Parents Using High Tech to Keep Track of Kids

Excerpts from Associated Press story:

The Schmidts use a service called Teen Arrive Alive, one of a few companies
that work with Nextel wireless phones and a tracking service from uLocate
Communications Inc. [This lets parents track where their children are driving and how fast.]

Other devices that track on-the-go kids include the Wherifone, a specialized
locator phone that uses the Global Positioning System, and the CarChip, a device
about the size of two nine-volt batteries stacked together that, installed in a
vehicle, monitors speed, distance and driving habits.

Interest in the United States is growing quickly, as it already has in other
countries Â? Canada and the United Kingdom included. Teen Arrive Alive, which
began offering its tracking service in May 2004, now has subscribers in every
state and is particularly popular in the South and the East, company officials
say.

These days, it’s just one way technology is helping parents monitor their
kids.

Georgia-based Mealpay.com began two years ago, for instance, as a way for
parents to electronically prepay school lunches. Now Â? at the request of some
parents Â? the service allows them to monitor what kids order in the
cafeteria.

Meanwhile, Boston-based MobileLime allows teens to use a cell phone to buy
items at fast-food restaurants, grocery stores and other participating
retailers. The cell phone is linked to a credit or prepaid card, so parents can
check.

Then there’s “alerts” from U.K.-based Langtree SkillsCenter Ltd. Parents are
notified by text message, e-mail or phone whether a student has shown up for
class and can get progress reports (good and bad) on schoolwork. Just starting
up, the company has signed about 10 U.K. schools so far and is expanding to the
United States.

Beginning as early as the introduction of the automobile and telephone,
new technology has let children escape the watchcare of their parents.
They could go places and talk to people without their parents knowing.
How many teens have made major life-changing mistakes because they were
empowered to go places and do things because of an automobile, but they
weren’t old enough to use good judgement?

I know some youth will be troubled to think that their parents can use
technology to track their movements, speed, and behavior (online or in
school, for example), but since when do children have the right to go
wherever they want as fast as they want, and do whatever they want?

Especially in a day when courts are holding parents liable for their children’s criminal behavior (here’s a link about Texas law),
parents have the right to use technology to help them in their parental
role. Of course, parents may also misuse technology and it may
backfire. They may go too far using threats and penalties as they try
to “control” their children’s behavior, instead of the better
approaching of loving them, communicating with them, and rewarding them
for their good behavior.

There is great power in text messaging an “i love you” message on a
cell phone, for example. I think we need to mix the parental monitoring
with parental messages of love, if we want this new high tech parenting
to work.

LDS PDA Products

Infobase Media Corp (one of our portfolio companies) has introduced its LDS PDA Library (in partnership with Deseret Book), which comes with hundreds of books that are ready for your Palm or Pocket PC. But more importantly, it works with the 2005 LDS Collectors Library so that you can save any of the 3,300 religious titles in that library — or portions of them — to your handheld.

As a RIM Blackberry addict, I keep suggesting a Blackberry version, and I know the company is exploring it. (Especially since Blackberrys outsell Palms these days.)

Has anyone out there used the Blackberry SDK? If so, any tips on getting started?

Does God Help Entrepreneurs?

Someday I want to write an entire book on this subject.

It fascinates me to look back in history, to read the biographies and autobiographies of inventors and entrepreneurs, looking for acknowledgment of divine influence in their work.

Over the years I have read and heard many stories from innovators who believe that God gave them an idea, or helped them through a problem, or guided their efforts to find solutions.

Some entrepreneurs are actively religious, attending churches, synagogues, or mosques; others are “spiritual”, connecting with Divinity in their own way, through prayer, nature, or meditation, or in other ways.

I intend to start asking many of my entrepreneurial friends, with all kinds of religious views, if they believe God has helped them, and if so, why and how? If I get enough good material, I’ll publish it sooner or later.

