In keeping with Tim’s Me & the Mormons series, I thought I would chronicle some of my encounters with Evangelicals and other Gentiles over the years. But before getting into that, I wanted to give some background for the Mormons out there. (None of them will know where I am coming from if they don’t know something about my background.) Mormonism is a religion of family activity and each family practices their own brand, especially the older Mormon families. To get where another Mormon was coming from, I had to know something about how active they were, and how deep they were in the culture. So for the benefit of Mormon readers, and those interested in Mormonism, these are the people that made me the Mormon I was.
I grew up in what I would call an old-school Mormon family with an intellectual bent. I was raised in the mission field, in Kansas. My mom was a fifth-generation Mormon, my Dad was a first. They met when my dad was 12 and my mom was 10. My mom’s family contains a healthy mix of every wave of Mormon plains-crossing immigrants since the church began. My only relatives on my mom’s side that weren’t newly converted immigrants from Europe, were the ones that were baptized in Nauvoo in the 1840s. (before Joseph Smith’s murder triggered the migration to Utah and the western territories).
Many relatives on her side were amazingly devoted to the church. I recognize that this may only have been how they were portrayed in the dozens of accounts of their lives in my mom’s book of remembrance, but most of them had the hard evidence to prove it. My great-grandfather– one of the 26 children in a polygamist family– was a respected professor at Utah State University, a World War I vet. He was a missionary in New York in the 1950s. He married his wife’s sister when she died. For nearly 10 years straight, until his death at 85, he did over 80 endowment sessions a month in the Salt Lake Temple–he spent 50 hours a week watching the temple ceremony.