I am the oldest of 5 children and, from as young as I can remember, my family regularly attended the LDS church. I don't really remember many specifics, but I remember that I was all in and believed 100% in pretty much everything I was taught. I remember feeling very special when I was baptized. I also remember feeling very special most of the time as I reflect on my early years growing up in the church. When I "graduated" from Primary, a friend and I went back to sharing time for a couple of weeks to visit after we weren't supposed to be going to primary any more because we loved Primary. There was one especially nice lady in Primary that we all loved and we didn't want to graduate to Sunday School and have to leave.
I also remember being involved as an extra in the play called, "My Turn on Earth". I was very excited to be able to do that. I think primary was different when I was a kid than it is now. We sang songs like "Popcorn popping on the apricot tree" and "Give said the little stream" which have messages of sharing, kindness and enjoying the beauty of nature found all around us. It seems like I was also taught moral concepts like being honest, being kind and doing the right thing and there was very little emphasis on following the prophet or listening to and obeying what church leaders said. Instead it seems the new songs coming out in primary (since I was in there) have to do with obedience, conformity and stating knowledge about things where no real knowledge (as defined traditionally) can really be had. In my personal opinion, it seems more like brainwashing type affirmations are emphasized where they used to not be so much. Which causes me to wonder if children growing up in the church nowadays will be even less likely to question the authenticity of the church's claims than I was or if it will be that much more difficult for them when they do...I don't know.
I was the quorum president in teachers quorum for a short time and really loved my teacher's quorum advisor. When I became a priest, I remember I would get compliments all the time on the way I read the sacrament prayer because I was able to read them well with appropriate emphasis on the words and in a smooth and solemn, yet interesting tone. I believed I was gifted to some extent in the area of public speaking. When I graduated from high school I went right to BYU Provo for the summer term following my graduation (since that was the only time I could get in). I loved BYU. I had a much easier time living on campus than off, however.
After the fall semester I came home to earn money to go on my mission for nearly a year. I got a job framing houses when I came home and am grateful for that experience. My boss was LDS and he was instrumental in helping me prepare for my mission. It was during this time that I was riding on a spiritual high and I had several special spiritual experiences that really strengthened my testimony and resolve to serve a mission. It was during this time that I received what I believed to be a revelation regarding faith and that it is truly the power to create. I also believed that I received a revelation that the current president of the church had passed away and I thought I received some words from him as a spirit confirming that he had indeed passed away and he was comforting me and encouraging me. I have written more about this experience here.
I was called to serve in San Antonio Texas speaking Spanish. In the MTC my companion was the assistant to the branch president and I was the assistant to the assistant...whatever that was supposed to mean. I really enjoyed the MTC and did not have any doubt that I was in the right place doing the right thing at the time. The transition to the mission field was kind of difficult because I went from studying in a classroom most of the day and eating in a cafeteria at a place about the size of a large high school to going out and riding a bike all day around west San Antonio. I was physically exhausted when I came home every night and I truly missed all the social interaction that was available in the MTC. Now, I was living in a small 3rd story apartment stuck with one guy all day long riding a bike all day. This was hard. It didn't help that my companion, while very intelligent and likeable didn't say very much. I honestly think he was not very social and really struggled getting out and talking to people. However, I do think the mission helped him to overcome this to a certain extent.
About a year and a half into my mission I was called to be a zone leader and had a really great time in that capacity. When I returned home from my mission after a couple of years attending the singles ward, I was called to be the Elder's quorum president. I adjusted well to life back home, although it was an adjustment that took some time nonetheless.
It was while I was serving as the Elder's quorum president that a certain lovely young woman caught my eye. I called her up to invite her to a ward family home evening activity and we ended up talking almost the whole night on the phone. Needless to say, we really hit it off and decided to get married shortly thereafter. About six months later we were married in the Portland, OR temple. I also enjoyed going to the temple and was a set apart veil worker prior to getting married.
Once married, I continued to hold various callings while staying active in the church. I was an adviser to the teachers quorum, Sunday School counselor, Primary worker, nursery leader, Elder's quorum second counselor, Sunday School adult gospel doctrine teacher, Sunday school president, Deacon's quorum adviser and cub scout wolf leader. I am currently serving as the cub scout wolf leader in my ward.
I guess the whole reason I wanted to give all that history about myself is to further declare that I believed 100% in the religion that I was brought up in. It was not until I was a gospel doctrine teacher that I ever caught any wind that the church might not be all that it claimed to be. And, even then, I did not give any serious consideration to the difficult questions I was posed. It was not until after I had moved to a different ward and a couple of years had passed before I really began to seriously question my beliefs and consider all the evidence surrounding the history of the church.
I am also not sure what specifically led to my questioning the authority claims of the church or being able to look somewhat objectively at the history of the church (not giving Joseph Smith 100% of the benefit of the doubt), but I know doubts crept up upon learning about Joseph's polygamy and all the problems associated with that. Those doubts were only solidified as I learned more about all the details of the polygamous affairs through books I later read on the subject. It seems to me that it is fair to say that my whole time growing up and serving in the church, I was never exposed to any of the more sordid and potentially faith damaging information that I became aware of after I started actually asking questions about who Joseph Smith really was and wanted to know more about his actual history. That and I had to be willing to read from sources of historical information that were not necessarily church approved or sanctioned. I think this is a hard obstacle for some to overcome, however, I think that there is plenty of difficult stuff that can be found in authorized church sources if one desires to find them and look at things said with half an objective eye to a truth that makes sense.
I hope this serves to let people know that I was not always a doubter and for the vast majority of my life I was 100% in and had no doubt about the authenticity of the claims of the church. I also find it interesting that I could go my whole life being brought up in the church and not even be aware of so many things.
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