Here are some of the seeds for this idea:

  • I met the inventor of “electronic greeting cards” in 2000 at a Jupiter conference in Napa, California. We had a great discussion about this topic. She knew that her invention was a gift to her from God. We talked about collaborating on a book someday about prayer in business.
  • I know two CEO in Utah, two of the best in the state, who won’t work on Saturday (for family reasons) or on Sunday (for religious reasons). (Sunday is the Sabbath Day for many Christians.)
  • Gucharan Das, author of India Unbound, one of the five best books I have read in the past few years describes how India’s traditional spirituality is being combined with the “rationality and technology of the West” with marvelous results. He talks of temples and meditation and knowledge of God. He describes in one section how two south Indian temple priests have started a software company, showing that traditional spiritual values and modern technology can co-exist.
  • I have a Jewish friend — a brilliant entrepreneur — who has devoted some of his wealth to publishing sacred Jewish texts online in an effort to promote something he considers to be extremely important.
  • Years ago my father told me about a Chicago man who literally dreamed the solution to a postal sorting machine–he woke up one day with all the blueprints in his mind as he had seen how the device would work while he slept. He told my father that he got the patent for the machine, but that God was the inventor of it.
  • A religous leader who was formerly a highly respected heart surgeon describes how he saw in vision, as it were, a new way to do a surgical procedure, which is now standard practice. (I would have linked to the talk on LDS.org but I couldn’t figure out how to do it. Here is the talk, The Sweet Power of Prayer, published on another site.)
  • A friend in Hong Kong recently prayed for divine help about how to approach a business meeting and as he got up he his computer alerted him to a new email, which contained exactly the information he needed. The email wasn’t send by God :) but it was sent by a friend who had been working on the email message for much of the day.

How does this apply to you? Have you ever sought for God’s help in your business? If so, with what motive? Do you pray often, do you meditate, do you read scriptures in order to bring your heart and mind into harmony with Divinity?

Mark Victor Hansen, whose Chicken Soup for the Soul series has sold nearly 100 million copies, and Robert Allen, the most successful real estate author in history, teamed up a few years back to publish the book “One Minute Millionaire.”

The authors discuss the importance of tithing–giving 10% of your income to charities and/or churches. Their list of successful people who tithe includes John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, Opray Winfrey, and Sir John Marks Templeton. Templeton said, “Tithing always gives the greatest return on your investment.” The authors claim that behind the most successful people is an attitude of giving and sharing. A willingness to help others (which can definitely grow within you as you pursue spirituality in business) unlocks the help of the Universe in your life.

I don’t believe, as some authors (including Paul Zane Pilzer, whom I have met, and whom I highly respect as a very religious economist) have claimed, that “God Wants You to Be Rich”, unless they are referring to the “riches of eternity,” which God wants to give to everyone. I think we often learn more importantly lessons in life from adversity and poverty than we do in prosperity.

I’ve said before that blogging is just about the most important business activity that I do everyday because it puts me in regular contact with both friends and strangers and the dialogue and relationships that result from blogging make me smarter and better connected.

But I honestly believe that the single most important business activity that I do every day is to have a personal spiritual devotional, where I seek to be in harmony with God through reading His Word, praying and pondering.

This does not guarantee that I won’t make mistakes, that I’ll be blessed somehow without hard work and effort, that I’ll beat my competition (who may also be seeking help from God). That’s not my point. My point is that a daily devotional brings peace of mind (something we really need in our fast-paced world), occasional moments of enlightenment (the Eureka moments sought by inventors), and helps me to love people and view them as human beings in the Tim Sanders’ Love-is-the-Killer-App way.

I think a dose of humility and gratitude, both of which can come studying holy books and praying to the Creator, would help any entrepreneur be more successful in life, if not in business.

Senator Bennett’s Rural Business Conference

Senator Bob Bennett held his 4th annual Rural Business Conference yesterday, this year in Price, Utah. Attendance was strong. Keynote speeches were given by Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr., the Entrepreneur’s Governor, and Dr. Patrick Byrne, CEO of Overstock.com, founder of Worldstock.com, and all-around brilliant human being. I’ll post my notes later.

Breakout session speakers included Shawn Nelson of LoveSac (and Rebel Billionaire fame), and Jonathan Coons, founder of 1-800-Contacts, the largest retailer of contact lenses in the world, whose business started 13 years ago in a room at Wymount Terrace, BYU’s married student housing. They did $200 million in sales last year. What a story!

My lecture was attended by about 160 people. The powerpoint can be found at www.infobaseventures.com/price.ppt. I must say that the powerpoint is rather lame compared to the live demos that I gave of sites like Google Maps, Local Search and Froogle. I asked the audience to imagine 3 billion cell phone users by 2010 who have access to the mobile internet, including Google Maps, and then I talked about how Google could (or will soon, I should say) overlay Froogle data about products on top of its Google Maps and Local Search. Any significant database could be overlaid onto Google Maps, giving mobile internet users the most interesting way in the world’s history to find people, events, products–anything really.

