him about his physical disability and whether he could adequately meet the physical demands of the full-time missionary service. If he couldn’t serve a full-time proselyting mission, the church provides all kinds of alternatives for full-time missionary service to those that need accommodations for various physical or mental challenges. So already, they do not apply a one-size-fits-all approach…and I think this helps them adapt even more by helping to identify individuals who want to serve but may need to serve in alternative capacities.

Thanks for taking the time to reply, for discussing this with me, and for increasing my understanding. You’re right–asking specific questions during pre-mission interviews makes sense or the questions may not be asked. I know of a recently returned mission president who had several missionaries confess to him on their mission that they hadn’t repented about something serious.

I also realize that when 15 spiritual men agree1, they create much better policies that the three Utah County Commissioners where 2 out of 3 votes wins and then their regulations become law and backed by force, fine, prison or forfeiture.

1 The living prophet, his two counselors and the twelve apostles

How to Establish a County Government

by Robert John Stevens, October 20, 2017

County governments in the United States, particularly Utah County where I live, can currently be defined by this equation:

State Code + Stricter Restrictions via County Code = “Dig a pit for thy neighbor1.”

I never understood that phrase. I thought Nephi, in whom it is attributed, was joking. It applies perfectly to government regulations.

I would like to see all county governments:

  1. Operate as testbeds for innovation and thus become showcase counties for their state as well as the nation
  2. Hold charrettes (a meeting in which all stakeholders in a project attempt to resolve conflicts and map solutions) regularly with stakeholders for new ideas to be tested, proved and bad ones discarded.
  3. Privatize all possible services
  4. Set up a department that focuses on liberty, inalienable rights and the Constitution so they are always considered for every decision
  5. Focus on tasks that even most developers cannot do such as building roads, bridges and sewer treatment systems
  6. Prepare for all large-scale contingencies such as cataclysmic events where the trucking imports stop, earthquakes, nuclear war, EMP, etc. Citizens need leadership to prepare for such things now and in advance, and not to just be reactionary after the fact.

1 Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 28:8

VidAngel: The Sequel to David and Goliath

by Robert John Stevens, October 19, 2017

All great men and women experience severe opposition when they fight for good and ring the bells in hell.

VidAngel’s theme is comparatively a 21st-century underdog sequel of David and Goliath. The fact that VidAngel is experiencing so much opposition from dark forces convinces me that my friend, CEO and Founder Neal Harmon was right all along—that VidAngel will do more good than bad by luring good people to straddle the fence by watching filtered content.

In this announcement of Chapter 11 Reorganization, Neal comes across as determined and full of resolve. To use slang, he’s bad-, bad-, bad to the bone.

Like Steve Jobs at Apple Computer, Neal started an underdog movement for good to triumph over evil. This month he is riding the wave of President Donald Trump’s war against the main-stream media, and Hollywood’s sexual abuse scandal which is furthering their own self-destruction.

I’d like future VidAngel-made movies to simply tell true stories that highlight the brave John and Jane Doe’s of history and ignite mankind with ideas and hope. To make movies like that, they’ll need to find and hire highly moral people who strive for self-mastery and are committed to standing for good.

See VidAngel Uses Chapter 11 Protection to Pause Los Angeles Lawsuit to Reorganize Its Business Around The New Streaming Model

Do you still like President Donald Trump?

by Robert John Stevens, September 28, 2017

A friend asked if I still like Trump.

Here’s my answer:

I’m for inalienable rights, liberty, freedom, free markets, non-internvention (staying out of the affairs of other nations), peace, prosperity, the Golden Rule and limited government.

I do not endorse wars of aggression, murder, destroying other nations, endless wars, government propaganda, the forced redistribution of wealth, unnecessary and unconstitutional taxes, endless regulations or a central bank.

Those, as I understand, are the principles endorsed by our Founding Fathers. So I back any politician who endorses those fundamental principles.

Subdivision Approval Increases Land Values and Borrowing Power Needed for Capital Improvements

by Robert John Stevens, September 27, 2017

For innovation to flourish, farmers, developers and entrepreneurs need capital.

