I never went to church much when I was growing up. If anybody asked, I was Lutheran – not because I went to the Lutheran church, but because that’s what most of my family was. Or would have been, if they were religious. In fact, I was what some people have come to affectionately call a Creaster – someone that goes to church twice a year, on Christmas and Easter.
I grew up in a military family. My stepdad was in the navy, and we moved. A lot. Always up and down the west coast, but we moved. My mom did the math when I graduated high school and calculated that I had gone to 13 schools in 12 years.
When I was 17 I graduated high school in Puyallup Washington, but I had only gone to school there for about three months. I had just left Serra High School in Tierrasanta California (near San Diego), where I attended most of my high school years. It was at Serra that I first heard of Mormons. I had a couple of friends that I learned were Mormon, but we never talked about the church.
To this day I remember an assignment we had in an English class to pick one word that describes us, and then to write why. One of my friends “cheated” when used the word “dichotomous.” He explained he chose that word because he was very scientific/analytic, but also very faithful in his Mormon religion.
After graduation, when I was 18 years old and living in the state of Washington, I realized I was missing something in my life. I had always been a good kid growing up, but something was missing. I recognized that I needed more out of life than being good and making a living. I wanted to go to church.
I had a friend from where I worked that went to church, so I decided to go to church with her. She actually went to two different churches, one with her parents (Lutheran), and another with her boyfriend and his family (Episcopalian as I recall). I tried them both, and while I was glad to be going to church, I didn’t really like the churches.
A few months later it was time for my family to make a temporary move back to California, this time a few hours away from where I had gone to high school. I started going to a community college, and across the street from the college was a church. I didn’t really ever pay attention to it, because it wasn’t a church I knew anything about.
A while later a friend from high school came to visit me. Tammy knew I needed religion in my life. She went to church all the time with her family, and so she wanted to share something with me about the church she went to. She gave me a copy of The Book of Mormon. I read a lot in The Book of Mormon. In fact, I read until about the middle of the book of Alma. By the time I read that much of the book, I knew it was true. I knew I had found what I had been searching for, and I knew I wanted to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
It was during this time that I realized the church across the street from my college, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was her church. I went to the church one day and found somebody outside cutting the grass. I told him I wanted to join the church. He took my name and phone number, and the missionaries called me.
I met with the missionaries the next day. Their names were Elder (Mike) Snyder and Elder (Ryan) Englis. I told them that I wanted to join the church. Needless to say they were very surprised. I knew I wanted to be baptized, and I was ready for whatever they told me to do. They taught me the discussions, I went to church, and I continued to read The Book of Mormon.
We set a baptismal date, but I hesitated to tell my parents. I didn’t know what I was afraid of, but I was worried to tell them. The date was approaching, so I finally confronted my fear and sat down with my parents. I learned three things from that discussion.
The first thing I learned was that my stepdad had been baptized in high school. He had been active for a couple of years, along with his three brothers, but all had fallen away from the church. They each had their own reasons for leaving. My stepdad’s was that he had a black friend, and a Bishop had made derogatory comments about blacks receiving the priesthood. (To this day my stepdad’s older brother tells me that if he ever goes back to church, it will be to this church. Obviously he knows it is true, but for some reason he chooses not to acknowledge his testimony.)
The second thing I learned was the power of the Spirit. Apparently when I told my folks I was going to be baptized my stepdad went on a two-hour tirade of reasons why I shouldn’t join the church. I have absolutely no recollection of that. From that whole time I remember only one thing: my stepdad told me to beware of false prophets. It’s talked about in the Bible (Mathew 7:15), and people would tell me, he said, our prophet was false. Of course, I knew President Ezra Taft Benson was a true prophet, so people “warning me” that he wasn’t had no effect on my testimony.
Third, I learned that my parents loved me. Even with the two-hour tirade my stepdad went on, I knew that they cared for me, wanted what was best for me, and trusted me to make the right decision for myself.
I met the missionaries the day after I found the gardener on the church lawn. A week and a half later I was baptized, on October 27, 1990.
My first fast Sunday I questioned if I should serve as a missionary. Two weeks later I turned 19, and two years later I entered the MTC. Rod Stocking (Elder Englis’ replacement) and Mike Snyder joined me there (see picture below), as I showed off my “new-to-the MTC” dot on my collar and began my journey to invite souls to follow Christ.
I am thankful for the church, and the blessing it has been in my life. I know that Heavenly Father prepared me to accept the gospel. I am thankful for my friend that shared with me The Book of Mormon. I know it is scripture, and I know it has the power to bless us. But most of all I am thankful for what Heavenly Father has given me through the gospel: a wonderful wife, to whom I have been sealed for eternity, and amazing children with whom I can have an eternal family. What more could I ask for?
~ Doug Solstad ~