The world will change more in the next 10 years because of the mobile internet than it did in the past 10 years because of the internet. And the next 20-50 years will bring even more changes as nanotechnology starts to change all of the physical materials that are used in our present world. The connection between the physical world and the information world will be bridged by RFID and GPS systems. It’s going to be wild, in both good and bad ways.

Now is the time for entrepreneurs to step forward, figure out where the puck is going (Wayne Gretzky), skate there, and take a swing. Remember, 100% of the shots you don’t take don’t go in. (Wayne Gretzky). Gretzky was quoted a few times in the conference. I think taking risks and having an entrepreneurial attitude and figuring out what your customers will want in the future and delivering that — that was the theme of Governor Huntsman’s talk.

Speaking of knowing the future…I’m a religious man with a Christian view of the world and a literal belief in the Biblical prophecies about the future. I belong to a Church led by a prophet and twelve apostles. You’ve probably heard of it. (See www.lds.org)

As a technologist and entrepreneur at the turn of the Millennium (how fortunate can I be!!!) it’s been amazing for me in my lifetime to study the prophecies of both ancient and modern prophets and to watch events take place that are in definite harmony with them.

Jesus said his gospel would be preached in all nations before the end would come. In the last two decades dozens of previously closed societies have become open, and Christian missionaries are taking Jesus’ message to millions. Bibles are being printed everywhere. More than 120 million copioes of the Book of Mormon, another testament of Jesus Christ, have been published and distributed. And this is all just the tip of the iceberg as far as giving the entire world an opportunity to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. Electronic media will enable the gospel tidings to reach additional billions.

Okay, so whether you believe any of what I have just written or not, I do have one very interesting statement from David O. McKay, given in 1935, that I think was prescient, and it deals with technology.

David O. McKay was one of the Twelve Apostles of the Church when he made this statement. The context was a speech about how to bring about a spiritual society (called Zion) where people would dwell in love and peace. In the speech he gave his opinions about what the physical aspects of Zion would be, but his emphasis was really on the spiritual.

If we have in mind the physical Zion, then we must strive for more fertile acres; bring from the mountains gold and silver in abundance; found factories to furnish more employment; extend in length and width our concrete public high-ways; build banks to protect, or to dissipate, as has been the case recently, the wealth we accumulate; transform our vast coal fields into electricity that will furnish light, heat and power to every family; improve the means of communication until with radio in our pockets we may communicate with friends and loved ones from any point at any given moment. (David O. McKay, 1935)

In October 1926, Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, also an apostle made this statement:

I remember sitting in a meeting some thirty or more years ago when that meeting was being addressed by one of the members of the Council of Twelve Apostles, who has long since departed this life. In the course of his remarks he made a statement that impressed me and which has stayed with me since that time. It was to the effect that the time would come when men would communicate from city to city, conversing without the aid of the telephone or intervening wires. As I pondered over it I thought: Of course, that time will come, but it cannot come until after Christ comes again, and his truth shall have been acknowledged over the earth during the Millennium. Then such great power will be exercised, but even then it will be granted to those who are in the Church and to no others. I have lived, however, to see the fulfilment of that prediction …

Many other Church leaders have commented on technology and modern inventions and how they can be used for good and evil. But their teachings primarily center on witnessing of Jesus Christ and his teachings–and how men and women should choose good over evil and have hearts that are full of love and forgiveness, even towards their enemies.

Here is my final, long quote from David O. McKay, about the need for a spiritual awakening to match the amazing scientific progress that the world has seen in recent centuries:

Changes and advancement in scientific discovery and invention have been much more marked and rapid than in the political realm.

For example, “people among whom Jesus lived never dreamed of a railroad, of a steamboat, of an automobile; could not have pictured by the wildest stretch of imagination the airplane or the radio. People in that day never saw a factory, a drill or a sulky plow. The only combined harvester that garnered wheat then was a man and a sickle.”