Landowners need loans for a variety of reasons, but when governments such as Utah County deny settlement, to obtain higher loans from banks, landowners must agree to lien more of their property, take more risk and in some cases bet the farm.

For example, yesterday my parcel #8 in Benjamin, Utah, a 5.25-acre parcel, was recorded with Utah County as an improved, buildable lot causing its value on the Utah County records to soar from $89,400 to $192,300.

As raw land, local banks would only lend me up to 50% of its value compared to 75% now that Utah County declares it as an improved building lot:

50% of $89,400 is $44,700
75% of $192,300 is $144,225

That’s a 322% increase!

I desperately need a $400,000 loan to build, pave and dedicate a 3/4-mile interior road so Utah County will declare two more of my lots buildable, even though all the improvements are completed including a 62-foot paved road stub, but that required liens against nine, 5.25-acre unimproved lots. The risk of losing all of them is too great.

What if Utah County reverts back to its pioneer roots and declared all land to be buildable? Settlers then could exercise their inalienable private property rights, build on their own lands and make improvements as needed according to county specifications, and borrow a lot more with much less risk.

Now that my lot is declared bulidable, my taxes are higher and I don’t want higher taxes, especially since no buildings are built.

Until relatively recent times in America, all land was buildable. The Founding Fathers were careful not to interfere with private property rights. Until the establishment of the Federal Reserve banksters in 1913, there were basically no regulations in the United States and yet we produced the majority of the world’s goods and were the richest country in the world.

Today endless government regulations may solve problems but cause others. For the abundant life, citizens must be allowed to build on their own lands.

Modern innovations provide many alternatives for modern conveniences such as utilities, clean water and road materials, none which were available just 100 years ago when inalienable rights were honored and the middle class prospered.

Emails today between me and Brayden Brucker at Utah Valley Credit Union (UCCU):

Hi Brayden,

Yesterday one of my 5.25-acre parcels was recorded with Utah County as a buildable lot causing its value on the county records to soar from $89,400 to $192,300.

What percentage of a land’s value as determined by Utah County do you lend on? 40%, 45%, 50%?

From Brayden Brucker:

If it is considered an improved building lot – meaning it is ready to build on, we can go up to 75%. Raw Land is up to 50% loan-to-value. So we would lend between 50-75%.

Private Property Rights are Rights, Not Privileges

by Robert John Stevens, September 26, 2017

Utah County Commissioner Greg Graves at today’s Utah County Commissioner Meeting in Provo, Utah from his chair and on television made the comment. “Private property rights are privileges, not rights.” I later went to the podium and corrected him. I don’t have a transcript of what I said but this is what I know:

Private property rights existed before governments were formed. Governments were formed to protect private property rights.1

Although in the Declaration of Independence Thomas Jefferson didn’t specifically mention private property rights, and his famous statement did not say, “Life, liberty, private property rights, and the Pursuit of Happiness”, he knew private property rights are inalienable rights, required for human happiness, and it is the proper role of government to defend them.

How do we know this?

1. Because private property rights were already stated and accepted in founding documents, even those in Virginia.

2. The phrase “among these”:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Thomas Jefferson and the signers of the Declaration of Independence knew there were other unalienable rights.

3. The Founders’ subsequent writings and contributions.

Private property rights were enshrined in every or almost every state constitution after the American Revolutionary War, including Article 1, Section 1 of the Utah Constitution which reads, ” All men have the inherent and inalienable right to enjoy and defend their lives and liberties; to acquire, possess and protect property; to worship according to the dictates of their consciences; to assemble peaceably, protest against wrongs, and petition for redress of grievances; to communicate freely their thoughts and opinions, being responsible for the abuse of that right.”

Many of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence played a major role in creating and ratifying state constitutions.

If private property rights are privileges and not rights, then as Commissioner Bill Lee so wisely asked Commissioner Graves, “Then what is their source?” If the government is the source of private property rights then the government also has the right to take them away.

Private property rights are rights, not just privileges as socialists would have us all believe. I corrected Commissioner Graves and pointed out that inalienable rights are not taught in public schools and few citizens understand their meaning or importance.

1 The United States government was formed to protect inalienable rights, including private property rights, and to defend liberty.