A Brief Personal History
by Stephen M. Bird
I was born and raised in Ogden, Utah. I graduated from Bonneville High School in June of 1967 and attended Weber State College for a year before serving an LDS mission to Los Angeles, California from June of 1968 to June of 1970. Later, during the Viet Nam War, my draft number (#20) inspired me to enlist in the army as a Vietnamese linguist to avoid being drafted into the infantry. I later re-enlisted for the chance to attend the Russian language school at the Defense Language Institute at the Presidio of Monterey in California. I did further training in transcription of military radio traffic at San Angelo, Texas where I met my wife of nearly 37 years.
After leaving the army, I returned to Ogden where I miraculously graduated from Weber State College with a Bachelor's degree in General Studies. I studied psychology, English, political science, and business. I worked for a year in business selling books before completing graduate studies at Brigham Young University where I graduated with a master's degree in counseling and guidance. With that degree, I received a commission in the Navy as an LDS chaplain from 1983-1988.
I taught a course entitled "Religion and Education" at the BYU Salt Lake Center. I worked as a counselor at the American Fork and Mountain Ridge Junior High Schools. I later returned to BYU for graduate studies in School Psychology and I worked for a time as a School Psychologist in Alpine School District. I am currently retired.
My Religious Faith
I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as Mormon or LDS (Latter-day Saint). The Apostle Paul, when writing to the early Christian congregation in Ephesus, referred to church members as “saints” (Ephesians 2:19-20). I imagine the meaning of the word “saint” changed over time as Christians observed rare outstanding members, i.e. righteous outliers, and said something like this to themselves: “Now that person is a true saint.” When that happened, less outstanding members, I imagine, became viewed as something less saintly and undeserving of the “saint” appellation. To most Christians it now means: “any of certain persons of exceptional holiness of life, formally recognized as such by the Christian Church, especially by canonization.”
Although I struggled with my faith during my adolescent and teen years, I have come to know that Jesus Christ is my personal Savior and our Savior. I know He cares and loves each of us deeply. He lives. He is real and we matter to Him. I have learned and relearned that many times.
I have also come to know that He organized a Church during His ministry on earth. I know He called Apostles and Prophets, such as Peter, James, and John to direct the affairs of His Church after His death and Resurrection. When needed, the twelve continued to call other men to be Apostles. Matthias, Barnabas, and Paul would be good examples of this practice. I know that Paul saw a light and heard Christ's voice calling him to be baptized and to serve Christ in His Church.
I have come to know that God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ visited a young man, Joseph Smith, and began the process of restoring Their Church, with its heavenly authority, including miracles and revelations, as had existed during Christ's ministry and during the Apostles' ministry following Christ.
Learning that has made all the difference to me. It has changed my life for good in an infinite number of ways. At least, that's what my kids say.
My Family and religious experience
My wife Peggy and I are the parents of four great children: Alan, Keralyn, Justin, and Jarren. They were raised in the military until we moved to Pleasant Grove, Utah where I have lived the last twenty or more years. Our children have moved on. Two sons live in Mesa, Arizona. Our daughter lives in Blackfoot, Idaho. She and her husband are considering a move to Iowa. Our youngest son lives with his wife in Pleasant Grove. All of our children have obtained or are working on their college degrees and we are very proud of them.
In the LDS Church, I have served as bishop, stake high councilor, Sunday School teacher, ward clerk, and Gospel Doctrine instructor. I like to attend different churches as well and in the Navy, I served as a chaplain to a Marine Infantry Battalion and later as a counselor at the Pearl Harbor Naval Station Family Service Center. I conducted Protestant Divine Services at the Naval Station Brig.
My Interest in the general value of religious faith
After high school I attended Weber State College. I failed about half of my second quarter classes at Weber State College (now Weber State University). Shortly thereafter, I received a letter from the administration informing me I had been placed on academic probation. I had been singing with the Ogden Institute Male Chorus. More than eighty percent of the members had served LDS Missions and their examples along with the inspirational music we sang, filled me with a desire to serve an LDS mission as well. So the next quarter, to prepare for my mission, I took only two general education classes at the College, and filled the rest of my schedule with religion classes at the LDS Institute. I loved it.
On my LDS mission I spoke with many good people of other faiths whose faith had also been invaluable in helping them build good and happy lives. I had that privilege again when I served others in the Navy as a Chaplain. Since then I have become passionate to learn how our various beliefs or skepticisms, but especially our religious beliefs affect our thoughts, feelings, choices, and behaviors.
I wrote two stories in the fourth grade. Our teacher started a class reading contest, but said that if we wrote a ten page story she would count it as if we had read one book. My lead characters were Chip n' Dale; two chipmunks created by Walt Disney studios. I wish I still had copies of the stories, just for the memories.
I love to read. In elementary school, I loved stories so I read every chance I got. I read comic books voraciously in those days. I got so lost in the stories in the books that my mother said I didn't hear when she called my name. She would have to come close by and either touch me or yell my name, sometimes three or more times before I came back to the real world.
More of my Story
After returning from my mission to California, I tried taking general college classes again. I did better than before, but I still disliked the homework. Every night the news on television filled their programming with stories about the Viet Nam war. My draft number was 20 and yet I found myself growing less motivated to do the work in class. I reasoned that if I enlisted in the army, I could possibly negotiate for an assignment other than infantry and I also thought that I could use the G.I. Bill to help pay for my college education. I further argued that I would mature in the army and eventually be ready to do college work.
While serving in the Army, I re-enlisted for a $10,000 bonus and eventually served more than seven years before leaving. Upon returning to Weber State College, I found I was no more mentally ready for the challenges of school than before, but that most jobs available for those without a college degree, paid so little that I seemed to be at a watershed moment in my life. I could either go back into the Army, or I would have to have a miracle to succeed in school.
“The result was that I began to succeed in my school work.”
At a critical time, I knelt in prayer and presented my dilemma to the Lord. I received an impression in no uncertain terms that I should stay in school. From that time I began to pray for help to attend my classes and take notes. I prayed for help to record my assignments and review their due dates. I prayed for help to study my textbooks, do my assignments and study for tests. The result was that I began to succeed in my school work.
Because I received help a couple of times that seemed particularly powerful and dramatic, I began to believe that Heavenly Father was interested in every aspect of my life. I began to believe that He wanted to help me and others succeed. I continue to believe that today. That belief has brought profound blessings and miracles into my life. I've created this website to share and nurture that belief.