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Utah family shares quirky, inspiring Mormon conversion story through book

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 13 2014 9:26 p.m. MDT

Updated: Wednesday, Aug. 13 2014 9:26 p.m. MDT

From top left are John Bestor, Carrie Bestor Henderson, Kurt Bestor and Jill Bestor Anderson with their parents, Phyllis Bestor and Rollie Bestor.

Provided by Phyllis Bestor

Wisconsin natives Phyllis and Rollie Bestor knew almost nothing about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when they moved their family of six to Orem, Utah, in 1966.

But shortly after arriving in picturesque Utah Valley, the Bestors recognized there was indeed something different about the area's culture and people. For the next decade, Phyllis Bestor and her family would immerse themselves in the Utah lifestyle and become involved members of their community — all while trying to live among Mormons and not become one.

In her 2013 Y Mountain Press book, Phyllis Bestor discusses the family's experience in humorous detail. "How to Live among Mormons and Not Become One … You Can't!" walks readers through this family's "slow and steady" conversion, shedding light on what it is like to observe the LDS culture from the outside.

"It (the book) was meant to capture the essence of our experience of living here not being LDS," Phyllis Bestor said. "I hoped it would be more than 'this family did this,' because there are lots of families who do 'this' or do 'that' in different ways. I hoped it would send a message to anybody else that read it, particularly LDS people, and they would chuckle at the idiosyncrasies of this culture, which is just absolutely unique."

The entire Bestor family was eventually baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1976 — the result of genuine friendships and the family's willingness to be involved in the community.

"I think our attitude was just a real positive one," Phyllis Bestor said. "We were here, it was a neat place. We just allowed ourselves to become a happy, positive part of our neighborhood. Otherwise, if you didn't, I don't think you'd be happy."

The Bestor family moved to Orem for employment opportunities — Rollie would coach diving at Brigham Young University and work as an associate professor, while Phyllis would teach at Orem Junior High. The four Bestor children — Kurt, Jill, Carrie and John — would attend school and participate in an extensive number of extracurricular activities.

Phyllis and Rollie Bestor described moving to Orem as a "surprise" and as an "eye-opener," but it did not take long for the Bestors to become acclimated to their new home.

Rollie Bestor, who was a coach and a high school teacher in Wisconsin, often dealt with behavioral challenges and drug use among his students. He described his students at BYU as having good attitudes and always being ready to contribute, even during the early-morning hours.

"It was so unlike the public high school where I was teaching," Rollie Bestor said. "I was thrilled; we had a great time. We just moved up the ladder and did anything and everything I was asked to do from the president (of BYU) on down."

The Bestors, who were Catholic, meshed well with the 1960s Orem locals. They were able to jump in, become involved, and not fear standing out or being different from the LDS majority. While they may have intended to remain on the outskirts of "Mormonland," the Bestors were always an active part of everything that was happening around them.

Phyllis and Rollie Bestor attribute much of this community involvement to the efforts of their four children, who were always pursuing their talents in sports and music. By taking on leadership roles in their schools and friend groups, Kurt, Jill, Carrie and John made it easier for their parents to participate and get to know the families they lived by.

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