It is said that in “the democracy of ancient Greece, the Stentor had a voice “as powerful as fifty voices of other men” but in our modern democracy, the candidate for high office whose voice is amplified and broadcast by mechanical means, can pour his promises or persuasion into the ears of millions without troubling them to rise from their easy chairs.” The printing press, the railway, the steamship, the airplane, the telegraph, the telephone, the radio, and now the atomic bomb have put a power in the hands of man more potent for his progress or for his destruction than imagination can conceive. This vast increase of physical power becomes sinister and evil when put in the hands of men actuated by low ideals and evil motives.

Notwithstanding all our achievements, social unrest was never more pronounced than it is today. The difficult problems that arise between capital and labor are still unsolved. The evils of the slum and of the brothel are still with us.

The burden of taxes and the proper distribution of wealth are questions perplexing the wisest minds. Truly, we are living in an age of shifting opinions, of swiftly changing human relations. Man’s wisdom is baffled. Obviously, there never was a greater need for anchorage to fixed principles, and never-changing truths.

Men are in need of a safe pilot to serve as a guide over the troubled and turbulent waters through which we are now sailing.

If we would have a better world, it is evident that men must change their motives. Hatred and jealousy, envy, and selfishness must be replaced by wholesome, kindly thoughts and emotions. “Right thoughts and feelings if persistently kept in the forefront inevitably lead to right actions.”

Ideals are stimulants to progress. Without them man would degenerate, and civilization would “cream and mantle like a standing pool.” Through hope, ideals, and aspirations, God inspires men to move upward and onward toward the higher and better life.

The world needs fundamentals, eternal verities that never change. It needs to adopt the teachings of the man into whose hands the soldiers drove the iron spikes, “the only world-conqueror who came with clean hands,” from whom down through the centuries have come these assuring words: “I am the light of the world; he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

In the words of J. William Hudson, Professor of Philosophy, University of Missouri, “If there is to be social and political regeneration in the republic and in the rest of the world, it must be by tremendous regeneration of moral ideals.”

One of the fundamental conditions contributive to a person’s right thinking and acting is a reverence for God. A growing disbelief among the masses of mankind in a Supreme Being is a principal source of crime.

When God becomes the center of our being, “we become conscious of a new aim in life.” To nourish and delight the body, as all animals do, is no longer a chief end of mortal existence. Spiritual attainment, not physical possessions, becomes the chief goal. God is not viewed from the standpoint of what we may get from him, but what we may give to him. Man serves God best by serving his children.

In an address delivered to the medical graduates of the Edinburgh University, Sir Alexander Ralph Simpson, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, said:

I do not know in what mood of pessimism I might have stood before you today had it not been that ere the dew of youth had dried from off me, I made friends with the sinless Son of Man who is the world head and the stream that vitalizes all advance in civilization and who claims to be the first and the last and is the life forever more and has the keys of death and the unseen. My experience compels me to own that claim for to me he has established a vivid and vivifying correspondence with our supersensuous environment. He has made us see that at the heart of things there is a Father’s heart. He has made us know that in the complex play of circumstances, the reins of progress are in the hands of a circumstant who makes all things work together for our good.

Recently I made the remark that never before in the history of the world has there been such need as today of spiritual awakening. Not that man is more depraved, not that he is less religious, but that he has in his grasp such seemingly unlimited mechanized power. If you put bombs into the hands of an inexperienced child, he is likely to blow himself to pieces. To a degree, that is just what we are witnessing today in the world. In the hands of undeveloped, spiritually unresponsive people has been placed the power of explosives, the radio, the airplane, the submarine, all the concentrated power of electricity, and now the breaking up of the atom. Unless there is a spiritual awakening, civilization is threatened. The carnal-minded in the world are causing heartaches and threatening the extinction of the race.

A spiritual awakening in the hearts of millions of men and women would bring about a changed world. I am hopeful that the dawning of that day is not far distant. My faith in the ultimate triumph of the Gospel of Jesus Christ assures me that a spiritual awakening must come. To bring this about is the responsibility of the youth of the Church in whom I have confidence and place my hope.

Sites to See Near Omaha

While I attend the Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting this week in Omaha, I decided I might want to see some LDS Church History sites while there. I talked with Susan Easton Black who told me there is a nice museum at Winter Quarters where Mormon Pioneers built temporary housing on their trek from Illinois to Salt Lake City. Also, there is a restored building at Kanesville, Iowa that has significance for Latter-day Saints, because that is where Brigham Young was chosen to be the President of the Church, 3 years after the death of Joseph Smith.

