Paved with Good Intentions

Converts and Conversion

With the release of Larry’s novel – Dark Deception – earlier this year, we’ve fielded numerous questions about our experiences as adult converts to apostates. Thanks to chanson, we have a chance to bring some of the highlights of our seven years in the LDS church to Main Street Plaza. We hope you enjoy the posts we’ll present in the coming months.

The road to hell and out was indeed paved with good intentions.

Tucson – March 1985. Seven years and it’s over. Voluntary excommunication. Who would have ever thought our Mormon Road would dead end so abruptly?

Our journey began in early 1978 while the family was stationed at Ramstein air base in what was then West Germany as part of an “accompanied” or family tour. We’d been in-country for about six months, still trying to get comfortable with “the system”. But being thousands of miles from home and family, with a chronically ill one-year-old, and living off base was making finding even the most basic social and emotional support system all but impossible. The world of jet fighters wasn’t conducive to family values. Watching people get drunk every Friday night just didn’t work for us. We were close to feeling overwhelmed.

Finding a need for her own outlet, Miki volunteered with the X-ray department at the nearby Landstuhl army hospital. Here she met Bob and Fran L, a couple of married medical technicians and – you guessed it – active members in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. As Mormons are wont to do, the couple began to fellowship Miki and socially engage the both of us in LDS social gatherings. Not unexpectedly, these gatherings suited our personal values to a “T” and the missionary lessons soon began. We weren’t complete strangers to this process as we had both encountered some association with the LDS church in high school but never followed up.

Both of us were non-smokers and light drinkers so engaging the Word of Wisdom was a non-issue and the LDS emphasis on family and social solidarity just about sealed the deal which was closed when we were informed that, after baptism, our daughter would be eligible for “health blessings” that would assist her in recovering from her ailments. What concerned parents, particularly a mother desperate to bring her child health denied since birth wouldn’t jump at such a chance?

A lifelong car salesman couldn’t have crafted a better baited hook. Even with the high LDS club dues.

Baptism took place in March 1978 and we quickly found ourselves caught up in a full range of church activities including jobs referred to as “callings”. With the first tithing check we felt entitled to a first health blessing for our daughter. It didn’t work and we were informed that things would get better with later blessings as our faith and testimony grew. Very quickly, the LDS church became the center of our lives that didn’t concern Larry’s work and the early years did prove to have more positives than negatives.

point in the future, Miki would be told outright that the failure of the blessings was due to her shortcomings in faith. Can’t you just feel the love?

But, moving on.

An ironic footnote to our baptism is that, at nearly the same time, Miki’s brother’s wife joined the church in San Diego. Over the years she would have their four children baptized and wait dutifully and patiently until her husband was baptized over twenty-one years later. That must be the record for fellowshipping an LDS spouse until baptism.

In November 1979 we were sealed in the Swiss temple. We had no idea what to expect and –as we found out later – like many others, went through the motions of the bizarre ritual more out of social conformity than any spirituality. It didn’t help that, when it was time to be sealed to our children – ages 3 and 4 at the time – they came from child care smeared with chocolate pudding provided by the center workers. Good thing we weren’t expected to take pictures. The remainder of our time in the church would find our visits to the temple limited to single digits.

We were to remain in Germany with our original ward for two years before a back injury took Larry out of his assignment and found us returning to the states for surgery, recuperation and being bounced around the western United States for a year and a half.

Our initial time in the church was largely positive and certainly a vast improvement over what was offered elsewhere at the time. Perhaps most importantly, our membership and temple recommends would provide a cushion of camaraderie and social interaction against what was to be a very demanding period of time.

Not to say our start in the church was without issues and reservations. As converts in an overseas ward largely populated by those born in the covenant with large LDS families and church roots that stretched back over a hundred years, there were subtle hints dropped here and there that converts weren’t considered “real” Mormons. Even within the “BICs” it was clear that some Mormons were more equal than others. It wouldn’t be until we were associated with the Ex Mormon Foundation that we would encounter the term “Mormon Royalty”. That said it all.

Then there were comments about the lack of temple and prophet pictures in our home and how that could negatively influence our children. One couple remarked that our seascape painting would cause our son to want to go to sea rather than serve a mission. The painting never came down and no photos of temples or prophets went up. But, as long as we paid our tithing . . .

Looking back, our exposure to the “you’re doing okay, but . . .” social mindset in the LDS community did indeed come our way early but we had bigger fish to fry during those first two years. Not that the next eighteen months would be any less demanding. As we prepared to make our first major life change since joining the church, we didn’t realize that the seeds of our leaving had been sown and, when the time was right, would flourish like wild flowers after a spring rain.

A closing remark on the two years in our first ward – the closest friends we had during this time were the inactive Catholic couple who lived downstairs in our base housing stairwell. It’s a friendship that, despite years and miles, thrives to this day. No one from our years in the LDS church had a word for us after March 1985.

Copyright 2013 Lawrence and Mikayla Pratt

3 thoughts on “Paved with Good Intentions

  1. Donna;

    Thanks for the bon mots. We’ll be starting the second of four planned submissions shortly.

    Larry & Miki

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