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Let me back up a bit. I was raised in a devout LDS home, the fifth child of nine. My father owns a local health food store in coastal southern California. Serving a customer base and being surrounded by people who, on the surface, seemed like they lived contradictory lifestyles from us was normal, yet I never felt any tension that’s not felt by just about anyone growing up in any faith-oriented home.
I was expected and encouraged to go to a church-owned school and a church mission. I can’t say I felt any undue pressure from those expectations. Those were things I wanted as well. My parents and community did a great job selling me on how wonderful those things would be. And they were right, they were adventurous, difficult, and wonderful! I had a lot of church responsibilities in my young men’s and youth groups, and my dad was our bishop during my older teenage years. While I felt some mild pressure to be good and righteous from these things, I never felt overwhelmed by any of it.
Our family vacations included campfires loaded with religious campfire stories and even mini-services on Sundays, when appropriate, where we took the time to keep the Sabbath day as best we could in the woods and mountains of the high Sierras of California. Some of these I still remember as extremely “spiritual” and notably emotional. We had Family Home Evening most weeks, and we had family prayers and “Scripture Time” most mornings.
My dad’s family were converts to the Church and modern-day pioneer immigrants to the USA from Denmark. My mom’s family has pioneer family lines associated with Joseph Smith and handcart treks across the plains to the Salt Lake Valley. The stories about how admirable and brave and courageous my ancestors were are plentiful.
I attended an EFY camp at BYU and had a number of “spiritual/emotional” experiences there. I remember telling my mom as a kid that I could feel the “Spirit” during some of our church hymns. I remember praying to know if the Book of Mormon was true and having “good feelings” while doing so. These are the kinds of things I leaned on for my “testimony” as a kid and teenager and young adult. They were how I “knew” that how I was living my life was good.
Facing Doubt As a Missionary
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