This summer marks the 23rd anniversary of the day my husband and I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Growing up, religion was a source of great confusion to me. I was baptized as an infant in the Lutheran Church, where I attended regularly until I moved in with my dad and stepmom in the 8th grade and began attending a local Baptist Church with my friends. What I remember about my “Lutheran days” is that the church and the services were beautiful and fancy, but very boring. Even the hymns seemed to only have 4 notes to them. I used to say it was like “Catholic Light” – all of the ritual with half the guilt. I honestly don’t ever remember having a spiritual experience there.
When I moved to live with my dad (who refused to attend church after being raised by an alcoholic, womanizing Evangelical preacher father), most of my new friends were Southern Baptist and they were really big on inviting their friends to attend church or Wednesday night youth activities with them. The activities were pretty fun, but the church services were very disconcerting and guilt provoking to me as the preacher was a firm believer in the “Fire and Brimstone” type sermon. Here I was 14 years old scared to death that I was going to burn in hell when I hadn’t even done anything terribly wrong at that point. My friends weren’t much help in this either as more than one of them told me that unless I was Baptist, I was going to go to hell. Anyway, by the time I graduated from high school I had given up on religion because I just couldn’t reconcile how different my Lutheran and Baptist experiences were. How could they both be Christian?
Fast forward several years when my husband and I were still newlyweds with an infant and another baby on the way. (For full disclosure, Preston and I met in a bar on my 22nd birthday.) It really was love at first sight, but that is a story for another day. We married, had our first son before our first anniversary and were shocked to discover that I was six weeks pregnant again when he was only 3 months old.
One night we were discussing what we were going to do about finding “friends like us” – poor, exhausted parents whose new idea of a “night out” meant playing Pictionary and being home in bed by 9pm. Most of our friends were still living the “party lifestyle” and we didn’t have much in common with them anymore. Then one day, a business acquaintance of Preston’s, who he had only dealt with by phone and had never met in person, made a comment that Preston was always happy and invited us over to dinner with his family. We didn’t know it at the time, but Doug was LDS. We went to dinner and had a lovely time. While at their humble apartment, I was drawn to their large collection of books and noticed that many of them were Church related. Not knowing anything about Mormons, except that Donny Osmond was one, I innocently asked “Do you have to be born a Mormon?” It might be an exaggeration to say that Doug’s eyes lit up, but luckily he did not let this teaching moment pass.
He loaned me a book called “What Mormons Believe” which was written by Rex Lee, who I think was the President of BYU at the time. I started reading it when we got home and couldn’t put it down. I read the whole thing that night. It answered so many questions I had always struggled with. Several days later Doug called to see if I had had a chance to read the book. I told him my experience and he asked if we would like to learn more by having “the Elders” come over. I said yes and the next night I was shocked to open the door to find handsome, clean cut young men and not the old people I was expecting.
Unfortunately, Preston was working late so the Elders didn’t come in and we rescheduled their appointment for the next night. But not before I got an answer to one of my burning doctrinal questions…”Can Mormons dance?” After assuring me that yes, Mormons can dance, they left. I couldn’t wait for Preston to get home so I could tell him about my brief meeting. They were everything I wanted my 8 month old baby boy to grow up to be. I think I literally threatened Preston that he BETTER be home on time the next day because they were coming back and I wanted to learn more. He got the picture and the next night Elder Alder and Elder Engen came back and began teaching us the six discussions.
I can’t even describe how amazing our visits were, especially the night they taught us about eternal families. I wept like a baby. Three weeks after our first meeting, Preston and I were baptized and the course of our lives was changed forever.
One year later, we were sealed along with our son and daughter in the Dallas, Texas Temple. And, 19 years later, Cameron did, in fact, became one of those happy, clean cut young men himself and faithfully served a mission in the Nevada Las Vegas West Mission.
~ Kelle White