There are 2 ways to be introduced to the Mormon Church.
One is to be born and raised in it, and the other is investigating with lessons from the missionaries. Either way, baptism is required for membership. We call those who have investigated with the missionaries "converts", but there is a saying that everyone in the church is a convert; it just depends when the conversion happens. When you grow up in the church, you can be baptized at the age of 8, but being so young, your "conversion" may not happen until later.
My experience was unique. I was born and raised in the church. My direct line of ancestry was intimately involved in the foundation of it, and so I am considered a Multi-generational mormon. The pioneers (the converts) in my family being Newel K and Elizabeth Whitney on my mother's side- My great-great-great-great grandparents.
The church was everything in our lives growing up.
It dictated every thought, action, and word that we lived by. We weren't the family that had scripture time, or family prayer, or even family home evening, but we went to church every Sunday, because that was the expectation. So I grew up in the church, knowing that not everyone was a member of my faith, but knowing it was a lifestyle and a culture and not just a belief system.
When talking about conversion stories for peole who grew up in the church, many people say that they relied on the testimonies of their parents until they developed their own. I never saw my parents model the things that are associated with testimony building- such as prayer and scripture study and so on. But my parents were pretty strict enforcers of gospel related teachings and standards set by the church- for us kids.
As a teenager in seminary, I learned to study and love the scriptures on my own.
I gained a testimony that was mine, on my own. I felt the spirit at a very young age, and knew it was the spirit. I had many experiences that cannot be explained or rationalized away. I loved the Lord. My home life and my church participation gave me the ability to differentiate how the spirit works early on. Those teenage years were pretty rough, because not only was I grieving the loss of my sisters, I also began to see some of the hypocrisies in my life circumstances coming to the surface, and got frustrated why we weren't like the other families in our ward and Why we weren't like the family the church promotes. I remember getting really upset during a Young women's activity held in a leader's home. It felt so good to be there, and it made me sad that I would have to leave and go back home at the end of the hour activity. It made me sad that my Dad had neglected to make our home a place where I could feel the spirit like that, due to the choices he made. I was really bitter about it. I knew there was nothing I could do to change my home environment, so I was determined that if I felt the spirit regularly and was close to the Lord, that nothing else really mattered. So I clung to the gospel like my life depended on it, because I felt like it did.
But understanding the gospel, and knowing Christ like I did, and living at home and being treated the way I was treated (most often in the name of Christ) , Life started to become unbearable. So I asked for help. I went to my bishop and said I just couldn't do it anymore. I needed out.
I was turned away.
His relationship with my parents was too valuable to risk offending them by stepping in. I learned years later that every single one of my sisters- including Emily just before she died- came and asked for help, and got the same answer.
But I continued on my way, begging my grandmother to help me as a last resort, leaving home a week after my 18th birthday with no job, no money, no car and feeling heavy. My testimony remained pretty firm, and I really leaned on the lord and my grandmother to get me thorough those months of total instability. There were many times I cried myself to sleep because I just didn't know what to do. I wasn't acclimated to real life. Anything outside the confines of my Dad's house arrest was overwhelming and filled me with anxiety- not to mention I had not graduated high school yet and I didn't think I was anywhere close to being prepared for the GED test.
The instability continued after I graduated from seminary.
I went from job to job, never making enough money to find a place to live on my own, and so I spent a good 4 weeks couch surfing and living out of my car to be closer to my job until I had some of the kindest people I had ever met, let me live with them. I prayed really hard, and often,that my pitiful situation would not drive me to move back home. I was determined to never go back, and time after time, the Lord would always come through, and delivered the righteous desires of my heart. My testimony was still really strong. I was at a point where I could hear my scriptures calling to me from my 2nd story bedroom, and the spirit was my constant companion.
And eventually, my spiritual aptitude lead me to John.