My dad was an inactive member of the LDS Church and Mom was a non-attending Presbyterian. A trip to church for my sisters and me happened only when we visited my grand folks. My dad’s parents had a small farm in southwestern Idaho. Fairly often the family would visit and the highlight of the weekend stay was going to church with Gram.
My grandmother was very much the matriarch of our family and a devout member serving in nearly every position in her ward, including Relief Society president. She loved taking her grandchildren to church.
This was in the days before block scheduling, two hours of Primary and Sunday School in the morning and back following lunch for sacrament meeting in the afternoon. My sisters and I would bathe and clean up on Saturday night following a hard day of playing on the farm. The following morning we would awake and before dressing (Gram understood five small children and food) have a farm breakfast.
After donning our Sunday best we would load into Gram’s old Pontiac and head into town. Once we made it to the local building for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we would unload and under Gram’s watchful eye be shepherded to our correct classes. A quick kiss and we were left in the hands of the Primary.
I can’t remember all those long-ago lessons, but I did learn three very important things, two of which would be critical in my eventual return to my faith.
First I learned to sing “popcorn popping on the apricot tree” loudly, with enthusiasm and generally slightly off-key, and I can still do so to this day.
Much more importantly I learned two eternal principles that, years later, would be my gateway back. I learned that Jesus loved me. He loved me, and that lodged somewhere deep in my little boy's heart, a seed planted that was simply waiting for the right moment in my life to blossom.
I also learned, though not at a conscious level, that it did not matter what I had done, God’s forgiveness was eternal. Just like the fact that he loved me, the certainty that he would forgive me found a home deep inside.
As I grew, the trips to church with Gram occurred less and less often. And finally as I entered high school, they stopped altogether. I was much too cool to go to church. My dad calls this period in a young man’s life “trying to die of testosterone poisoning.” And I certainly made a strong effort.
I was not completely out of control, but you could clearly see “out of control” from where I was. And had I wished to date your daughter, it would have been a matter of concern for you.
A series of events and associations during and following high school began, for me, the process of introspection. I began to understand that my actions were not causing me to be happy. I began looking for happy.
The search led me back to a Mormon ward house and LDS Church meetings, now on the block schedule, in a small southwestern Idaho town, and once again I went to church with Gram.
I continued to attend back at my home ward and began to date one of God’s chosen daughters. About a year later, my sweetheart and I knelt together in the Lord’s house, and setting across the room wearing an “I knew that this would happen” smile was Gram.
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For many convert members of the LDS Church, it is a young man or young woman serving a mission that brings the light to their life. For me, my wife and grandmother were important, but the seeds planted in my soul years ago by the Primary teachers, when I went to church with Gram, made sure that when my time came to look I knew where to go.
Guy Bliesner is a longtime educator, having taught and coached tennis and swimming. He is school safety and security administrator for the Bonneville School District in Idaho Falls, Idaho. He has been married for 26 years and has three children.