Warning: this is a longer post than usual and may take a couple of sittings to get through it. I hope you will, though. It’s from the heart and shares some good insights into what makes me tick.
I thought you might like to get to know me a little better … Patrick Laing, the author of this Daily Mormon blog, since we’re becoming good friends (I hope). Understanding my background and upbringing, perhaps, and what’s made me into the man (and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) that I am, might help you to understand what makes a person like me proud to be called a Latter-day Saint. I’m 49 years old so, well … I thought I’d share “49 Insights Into Yours Truly…!” (I figure my parents, wife, and children/posterity might appreciate reading this someday if nobody else ever does).
Let’s get into it:
- I was born in February 1969 in Salt Lake City, Utah (USA) to John and Susan Laing.
- I have two siblings – Chi (adopted from Korea) and Adam (adopted from Samoa). They both live in Utah and we have 17 kids between us! I’m really grateful for our family and love being their kids’ “favorite uncle” (well, that’s what I tell them I am). ;0]
- I’m a dyed-in-the-wool optimist. I have been ever since I was a very young child. I’m also a big fan of underdogs. That’s probably why my favorite movies include classics like Rudy, Hoosiers, and The Game Stands Tall. I’m also a sports fan though I don’t watch them on TV very much. I prefer to either play or watch something live. I enjoy fishing, especially being on a smaller river high in the mountains all by myself fishing for trout or Kokanee salmon. I also enjoy reading, writing, and traveling a great deal. I have all my life. Ever since I was young these past times have all been very satisfying and fulfilling to me.
- I lived in New Zealand as a child; this is where we picked up my stud brother, Adam Cameron. I got to see many of the Pacific islands while we were down there (Tonga, Samoa, Tahiti, etc.). I’ve actually traveled quite a bit—to 47 U.S. states and 29 countries. I still have a lot more to see. Can’t wait to get out there and go see it.
- Chiara Kim joined us when she was 6-months old. She was my greatest blessing I felt. I was so happy to have a little sister and not be an only child in our family anymore.
- We adopted Adam when he was just 10 days old; his mom was a nurse. He’s one of my best friends and I love and respect him probably more than he will ever know.
- I grew up with what I would consider a really fantastic childhood. My folks were kind, doting parents who were very happy to parent me and my siblings. I love them very much and appreciate their examples, their goodness, and service to us and so many.
- I grew up Mormon but had a unique experience from some in the fact that my folks never really forced me to go to church or demanded that I follow in their footsteps. They gave us the freedom to do what we wanted to do and I appreciated this, while also being drawn to and inspired by their examples of service, priesthood duty, love, etc.
- I am blessed with the gift of faith. I’ve always believed from a young age that Christ was my Savior and that the Church was true, from as far back as I can remember. It’s a fire that’s burned brightly, without ever really fading, and it has since I was a little kid.
- That being said, I didn’t base my testimony or my life as a member of the Church on only this ongoing feeling that the story was true. I’ve studied, prayed, and I have had multiple personal experiences confirming it, most of which I’d consider truly undeniable.
- It’s interesting, though: I wouldn’t say I’ve received many of what I’d call “specific” answers to “specific” prayers (about “whether the Church was true or not”)—mostly because I never felt a burning need to seek that kind of direction for myself. One, I already felt it was true (and have since I was very young), so I’ve literally almost felt stupid asking for more confirmation. But, more than this, the answers have just come over time … almost unbidden. It’s like they have just seeped or flowed into my life whenever I’ve been doing the right thing … studying, listening, reading, viewing, and serving in the various capacities that I have. I’d say my testimony has come from (1) a “gift of the Spirit” I was blessed with from a very young age, (2) seeking to come to know my Savior throughout my life and feeling close to Him by so doing, (3) serving in “the right places at the right time,” working to be worthy of His hand and direction in my life, and (4) multiple continuous confirmations and personal revelation, over and over again, confirming for me that the message is true, even if the Church isn’t done yet and we make lots of mistakes—the message at its heart is perfect. This certainty has come to me over time with much of it even taking me by surprise at times when I wasn’t necessarily looking for specific answers.
