Religion has long been a part of my life.
I don’t know why that is, because I don’t remember my parents being particularly religious. Perhaps I am being too harsh, because I do remember them attending church in Georgia and later in Kansas.
My first memories of religion playing a part of my life, is in Georgia. We attended a Baptist church there, although I am not sure if we were members of it or not. After moving to Kansas, we attended a Methodist church in downtown (?) Shawnee. Later I became friends with Phil Bartlett and wanted to join his Scout troop and get their religious medallion: Many churches have a special medallion they award their members who are Scouts. I believe it had a beautiful purple cloth component. The only problem was: I was Methodist and Phil’s troop was sponsored by his Presbyterian congregation. No problem, I just took a course of instruction from the Presbyterian minister (which included the Beatitudes and memorizing the books of the Bible) and was then baptized.
The next memory is attending vacation Bible school and being a writer/editor of the school’s newspaper. I remember it was in the form of a scroll, which was burned along the edge to simulate it being old.
Somewhere along the way I joined Youth for Christ and attended a Billy Graham conference.
Somewhere between that time and 1968 I got interested in other religions (Buddhism and Zen) and read their books and also books by Christian theologians (Buber, Teilhard, Kirkegaard, etc).
In late 1968 I was a junior in high school and at times brought my Bible to school. That attracted the attention of a young woman in my physics class (Stephanie) and when I asked her out on a date, she accepted. We went to see a movie and the conversation turned toward religion. She told me about resurrection and I talked about reincarnation. Not long after that she invited me to dinner with her family to meet missionaries from their church (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). I ended up taking 6 lessons from them, believed their testimony and was baptized on November 29, 1968 – almost 50 years ago.
While that church was Christian, it was very different from other Christian churches. And joining it changed my life in major ways:
- Most of my friends and activities revolved around the church.
- Less than 2 years later, I graduated from high school and attended 2 semesters at the church’s flagship university – Brigham Young University.
- Less than 3 years later, I left to serve as a church missionary for 2 years in Brazil.
- Less than a year after returning from the mission, I was married to a high school sweetheart in a church temple in Utah. The downside of this is that my family was not able to attend, nor were my local high school friends. On reflection, I wish we had gotten married civilly and then later gone to the temple.
- The church taught that large families were preferred, so my wife and I had 5 children in our first 13 years of marriage. While other couples had more children, or had children more quickly, we had come from smaller families and 5 was a lot for us.
I started learning things which convinced me that the church was not the same as it had been. So I started studying the history and doctrines of the church, as had been practiced in the early days of Utah and which still were practiced among Fundamentalist Mormons. Undoubtedly this shift contributed to the divorce from my first wife. While I never wanted that, it did make possible me meeting and wedding my 2nd wife, and she was content to let me study out these new things.
In 2006 I lost my job of 10 years due to layoffs and found myself, my new wife (Virginia) and youngest son and his wife on the road to Utah. We made friends in the West with Charles and Becky Olsen, who introduced us to a whole new side of religion/Mormonism in the person of Doug Mendenhall, who had been hosting seminars on spiritual gifts, Zion, and more. During one of Doug’s seminars he had a guest named Denver Snuffer, who gave a talk in 2007, I believe. I had been searching for truth among the Fundamentalists, whom I had corresponded with and we had visited, but my wife, Virginia, recognized truth in the words of Denver Snuffer, a lawyer and church member living in the Salt Lake City area. He helped us see things in our own scriptures, which we had never seen before. The Book of Mormon, a book of scripture to those who believe in the mission of Joseph Smith, records the rebaptism of thousands of believers on the occasion of Christ’s appearance and new covenant to them after His resurrection. In similar fashion, Virginia and I were rebaptized in late 2014 in Boise, Idaho.
My religion now consists of personally and as a couple reaching out to Christ and trying to accept His invitation to come unto Him. Quite a religious journey for the last 60-some years. And where it will lead to, we will have to wait to see.