This story is taken from a longer paper (over 120 pages long). The author states in his introduction that his wife believes that the two most difficult influences on his life were the church and his parents. I have tried to focus on his writings about how he feels the church has influenced his life.
I was born in San Francisco, CA. on July 4, 1946. A Fourth of July baby!
Father was inactive in The Church at the time I was born. He had been a Utah baby. He had been born and reared in Salt Lake City. The wife of his first marriage had been cheating on him; therefore, he dissolved it and went into the National Guard.
War had erupted in Europe a year prior to this event in his life. Things looked bad for Asia as well as Japan was flexing her imperialistic muscle.
My parents met in San Francisco as father and his buddy were on a ship bound for the Philippines, as my mother told me. My father's buddy's girl friend was friends of the woman who became my mother. Father said he looked into the crowd that had gathered on the dock below the ship. His buddy was waving goodbye to his girl friend.
"Who's that good-looking lady standing next to your girl friend?" father said he asked his buddy.
His buddy revealed her relationship to him and her name.
They sailed off out through the Golden Gate bound for the Philippines.
Mother said father was in the Pacific en route to the Philippines when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Father said he was at Hickem when the "day of infamy" occurred. Mother said when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, the ship he was on was sent back to San Francisco to await further orders. This is how my parents met -- while father was awaiting further orders in San Francisco.
Father was ordered to go to The Aloha State. He stayed there during the duration of World War II.
My parents corresponded with each other while he was stationed in Hawaii. They got married on December 31, 1944.
Mother was a member of no religion.
My Religious Genesis
We stayed in San Francisco until 1952, when we moved to a house my parents had purchased in Walnut Creek, CA. While we were residing in San Francisco, we lived in a flat below the one wherein my maternal grandmother resided.
She lived on the top flat. My maternal grandparents divorced on August 6, 1952.
It may be coincidence, but that's the exact same day the woman who later became my wife was born! The trouble was she was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. I matured on the West Coast; she matured on the East Coast!
Who's That Knocking at Our Door?
Mother was introduced to the theology of The Church while we were residing in Walnut Creek at the time I was eight-years-old. One day a pair of lady missionaries knocked on our door and mother invited them to come inside the house. I vividly remember my father drinking tea and coffee and sometimes a can of beer before this time. He had smoked cigarettes before he married my mother; but when they got married, he quit cold turkey.
He later became a rabid anti-smoking fanatic. Whenever he saw someone who had stopped for a red traffic signal lighting a cigarette, he would state that a law should be passed that prohibits smoking inside a motor vehicle.
It's also coincidence that the woman I married smokes. We've been married for over 25 years. I've attempted many times to persuade her to quit, but my efforts have been in vain.
What caught my mother's interest in The Church was their genealogy program. When she was a child, she told me she had a map spread out on the floor. She'd assign her deceased relatives to various locations on the map. Her odd hobby she enjoyed as a child clicked when the lady missionaries introduced her to The Church's genealogy program.
All I remember about her involvement with the discussions is a slide show involving ancient Aztec ruins that The Church claims is proof that The Book of Mormon is true.
After the lady missionaries knocked on our front door and mother became interested in being baptized into The Church, father became active once again. Mother and I were baptized by a man in our neighborhood who had the authority to fulfill this ordinance. We were baptized on New Years Night, 1955.
What was interesting what I remember about that night is I was in the family car while we were parked outside of the house of the man who would baptize us. The skies were clear. Suddenly a flash of sheet lightning illuminated the sky with its bluish-white color. There was only one single flash. Nothing more. This was my first introduction into The Church.
It was shortly after our first trip to the Los Angeles Temple that my father's personality began to change, and not for the better. He was a carpenter. The San Francisco Bay Area was in the midst of a housing boom in the suburbs, as was the rest of the country.
The trouble with his vocation was two-fold: (1) When construction on the subdivision that he helped to construct had reached a conclusion, he was out of a job; (2) The climate of the San Francisco Bay Area is dry during the summer months; however, during the fall, and especially during the months of December through February, we receive most of our annual rainfall. Our rainy season is reaches its official conclusion on Income Tax Day -- April 15th; but it some times rains after that date. Therefore, unless a roof has been constructed over his head, he doesn't work when it rains.
Mother held a degree from the University of California at Berkeley. At the time my parents married, however, father had only completed the eighth grade. He did go as high as the eleventh grade before he died on June 24, 1996, but never graduated from high school.
Father thought on a gut level. The line between right and wrong for him was a clear, defined line. There was very little gray area where the difference between right and wrong had become a little shaded.
It's vague, but the topic around which I remember my parents arguing most of the time had to do with money. Bills needed to be paid. If father didn't have the money -- well, he'd pay them when he received the money. He'd often swear that if a bill collector ever dared to step one foot on our property, he'd physically assault the person and then he'd have the man arrested for trespassing. The police could have what was left of him. After all, he'd add, he received training while he was in the Army as a Ranger, and he knew martial arts.
He never mentioned the fact that the highest grade he earned was a green belt. A brown belt, and then the many degrees of black belt, are higher. You can become a professor, for example, if you have achieved a third-degree black belt.
Mother paid a full tithing during this time. She paid 10% of father's gross salary to The Church, as It commands.
We were in debt, and she was attempting to get out of debt. The Church often uses Malachi 3:10 to prove that if you pay a full tithe, the Lord will bless you:
"Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it." (Emphasis added)
Mother was paying a full tithe. She was attempting to get us out of debt. She therefore expected that the opening of the windows of heaven that were suppose to occur wherein the Lord would pour out so many blessings that there wouldn't be room enough to receive them would be money she could use to get us out of debt.
Mother was working part-time at this point. The only thing that occurred in regard to her paying a full tithing is if father wasn't able to work due to rain or the completion of a subdivision, she'd receive a temporary job wherein they wouldn't lose any money. It wouldn't get us out of debt; but, at the same time, we'd remain at a status quo.
The evolution of father's personality change is he'd be in a good mood for the first part of the month and then, as the month progressed, he'd become depressed. My parents would have one of their fights at the depth of his depression.
It was during this period of time where I remember they had the worse fights during my life with them! These weren't just disagreements. These were down and out brawls.
The time was 1959 or 1960. I was now residing in the town directly next to Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill. We had moved in 1956. I had a newspaper route wherein one of my duties was to deliver the Saturday shopping edition to houses in our neighborhood.
When I left the house, everybody was still in bed. At the time I passed by my parents' house to deliver the newspaper, however, the door to the garage was up and I walked right into one of their brawls. Mother was walking through the door that led from the family room that my father had constructed shortly after we moved into the house. My brothers were following her. She got into the driver's side of the 1959 Chevrolet station wagon they owned. My brothers got into the back seat. Father opened the door to the front passenger side, kneeled down on the seat, grabbed mother by the hair, pulling her over, and was yelling in her face! Of course, she was in hysterics.
What happened now? I remember asking myself.
When father released her, I got into the back seat with my brothers and asked her that very question as she was pulling out of the driveway.
My parents had awakened. The dishes were still on the table from dinner from the previous evening. Something was said that caused him to lose his temper and pull the table cloth out from what was on the table. He wasn't trying to perform magic. Mother called him an s.o.b. And World War III was off and running.
I remember later going to the two garbage cans, which were in the back yard, opened one of them, and seeing broken dishes and a broken jar of mustard among the contents of the trash.
Once I was out in the back yard. My parents seemed to be in a good mood up until that point. All of a sudden I could plainly hear them shouting at one another. I don't know what ignited it. I remember being ignorant of it at this time.
It is said that when you make your covenants to God in the temple, Satan and his angels work harder to tempt you, hoping you'll break those covenants. Father's main weakness was his temper. If what I wrote about Satan is true, then he did a very good job.
"Every Member a Missionary"
David O. McKay was the Prophet, Seer, Revelator, and President of The Church in 1960. He may have been the one who tried to get the individual members involved with doing missionary work. "Every member a missionary," was the slogan.
The Golden Question was also conceived:
"How much do you know about The Mormon Church?
"Would you like to know more?"