Susan also told me there is a temple near Winter Quarters with striking stained glass windows. There are now about 120 Mormon Temples around the world, up from about 17 when I was young. About.com has some info on Mormon Temples.

Too Busy To Blog

My apologizes for being absent for the last 10 days or so. Blogging is one of my top priorities and yet lately I have been unable to make time for it. There are a few reasons for that.

Firstly, several of our companies have needed more time from me lately.

  • Infobase Media Corp (www.ldsaudio.com and www.ldslibrary.com) is selecting the next vertical market it will pursue. That requires significant research time.
  • Directory.net has changed its company name to WebEvident (new web site coming soon!) and has been doing more design and development work on its Searchability (TM) web service, which is already being marketed through multiple partners.
  • Worldhistory.com has launched a new web site and has engaged 10 students at Utah Valley State College to work on internet marketing and e-commerce this semester.
  • FundingUtah.com is live and planning a version two that will have more features for entrepreneurs and investors.

Secondly, I have continued to have speaking and teaching and writing engagements, such as lectures at BYU and UVSC, writing articles for Connect Magazine, and today, giving a speech at the Provo Rotary Club.

I spoke today about generous and innovative gifts that perpetually bless the world, including:

  • Thomas Bodley’s creation of the Bodleian Library at Oxford
  • James Smithson’s endowment which led to the formation of the Smithsonian Institution
  • Leland and Jane Stanford’s creation of Stanford University in memory of their son
  • The Perpetual Emigrating Fund which helped tens of thousands of “pioneers” emigrate to Utah in the late 1800s by loaning them money which they later repaid. One such emigrant was David Eccles who became Utah’s first multi-millionaire. The Eccles family is one of Utah’s most prominent families. They currently run many philanthropic foundations whose assets exceed $1 billion. The Eccles legacy started with a 70 pound loan from the PEF so the family could emigrate from Scotland.
  • The Perpetual Education Fund announced in 2001 by LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley which provides loans to thouands of students around the world who are seeking higher education. When the loans are repaid, the funds are available for more students.

Then I talked about more modern gifts from individuals and corporations which provide value now and could bless the world for centuries to come:

  • MyFamily.com (if only they would once again offer free web sites for any family in the world!)
  • Hotmail and Gmail (free email accounts for everyone)
  • Google Print (free access to the contents of some of the world’s most important libraries)
  • Skype (free long distance to anywhere in the world for more than 50 million people who have downloaded the software)
  • Wikipedia (open content encyclopedia which will dwarf Encyclopedia Britannica in the coming years and become one of the great knowledge resources in the world)
  • LinkedIn.com (a valuable social networking service that helps people stay in contact with people they know and trust–when it has tens or hundreds of millions of users it will become an essential part of our lives)
  • Worldstock (a wonderful service from Overstock.com helping thousands of artisans and craftsmen in more than 30 countries sell their goods on the internet. Worldstock is already the largest single employer in Afghanistan and I think will be one of the keys to economic growth in developing nations.)

I failed to mention a few others blessings to the world that I usually discuss:

  • Open Source software
  • eBay (the company offers a world market for millions of sellers — a great gift by itself — but founder Pierre Omidyar’s commitment to give away 99% of his wealth in the next 20 years is also a great gift.)

Thirdly (back to the reasons why I’ve not blogged lately), I have been asked to serve as a bishop in the LDS Church (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). This means that I will maintain my current employment but that in addition I will serve as the minister or spiritual leader for about 120 families in our congregation in Provo, Utah. This is an honor and a very humbling responsibility.

I love the Church and the teachings of Jesus Christ. I am thankful for the great personal peace that I find in studying scriptures and in daily prayer. I don’t know how I would live without being firmly grounded in a religious tradition that teaches faith in God, hope in the future, and charity (or love) for all.

I rarely blog about my personal religious views, and I respect everyone else’s (in fact I learn a great deal by studying writings from various religious traditions), but if you are interested at all in learning more about the Church, or what we believe, or what LDS bishops do, please feel free to email me so we can converse.

