Don Neighbors is a currently underemployed school teacher who lives in the Heart o’ the Bluegrass (otherwise known as central Kentucky). He’s an Air Force brat, the oldest of five, born in Emporia, Kansas when Ike was still in the Oval Office, whose travels during his father’s military career would take him as far away as the Philippines before the family settled in Oklahoma. How he ended up in Kentucky is a long story which is best summed up in Neil Diamond’s song “Kentucky Woman.”
After years of part-time classes punctuated by two years of full-time study, Don graduated as a non-traditional student from the University of Kentucky in 2005. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English with a minor in Linguistics, He graduated from Kentucky’s Georgetown College in 2009 with a Master of Arts in Education. He has a fascination for languages in general, and has studied (to one degree or another) Spanish, German, Hebrew, Middle English, Cherokee, Japanese and Twi. When not delving into religious history, he likes to dig into history from a linguist’s perspective. A lot of his spare time is spent turning wrenches on his cars, whether just for the fun of it, or to keep them on the road. He is also a long-time Scouter in the BSA.
Don converted to Mormonism in 1977, at the age of nineteen.
My father quit going to church as a teenage boy after the preacher called him and his girlfriend down if front of the entire congregation for holding hands in church. He left that day vowing never to darken the door of a church, a vow he kept for much of his life. My mother disagreed with her minister over makeup and brightly-colored clothing, both of which he frowned upon. Mind you, this was in the mid 1950s. Her minister also disliked men in military uniform, so when mom and dad got married, her relationship with that preacher only got worse. However, both of my parents were solidly Christian and that fact never changed. It goes without saying my dad’s Air Force career kept us moving around. Thus it is that as I grew up we (except Dad) attended a variety of churches, usually whatever was pretty close to where we lived. By the time I was a teenager I was beginning to wonder what church taught the Gospel as the Savior did.
We returned to mine and my mother’s home town while Dad was stationed overseas, and while there attended her childhood church. One day I caught the minister teaching something across the pulpit that didn’t seem to match what I’d learned in Sunday School earlier that day. As it happens, the issue was the Trinity, and I didn’t think his version of the story sounded like the Bible teaching. I was only ten.
I really didn’t know much about the Latter-day Saints when I was a kid, and what I had learned was not complimentary. I finally met an actual Mormon on the school bus in my senior year of high school, and initially I tried to convince her of the evils of Mormonism. However, as we shared religious views, I discovered that the LDS Church taught many things I had come to believe were true, but which were not found in toto in the churches I had gone to, or the one I was attending at the time. I was also very interested in archaeology by this time, and based on my reading I had drawn the conclusion before ever meeting a Latter-day Saint that the Savior had visited the New World in ancient times. I deferred attending Sacrament meetings for the rest of the school year, though when she invited me to the 4th of July (1977) church dance, I was intrigued. A dance? At church? The churches I’d been attending taught that rock music and dancing were evil!
So I accepted. I walked into the gym at the Norman, Oklahoma Stake Center that June evening, where rock music was playing, people were dancing, and the Holy Ghost was in attendance. I knew I had to know more about this church!
A couple of months later I was introduced to a couple of missionaries, who gave me my first Book of Mormon. A few days later I stretched out on my bed to read the portions of 3 Nephi they had highlighted. When I read of the Savior’s coming to the New World, I sat bolt upright in my bed and said “THIS IS IT!” I already believed that the Savior had been in the New World, and I’d been looking, without entirely realizing it I think, for a record of His visit here. I knew within five minutes of opening the Book of Mormon for the first time that it was true. In very short order I was clearing it with my mom (I was still living at home at the time) to allow the missionaries to come to the house. By November 1977 I, my mom, and one of my sisters were baptized. In December I baptized my other sister and one brother, and I baptized the youngest brother when he came of age a few months later. In time, Dad did indeed darken the doorway of a church, and I baptized him. How that came about is a story in its own right.
Later in my life I applied what I was learning in college (by this time I was married and Terri and I were raising a little girl) to the linguistics of the Book of Mormon, and by so doing proved for myself that Joseph Smith cannot have made the Book of Mormon up, nor could anyone alive in the late 1820s. My faith in the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon became knowledge of its truth. Thus it is when I say “I know the Book of Mormon is true,” I speak the truth. I KNOW the Book of Mormon is true.