Growing up in a blue-collar family in the suburbs of Minneapolis, Minnesota, encouraged a rather pragmatic approach to life. My father was a card-carrying member of a union, in which he labored as an ironworker, and my mother worked as a waitress. The expectation in life consisted of getting a good job and raising a respectable family. This assumption was quite common in many families during the years following World War Two and the Korean War. However, fulfilling as this prospect should have been to me, it did not seem to assuage a nagging feeling in me that there was more to life than this.
The Roman Catholic leanings in the family came from my mother’s side, going back many generations. Baptisms, godparents, confessions, confirmations, etc., were all part of our family religious tradition. In my youth our family attended Mass quite regularly. For a time, I assisted the priest as an altar boy in lighting candles and setting up the essential utensils on the altar in preparation for Mass. However, as my two brothers, two sisters, and I entered into the teen years our parents struggled to get the family to church and our Mass attendance steadily decreased. As a result our family gradually lost touch with our Catholic heritage.
As my religious ties to the Catholic faith waned, my attention to education slowly decreased to the point that I completely lost interest in academics. Most of the parent-teacher conferences throughout my schooling focused on my lack of applying myself to studying and learning. And, of course, as happens to teens, my interest in friends dramatically increased, leading to my growing out my hair and to other behaviors common among children of the late sixties and early seventies. With my focus on friends and my lackluster efforts in education I dropped out of high school halfway through my sophomore year and took a job. Although I returned with a renewed sense of vigor the next year, I again lost interest halfway through my senior year and dropped out again, never to graduate with the class of 1973. My choices during those years somewhat epitomize Timothy Leary’s counterculture maxim to “turn on, tune in” and “drop out,” which did not mean (to me, anyway) to abandon constructive activity altogether but instead represented the choice for a more individualistic approach to life.
However, not many years after dropping out of high school, and going from job to job, I began to realize that my decisions had actually led to fewer options and choices for a productive future. At one point I descended into depression and drove to a lake to think about God and my future. While prayerfully pondering, I received a very distinct impression that God was there and interested in helping me find the right answers.
From that moment on I knew that God lived and cared about me. I still didn’t know much about Him or what my future held, but the nagging feeling that there was much more to life than what I was experiencing intensified as I thought about what I had made of my life up to that point. I uncharacteristically turned to the scriptures and began a regular regimen of reading the New Testament.
During one of these reading sessions my younger brother noticed my newfound interest in spiritual matters. He mentioned that he was dating a Mormon girl and wondered if I knew anything about the Church. I replied in the negative but asked him if he knew how Mormons viewed the Second Coming (I had just been reading Matthew 24). He didn’t know but promised to look into it for me. His girlfriend didn’t know and recommended that he ask her father, who had quite a few church books. The father loaned us a book by Gerald Lund titled, The Second Coming of the Lord. I read this book from cover to cover and was quite intrigued by it. With my interest piqued I asked for more information on the topic. This time the father loaned us the first volume of Bruce R. McConkie’s Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, which I found quite interesting and helpful in understanding the LDS view of the Second Coming.
At this same time my brother had begun taking lessons from the LDS missionaries and mentioned my reading of these LDS books. They eagerly encouraged him to invite me to attend a meeting with them. After considering the invitation for a brief period I decided to meet with the missionaries, who then introduced me to the First Vision and the Book of Mormon. After several more meetings I became convinced in my mind and heart of the truth of the things I was learning. I began to understand more fully the purpose of life. My search for meaning led me to the missionaries and to my baptism in June 1976 (my younger brother joined about a year later). Looking back now I can clearly see the hand of God leading me to the gospel.
Following my baptism I became very motivated to learn. At first I studied and learned of the doctrines and principles of the gospel. But later this expanded to include many other subjects, which led me to desire more formal academic training. With this new emphasis on learning I studied for and passed a battery of tests and received a General Equivalency Diploma (GED), which counted as a high school diploma. After serving in the California Sacramento Mission I studied at BYU where I learned Arabic and eventually graduated with a BA in Near Eastern Studies. This was a watershed event in my family since I was the first and only one of my siblings to graduate from college. I continued my studies at the University of Utah and received an MA and Ph.D. in Arabic and Islamic Studies. I’m sure I’m one of very few people who can put the letters GED, BA, MA, and Ph.D. after her or his name.
I’m grateful for the restored gospel, which has continued to help me navigate through the many inevitable ups and downs life offers. I’m also very thankful that through personal experience I have come to know and appreciate God’s love for all His children and His power to influence improvement and progression.
Brian M. Hauglid is an associate professor of ancient scripture at BYU, where he is also the editor of the Maxwell Institute periodical Studies in the Bible and Antiquity and series editor (with John Gee) of Studies in the Book of Abraham. He has authored articles related to the temple, the Book of Mormon, the New Testament, the Book of Abraham, and Islam, as well as A Textual History of the Book of Abraham: Manuscripts and Editions, and co-edited Traditions About the Early Life of Abraham with John A. Tvedtnes and John Gee.
Posted December 2010