I attended seminary classes between 1960 and 1964. Seminary is theology classes for students in high school. One year you may be studying the Old Testament. The New Testament may follow the next year. The Book of Mormon follows the next year. Church history along with the two other canons of Scripture used by The Church, The Doctrine and Covenants and The Pearl of Great Price conclude the study.
My First Year in Seminary
The first year I attended seminary, however, the Old Testament wasn't discussed. I first began attending seminary during my first year in high school -- 1960 - 1961. This was immediately after David O. McKay instituted the slogan, "Every member a missionary." Missionary work was discussed that year.
Mother's Missionary Attempts
Mother had been attempting to convert her mother, sister, and two brothers to The Church. She was met with frustration. My aunt and one of her brothers felt we were too churchy. Somebody had given my grandmother a book about the Mountain Meadows Massacre. This upset her a great deal. She never joined The Church.
I knew nothing about the Mountain Meadows Massacre. The year we studied Church history in seminary nothing was said about it. The year pretty much ended with the martyrdom of Joseph Smith. The tragedy is one of those things that occurred in its history that they don't like to discuss. They therefore keep silent about it.
I'd like to thank The History Channel for shedding light on the Mountain Meadows Massacre in their In Search of History program aired the last day of June, 1998. I think they presented it in a balanced non-biased frame of mind. This is the first time I learned all the facts about it.
Preparation for Missionary Work
I believe one of the purposes of seminary is to prepare the males to devote two years of their lives -- two-and-a-half at the time if they were sent to a country where a foreign language was spoken -- to a full-time proselyting mission for The Church when they reached the age of nineteen.
Father wasn't a hardnose. "I don't care if you go on a mission," he told me. "In fact," he added, "I don't care if you marry a non-Mormon. Your mother wasn't a member of The Church when we got married."
I was still carrying the attitude of live and let live. I didn't think I had a testimony that the Mormon Church was the only correct religion on the face of the planet. The trouble was no one had bothered to outline the steps one should take to gain a testimony of The Church. The steps were just implied.
Perhaps The Church felt that the parents were the ones who should instill a testimony of The Gospel in their children. Mine weren't doing it. I guess they delegated this responsibility to the auxiliaries of The Church -- the Sunday School, Primary, Mutual Improvement Association, etc.
My First Spiritual Awakening
The Oakland Temple wouldn't be constructed until 1964. Worthy members of the Ward who had temple recommends between the dedication of the Los Angeles and Oakland Temples would charter a bus to drive down to Southern California to do temple work. My parents joined them a couple of times. I also accompanied them to do baptismal work for the dead.
When the Oakland Temple was first dedicated, my parents had begun to apostatize from The Church. They gradually became inactive. When the Oakland Temple was first dedicated, mother was the only one who accompanied me to witness the dedication.
The dedication was an experience I'll never forget. When it was dedicated I was expecting to experience events similar to what I had read about in seminary the year we studied Church History when the Kirtland, Ohio Temple dedicated in 1836: visions, people speaking in tongues, the sound of a strange wind rushing through the building, etc.
This I didn't experience. We witnessed the dedication via closed-circuit television. Members of the General Authorities, as well as the man who was the Prophet, Seer, Revelator, and President of The Church at that time -- David O. McKay -- were inside the building and we were seated inside the Interstake Center. The Interstake Center is on the same piece of real estate as the Temple. You know how when you're sitting in a meeting listening to somebody, who just rose from his/her chair, addressing the inhabitants of the room in a lecture and your mind drifts? When I witnessed the dedication of the Oakland Temple, my mind couldn't drift; it wouldn't drift, it refused to drift. I was consciously listening to every word the speaker was saying! There was also not a dry eye in the building.
Yet, when I read the same words that had been spoken by these men in the adult periodical of The Church at that time, The Improvement Era, the effect wasn't the same. It wasn't as profound as it was when I heard it inside the Interstake Center.
Devout members of The Church would say, when I was in the Interstake Center witnessing the dedication, I was being touched by the Spirit of the Holy Ghost. I thought so too at the time. Looking back at the event decades later, however, I now ask myself this question: Was it that? Or were we all the victims of the spirit of mass hysteria? We were all expecting to witness something. This was a solemn, sacred moment in our history. When the dedication of the Temple was complete, it meant we no longer had to charter buses; we no longer were forced to travel 450 miles south to Los Angeles to participate in temple worship. It was accessible right here in the San Francisco Bay Area! So why not "mass hysteria"?
Family Home Evening
Family Home Evening manuals were introduced in 1964. The Church also set aside a specific night of the week for the event known as Family Home Evenings to take place -- Monday. All wards, stakes, and branches were to erase from their calendars all activities so the families that resided within their boundaries could participate in the weekly event.
It's my understanding that the idea of Family Home Evenings had been in place for a long time. The 68th Section of The Doctrine and Covenants states specifically that it's the responsibility of the parents to teach their children the Gospel. Family Home Evenings is the avenue in which they can use to fulfill this obligation. It's just that no specific night before 1964 had been heretofore set aside for this activity nor had there every been a manual to help the parents carry it out.
The Church created a motion picture promoting the event. It featured two young parents with children. I don't recall how many children were involved. All I remember is it featured at least one daughter and a son. Their home also had a piano.
What was interesting about the film is everybody was dressed as if they were going to be attending their usual Sunday Church services. In other words, they were dressed in their Sunday best. The daughter was also featured as the family pianist.
The film portrayed Family Home Evening as if it were a Church service. Dad conducted the event, because he's the patriarch of the home and, therefore, sits at its head. Family Home Evening was opened in prayer. The family sat around singing hymns while the daughter played them on the piano and the mother acted as if she were the choirmaster. Somebody else used the manual to give that evening's lesson. When the lesson was concluded, the event was closed with prayer. The Church made the suggestion that refreshments be served at the conclusion of the ritual.
My parents tried to imitate what we saw in the film. Somehow it never quite worked. Mother had learned to play the piano when she was a child, but never pursued the talent until long after I got married. She was the pianist for a while for the Relief Society of the Ward. We'd try and take turns preparing the lesson, but most of the time it never worked. Father would be sitting on his stuffed chair nervously tapping his fingers on the arm and occasionally glancing at his wrist watch. This was because he was missing watching a television program. My brother who was ten years younger than me would be acting goofy. Everybody could hardly wait for the lesson to conclude. All we really wanted were refreshments. Mother was usually the one shouldered with that responsibility.
When I graduated from high school and went to junior college, I wanted to become a history teacher.
One day I was across the street from the junior college and I met one of my former high school teachers in the parking lot of my alma mater. I revealed to him my new career goal. "History teachers are a dime a dozen," he replied. I didn't understand the meaning of the cliché. What I had in my mind as to its meaning is you stand in line for a while with other history teachers, and eventually you'll be hired.
When I told my father I wanted to become a teacher, he replied, "Great! At least you won't be looking for a job like your old man."
I interpreted his comment as meaning I had his approval to make this my career goal and, since he was wiser than me, due to the fact he was older, must have meant that my decision to choose that career was also a wise one.
California State University, Chico
I was employed in the early summer of 1965 as an Assistant Surveyor for a company in Siskiyou County in Yreka, CA. It's due north of Mt. Shasta close to the California-Oregon border, south of Ashland, Oregon. One of the brethren in my Ward worked for the Forestry Department and, since this company was contracted out to the Department of Forestry, he got me the job.
I left home and began to drive to the town in early June shortly after the school year had reached its conclusion. I was driving a 1954 Ford.
I was driving through the Sacramento Valley and the Valley is hot that time of year. I looked down at the thermostat on my dashboard and concluded that the car was running a little to hot. I therefore decided to stop in the little town of Chico to allow it to cool.
The State of California has a State University campus in Chico. While I was allowing my car to cool, I took a tour of the campus. I liked what I saw. I therefore decided to make it my goal to enroll at that campus when I earned my A.A. Degree one year later.
I enrolled at five colleges during my final year at junior college: Chico State, Cal-State Hayward, Humbolt State, San Jose State, and Brigham Young University. I was accepted at all of them.
Brigham Young University
The in-thing with my peers of the Ward was to attend B.Y.U. I couldn't stand it! Fast and Testimony Meeting takes place on the first Sunday of the month. The Church encourages its members not to eat or drink liquids for twenty-four hours; pay money they'd normally use to purchase those two meals into a fast offering fund; and attend Sacrament Meeting.