- I spent much of my growing up years (junior high and high school) in Bountiful, Utah. I didn’t really enjoy these years too much, dealing with some bullying and so forth that I didn’t appreciate. It wasn’t anything outlandish but it did cause some hurt that I felt quite deeply as a young man.
- About this time my mom and a friend started a unique consulting business called Chroma International. They started it in our garage but quickly grew it into a very successful organization that they eventually franchised all over the country and even globally. It made us a lot of money; the downside was the time it demanded on us and our family.
- This was really hard on me. My dad joined the business eventually, leaving his job at the Church to do so, and both Mom and Dad ended up having to travel a lot. I was left home to “help keep the fort down,” as they say. I essentially had to help raise my two siblings and for a time didn’t feel like I’d done a good job. I also played sports but my folks were rarely able to see me play, as much as they would have liked to. The business was just too busy.
- It wasn’t until my dad got deathly ill from a rare case of fungal meningitis that we truly realized how all-consuming the business had become and took steps to change things. I saw my dad literally healed through a priesthood blessing from Elder Boyd K. Packer, one of the Church apostles and a close family friend. He was literally the only survivor of an illness that had cost the life of every other patient (either this or they were a vegetable). He finally came home after multiple brain surgeries, being out of his mind for many weeks, and much, much more. We reassessed the direction we were going as a family and my folks sold their business to their partners, both returning to work at BYU-Provo as soon as Dad was feeling strong enough and had gotten back to health 100%. I actually wrote a paper about this in college called, “From Rags to Riches and Back Again,” commenting on how we as a family relearned what was really, truly most important.
- I joined the Army Reserves (in physical therapy) about this time to help pay for college, later transferring into the Utah Army Guard where I worked in counter-intelligence and linguistics.
- I went to Army Boot Camp the summer between my junior and senior years of high school. I came back ripped and able to post up (in hoops) and not easily get pushed around.
- We moved to Orem High School my senior year and I loved every minute of it. Go Tigers! (I played Varsity soccer and basketball at OHS. Lots of wonderful memories there).
- I attended monthly drills with the Army Reserve my senior year before going to A.I.T. in San Antonio, Texas for my advanced training (in physical therapy). I served in the Army in New Jersey, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, and Italy. Most of this was for schooling. I was never activated personally, though my unit did go to Desert Storm without me. (They left just a week or two before I returned from Italy where I’d been serving a mission for the Church). I had several neat opportunities in the military to bear my testimony and share the gospel with others. I met a lot of fine folk during my time serving my country.
- When I was in San Antonio studying physical therapy with the Army, I had a friend who joined the church. It was one of the first experiences I had in life observing how the gospel really makes a difference in a person’s life. There are a lot of young people in the military who join because they’re looking for a purpose! It’s actually a ripe field “ready to harvest,” as the scriptures say. Even with all the worldliness, the drinking, sleeping around, and other things that go on, there is a lot of good too and a lot of great people just trying to serve their country, do what’s right, and figure life out.
- After my year away in school for the military and a couple semesters of college at BYU, I next accepted a call to serve a mission for the Church. I was lucky enough to get assigned to serve in Bella Italia. The Italy Rome Mission! I was absolutely ecstatic.
- My mission was phenomenal. I had some fantastic companions, two extraordinary mission presidents, and experiences that truly changed me forever. I grew up a lot—as most missionaries do—and came to know my Savior better. My testimony grew immeasurably. Like I said in my post the other day, I came to understand what it truly means to be valiant, to stand up for one’s religion, and I experienced the deep joy (and frequent heartache) of seeing people accept and reject the gospel in their lives. It was a life-changing experience and one I will forever be grateful that I had, serving as a “fisher of men” as it were.
