I come from Mormon pioneer stock on both sides. On my Dad’s side is Danite and semi-prominent early Mormon pioneer, Hosea Stout, about whose published diary has been said is “One of the most magnificent windows upon Mormon history ever opened…”
On my Mom’s side is polygamist Abraham Hunsaker of northern Utah who was present at the driving of the Golden Spike and actually in the iconic photograph of that event.
True to mormon-family-form as it still was in the 60s and 70s when my parents were making babies, my family was large with six kids – large at least by non-Mormon standards. But what really made our family a bit extreme even by Mormon standards was that my parents had the first four children in just three years – each one about a year apart. And what’s even a bit more extreme is that my older brother (one year older) was off-the-charts-hyperactive, so much so that my parents put him in a boys home for nine months when he was just eleven years old. He had a sort of constantly agitated version of hyperactivity that I took the brunt of. More on that in future posts.
The first time I remember feeling the spirit is when I was baptized and confirmed just after my eight birthday. When I came up out of the water, I felt completely clean, inside and out. When I was confirmed a member of the church and received the Holy Ghost, a glowing, warm feeling surged into my body as my father pronounced the words “receive the Holy Ghost.”
But in elementary school I was struggling to fit into a culture that was dominated by a majority of black kids at my school and it was a bit of a tough neighborhood where I was constantly being threatened and bullied. At home our family had a lot of interpersonal conflict, and it wasn’t just because of my brother’s extreme hyperactivity. In fact my family had been in group therapy at a university hospital. I won’t go into all that, at least not for now. Suffice it to say that looking back on it, I wasn’t really very happy, even angry but didn’t really realize it at the time.
Anyway, I think it was for reasons like this that I started to rebel a bit around age eleven – or so it felt. I think the worst of it was just that I developed quite a potty-mouth and I was beginning to identify more with the other troubled youth my age. At about age thirteen, something clicked in me and I decided to change my ways, and I stopped swearing and started caring about church things. In fact, since church was boring, I decided to start reading the Book of Mormon during church, which I did. Then I started reading it outside of church also. One Sunday afternoon as I was lying on my bed reading, a warm, undeniable feeling spontaneously came into my heart and slowly but steadily spread throughout my body to the tips of my fingers to the toes of my feet.
I thought, “this must be the Holy Ghost” and the warm feeling intensified, confirming my thought. Then I thought “this must be a confirmation that the Book of Mormon is true” and again the feeling intensified even more. This happened repeatedly as I went through a series of thoughts and responses confirming that the Book of Mormon was true, that Joseph Smith was God’s prophet and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was God’s one and only true church on the earth.
This experience sustained me as a believing Mormon for the next 40 years – a committed, never-look-back believing member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.