Sacrament Meeting on the first Sunday of each month is called Fast and Testimony Meeting. What would occur, when I was in my late adolescence, is before sacrament, or communion, was blessed by the priests and passed to the members of the congregation by the deacons, certain holders of the Melchizedek Priesthood would confirm anybody who had been baptized into The Church the previous month and give them the Gift of the Holy Ghost. They'd also bless any babies that had been born to the congregation during the previous month. The ones who would take part in these ordinances were usually the fathers, if they held the Melchizedek Priesthood. After the sacrament was administered and passed, members of the congregation will stand up as directed by the Spirit and bear their testimony.
The definition of bearing ones testimony is the person bearing it reveals to the congregation something extra-ordinary that happened to him/her the previous month that caused that person's belief in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the only true church on the face of the Earth to be strengthened. The theory behind it is it helps to strengthen the individual testimonies of the congregation. It's similar to those who have attended meetings of the various Twelve-Step programs, i.e. A.A., N.A., Al-Anon, at al., where those who have stood before the gatherings have shared their "experience, strength, and hope" with those in attendance at said meetings.
The B.Y.U. school year ended late in the month of May. The first Sunday of every June I had to hear my peers, who were attending The Church institution of higher learning, proclaim that B.Y.U. was the earthly embodiment of the celestial kingdom because it remained untouched by the controversies of the time. No marches and protests at B.Y.U.!
When Fast and Testimony Meeting occurred in September, I'd have to hear how my peers who were attending B.Y.U. couldn't wait to return to the campus so they could leave behind the temptations that my generation were facing -- drugs, fornication, and protests.
It wasn't until later, however, I heard that students attending the campus weren't allowed to do the twist and it was considered a violation of the dress code for young ladies to wear dress slacks in the campus bowling alley.
My Patriarchal Blessing
Mother was strongly admonishing me to get my patriarchal blessing before I left for Chico.
The prophets of the Old Testament often gave their children patriarchal blessings. The blessings that Jacob a.k.a. Israel gave to his twelve sons are recorded in the 48th and 49th Chapters of the Book of Genesis. A patriarchal blessing in the L.D.S. Church is similar; however, the hands that are laid upon your head are not those of your father. The hands your father may lay upon your head are for the purpose of a blessing is called a father's blessing. The Church has specific men in each of its stakes called for the specific purpose of giving a patriarchal blessing.
I eventually submitted to my mother's wishes.
My patriarchal blessing generally stated that my parents loved me and therefore I should do and say things that would please them. It also said that I have a keen and analytical mind, and that I should use it to learn and teach the Gospel. It went on to say that one day the desire would grow inside me to preach the Gospel to the nations of the earth. It also said that I'd marry a lady who was worthy of my love and that I should keep myself worthy and chose a lady who would be worthy for me to take into one of the Church's temples that would seal our marriage for time and all eternity.
It told me that my days are known. It went on to counsel me not to fear what mankind would do but rather give glory to God for what he'd provide for me. The blessing was given to me over thirty years ago and I still have difficulty understanding the specifics behind the meaning of that clause.
My First Exodus from The Church
The way I earned my degree in 1968, and my teaching credential in 1969, is via of student loans. The first two years I was attending Chico -- the 1966 through the 1968 School Years -- I was eligible for a loan through the National Defense and Education Act. I also had to work-study, which means I had to become employed as well as be a full-time student.
I took anywhere from 15 to 16 Units/semester all through college. This is equivalent to five 3-Unit classes or a mixture of 3-Unit and 2-Unit classes where the total becomes 16 Units. One semester, however, I enrolled in 18 Units!
While I was attending the junior college, I was employed in the cafeteria as a dishwasher. I was employed as a dishwasher during the summer months when the college wasn't in session. When I arrived at Chico I also became employed on the campus as a dishwasher. I was required to work on Sundays, however, during the Fall 1966 Semester. This caused me to become inactive in The Church. I wasn't able to attend my Sunday religious services.
I continued my inactivity during the Spring 1967 Semester, even though I was no longer required to work on Sundays.
When I returned home for the summer of 1967 I heard an address given in Sacrament Meeting that greatly disturbed me. The 1960s was a liberal time in America and the battle-lines were clearly drawn between the older conservatives and the youth of my generation, who were more liberal in their beliefs. One expression that was created during this time period by the liberals is wrapping oneself in the American flag. This expression is defined as the speaker uttering very patriotic slogans, i.e. "Better dead than Red," "My country right or wrong," etc.
The world was still frozen in the grips of the Cold War, although it wasn't as frigid as it had been during the McCarthy Period. The expression, "Better dead than Red," meant that the person saying it would rather be dead than have the political freedoms this country enjoyed being strangled by the iron grip of the totalitarian doctrine of Soviet communism.
I perceived the speaker in the Sacrament Meeting of my home ward to which I attended making comments that caused me conclude that he was wrapping himself in the American flag. This only caused me to continue with my inactivity. I soon found myself apostatizing from The Church.
My Second Spiritual Awakening
My friend took me to a bar one day in December of 1967. I was twenty-one at the time. I think I ordered a Tom Collins. I remember feeling a little buzz after I completed consuming it. This was my introduction to liquor.
I consumed a few other alcoholic beverages during that month, but none to date since the conclusion of 1967.
Soon I was home for Christmas Vacation. My parents were absent one day when my maternal grandmother and I had a Manhattan at my parents' house. When they arrived home, they were very displeased at what I had done.
I also became intoxicated at their house one other time during that period. I had been sleeping in the family room. Father walked out into the room to confront me and to inform me how unhappy I had made mother by partaking of alcoholic beverages.
I forgot exactly what happened, but I remember him slapping me across the face. His assault caused me to become catatonic. It was an effort to merely move one finger of my hand. I remember attempting to move it and hearing it pop.
I like to think I may have been possessed by a demon, but perhaps I was merely upset that father had just assaulted me.
The next day I made an appointment to see a doctor in the ward. When I saw him, I unloaded all the animosity I was feeling at the time toward The Church on him.
He did write me a prescription for Valium; however, what was most significant about our visit was he handed me a copy of The Book of Mormon and said, "Read this."
I had another one of my spiritual awakenings. The first one I experienced was being a witness to the first dedication of the Oakland Temple. This was the second one.
What I next experienced caused me to feel similar to Alma the Younger in the 27th Chapter of the Book of Mosiah in The Book of Mormon when an angel of God descended upon him and the four sons of Mosiah as they were attempting to destroy the ancient Nephite Church of The Book of Mormon. Although I experienced no visitation from an angel, I did feel, or believe at the time I felt, the Spirit of the Holy Ghost come upon me. I took my "gift" home with me and began reading it.
I had read it a few years previous when we were studying it one year in Seminary, but what I had felt when I studied it there was nothing like what I experienced when I began to read it a second time in the latter part of 1967! My reading comprehension was almost perfect. I was glued to it. I began making notes in the margins wherein I felt what I was reading had significance to my life at that time.
For example, II Nephi 9:28 - 29:
"O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think that are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish. But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God."
The reason why I felt those two verses smacked me right squarely on the nose is because I was then attending college. I was becoming "learned," which caused me to believe I was becoming "wise". I also felt I was guilty of setting aside the counsel of God. The Scripture, therefore, was telling me that the wisdom I felt I was gaining was merely foolishness and I would fail to profit by it.
"But to be learned is good," so stated the 29th verse, "if they hearken unto the counsels of God."
I perceived it was telling me I'd better repent and return to the fold.
The school year started late in September in 1967. There was a Christmas Break; however, after New Years Day, I had to return to Chico to complete the semester, which concluded in the middle of January of 1968. We'd have a two-week break, after which the Spring 1968 Semester would begin in February and would last until early June.
I decided to return to the institution of higher learning before the continuation of the Fall Semester. I continued to read The Book of Mormon upon my arrival.
I read the book of Scripture in four days! My concentration began to wane, however, by the time I reached the Book of Ether, which is the second to the last book in The Book of Mormon.
Moroni 10:4 states as follows:
"And when ye shall receive these things,..."
In other words, when you conclude reading The Book of Mormon.
"...I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost." (Emphasis added.)
