My name is Don Garrett. In regards to the topic of this blog Measuring Mormonism, this is who I am and where I am coming from.
I don’t recall ever being taught to believe in any particular religion or religious belief. I do recall attending a variety of non-denominational Christian churches at an early age of about 7 to 13 years of age. I have always felt a strong natural attraction to Jesus Christ and his teachings as they are found in the scriptures. At this young age, I was drawn to the teachings and ideas of love and forgiveness. While I am sure there were moments of fear and dread based on the idea that we are all sinners, and the Ten Commandments and all that, what I really remember is just believing that Jesus was a great and loving man that taught important principles that we should all learn to live by.
I can’t say that I truly believed in the divinity of Christ, only because I freely admit that at that age I hardly had more than a rudimentary understanding of it all. I did believe Jesus was the Son of God, and that he died for our sins, but that really was about as far as it went.
I loved going to church. I loved the wonderful people there. As a young teenager, I was fortunate enough to attend a Christian based week-long summer retreat (camp) in the woods of Northern California (two summers), and absolutely loved it! I loved spending an entire week in the woods, sleeping in small cabins, eating at a chow hall, daily lessons on Jesus and his teachings, and just being around similar and like-minded teenagers not ashamed to live their belief in Christ, openly. I think this is probably where I first truly began to notice girls, but that’s a whole other story.
I loved reading the scriptures.
Sometime around the age of 10 or 11, I was asked if I would like to be baptized. I enthusiastically said yes. I spent several months being mentored and tutored by an older gentleman at the church, on what the whole thing meant and how important it was to commit my life to following Jesus Christ.
Just a quick side note that I feel should be mentioned here although this is not meant to be a part of the measuring process that this blog is about. The entire time I was being taught about the process and the significance of baptism, I never once recall ever being told or having the feeling that I was “joining” a church. I was already a member of this church. While I certainly have no idea what exact paperwork process was followed, I am pretty sure that being a “member” of that local church was nothing more than having my name on a role in some office somewhere. Baptism, as far as I knew had nothing to do with joining, or becoming a member of anything. Baptism, as I was taught, was an outward, physical manifestation of your commitment to living as Jesus did, as well as a symbolic washing away of my sins. My “membership” simply required that I attend and offer my name to be put on a role as a member of the congregation. My “membership”, as far as I was concerned had absolutely nothing to do with my spirituality, my righteousness, nor my eternal salvation. Moving on …
Due to my own personal desire to live a Christ-like life, I made it through my younger teenage years unscathed by the worldly influences that were slowly taking over the lives of my childhood friends. At about the age of 14 or 15, I began to drift away from many of these friends who were choosing a different lifestyle than I wanted. Just about this time in my life, Mormon missionaries came to our neighborhood to do their work, and they did it well. Not going to get into my conversion story here, but in retrospect, I can say that my own personal desire for new friends that wanted to live a Christ-like life, had much to do with my interest in the LDS church. Had a more complete LDS doctrine and historical context been presented to me at the time, I have no doubt the two young missionaries would have been sent down the road along with the other door to door religious proselytizers.