My father was active LDS until around the late 1930’s. As mentioned previously, the time period from when he got married in 1929 and through 1939 was the time of the worst economic downturn in US history. Many families were struggling, including my father’s. Families lived in tents, or boarded up chicken coops, or abandoned houses, and just struggled to survive.
During this time, my father observed the LDS Church continue to push members to pay 10% of their income to the church as “tithing”, regardless of their ability to pay. He saw many destitute families during the Great Depression, and saw the pressure that was put on them to pay that tithing. This eventually broke his mental shelf concerning the LDS Church, and he said “no more”.
My father died when I was 5 years old. Later my mother became very sick, as she discovered she had breast cancer. She died when I was 18 years old.
After my mother took sick, I worked long and hard as a young person to try and earn money for the family. I also worked almost every Sunday. My early years were characterized by almost no knowledge of the Bible, because I didn’t have time for that.
One day when I was 14 or 15 years old, I walked into the living room, and mom was watching TV. I paused and listened to the TV program. They were talking about the “Old Testament”. I turned to mom and asked, “mom, what is the Old Testament?”.
Mom just looked at me for a moment, then stood up and went into her bedroom. After a minute I followed, and I found her crying. I asked her what was the matter, and she said, “I have tried to be both a mother and a father to you, and I feel like I have failed at both”. Then she told me what the Old Testament is.
This moment changed me. I began to yearn for answers, and wanted to understand who God is and what I needed to do. I didn’t know exactly what to do, but a quote by LeGrand Richards (Apostle of the LDS Church) caught my eye at that time, where he distilled the question of Christianity down to Catholicism and Mormonism. While I do not agree with that distillation today, at the time I was a young impressionable boy, and I accepted it. So I decided to study. And since almost all of my Utah environment was “Mormon”, studies of Mormonism seemed the most expeditious, and the easiest to do first. This especially rang true to me in light of the fact that Orson Pratt, my great grandfather, was a prominent Mormon.
After my mother died in 1977, the best description of me in the late 1970’s is “shell shocked”. It was hard for me to do anything. My mother’s oldest son (and my half brother) took me in at that time and treated me like one of his kids. He once told me that during that time he was beginning to wonder if I would ever snap out of it. I was shell shocked, and just existing, and nothing much more.
As I began to come out of my shell shocked state, I continued my studies, and most of those studies were Mormon-based.
I dropped out of high school to take care of my mother during her final stages of cancer. Then I took the GED test to get into college. I attended college at Weber State, in Ogden, Utah, and graduated cum laude with a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science, and with minors in Mathematics and Electronics, in 1992.
While going to school I worked for the US Forest Service, at the Region 4 office in the Federal Building of downtown Ogden. For one summer I was transferred to the Wasatch-Cache office in the Federal Building of downtown Salt Lake City, and then transitioned back to Ogden.
My first job out of school was with Fidelity Investments, the largest mutual fund company in the USA. Fidelity is based out of Boston, Massachusetts. I was hired as a Computer Analyst, and worked for Fidelity for two years in their Salt Lake City office.
When I was engaged to be married to my wife, Denise, I told her “you can have any last name you want, and I will take any last name I want, but if you decide you want the last name of ‘Pratt’, I will legally change my name to that as well”.
Denise responded, “I do not want our children named after a man that you are not even related to” (that would be Charles Mattingly).
I replied, “I thought you might feel that way. I will change my last name to ‘Pratt’”.
So in early 1988 I filed a petition with the 2nd District Court of Weber County for a name change. The petition was granted in April of that year.
At the time I was working for the US Forest Service. I was frequently asked why I was changing my name, and I got tired of it. So I started telling the following lyric to anybody at work that asked:
If it weren’t for bad luck,
I’d have no luck at all…
I tried to change my luck,
but my luck just stayed the same…
And since I couldn’t change my luck,
I changed my name!
Because of Denise, I believe I am one of the most blessed people on earth.