I was born in Utah in 1974 to parents who were both active LDS members. They raised me in the church, so I suppose that in general terms, my childhood was much like others who I grew up with. Most of my friends were also Mormon, and we grew up attending church functions together. Being an active member of the church was expected for me, as not attending meetings really wasn't an option for me. I was essentially forced into the religion, and required to believe.
I was baptized and confirmed at age 8. I realize now that I didn't really know whether the church was true or not. I just went along with the program because that's what was expected of me. I just assumed that what I'd been taught was true, since that's what my parents taught me, and that's what everyone around me believed. I was raised with the expectation that at the appropriate age, I would attend seminary regularly, serve a mission, get married in the temple, and raise my kids in the church.
My religious education was pretty much the same as anyone else who grew up in the church. I was always taught that the Book of Mormon was the most correct book ever written, Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God, we had a prophet on the earth today. These were taught to me as facts, and I was taught that even entertaining the idea that they might not be true was wrong, perhaps even sinful, and could lead to eternal negative consequences.
For the most part, I went along with the program, but there were certain doctrines and ideas that really didn't make sense to me. One of the earliest was "Redeeming the Dead," wherein dead people in the afterlife who never joined the church on Earth would be given the option to join posthumously. The living would then perform saving ordinances for them by proxy, thereby allowing the dead to receive salvation. We were also taught that the dead would have the option to accept or reject the message.
This never really sat well with me. It confused me, quite honestly. To me, it felt like those who never joined the church got the better end of the deal. They could live their life as they saw fit, having fun and sinning all they want, then after they're dead they get taught about Mormonism and given the option to join and have all their sins forgiven. I was the one who really got screwed by being born into the church. I would be held to account for everything I did on Earth, with no chance for redemption after death if I didn't resolve any sins while I was living. Seemed like a pretty raw deal to me.
When I questioned things, I was always taught to put my doubts "on a shelf." I was told that anything we didn't have answers to would eventually be answered, either in this life or the one after. I was taught to not really question things, because God and Jesus were at the head of the church, and obviously they knew what they were doing. Have faith, and listen to the prophet. "When the prophet speaks, the debate is over." The prophet had a direct line to Jesus, and as such was in a position to instruct us and lead us in a manner that Jesus himself had directed.
I wanted more concrete answers, but when they didn't come, I put them on the shelf as I was instructed. Eventually, that shelf got so heavy that it collapsed. I got to the point that I needed to know what was really true and what wasn't. I could no longer accept the teachings at face value. This pursuit was precipitated by my desire to really know and understand the doctrine better, rather than being influenced by so-called "anti-Mormon" literature. I was told in no uncertain terms that anything against the church was anti-Mormon, influenced by Satan himself, and I should have no part of it. Of course, growing up insulated in Utah, it was pretty easy to avoid.
What really changed my life was when I realized that everything I knew to be true MIGHT BE WRONG. It caused me to re-evaluate everything in my life, not just the religion I grew up in and believed to be true. It changed my perspective on everything. I realized that I needed to pursue the truth, and had to be willing to follow it wherever it took me, regardless of where that might be.