- I saw some really special people join the Church in Italy—several Africans from Ghana (Solomon, Bwoma, Debra, etc.), a British lady named Anna, a young Filipino kid named Romeo, a young Italian man named Luca, still serving to this day as the gospel doctrine teacher in the tiny branch (much larger today) where he lives in Ravenna, Italy. Another was Catia, who also brought in her cousin, her best friend, etc. We taught and baptized an 82-year-old man named Mario who’d actually worked with Winston Churchill in World War 2 if you can imagine. And, also, an amazing college student named Antonella who was really incredible. She brought in so many people in her hometown, I heard, after I’d long since returned home, they eventually started a ward and built a chapel there! So many people whose lives were totally transformed because of the gospel. Mine most especially.
- One of my favorite passages in the Doctrine & Covenants (Section 18, verses 10 & 15-16) reads: “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God” and “If it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father! And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!” The one soul, of course, is your own. I personally saw and experienced just such a joy; it was an experience unlike any other in my life.
- You know, I think in many ways it’s in my blood—my belief in the Church and all it stands for, as I said—but I’ve also grown and developed the faith I feel/have today. I’m actually a direct descendant of Willard Richards who was literally in Carthage Jail with Joseph Smith on the day he and his brother Hyrum Smith were martyred. LeGrand Richards, the former apostle perhaps best-known for writing the Mormon classic, “A Marvelous Work and a Wonder,” is my great, great uncle on my grandfather’s side. My parents and grandparents have all been rocks in the Church and I’ve seen how it and its impact have truly blessed their lives. It’s touched me and inspired me and reminded me of what’s most important. However, I had to come to know for myself it was true, even though I always felt it was. That wasn’t good enough for me though. It was and is a gift but I’ve further verified it through my own studies and searching. It’s been a lifelong journey, I’ll freely admit, but one for which I’m very grateful. I feel truly blessed.
- During my mission, I had many experiences that further confirmed my testimony of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. I can remember one time for example when I was teaching about Joseph Smith and shared my testimony of him as a modern-day prophet with a lady in Cagliari (Sardinia) Italy. As I did so it felt, in the very moment, like boiling hot water began pouring in the windows and doors. It was unlike anything I’ve ever felt before or since. I felt it, my companion did, the lady we were teaching did. We all just sat there together in silence and wept at the spirit we felt. I don’t care what you say to me, how you want to critique or criticize or poke fun at me or the Church, or at Joseph himself, but that experience was real. I could never deny it (and it wasn’t a hot Italian summer day; it happened in the winter). The spirit bore witness to us all that day that Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet of God. Love him or hate him … it’s something I know. You’ll never hear me make claim or profess to anything else.
- I’ve actually had a lot of opportunities to stand up for what I believe over the years—being challenged on it, questioned, and forced to really think through what it is I believe, and why. It may have been at school, while living abroad, during my time in the Army, or at various others with friends, colleagues, neighbors, co-workers, etc. It certainly happened during my time as a full-time missionary in Italy. All it’s ever done, though—the challenging, questioning, and explaining, etc.—has further cemented my belief. I’ve rarely felt it waiver. It’s a definite blessing and one I do realize not all of us enjoy in our lives. I can say that I have and I am truly grateful for it.
- At the end of my mission, just a couple weeks before I came home, I broke my foot playing soccer one P-day with some of the members in our branch in Avellino, a small mountain town up in the hills above Naples. About 10 days later I was feeling pretty sorry for myself, frustrated, being laid up, unable to get around very well, with a huge cast on my foot, right at the time when I should have been most effective—my language skills were at their highest, I was training a new rookie (a “greenie”), and I knew the work, the city, and the people well. Instead, I was stuck in our apartment at the top of a hill unable to do much except try to make phone calls all day. My companion and apartment mates took turns going out without me. It was the “last” challenge of my mission, I guess you could say, the challenge of if I’d respond with faith or not, I suppose. I won’t go into detail but suffice it to say that one night late after everyone else had gone to bed I had a very personal experience in which I was assured in no uncertain terms that the Lord had accepted my two-year offering, my sacrifice and “gift” to Him. It was a sweet and most sacred experience I will always cherish … and one more “arrow” in the quiver of my own personal testimony and relationship with God. I came home from Italy just a few days later, excited for what opportunities and adventures lay ahead.
