A God-obsessed mother gone mad. A once-devout father turned cynical. The only thing as challenging as growing up in a faith-fractured home is carrying your devotion into adulthood. Especially if you happen to be Mormon.
In college, after my mission in Chile, I went about healing our relationship. My strategy was to earn as many A's as possible. I figured in Dad's literal and reasonable world a high GPA was something like piety. Truth is, I was trying to even the scales, to show that I could be true to both of my parents, that I could be religious and rational. Academic achievement became a kind of secular sacrament that my father and I shared. My baptism was admission to a prestigious graduate program. My priesthood was a Fulbright fellowship. Remarkably, it worked. The rancor in our relationship evolved into respect. I was successfully straddling the divide between faith and reason, Mom's world and Dad's. I began to wonder why I had ever viewed the two as incompatible.
My wife and I landed in Denver after time spent living overseas. It was 2005 and we were looking for something permanent. The obvious choice would have been to return to Utah, where both of us came from. By then I'd spent almost a decade outside the valley to which my ancestors had fled, the one from which my mother had fled, the place where my father's faith had failed. I'd been exercising my faith not as a form of rebellion, but for its own sake. The thought of a long-term homecoming, rife with potential father-son conflict and heavy childhood memories, made me feel queasy, so my wife and I sought the other side of the Continental Divide. My great-great-great grandfather and his family had crossed the same line some 150 years earlier; though they moved in the opposite direction, their goal was more or less the same as mine. They wanted to practice their religion without distraction from those who disapproved.