1. I have never lived in Utah. My parents never lived there either. I used to see Utah Mormons as outsiders and had sort of an us vs. them attitude. I no longer care anymore and wished I never judged people that way. I still do get upset when a Utah Mormon visits our Southern branches and talk to us like we can't read or write. They usually get humbled quickly and later make wonderful lasting friendships. I have no "pioneer" blood but I am grateful for the sacrifices the early LDS pioneers made.
2. I am a third generation Mormon. My mother's father joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the late 1950's in West Tennessee. He worked hard in the church all of his life. He is a great inspiration to me and I love to hear his stories. I wish he would write them down! Being a Branch President in rural West Tennessee was very interesting. He later became 1st president in the Memphis, TN temple presidency. I can't imagine seeing the church grow from very humble beginnings to having a temple built near your home!
3. My father joined the church when he was 19 right before he married my mother. He is also from Tennessee and has never lived out west. He is now a Branch President in rural Alabama. Visiting his branch is like visiting family. The boundaries of his branch cover two counties I think and it takes my mom 45 minutes to get to church. I only drive 5 minutes to go to my building in Northern Virginia!
4. My husband is not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints but we share many values and he is supportive. We even have nightly scripture study and prayer. He is from Uzbekistan but is a Christian. I go to church with five kids on my own though my ward is very supportive. The hardest part is getting all five children plus myself to church on time. To be honest, I haven't always been too successful. When you know something is true it makes all of the stress worth it.
5. I was usually one of the few Mormons in my school. The only others were my brothers. It was even more difficult in the "Bible Belt" where people usually ask you what church you go to when they first meet you. I got to where I dreaded that question because that usually meant the end of the conversation because people believed I was part of some horrible cult.
I had to defend my faith at an early age and was told that I was going to Hell many times. Eventually I would just say that "if Heaven was filled with mean people like you then I'd rather not go there anyway", which was possibly not the most Christian thing to say. I was also told many times that I wasn't a real Christian. I would try to explain that I was a Christian to deaf ears. I heard the term "magic underwear" a lot. Once at school the son of a minister attacked my faith so badly that I cried and was sent home. I was 15 years old.
6. I got my infant blessing by my father and was baptized at the age of eight. I went to the temple at 12 and was a part of Young Women's. I went to Girl's Camp (a camp for LDS girls) for four years. When I was in high school, I went to seminary every morning before school and was a Scripture Mastery champion! My parents were very active and strong in the church. For some reason, people assume that I didn't grow up "Mormon". I will ask next time someone assumes that. Maybe because my husband isn't??
7. I hated Church dances. One of the worst experiences was when the girls had to put their shoe in the circle and the boys would pick a shoe. The owner of the chosen shoe would then dance with the boy. The boy who picked my shoe danced with me 2 seconds and then walked away. I spent the rest of the dance hiding in the bathroom. My daughter now has a pair of shoes exactly like the ones I wore to that dance. (Sam and Libby Flats with the bow on top 1990?) I still hate dances to this day. I went to them because that was the only opportunity to meet other LDS boys. (remember there were none at school and few even in my city. The few that were in my ward were more like brothers to me.)
8. I loved temple trips. When I lived in Memphis we had to travel all the way to Atlanta. We would get to stay in a hotel and would have fun all weekend. The first person I did a baptism for was my great great great grandmother Leonie Dumanet Warren. I recently found her family in France back into the late 1700's! I still love genealogy and wish I could go to the temple more. I am excited that my daughter can now do baptisms.
9. I never went on a mission though I wish I had made that a goal. My four brothers all went on missions and I am very proud of them. They went to Japan, Mongolia, and Russia. Two of my brothers speak Russian which is cool because my husband speaks Russian. I can understand a lot of Russian but I am not fluent.
10. I did go to BYU . . . in Hawaii! I loved teaching ESOL and joined their TESOL program which was wonderful. I loved helping students from all over the world learn English. One the most interesting students was a girl from Mongolia who lived in North Korea as a child. We also studied Mandarin together. It was inspiring to me that the church is the same all over the world. My roomate was from South Korea and it was amazing that we had similar experiences growing up in the church.
Growing up LDS in the South was rough, but I am grateful for that opportunity. I definitely do not take the gospel for granted. Though things were tough at times I am still in the church and have an even stronger testimony today.