I remember driving my car out to some lonely road and parking it. I then knelt down next to the back seat and asked God to manifest to me the truthfulness of what I had read.
I felt my heart was sincere. I felt I had real intent. I thought I had faith in Christ, although I'm not really sure of the definition behind the clause, faith in Christ. I felt sad, however, when I failed to experience what I've heard converts to The Church testify what they've experienced when they followed the precepts of that Scripture. I felt absolutely nothing! No feeling of "Wow! This is absolutely true!" No heavenly visions. No sensation of a heavenly choir singing to me. Nothing!
The Voice said, "Go to B.Y.U."
After the spiritual awakening I experienced when the physician handed me a copy of The Book of Mormon in December of 1967 and told me to read it, I began to pray. I never had bothered to pray before this time. I didn't know how.
This may sound silly to some of you, but really no one ever taught me how to pray. Oh, I'd occasionally give public prayers at some of my worship services, but I just looked upon them as memorization of phrases I had witnessed others saying in their public prayers, and I just regurgitated these phrases without any feeling behind them. My parents never taught us to pray. I guess they just assumed that The Church would teach me.
The last time I recalled doing a private prayer is while we were residing in Walnut Creek. I was experiencing a series of dreams at the time that were disturbing to me. They frightened me. I'd hop into bed, pull the covers over my head, and say, "No dreams. No dreams, please."
This was the extent of my prayers. Until January of 1968, that is.
I remember kneeling beside my bed one evening that semester. I forget now the topic of my prayer.
I suddenly heard a voice as clear as one person standing next to another and speaking to him/her. "Why don't you attend B.Y.U. next year?" it suggested.
Was this the voice of God talking to me? Was I experiencing a symptom of schizophrenia and was having an auditory hallucination? Was it merely my subconscious vocalizing itself? Was it merely an extension of my "spiritual awakening" that I had when I read The Book of Mormon a second time? I again have no definite answer to any of these questions. All I can say is neither continuing my college education or B.Y.U. was the topic of the prayer. I never even said, "I say this prayer in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen." I was just praying and, all of a sudden this voice interrupted me.
I decided to obey the counsel of this "voice" and completed an application to B.Y.U. and placed it in the mail. I was accepted.
The moment I revealed the intentions to my friend, however, he began to try and convince me to stay in Chico. The next school year, the 1968 - 69 School Year, would be the final year I'd be in college, the conclusion of which I'd earn my teaching credential. "You began studying here in Chico," he said, "You should therefore end with your studies in Chico. It is here you should earn your credential." I eventually felt his advise was the wisest; therefore, I never made it to B.Y.U.
He too was studying at Chico to try and earn his teacher's credential. He's currently teaching high school in the Mother Lode country. He'll soon be eligible to retire from teaching.
I too earned my teacher's credential; however, I was never able to secure a full-time position as a teacher. The closest I came was a per diem substitute teacher. I terminated my position when I got married in 1972 and moved to The Greater New York Metropolitan Area.
Is the reason I was never able to become a full-time teacher because God was punishing me for allowing my friend to persuade me to stay in Chico and not go to B.Y.U. the following year?
I Hope They Send Me on a Mission
It was after I earned my teacher's credential and was unable to find a full-time teaching position when I began to feel a desire to go on a full-time mission for The Church. Mother, on the other hand, persuaded me not to pursue this goal. "If you wanted to go on a mission," she said, "you should have done it when you were nineteen. Now you're too old to go on a mission."
My bishop disagreed; however, mother did give me aid to pursue my educational goals. She paid for my clothes. I did my required student teaching at a high school twenty-five miles south of Chico and a mile off of the main highway. I was one of four people who student taught there. We carpooled. I transported my group to and from the school every three or four weeks. She loaned me her Phillips 66 credit card so I could purchase gasoline for my automobile.
The Church encourages its youth to gain employment and save their earnings in order to pay for his/her expenses while in the mission field. It further encourages his/her parents to contribute money to their child's mission, although it feels that the burden should fall upon the missionary him/herself. If mother was going to be less than enthusiastic to pay for my mission, then I could hardly expect her to contribute any money to the cause.
Another reason I never pursued my goal was because I was "spanking my monkey" at the time. Masturbation may be a natural thing to do; however, The Book of Mormon states that "...the natural man is an enemy to God,.... (Mosiah 3:19)" and looks upon masturbation as a moral sin. I began to "spank my monkey" early in my adolescence, long before I knew it was wrong. When the boys advance to different offices of priesthood, they're interviewed by their bishop. He asks a series of standard questions. "Are you morally clean?" is one of them. I really didn't know the definition of the term, morally clean. No one ever stopped to define it. I just thought it meant committing adultery; therefore, my answer was always affirmative. It wasn't until I was at Chico where I read one of the tracts of The Church on the subject of moral cleanliness where I made the discovery that what I had been doing was a moral sin. I couldn't repent, however!
It wasn't until years later, after I was married, that I learned why I couldn't repent. Tension was often so thick in my parents' house that you could cut it with that proverbial knife. The reason I continued to do it, I learned, was it was a means to an end of releasing the tension I felt there.
One big reason, therefore, why I never pursued the goal of going on a full-time mission for The Church was because I was guilty of a moral sin.
The Church considers blasphemy against the Holy Ghost as the unpardonable sin. Few, however, will ever be guilty of it, because, in order to be able to commit it, one first has to walk and talk with God, such as the Prophet Joseph Smith, and then turn around and betray Him.
The unforgivable sin is murder. There is no forgiveness for the unpardonable sin in either this world or the next, according to L.D.S. theology; however, murder carries forgiveness in the post-mortal existence, perhaps. King David was said to have been guilty of the unforgivable sin.
Moral sins -- adultery and fornication -- is considered by Mormons to be the next in line as the more serious sin.
There you have it: In line of their seriousness, the most serious sin is blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, followed by murder, followed by moral sins.
While masturbation may not be grounds for one's name being erased from the records of The Church -- excommunication -- as it is with adultery and the more serious sins, it does, nonetheless, bar one from many important functions that occur within The Church, such as being worthy to go on a mission or receive a recommend to enter one of its many temples.
The Church encourages you not to lie to your bishop, branch president, or stake president. They've advised you, when you sit before him, to look upon him as God. You wouldn't dare lie to God, would you?
I've heard this so many times that it has now become one of my problems. Whenever I've approached a bishop, my mind no longer looks upon him as a man, but as God. In other words, he's become God!
If Not Teaching, What?
My attempts all during the fall of 1969 to try and persuade a school district to hire me as a full-time teacher were in vain.
Mother advised me sometime in the spring of 1970, "Well, looks like you'll have to do something other than teaching."
"What?" I asked. I had a B.A. in Political Science; a Minor in History. What else could an individual do with these degrees other than teach, go to law school, or become a politician? These two disciplines are two areas of what is known as part of a liberal arts degree.
When I left Chico and was unable to find gainful employment, I felt as if I had been suddenly dropped on a desert that had horizons at all around me. "Which way do I go? Which way do I go? So many jobs. Which way do I go?"
My definition of gainful employment was a job that would enable me to become entirely independent of my parents. The attainment of this goal has eluded me even to this day!
All I could see were employment possibilities. I didn't know where to turn, however. I had psyched myself up for nine years to become a teacher. It would take me another nine years to unpsych myself!
Problems with Metaphors
Here is where I feel The Church was at fault. It didn't teach me how to privately pray. It didn't tell me how I was suppose to gain a testimony. Even though we had studied Church History while I was attending my seminary classes, the 9th Section of The Doctrine and Covenants was never discussed.
I'll now provide you with background information regarding Section 9 of the D&C. Oliver Cowdery was serving as one of the Prophet Joseph Smith's scribes while the Prophet was translating The Book of Mormon from The Golden Plates. He expressed the desire to Joseph to imitate him; he wanted to translate some of The Gold Plates. The Lord "grants" him this privilege in Section 8.
Oliver Cowdery fails in his attempts and wants to know why. Section 9 is "the Lord's" answer. He apparently thought all he had to do is look at the characters on The Gold Plates and the Lord would automatically tell him the meaning behind it.
Verses 8 and 9 are important clues:
"But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause your bosom to burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.