LDS Collectors Library 2005 Released

In 1997, Infobases Inc. (a company I founded with Dan Taggart) had more than 150,000 customers. Powered by search engine technology from Folio Corporation, we distributed libraries of valuable reference material (primarily religious and educational content) on CD ROM.

In 1997 we exited this CD ROM business to build Ancestry.com. Since that time, CD ROM sales overall seem to have been in a steep decline as more and more content and customers have turned to the web to access information.

But desktop search engines still have more powerful features than internet based search engines, and many of us wondered how popular a new LDS CD ROM library would be after many years without an update.

Earlier this year, LDS Media LLC formed a partnership with Deseret Book Company, raised more than $1 million from investors, and reassembled many key people from the Folio/Infobase era.

The result is the introduction of the 2005 edition of the LDS Collectors Library CD-ROM. With more than 15,000 orders to date, it appears that this new product will be adopted widely.

If you use this product and would like to help us improve it over time, please join our online group LDS Computer Users (hosted by Google Groups). Some of the ideas we hope to explore with you include:

  • What additional content should we add to the library?
  • How can we improve the usability and features of the product?
  • How shall we integrate audio clips, video clips, maps and images into the product.
  • What kinds of presentation tools should we design for teachers and parents so they can use gospel content in their talks and lessons?
  • When should we make portions of the library (and multimedia) accessible via portable devices and what devices should we support first (PDAs, Cell Phones, Smart Phones, Blackberries, Tablet PCs, etc.)?

Please consider joining our LDS Computer Users group and actively participating with us in designing our future versions.

Calling Old Infobases Customers

This is a shot in the dark, but here goes…

If you were once an avid user of the Infobases 1997 Collectors Library CD ROM and are willing to be involved in designing the 2005 edition, please let me know. (You can email me through the little email envelope icon on the left/bottom side of your screen)

Most Powerful Internet Marketing Tactic

The most powerful internet marketing tactic that I know (and I am an admitted lover of affiliate marketing, search engine marketing, and email marketing) is to disrupt the marketplace by giving away something that is valuable. Preferrably, something that your leading competitor is selling. Something that is selling well.

In 1996 when several companies were selling the Social Security Death Index on CD-ROM for about $39.95, and probably tens of thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands) of copies had been sold, Dan Taggart and I decided to give it away for free online. (We didn’t even require registration to access it).

In June 1996, we launched the 50-million record SSDI database on Ancestry.com. We followed this valuable give-away up with many other free databases and even free online genealogy software and eventually free downloadable genealogy software. These free offerings resulted in millions of visitors to our web site, and eventually many of them became paying customers for our other services.

But Ancestry.com’s “give-something-away” approach was not new. Many of the most successful internet companies of all time used this same approach:

  • Blue Mountain Arts offered free e-greeting cards
  • Hotmail offered free email
  • Yahoo offered the first free web directory
  • Lifeminders grew to 14 million registered users by offer free email reminder services
  • Freeservers.com offered free web hosting (and generated millions of customers)
  • Netzero offered free ISP access

During the bubble, some companies got carried away by offering free computers with internet access, hoping to “monetize” the (cheap) customer base through advertising and e-commerce. Didn’t work.

But the overall strategy continues to prove successful in the online world (and offline–ever heard of Gillette?).

Our latest company to launch a give-away strategy is LDSAudio.com, which just announced it’s goal to give away 100,000 audio copies of the Book of Mormon by the end of this year. I’m guessing that several hundred thousand audio cassettes and CDs containing the 24 hours of audio in the Book of Mormon have been sold in the last few decades. More than 120 million copies of the Book of Mormon have been printed since it was first published in 1830. Doubleday will be the first commercial publisher to print the book later this year.

Since only about 2% of the US population is LDS (“Latter-day Saint”) and there are only about 12 million Mormons worldwide, chances are you are not one, and you may not be interested in downloading this audio book. But if you want to see what Mormons believe, why not listen to the audio Book of Mormon in your car sometime? I have studied the Koran and many religious texts from other religions in an effort to understand what others believe. I just finished “Back to Jerusalem” and am working on “Heavenly Man” right now–two excellent books about the Christian missionary movement developing in China. House church leaders in China want to send 100,000 or more missionaries from China to take Christianity to the 2.2 billion people west of China where there is virtually no Christianity–to the Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim nations west of China. Fascinating books.

