I come from Mormon pioneer stock on both sides. On my Dad’s side is Danite and semi-prominent early Mormon pioneer, Hosea Stout (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hosea_Stout). On my Mom’s side is polygamist Abraham Hunsaker of northern Utah (https://familypedia.wikia.org/wiki/Abraham_Hunsaker_(1812-1889) 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.