"But if it not be right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me." (Emphasis added.)
The thing I find objectionable about this Scripture is that it treats God like a computer. You first must ponder -- study the question in your mind -- then you must consider an answer. You must next ask God if your answer is the correct answer. If it is correct, then God will cause you to feel a burning in your bosom, as if a light bulb had been activated. If your answer is incorrect, then it will be as if no current were made to the light bulb.
Is this how God looks upon His children? As computers? Off. On. Off. On. Doesn't he verbalize to them?
When I was in the ninth grade, applying this Scripture to myself, when I was originally pondering a career to pursue, I should have (1) arrived at an answer, (2) been fasting and praying about it, (3) waiting for this burning in my bosom vs. a stupor of thought.
The trouble with this is there are almost an infinite number of occupations. If you go through the Occupational Employment Handbook and fast and pray about each one, going from A to Z, you could be as old as Methuselah before you come to the correct answer, and by that time it's too late because you'd be too old for anyone to want to hire you!
Here's another piece of the puzzle I uncovered: What exactly is a burning bosom?
My wife said I approach the subject literally. I have difficulty understanding metaphors. Is a burning in one's bosom heartburn? I long wondered. Is it "Eureka! I found the answer!" If God is the same God, how then can one person's "Eureka! I found the answer!" be different than another person's? Why aren't they both the same? How do you recognize a feeling as being a burning in your bosom? How can you be sure that if what you think is a burning in your bosom is really a revelation from God?
What is a stupor of thought? How can you recognize a stupor of thought? What exactly does it mean that if what you're experiencing a stupor of thought, you'll forget that which is wrong? How long does it take for this stupor of thought, this forgetfulness, to occur from your conclusion on subject about which you're praying? Is it immediately? A day? A week? Next week? When?
The Church also likes to use 1 Kings 19:12, which is God speaking to people using a "still small voice."
My patriarchal blessing admonished me to learn to listen to the still small voice. This is just another metaphor, however. What is the "still small voice"? How do you recognize it?
I've heard it said it's your conscience; but why then is one person's conscience different from another's? Shouldn't we be all cookies cut using the same mold?
If God is suppose to speak to people in a "still small voice" why then did He speak to Job in the 38th Chapter of Job out of a whirlwind? Why does God use different mediums to communicate with people? How do you recognize that what you are experiencing is God communicating with you?
A big problem I've had with these three metaphors -- burning in your bosom, stupor of thought, and the still small voice -- has been around the problem of employment. I've had difficulty finding gainful employment all during the last thirty years. One bishop in one ward said, "I'll kick your butt until you find employment" while another one in an entirely different ward a couple of months later said, "I don't care if you are employed." If there's one God and He speaks to two bishops, why is He revealing two entirely different messages to them?
My Frustration with Finding Employment
The Church had promoted the idea of being honest with yourself. It hung it on the idea, when you're facing a situation where you needed to make a decision, to ask yourself, "How would Christ react if He were faced with the identical situation?" It then admonished you to do what you think He would do.
Whenever I was being interviewed by an employer, he'd see on the application that I had a teacher's credential. He'd ask me, "If a school district presented you with a teaching position, would you accept it?"
My answer was always the correct one, but never the one he'd want to hear. I had been psyching myself up for nine years at the thoughts of becoming a teacher. The Church had been counseling the members to do what they think Christ would do if He were faced with the same situation. I therefore answered, "I'd accept the job in teaching."
The Church had always promised that God would bless its members if they did what was right. "Do what is right, let the consequence follow," are the beginning lines to one of our hymns. The Church had also told its members that employers couldn't wait to hire Latter-day Saints to work for them, because they have a reputation for being honest. I was greatly saddened, therefore, when the blessings that I had expected to come my way, rewarding me for my honesty, never came to pass.
What was wrong? I kept asking myself. I kept myself "unspotted from the world" while attending Chico. Some people, immediately before they begin to attend college, can't wait to get away from home just to get out from under their parents' eagle eyes. When they remove themselves from their parents' "chains," they unwind, "sow their wild oats."
Not me! When I attended Chico I held "fast to the iron rod." Why wasn't God blessing me for my obedience to the Commandments? Was it because I failed to go on a mission for The Church? Was it because I failed to heed His instructions to attend B.Y.U. for my final year in college? Was it because I had been "choking my chicken" all those years? Or was I undergoing a "trial of Job"? If so, when would my "trial" conclude?
All of these questions were running through my mind at the time. Questions but no answers.
I Baptize My Wife
The woman who became my wife demonstrated enthusiasm in hearing The Gospel, as preached by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She allowed me to request that the full-time missionaries drop by to give her the missionary discussions. She was also within the jurisdiction of one of the wards in the region. I don't remember if it was one of the Berkeley wards or one of the Oakland wards; nevertheless, the chapel was off of Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. She began attending her religious services.
What I didn't know at the time was, because she was so anxious to get a MAN, she was willing to do just about anything to win my favors. This would again occur sixteen years later, when she felt my afflictions toward her were slipping, when she thought another man wanted her love.
My bishop soon began telephoning my parents' house, informing me that he missed seeing my presence at our services in Pleasant Hill. He wasn't aware that I was attending them in the East Bay with the woman who would become my wife.
She became attached to the woman who taught the Investigator class, officially known as Gospel Essentials.
Her and her husband owned and operated a kitchen decorating store in Berkeley. Nineteen years later, when I was in the area, I stopped by to see them. He informed me that his wife had an emotional breakdown, left The Church, and divorced him.
It came the time when the woman who became my wife had completed the discussions and was ready to be baptized. This was late in March, 1972. I needed my bishop's permission, since she was within the boundaries of another ward and stake; therefore, I had to make an appointment to see him one night. We saw him together.
We hadn't been morally clean. It appeared to us as if he was enjoying hearing the details of our love-life and pretend to cringe in horror as we revealed them to him.
He told us if we'd repent of our intimacies, he'd allow me to baptize her and confirm her a member of The Church, giving her the Gift of the Holy Ghost. This we were able to accomplish; therefore, I baptized and confirmed her a member of The Church on March 25, 1972.
We couldn't keep our hands off of each other for long. We were breaking the laws of morality shortly after she became a member.
How We Became Man and Wife
This is how we became man and wife. We went a little too far late one afternoon in early June, 1972, and fornicated. I feared getting excommunicated! What I feared about getting excommunicated is not being able to rejoin The Church.
The bishop's court would have to take place in my home ward, since my records were there, and what I feared most of all is that the entire Ward would hear about my excommunication. I was able to experience the revelation of a couple of excommunications before 1972. The bishopric would shoo the Aaronic Priesthood from the main meetinghall, and then reveal to the remaining members of the Melchizedek Priesthood that So-and-so had been excommunicated and their tithes and offerings would no longer be accepted. They added that word of the announcement and the parties who had been subjected to the disciplinary court not be revealed to the general membership. People often ignored the counsel.
Life in The Big Apple
We became members of the Rego Park Ward, Plainview, Long Island, New York Stake.
Those years is where my testimony in The Church were the strongest! They were also the most memorable. We didn't have our own chapel until 1977. Our meetings were held at four different locations until that time. When we began our attendance, we were meeting at a Seventh Day Adventist church in the Jamaica Section of Queens. We later moved to an American Legion Hall a short distance away from the first location. We moved from the American Legion Hall to the Queens School of Music, which was located in the Rego Park Section of Queens directly below where our chapel was eventually constructed. Our last location before we got our own chapel was The Lighthouse for the Blind, which was located directly across the street from the Queens School of Music.
Our attendance didn't begin on a good foot, however. I was having as much difficulty finding employment in New York as I had in California.
When we began to attend our worship services, I made the mistake of arising in Fast and Testimony Meeting and revealing how happy I was to be living in The Big Apple and how happy I was with the woman I married. The mistake I made was revealing to the congregation that my bishop hadn't wanted me to marry this woman!
The first counselor to the bishop revealed to me the following Sunday that he and the bishop desired to meet with me when the priesthood went to their individual quorums. I sat down, facing them, and we began to talk.
When they learned that I was unemployed, the bishop's counselor challenged me to take a P.A.T.H. train and cross the Hudson River to New Jersey and begin looking for employment in the cities located in The Garden State.
