Wednesday, January 7, 2009


I grew up in Utah. (Old, stale joke: my wife says I never grew up. Not really. She doesn't say that. I do. Boring.)

Anyway, I did grow up in Utah. I was pretty much a product of the culture here. While I didn't grow up in the standard Mormon family --- my father was, as he described himself, a heathen. While my mother was a baptized Mormon and had graduated from seminary, she almost never stepped foot in church while I lived at home. I pretty much followed the prescribed course for a faithful Latter-day Saint: going to church, going to seminary --- although I didn't go to seminary much --- going on a mission, entering into a temple marriage, etc.

So the context of my early life was influenced greatly by those I associated with in the church. It was also, of course, affected by family and neighbors.

As you might imagine, there was considerable tension between my active membership as a Mormon boy and as a member of my family. My father's mother came to the United States from Holland when she was just a teenager, a convert to the LDS theology. I don't know the particulars, but I do know that as a young convert in Utah she became disaffected with the LDS church and held it in low regard. My father was never baptized a Mormon, and the most he ever had to do with the church, according to him, was stealing a set of sacrament cups from a church in West Ogden when he was a youth. He was never disrespectful of religion or of LDS members, other than at times to belittle their priorities, thinking, for example, they should attend to the maintenance of their houses more than they attended to the maintenance of their memberships.

My mother's family also had become disaffected with the LDS church. In fact, on both sides of my family I was unaware of anyone who was involved in Mormonism besides me. My mother, however, was always supportive of my activity in church. In fact, as a young boy she encouraged it --- I often believed it was to gain some respite from me while I attended.

What I am would be different had I had a different context.

There are societal patterns that influence our lives. There is no doubt about it. Nonetheless, I do believe in libertarian free will. Somehow, there is a congruity between cause and effect and free agency. I don't intend to figure it out, although I wouldn't mind understanding it. But I do know that even though I grew up influenced so greatly within my context, I always had a choice. Of course I believe I still do. I do not believe in fatalism or determinism. I am not a sophisticated philosopher and have no expertise in that field other than readings and studying the works of others relative to the subject.

I lived in two towns as a boy: Clearfield and Sunset. My family moved to Clearfield before I have any recollection of life, when I was two. At that time, there was me, my mother, Nola, my father, Walt, and my sister, Marsha, five years my senior.

My mother had been married before she married my father. My sister was the product of that earlier marriage. My father was a Marine who served in World War II, earned a Purple Heart, and served in the South Pacific. He was a smoker throughout all of my boyhood. My mother was also a smoker for much of my boyhood. My mother had another son, Kim, five years my junior.

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