I was born in Washington, D.C., but our family moved to Southern California when I was 8 years old. My parents chose our neighborhood there for the excellence of its public schools. They bought a tract home in a nice new neighborhood and built a swimming pool in the backyard. Except for the lung-damaging smog, life was prosperous and secure — except that my parents’ marriage was on the rocks a short time later. They were intellectuals, and there was in their incessant arguing some heightened language. We practiced no religion in our home, and by the age of 15, I felt an emptiness nothing seemed to fill. I often cried myself to sleep, as good as my life was, because of the emotional turmoil in our family.
I began to attend various churches with my friends and family and enjoyed most of them. The first time I set foot in a Mormon church (a meetinghouse of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), however, the Holy Spirit manifested strongly that this was the place where I belonged. I had no idea yet what the tenets of Mormonism are, and it didn’t matter. Really, God had shown me this was IT. I rushed through the missionary lessons and found every message a jewel. It was so exciting. The most wonderful was the Plan of Salvation as taught by the Church of Jesus Christ. Learning that we come from somewhere, a spiritual realm where we were spirit children of our Heavenly Father, and learning that we are eternal beings, opened my mind and heart as wide as eternity.
I was baptized, after trudging the long road of convincing my parents, at the age of 16. It seems my parents relented, because they assumed it was a temporary thing I would pass through as I matured. It was the clean living and the health laws (the “Word of Wisdom”) that made my parents think the venture might be harmless and allowed them to let me go ahead. As a teenaged member of the LDS Church with no one else in my family believing, I learned very slowly how to live like a Mormon.
Just two years later, I went off to college, with barely a grip on the Mormon standards of morality and the gospel teachings behind them. I was thrown to the wolves, so to speak, since my parents would not allow me to attend Brigham Young University, and sent me to a rank party school. The education was good, but I fought for my very life morally. It was my “good fortune” to meet my future husband there—a Mormon who was about to leave on a Mormon mission.
Eventually, I was able to attend BYU. It was my five great roommates, cute, smart girls with real spiritual strength, who showed me what a happy Mormon household was like. Once my boyfriend returned from his mission and we were married in the Mormon temple, it was my task to try to build a happy Mormon home of my own.
My parents never were able to fathom how we made our decisions. We eventually had six children and moved abroad, because the Holy Spirit led us in that direction. We made all sorts of decisions spiritually that made no logical sense. I fumbled through Mormon family traditions, having no familiarity with them: Family Home Evening, family scripture reading, family prayer. But we loved our faith and used it. We made big, spiritual decisions and involved our children in them. Along the way, our children were raised in four countries. They made huge adjustments in language, culture, school systems, and friends, but we always had a Mormon congregation to love and anchor us, no matter how small.
Our children are fantastic people. They serve — military, Peace Corps, LDS missions, community service, and exercising true friendship and charity. They have high moral standards, but are fun and funny, talented people with a testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
Raising six children with a minimum of physical strength has not been easy. I could never have done it without my faith in the infinite atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. Family and faith always have come first for us. I worked professionally here and there, but found that with over nine hours a week outside the home, things began to unravel. That was me, though, without much energy or vigor. Other moms were making it work and doing well, with careers and motherhood managed.
Through my service in the LDS Church, I have found fulfillment and have honed talents I didn’t know I had. I was a professional teacher without much real experience in a school setting, but I have taught and taught at church, teaching mostly the scriptures to adults. I’ve become somewhat of a master teacher.
At the present time, I have grandchildren of marriageable age. I’m serving a Mormon mission with my husband in southeast Asia while working as a writer and editor. I have great responsibilities in my local congregation that keep me very busy, in addition to my work and missionary duties in “member-leader support.” It has been almost exactly 50 years since I was baptized. Our faith holds my family together in a way that would otherwise be impossible. My marriage is built on eternal principles. The material world has dwindled in importance, as my eye has centered on the Savior, Jesus Christ. My greatest joy is to serve Him.
When I try to imagine my life without my membership in the Church of Jesus Christ, it is a dismal view — eternal things are those that bring true happiness. I do not feel slighted at all, nor do I wish I had forged a more impressive career. I have found great joy as a Mormon woman.