My wife's feelings were injured a couple of Sundays later. When we came to Church, she was wearing a slip under her dress that caused it to rise when she arose from her seat. We were sitting near a female African-American member of the ward. My wife's skirt rose when she rose from the pew. Our neighbor looked at her, leaned over, and said to me, "Tell her not to come to Church dressed like that. It looks disgusting."
"What did she say?" my wife inquired.
I repeated her comment.
My wife had enough of L.D.S. hospitality! She wanted to leave. She wept all the way home.
She returned several months later, however, when we began to meet at the American Legion Hall. The bishop that had been our "father" when we first began to attend our services had been released and the stake presidency had called a new bishop to replace him, and he was set apart by the membership of the ward. He was an Filipino-American.
I was the first to return to Church. My wife soon followed.
Our new bishop eventually gained our respect.
Our Myriad of Callings
Our bishop needed someone to teach the Aaronic Priesthood. He called me. I don't recall when I was released from the calling.
When we began to meet at The Lighthouse for the Blind, the ward needed a meetinghouse librarian. I walked up to the bishop and asked if he would call me to fill the position.
I was called and he called my wife to become my Assistant.
We didn't yet have a chapel; therefore, we kept the materials of the library at our apartment in the Ridgewood Section of Queens.
The bishop then did something my wife felt may have been a divine calling. He asked her if she would be willing to teach the Social Relations portion of the Relief Society.
He soon asked her if she would be willing to accept a calling as the instructor for the Primary class of Targeteer B.
She was also called to serve as Second Counselor to the Primary Presidency.
I too was faced with my share of surprises. When we began to meet in our very own chapel, I was called to serve as the Instructor for the Elders Quorum. This was no surprise. I had earned a teacher's credential from the State of California and my patriarchal blessing stated that I would learn and teach the Gospel.
The calling that came to me as a surprise was when I was asked to serve as Secretary to the Elders Quorum! This was a leadership position. I had never held a leadership position. This is why my being called to serve as a Secretary in the Elders Quorum was a stupendous occasion in my life.
I remember fasting and praying over the matter. The matter to which I was devoting the day was I knew nothing about leadership. I needed guidance.
When I devoted myself to fasting and prayer, I allowed nothing of a secular nature to interfere with the Spirit. I read only Church materials. Nothing else. I purchased Neil J. Flinders, Leadership and Human Relations: A Handbook for Parents, Teachers, and Executives, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1973) and Elder Stirling W. Sill's two volumes entitled Leadership. I began reading these three books the day I fasted and prayed. I wanted God to raise me to match my task.
One evening, however, I was suppose to go to the stakehouse, which is located in Plainview. The town is located on Long Island. While the New York City subway system is concise, the Long Island Railroad is spread out. I knew the New York City subway system. I didn't know the Long Island Railroad, however.
I was suppose to go to the Flushing Section of Queens and wait for one of the brethren to meet me and drive me to the stakehouse. I waited. And waited. And waited. He never showed up. I felt devastated. I felt I had failed to fulfill one the obligations of my calling.
My trouble has been I'm always trying to be perfect. I never allow myself room for error. This is because if I error, I'll have to repent of it. Christ may forgive your error once, but what if you slip and do it again? Will He forgive you a second time? This has been one of my major problems in The Church. I take it too seriously. I have trouble lightening-up.
After a couple of months, I soon found myself facing a second surprise. I was called to serve as First Counselor to the Elders Quorum President! This was even a greater surprise.
The trouble was there wasn't a Secretary worthy to replace me. There also wasn't a man worthy enough to be called as Second Counselor.
The matter even became more complicated: The Elders Quorum President was courting a divorcee who resided in Connecticut, who had two teenaged boys, and was often away on Sundays. This meant I often conducted our Elders Quorum serving as President, First Counselor, Second Counselor, Secretary, and Secretary! In other words, I was running the entire show.
As I so stated above, I felt closest to The Church while we were residing in The Greater New York Metropolitan Area. The C.B.S. documentary news-magazine, "Sixty Minutes," was as popular then as it is now; however, because it airs on the Sabbath, I refused to watch it because I felt it violated the spirit of the Sabbath. I felt watching it would fail to keep the Sabbath Day holy.
I wouldn't even purchase a newspaper for the same reason! I felt I would be violating sanctity of the Sabbath Day by reading a newspaper. I instead asked the clerk at the variety store near where we were residing to save a copy of the Sunday edition and I would purchase it the next day, on Monday.
My attitude was similar to the Orthodox Jews in many regards.
I had revealed earlier that my patriarchal blessing stated that the feeling would grow within me to preach The Gospel and that I would become a missionary to the nations of the earth. One of the ways this came to pass was I was even assigned to assist a pair of full-time missionaries, one of whom still corresponds with me today.
Life in Salt Lake City
What motivated us to move from The Greater New York Metropolitan Area encompassed several reasons. First, the area for me was a culture shock. The region where I matured was a lot more peaceful than The Greater New York Metropolitan Area. I began to experience severe headaches while residing there. I originally attributed it to having something to do with an accident I suffered on the evening of April 26, 1971. I therefore began to seek medical advice.
When the physician, from whose advise I was seeking, couldn't find anything wrong with me, I concluded that my headaches must have been caused by stress.
The climate was a culture shock to me. While summer temperatures in the East Bay of San Francisco often exceed 100 F., they aren't fed by the sweltering humidity from the Gulf of Mexico. The summer climate in New York City is measured by T.H.I. -- the Temperature-Humidity Index. It always felt 10 F. warmer because of the humidity than the actual air temperature. In other words, if the air temperature is 90 F., it feels as if it's 100 F. This is because of added factor of the humidity.
It rarely cools down much at night in the summer time in New York City. While you may have a fan in the window blowing air across you at night, because of the humidity, it does little good. This makes it difficult to get to sleep. I've found if I don't get my sleep, I become depressed. If I don't get much sleep, I not only become depressed, but I feel violent as well.
The San Francisco Bay Area is blessed with the climatological factor that The Greater New York Metropolitan Area needs in the summer -- the status fog that rolls in through the Golden Gate. The City By the Bay is proud of its fog. They call it nature's air conditioner. They certainly feel the summer heat when nature's air conditioner isn't functioning!
I also wasn't used to the bitter winters experienced in New York City. While it's rare for winter temperatures to get below 25 F. anywhere at ground level in the San Francisco Bay Area, it's a matter of fact for that to occur in The Greater New York Metropolitan Area. In fact, once during the winter of 1976 - 1977 it once got as low as -1 F.! The record, as I remember it, is -16 F. in Central Park!
Aftermath of Our Move to Utah
I look at the history of what transpired after we moved and conclude perhaps what I had been experiencing a few days following my fasting and prayer while attempting to decide whether or not our move to Utah was wise and correct in the eyes of God was a stupor of thought. Just as our attendance in The Church in the Rego Park Ward helped to strengthen our testimony, so did our residence in Salt Lake City help to destroy it. I don't believe the feelings I had toward The Church while residing in The Greater New York Metropolitan Area will ever return to me. The four years we resided in Salt Lake City took a great toll on us.
We had gotten off the plane during Conference time. The Church holds their Semi-Annual General Conferences the first weekend of October and the first weekend of April. It therefore wasn't easy to find a vacancy.
We soon were able to find an apartment. It was located just down the hill from the University of Utah.
My wife had little difficulty finding employment. The position for which was applied was that of a legal secretary. Her employer in New York City had given her a letter of recommendation when she terminated her position with them. She had brought it with her.
One of the attorneys at the firm that hired her said, referring to her letter of recommendation, judging from what her employer had written about her, they thought they were hiring the Savior Himself! The letter was so impressive, they felt they had to telephone her former employer to verify what he had written.
How Our Testimony Began to Erode
We began attending the Twelfth Ward of the Salt Lake City Utah Central Stake. The membership of the Ward was on either side of the age spectrum. They were either men who had just returned from their missions and had just gotten married to younger women or senior citizens. We didn't fit in with the membership of the ward because we were the only couple who were in the middle of these two extremes.
I felt uncomfortable when we first began attending our meetings. It was Fast and Testimony Meeting.