- When I got home from Italy I left immediately on a road trip to Mexico with my mom’s dad, George F. Tate. He’d always wanted to drive to Mexico City and back, so he grabbed me and we went … before I could get caught up in school, the military, or anything else. It was an amazing trip, especially seeing the ruins and much of the history that makes up The Book of Mormon. It was another of many good testimony boosters for me. I had some really neat spiritual experiences there as well.
- Next, while attending BYU, I taught for 3 years at the world-famous MTC (the Missionary Training Center) in Provo, Utah. Talk about feeling the spirit! It was an extraordinary experience.
- I also spent more time serving in the Army, attending various military schools (in military intelligence), doing summer camps over in Europe two weeks each year, etc. I saw a lot and had more opportunities to study, learn, defend my faith, and develop my testimony more.
- Speaking of study and of growing in my faith, one great opportunity I had was when I attended BYU, studying English, and took several religion classes offered there as part of my electives. I’ve written previously about how much I especially loved the classes I took from Dr. Roger Keller. They were amazing. In fact, my whole experience at BYU was spectacular—the teachers, the classes, every piece of it—but his classes were extra impactful.
- I was married (the first time) in 1993 to an old friend of mine from Orem H.S. who I had been friends with for many years and had eventually fallen in love with. She was my best friend and I cared for her very much. Unfortunately, we ended in divorce due to a variety of factors, not the least of which included my own immaturity and anger issues (since resolved) and her having to have a hysterectomy at 28 that affected her hormones big time and thrust her into menopause u expectedly and sunk her into a deep, overwhelming depression. She broke my heart when I came home one week after a business trip away to discover she had packed up and left me and our marriage without notice. (We filed a dissolution of marriage and I have never been able to get her to speak with me since). This came about in early 2001.
- This was a period in my life when I spent a lot of time on my knees … pleading for help and direction from the Lord. I spent a lot of time at the temple in Anchorage, Alaska where I was living at the time. I felt like I received a lot of direction during this time and really felt guided and buoyed up by my Father in Heaven.
- Living in Alaska was really cool, especially being there when they built the temple there—the first “mini” temple the Church built in smaller, outlying areas that don’t quite warrant a full-size functioning temple. It was a neat experience, hearing the prophet (Gordon B. Hinckley) announce the event then watching it come together.
- It was also really cool getting to know the members of the Church in Alaska. Like most folks up in the Arctic, they are very close-knit and strong. I learned a lot from them and was privileged to see multiple good examples that I learned from and enjoyed. I’ll always love all things Alaska—the people, country, fishing, more!
- After my divorce, I transferred to Vancouver, Washington. It wasn’t much later that I met and dated a girl I came to care for very deeply and even got engaged to for a time. We didn’t get married at the time, unfortunately. That’s a sad story for another day full of lots of “Mars and Venus” (male-female) breakdowns in communication. But, suffice it to say, she made an impression on me. Her name is Tessha and today she’s my wife (more about how that came about a little later). Stay with me. You’re doing well…!
- First, though, I was wooed by and “went to the rescue of” a pretty young widow with 3 small children—they were just 4, 3 and 1. Her husband had died from cancer and she was raising the kids on her own and, well, I’d always wanted to be a daddy. You get the picture. It happened quickly and before I knew it we were married and I was Dad to three great kids. We had two boys together who today are 12 and 15 years old.
- This marriage came to an eventual, even abrupt, end as well 9 years later. Though it wasn’t what I sought and I don’t personally believe in ever giving up on marriage, once again I wasn’t given a real choice in the matter. Long story short, my heart was broken by another woman I’d loved. Strike Number Two, as they say. It was hard to go through, I’ll freely admit.
- The hardest part of the divorce has been not getting to see my kids every day. I have so much love in my heart for them and it’s never felt the same, especially with the older ones (though I do get to see my 2 youngest boys every week and every other weekend). They are the apples of my eye. I love all 5 but my boys are my Mini-Me’s and it means a great deal to me that we’re still close and they like hanging out with me.
