Well folks, buck­le up and strap in. Pre­pare your­selves for anoth­er sto­ry about a true believ­ing Mor­mon dis­cov­er­ing the truth.

I was born into the church, into a fam­i­ly of 6th or 7th gen­er­a­tion Mor­mons. My fam­i­ly helped to found Mesa, Ari­zona, by way of com­mand­ment from the brethren in Utah. There are plen­ty in Phoenix’s “East Val­ley” that share my surname.

My life was the typ­i­cal LDS affair. I was bap­tized, received the priest­hood, bap­tized my cousin because her dad was a cheat­ing, lying S.O.B. I held var­i­ous call­ings as a youth, and for the vast major­i­ty of my teenage years I was pres­i­dent of the var­i­ous priest­hood class­es, or first coun­selor to the Bish­op in the Priest Quo­rum. Boy Scouts was impor­tant to me, and I earned my Eagle Scout and Faith in God (or was it Duty to God?) awards. I was trust­ed, and peo­ple knew they could count on me. I prid­ed myself on being loy­al and dependable.

My tes­ti­mo­ny on the truth­ful­ness of the gospel was not cre­at­ed in one fell swoop. I had count­less spir­i­tu­al expe­ri­ences through­out my life, includ­ing fire­sides, scout or father and son cam­pouts, and hear­ing the tes­ti­monies of oth­ers. I’ve always been quick to trust and have found it easy to believe the tes­ti­monies of oth­ers. There was nev­er an instant where I “knew” the church was true; just a cul­mi­na­tion of expe­ri­ences, feel­ings as I went through the motions.

In high school I wrote a fan­ta­sy nov­el. I enjoyed read­ing and writ­ing, and was par­tic­u­lar­ly fond of the sci­ence fic­tion and fan­ta­sy gen­res. On my mis­sion, I used this as a tes­ti­mo­ny to val­i­date the Book of Mor­mon. I knew that an unlearned farm boy could not write such book, for if I, being edu­cat­ed, strug­gled to write a 200 page nov­el with­out con­tra­dic­tions or errors, then sure­ly he could­n’t write 531 pages of inspi­ra­tional awe­some­ness.

My mis­sion was in Brazil. It was con­stant­ly said that the degree of suf­fer­ing and hard­ship we expe­ri­enced on the mis­sion would direct­ly cor­re­late to the hot­ness of one’s wife. My wife is absolute­ly a 10, so they weren’t wrong there. Each day was a strug­gle. It was hot, humid, and the chaf­ing was unbear­able despite my best efforts to treat the affect­ed areas. With­in a few months I had a decent grasp of the Por­tuguese lan­guage. It was a tes­ti­mo­ny to me that the gift of tongues was real. Except, why did oth­er Elders strug­gle with the lan­guage to vary­ing degrees? It appeared that dif­fer­ent Elders expe­ri­enced the same gift to dif­fer­ent degrees. Could it come down to wor­thi­ness? I had “fooled around” before my mis­sion, and had even wait­ed until 6 months in to dis­close some of the greater sins to my mis­sion president.…clearly it was­n’t down to worthiness.

My mis­sion pres­i­dent saw fit to keep my in the mis­sion field. I dou­bled down and worked hard­er. I obeyed the rules to a T. Out by 10am, back by 9:30pm…because com­ing home at 8:30 or 9:00pm would be con­sid­ered shame­ful. I worked hard. I bap­tized a lot of peo­ple. I felt per­se­cut­ed. I was empow­ered by that per­se­cu­tion. I read the Book of Mor­mon eleven times. I stud­ied and planned with my com­pan­ions each day. I nev­er left the mis­sion boundaries…partly because we could­n’t, being sur­round­ed by jun­gle on all sides.… With less than a year under my belt, I was “pro­mot­ed” straight from senior com­pan­ion to Zone Leader. I skipped Dis­trict Leader, and fig­ured that my hard work had paid off. At the end of my mis­sion, I trained two dif­fer­ent new­bies. It felt good being able to leave them as my legacy.

After the mis­sion I went out of state to attend school (not BYU). There was a small Mor­mon population…only a few dozen active mem­bers. We gath­ered week­ly for insti­tute, but going to church became dif­fi­cult. I could­n’t con­nect with any of them, unlike my ward back home. I still believed every­thing the church taught, and I knew I was rebelling against God.

While at school I met my wife. Being two young, attrac­tive indi­vid­u­als with previous…ahem…experience…we quick­ly fell in love and found our­selves get­ting phys­i­cal. I lost my vir­gin­i­ty to her. She was LDS, and we both felt guilt for the things we’d done. We decid­ed to con­fess our sins. Her bish­op was under­stand­ing and lov­ing. My bish­op, who I did­n’t even know, led me straight into dis­ci­pli­nary action. I felt no love from the men who were there. I felt exposed, unwant­ed, unwor­thy of God, and unwor­thy of their time. I was disfellowshipped…nearly excom­mu­ni­cat­ed, accord­ing to the bish­op, who had seen fit to be “mer­ci­ful” towards me. I left feel­ing more lost than I’d ever felt; but I knew I loved my wife-to-be.

To the dis­may of my con­trol­ling father, I left school and got mar­ried in an LDS chapel. My dad was not pleased, and could­n’t put on a hap­py face for our wed­ding. His words of encour­age­ment were: “See you at the Tem­ple in a year.” Pret­ty lame, dad. But here we are, 7 years in and hap­pi­er than ever!

Long sto­ry short, we did get sealed a year lat­er. We both believed in the gospel. We went to the Tem­ple often. We had call­ings and attend­ed our church meet­ings. We were faith­ful in our tithes and offer­ings. We home taught and did vis­it­ing teach­ing. We were hap­py, in our own ster­ile sort of way.

It was­n’t until years lat­er, two chil­dren in, that we expe­ri­enced our first stum­bling block. For about 4–5 months straight, our fam­i­ly passed ill­ness­es around like a hot pota­to. For what­ev­er rea­son, we end­ed up miss­ing church most Sun­days. We went maybe 2–3 times dur­ing that peri­od. It was just SO much eas­i­er stay­ing home rather than try to absorb some­thing spir­i­tu­al from sacra­ment meet­ing with two fussy babies to deal with. What was the point of going if I could­n’t learn any­thing or feel the spirit?

We start­ed to say “Hey, it’s kind of nice not hav­ing to go to church!” We spent time as a fam­i­ly and did things togeth­er! I was work­ing a rough sched­ule and going to school full time, so Sun­days became our fam­i­ly day. We relaxed. We played. We enjoyed doing things togeth­er! I was at odds with this…the Church teach­es that hap­pi­ness resides with­in the gospel, and that we’re blessed when we obey the commandments…yet here I was find­ing more joy in my new-found Sun­days than I’d found in years.

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