My wife decided to break the ice by standing up and introducing ourselves. She added that we were desirous to receive callings and revealed the callings upon which we were serving at the time we departed from The Big Apple.
I remember looking toward the stand at the time she was addressing the congregation and seeing the bishop and his counselors whispering something to each other.
Where the bishop of Rego Park Ward couldn't give us enough callings, when we arrived in Salt Lake City, we got lost in the crowd. We received no callings.
The Beginning of My Being Harassed
I had read something in The Church News about an Elders Quorum President challenging his members to begin keeping a journal. I had been writing mine for seven years by that time. I made an appointment to see my Elders Quorum President to see if he could implement a similar idea in the quorum he was heading.
I don't think he ever listened to me. I remember seeing a look in his eyes that suggested he was thinking, "That's nice. But on to other things."
He asked me at the conclusion of my presentation, "What do you do for a living?"
"I don't. I'm unemployed."
My comment opened an avalanche of problems originating from him. He began quoting to me D&C 83:2:
"Women have claim on their husbands for their maintenance, until their husbands are taken;...."
He began to issue demands that I seek and find employment.
While we were residing in The Big Apple, I had enrolled in a Home Study Course from B.Y.U. in Bookkeeping. One night class in which I kept enrolling at my community college alma mater before the woman who became my wife arrive in California was an elementary course in Accounting. I kept flunking it. I failed to understand the concepts of debit and credit and what side of the ledger to place the individual accounts. I felt if I took a course in which I had more than eighteen weeks to complete, I may finally understand the concepts. I took it and passed it with an A.
I was thinking of perhaps becoming a bookkeeper. Mother had been a bookkeeper; therefore, my wife began asking me, "Do you want to become a bookkeeper because this is what you want? Or are you considering this because you think that's what your mother wants?"
It took me several years to conclude that the reason I was considering going in this direction was because of the latter reason. Nonetheless, the course in which I enrolled while we were residing in The Big Apple was only Part 1. I still had the remaining half of the textbook to study; therefore, I expressed to my Elders Quorum President that I desired to enroll in Part 2 of the course.
He felt this was fine as long as I was employed at the time I doing it. He was against the concept of a wife funding her husband's way through college, referring again to D&C 83:2.
The problem began to escalate. He began to telephone our apartment. "Have you found a job?" he asked.
Soon he began to visit me.
I had a California driver's license. It had expired while we were residing in The Big Apple. He expressed a desire to take me out to practice driving his automobile.
"But my license has expired," I revealed to him.
I submitted to his request, because he informed me, "It's okay as long as I'm in the car with you."
A couple of weeks later I was walking further into the downtown area. I still didn't feel comfortable about him strong-arming me to drive his vehicle. I was passing by the Salt Lake City Police station. One of their officers was outside. I walked up to him and asked him if it was permissible, according to the Utah State Vehicle Code, to drive an automobile with an expired license, even though the vehicle is registered to one of the passengers who has a valid Utah State license.
When I revealed this to my Elders Quorum President, his reply was, "Gee. That's not the way we did it back on the farm!"
Our relationship was really becoming strained. My wife and I decided to approach the bishop of our ward, who was one of the younger men in the Ward, reveal to him my experiences, and ask him to restrain the Elders Quorum President. When I completed revealing my experiences, he informed me that the Elders Quorum President had every right to badger me.
Watch What You Pray For
Here's another example of the cliché, "Watch what you pray for, because you're apt to get it, but you won't like what you get. We wanted callings. An elderly woman in our Ward resided in the house where President Lorenzo Snow once lived. She had been making liberal donations to the Elders Quorum. She therefore asked them to repay her by painting her house. While this may sound like an easy task, I must add that the house had been constructed to a height of two or three stories. The Elders Quorum President wanted the existing paint removed by sandblasting it. He felt the quorum needed scaffolding to accomplish the task. In addition, she wanted trellises to be installed for her plants. He wanted to put me in charge of the entire operation!
"I don't know anything about trellises and the rest," I protested.
"Many of the members of the quorum manage apartments," he replied. "I'll give you a list of their names, addresses, and telephone numbers. Many of them are inactive. I want you to telephone them to try and get them involved in this project."
I really felt uncomfortable concerning my acceptance of the challenge. "Jesus wants you to do it," he responded as I continued to reject the assignment.
"No," my wife revealed to me after I told her what he was saying, "The name of Jesus Christ is really this person. Jesus Christ doesn't care if you do the project or not. It's this person who wants you to do it." She really didn't like him throwing the Savior into the equation.
I wanted to get involved in home teaching. The manner in which the quorum involved me was they assigned my wife and myself to home teach. I seriously doubted if the General Authorities would have approved.
They finally linked me up with one of the bishop's counselors to become my companion; however, one time when we home taught one family in particular, the husband decided not to confide in both of us. He asked my companion in particular to step off into another room with him so he could speak to him alone. I felt slighted, because I thought home teachers were supposed to work as a team.
I once revealed to my Elders Quorum President that I didn't feel as if we had been welcomed into the Ward. Soon a couple, who resided in the building directly next to us, began to ask us to accompany them. The first thing they did was drive us up into one of the Cottonwood Canyons.
This sudden friendship began to cause us to feel suspicious. We therefore asked them if the Elders Quorum President had asked them to befriend us.
They first denied it. Later they confirmed our suspicions. He was their home teacher. He asked them, during one of his visits, to become our friends.
This helped to chip away at our testimony. We didn't like the feeling of assigned "friends". We felt it isn't genuine when people become your friends because they've been asked to do it. We didn't know how they felt about us when we weren't in their presence. We don't know if they really liked us or couldn't stand us. The only reason, therefore, they were continuing their relationship with us was because they've been assigned to do it.
They were both students at the law school at the U of U. They graduated and he eventually got a job with a company in Houston, Texas in their Legal Department. This is where they eventually moved.
My Elders Quorum President specifically invited us to have dinner with his wife and himself on Sunday afternoon. We accepted the invitation. Our social event went well and we felt happy that he had asked him to join him and his wife until he suddenly revealed that he had to go to the chapel and meet with the bishop concerning tithing settlement and she had to depart to help with a wedding reception. This caused us to feel as if we were merely business associates of his and they were able to find an hour or two in their busy schedules and fit us into it.
Friends From Unexpected Places
We became closer friends to a couple who weren't assigned to us. She had been excommunicated from The Church while she was residing in The Sunshine State of Florida. She had taken out her endowments immediately prior to the time of her excommunication. She was anxious to return to the good graces of The Church while she resided in Florida. She therefore attended her meetings.
She once revealed that she liked to sing Church hymns. She alleged, however, that her bishop forbade her to sing hymns while attending her meetings! This hurt her so deeply, she said, she broke down in tears.
The Cold Shoulder
My wife experienced something very disturbing during our stay in the Tenth Ward. It was a Relief Society function. One sister walked up to her and asked, "Do you work?"
When her answer was affirmative, she said she felt as if suddenly the other sisters were shifting to the other side of the room.
We eventually discovered the only way you're accepted by Utahns is (1) if you're a native Utahn; (2) if you're married to a native Utahn; (3) if you're male, you had to have served on a full-time mission for The Church; (4) if your marriage had been sealed the temple at the time you originally tied the knot; (5) if you have already have two children; and, finally, (6) if your wife must is pregnant with the third.
Further Erosion of Our Testimony
We felt accepted in the Tenth Ward at first, but this acceptance began to gradually erode. I can't recall the course of the erosion, but I can reveal two incidents in particular that helped to end our activity in the Tenth Ward, and in The Church in particular. The first of them involved a teaching assignment in Sunday School. I had again expressed the desire to teach a class, as I had done in Rego Park Ward and as I had done in the ward in which I matured in Pleasant Hill. The regular Family Relations instructor finally asked me to teach his class. I forget the topic of the lesson I had prepared, but I do remember there was a less-than-slender lady in the class who was pregnant at the time. I think I remember being asked a question by one of the class members toward the conclusion of the hour about who should make the decision if the husband and wife don't agree.
"I don't know," I remember saying, "but in my family, my wife makes the decisions."
Well, I can sadly say that it was the wrong thing for this woman to hear, because she tore into me. I felt as if I was in front of the Spanish Inquisition.
