Up until the time I underwent my dramatic spiritual conversion, my story is not a remarkable one. I was one of nine children, born into a Mormon family in Mesa, Arizona. Some of my mother's ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War. Another was one of the original Mormon pioneers to enter the Salt Lake Valley in Utah. My father's family converted to Mormonisn in Sweden about 1860. They emigrated to Utah but were asked by the president of the Mormon Church in the late-nineteenth century to relocate to Southern Arizona, to help with the flood of Mormon refugees fleeing the Mexican Revolution.
My father was a school teacher and counselor and took the family to California in 1958, for better professional opportunities. We lived, first in the Los Angeles suburb of West Covina, but then moved north to the small beach town of Carpinteria in 1966. My whole life was colored by Mormonism. The family was devout and it pretty much influenced every facet of my youth. In 1974 I was proud to embark on a two-year mission to Argentina. That is what good young Mormon men did, so it is what I did, although not before making sure everyone understood it was my decision and I was going because it was what I wanted and not what was expected of me. I even made everyone squirm for a year by delaying the mission until I was ready. Yes, I have always had an independent streak, but I really did accept Mormonism and anticipated a life of faithful service.
I had some remarkable experiences as a missionary in Argentina and am still grateful for the opportunity, even if I no longer identify myself with Mormonism. I returned home still committed to the Church but with no more belief or testimony than that which I had before I left.