- Wonder of wonders, the greatest miracle of all was that Tessha came back into my life. She had never gotten married and, even though she’d been hurt, she found it in her heart to give us another chance. While we’ve worked through the complexities of starting a life together again, I count myself blessed that we had a second chance to do so. She’s my greatest blessing and I will be eternally grateful we’ve had this chance to be and grow old together, again. Thank you, Darling. I love you with all my heart.
- We were married on Saint Patrick’s Day, 3/17/12 (this way I was pretty confident I’d always remember our anniversary; no joke). Tessha was okay with it for which I am grateful. We were sealed in the Oquirrh Mountain Temple in South Jordan, Utah for time and all eternity.
- Today, we enjoy a comfortable life. It’s just us two (and our two kitties) most of the time, though we do see the two little boys once a week for dinner and they come to stay with us every other weekend. Most of the time, we’re just “us.” (We kind’a feel like grandparents to be perfectly honest. We get to enjoy holidays, birthdays, etc., but most of the time the kids are with their mom and their full-time lives across town in Oregon City, Oregon).
- My older kids are doing great, even though we don’t get to see them nearly as much as we wish we could. My oldest daughter is on scholarship at Wellesley College in Boston; she’s 20. My son (19) also got a scholarship and is at the University of Oregon. My youngest daughter (17) is a senior this year at OCHS. She’s also a state champion gymnast!
- I’m not proud of them at all if you couldn’t tell. Just kidding. I will tell you this, I was really upset at first when I couldn’t be there every day, tucking them into bed and watching them grow up, but now, it’s turned out okay. They have a great mom who keeps them in line and they’re all doing well and Tessha and I are happy in our lives with our two cats, Rosie and Theo. It’s good … and I feel incredibly blessed to have them all in my life, even with as limited as it might be.
- I haven’t spoken much about work but I’ve basically spent the last 30 years in sales, sales management, and training. I was a Dale Carnegie instructor for a time, I’m trained in Sandler Sales, and many other disciplines. I’ve managed several national award-winning sales teams. I enjoy grooming sales reps and helping them grow stronger.
- This might in part explain why I’m enjoying “curating” this Daily Mormon blog so much—I like giving back, I like lifting others up, and I do believe that the message of the Church is something that can bring happiness and peace into the lives of anyone who accepts it. I’ve always enjoyed “developing” those with and around me in my life. This is just one more way to do so, even one that’s far more important than selling.
- Today, I teach the Gospel Principles class at church (for new members, reactivating members, and anyone investigating the Church). I am also what is called the “Ward Mission Leader,” meaning, I help the local missionaries, making sure they’re supported, get fed often, and have as many opportunities as possible to teach locally. It’s an honor.
- And, besides working, caring for my wife, supporting my kids, serving in our ward, and trying to minister to those around me, I keep working on this Daily Mormon blog. Consider it my way of sharing my testimony beyond our own community, ideally with others all over the world. So far, I’m pretty encouraged by how many visitors I’ve had and the comments and feedback (mostly positive) I’ve received thus far. It means a lot. I’m hopeful that it can touch someone who is sincerely seeking answers. If I have or I do, this will all be worth it, no matter how tiring or time-consuming it tends to be.
For what its worth, this was kind of fun for me. It’s pretty interesting, seeing one’s life “in 20-20,” as it were … who I am and am becoming and how my testimony has come into being over all this time. I feel blessed, with good friends, a great family, and a faith for which I’m truly grateful. Nothing is more important to me than these, my most cherished of blessings. In good days and bad, they have filled up my life, given me joy, taught me much, and really, in many respects, made me who I am today.
We’re all a work in progress and that’s certainly the case with yours truly, but every day a little better, right?
Thanks for checking in and thanks for working all the way through this longest of posts. I promise tomorrow’s will be much shorter.
Have a great evening,
Patrick Laing – The Daily Mormon – Portland, Oregon USA
PS – This music video from Rascal Flatts kind of tells my life story in ways. It’s from me to my wife. If you want to watch it, enjoy!