I had prepared the lesson for the following week, but I just couldn't get up the courage to face the class if this woman was in it that week. She had given me such a tongue-lashing that I felt as if I had been given forty lashes by a cat-o-nine-tails in the town square.
The second event occurred in the Elders Quorum. I was slowly being driven from activity due to remarks made by members of the Elders Quorum to me.
Once I had become so upset that I arose and left the meeting and returned home. Two of the members eventually followed me and confronted me. I felt forced into issuing an apology to the person who had upset me.
I decided that I couldn't get up the courage to return to Church and face the members. As time passed, however, it soon became apparent that I had become totally inactive. Had I known at the time the event occurred that the end result would be inactivity, I would have recorded it! It was just an accumulation of little things.
What Helped Me to Pull the Teeth of The Church
I went to a branch of the Western Christian Bookstore and purchased several books critical of The Church and read them. My wife had previously read a few anti-Mormon books while we were residing in The Greater New York Metropolitan Area -- Nightfall in Nauvoo and The Twenty-Seventh Wife. I had never dared to read anti-Mormon literature before this point, however.
I also checked out Fawn Brody's No Man Knows My History, which is her critical biography about the Prophet Joseph Smith, from the Contra Costa County Public Library and read it.
The following are a list of books I purchased from the Western Christian Bookstore that I found helpful in chipping away at the testimony I once had in The Church: Bill McKeever, Answering Mormons' Questions, (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1991); James R. White, Letters to a Mormon Elder, (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1993); Latayne Colvett Scott, The Mormon Mirage, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondewan Publishing House, 1979); James R. Spencer, Beyond Mormonism: An Elder's Story, eighth printing, (Grand Rapids, MI: Chosen Books, 1994); David A. Reed and John R. Farkas, Mormons Answered Verse by Verse, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1992; Deborah Laake, Secret Ceremonies: A Mormon Women's Intimate Diary of Marriage and Beyond, (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1993); and Ed Decker and Dave Hunt, The God Makers, (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1984).
Our less-than-pleasant experience while residing in Salt Lake City, the books listed immediately above, and Fawn Brody's book helped chip away at all but a small part of the testimony of The Church I once possessed.
What Further Helped Me to Pull the Teeth of The Church
I returned to my alma mater that had been where I attended community college from 1964 to 1966 for the Fall 1996 Semester. I enrolled in a class entitled The Philosophy of Religion. The man who taught the class is an agnostic. He taught from a book he had written. This helped to further destroy what little testimony remained that I had in The Church.
I have reached the point at the present time in my life where I have equated Adolf Hitler with God. The Aryans, Hitler felt, are the master race. The Jews are of the opinion that they are God's chosen people. The L.D.S. feel they are a peculiar, meaning special, people. God, according to the L.D.S., placed the marks of darker skin color on the African race and the Native Americans because they turned away from Him. The marks served as curses, causing these races to stand out from the other races.
What of the people from the Pacific Rim -- the Chinese, the Japanese, the Koreans? What "crimes" against God did they commit? The color of their skin may not be as prominent as Africans and Native Americans, but their facial features are different from those of Caucasians.
Hitler is accused of genocide. He's the foundation of what has become called The Holocaust.
I can't help but take The Church's view of God and conclude that He's must be a sadist and we're suppose to be masochists willing to withstand anything He causes to be dished out to us so we can be "...as silver tried in a furnace...purified seven times." The only guarantee we have in life, The Church tells its members, is we are born, we die and we are resurrected. They tell us we must remain true to the Word of God to the end of our mortal existence, willing to stand up and endure anything and everything He may decide to throw at us. After all, they tell us, the heat of His trials will be no greater than what we're able to withstand. He judges the strength of these trials. If we endure these "trials of Job" to the end, The Church goes on to say, He'll give us the gift of eternal life, which means we'll be able to reside with Him forever and ever.
It appears to me as if He attempted to remove Jonah's free agency because he refused to preach the Gospel in Nineveh and attempted to flee to Tarshish. He placed the lives of all who were on the ship in danger by causing a great storm to arise. Jonah was willing to sacrifice himself to save the people of the ship. God caused a great fish to swallow him. These are the points of logic I use to support my conclusion that Hitler is a metaphor for God.
One of the premises of my instructor was other people claim to have seen God the Father and Jesus Christ in visions. Oral Roberts claims, for example, he saw a Jesus who stood 900 feet tall. What proof is there, therefore, that the Prophet Joseph Smith, Junior has a corner on the concept? It was the teachings of this man who helped the most to destroy my testimony.
I soon began to study the mythology of the ancient Greeks, Romans, Scandinavians, Egyptians, et al. I enrolled in a class in Mythology at my alma mater for the Spring 1997 Semester where we studied other ancient cultures.
I once read a book for a class in biology in which I enrolled at my alma mater for the Spring 1966 Semester entitled Man and His Gods, written by Homer W. Smith, (New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1952). I considered it to be blasphemy when the author suggested in his chapter entitled "New Wine Is Not Poured into Old Wineskins," when he suggested that the Gospels of the New Testament were authored by men whose surnames were those other than Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. I now realize that I was too deep into the theology of The Church at the time to feel otherwise. After taking Philosophy of Religion, it was illustrated to the class that what Homer Smith had written could be entirely true. I'm now re-reading his book with an entirely different point of view.
I never completed my class in Mythology. We purchased a home in Antioch in April of 1997. I was forced to use the time I would have used to study for the class to pack and move.
Why I Still Attend My Worship Services
So why do I continue to attend my religious services? It's because I fear God to such a high degree! When I say I fear Him, I don't mean I respect Him. I mean I'm terrified of Him the same as I am of my parents.
A sister recently gave a talk in Sacrament Meeting. The subject was service. She stated the following axiom:
"You love those you serve
"and you serve those you love."
I don't serve God because I love Him; I serve Him because I fear Him!
I've made this analogy to the Gospel as preached by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: It's like walking into this room where a huge banquet is taking place. There is plenty of food. The only problem is you've got to eat it all! No doggie bags are allowed. You've got to pig out on it, stuff yourself until you become sick. This is my analogy of what it means to me to be perfect, sinless, as was Christ.
The comparison of Hitler to God I've carried over to my fellow man. This is based on a Melchizedek Priesthood lesson that used to be presented in their manual dealing with the Old Testament. It was about Abraham's problem of getting his wife, Sarah, pregnant. She had long gone through menopause. Some angels appeared to him and he invited them in for dinner. The angels were able to read Abraham's mind and they revealed to him that Sarah would bear him a son.
Questions But No Answers
Could the clause in my patriarchal blessing, "Your days are known. Fear not what man may do but give glory to God for what He'll provide," mean not to fear if I can't find employment or a job wherein I'll be earning a livable wage because He'll provide for me what I need in other ways? One example is I'm married to a woman who's been a legal secretary through all of our married life. She's able to earn the salary of what it takes for a couple of earn today!
When it admonishes me to place my faith in Christ, does it mean when I'm unable to rely on her that He'll help me using what happened to me during our period of separation in 1991 as an example?
If these things are true, why can't He then inspire men who have been called to lead me, such as the bishop we had while we were residing in Salt Lake City, who said he'd kick my butt until I found employment? Why didn't He tell this to my elders quorum president, who supervised me from the same ward?
Or do the two clauses mean something entirely different?
I recently heard a talk given in my current ward concerning the "Sanctity of Marriage". He spoke of adultery, quoting from D&C 42:22 - 26. He went on to speak of forgiveness by Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit of Promise. Who is the embodiment of the Holy Spirit of Promise?
A lesson I heard in my Gospel Doctrine class one day recently was on 2 Chronicles 29 - 30; 32; 34, entitled "Come to the House of the Lord," i.e. the temple. The instructor concluded the lesson by reading a quote from a book written by Elder Boyd K. Packer, "who is our prophet, seer, and revelator."
"Wait a minute," I interrupted. "I thought Gordon B. Hinckley was our prophet, seer, and revelation! Or did he die all of a sudden and I wasn't aware of it?"
Well, he replied, Gordon B. Hinckley is the President of The Church. The prophet, seer, and revelation, he went on to say, includes not only the current President of The Church, but the current Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as well!
Questions but no answers. Only speculation.