I think the world would be a better and more peaceful place if we would seek understanding of each others’ faiths, don’t you?

If you are LDS and want to help promote this free offer, please copy this link and place it on your web site:

Free Audio Book of Mormon

And feel free to email your friends and family.

Family Vacation; Working on my First Book

Life is good. I just ended a family vacation to Cedar City, home of the Tony Award winning Utah Shakespeare Festival, where we caught four productions, with a little side trip to Las Vegas, where we saw Mystere, again. The highlight of the trip for me was driving home on northbound I-15, where I googled with one hand for the nearest Jamba Juice on my Blackberry 7230, as follows:

phonebook:jamba, nv

It returned the only Jamba Juice in Nevada, located in Mesquite. The power-sized Orange Dream Machine quenched my thirst, after 5 consecutive days without a Jamba juice.

Thanks to my Blackberry, I stayed current with email without my family noticing or complaining, but I didn’t answer a single business phone call on this trip.

I used my laptop, but only to work on a book I am working on about Inventions and Revelation. I happen to be a “believing” entrepreneur. How can I not be a believer when prayer and meditation work for me? Every major success I have had in business (from Infobases to Ancestry.com to MyFamily.com and beyond) has come from an original idea that felt like a bolt from the blue, or a light-bulb turning on, after days or weeks of prayer and contemplation. How can I not believe that these ideas are not gifts from an Omniscient Creator?

For years I have been studying the lives of inventors and innovators. Many of them have had similar experiences, where after great effort the light bulb finally turns on and they can see clearly. Is that all because of their own talents and gifts? Or is there an external source at work, a Loving God who is blessing them for their concentrated effort and faith?

Brigham Young, who has been called the greatest colonizer of the American West and one of the greatest entrepreneurs of the 19th century, said this:

“Every good and perfect gift cometh from God. Every discovery in science and art, that is really true and useful to mankind has been given by direct revelation from God, though but few acknowledge it. It has been given with a view to prepare the way for the ultimate triumph of truth, and the redemption of the earth…”

It is interesting that a man whom millions consider a modern day prophet of God, acknowledges God’s hand in other fields besides religion.

Rulon S. Wells, another Mormon leader, said this in 1929:

“Revelation is truth made known whether that truth be religious or secular. Every invention or discovery, in fact all our understanding comes from God, for ‘there is a spirit in man; and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.’ (Job 32:8) It does not detract from the glory due to the inventor to say that God uses him as an instrument in his hands in bringing truth to light. God sends us his prophets to teach us in the way of life; he also sends us scientists, inventors and discoverers. They too are servants of God and have a part in the great work of educating mankind.”

I hope to publish a book that conveys my wonder and gratitude for living at this point in the history of the world, where there is an abundance of spiritual truth as well as the most amazing scientific advances the world has ever seen.

We can use God-given inventions for good or evil. We can use modern science and technology to lift individuals and nations out of poverty, enlighten whole nations, and bring health, peace, and prosperity to all the world. Or, we can choose to use these advances to satisfy our appetites, and gain power, wealth, and dominion over others. I believe that God will judge us for what we do with all of His gifts.

So that’s the book I’m working on.

My belief in God and in using entrepreneurship to change the world is one of the reasons that Google is my favorite company, with their “Don’t Be Evil” mantra, and one of the reasons that Tim Sander’s book, “Love is the Killer App” had such a powerful effect on me.

I once met a wonderful lady who originally owned the patent for electronic greeting cards. We both shared the view that God had inspired our ideas and we said someday we should collaborate on a book for entrepreneurs. (This is a different book than the one I’m currently discussing).

It wouldn’t be like Paul Pilzer’s book, “God Wants You to Be Rich” (I met Paul Pilzer about 13 years ago–he told me I would be really rich someday if I ever made that my objective!); it would be more like “God Wants You to Change the World.”

Or maybe we should call it “Prayer is the Killer App” and discuss how God can help you if your heart is right and you are seeking to do His will in your business ventures.

Alexander Graham Bell defined an inventor as “a man who looks upon the world and is not contented with things as they are. He wants to improve whatever he sees, he wants to benefit the world.”

Why wouldn’t God bless and prosper the efforts of men and women who work hard and seek to “benefit the world?” He may not want everyone to be rich, because “the love of money is the root of all evil”; but certainly we can do more with His help than we can without it.