Because the LDS church doesn't have a lot of activities for children under 12 outside of Primary, and because church in general is such a large part of the culture in the South, I spent a lot of time at other churches as a child.
Our home school group (I was homeschooled 1st-6th grades) would meet at a local church for activities. Girl Scout Camp was held in the basement of a church on the University of Alabama campus. I played softball for the local Methodist church for five years, and sang in their Childrens Choir for three -- I was even given the lead in their musical production in the 6th grade.
I distinctly remember spending lots of time in the various basements, gymnasia, and choir rooms of these sorts of churches, but I didn't often venture into the Sanctuary or the Chapel (depending on which church) because those were mostly used by adults and on Sundays and I didn't really have any reason to be there.
But I do remember being fascinated by them. I remember sneaking up some musty stairs, in the dark, scared to turn on the lights for fear of being discovered, so I could peek into the chapel and see what theirs
looked like. And I remember a funny feeling in the pit of my stomach every time I did.
I interpreted that funny feeling as the Holy Ghost telling me that their religions were wrong. I even gave a talk on it once, when I was ten or so: "I know that our church is true because when I go into other churches, I get a funny feeling like I know I shouldn't be there."
Looking back on those reactions, it's no wonder that I was honestly and absolutely surprised the first time I felt the Spirit in a building that housed another religion, or at another religious meeting, or even standing in the chorus room of our music building on campus and singing Mozart. And when I knew
with an adult's knowledge -- not a child's assumption about funny feelings -- that I was was
feeling that Spirit.
Should I have been surprised? Now, I don't think so. Knowing that most religions have their snippets (or large chunks) of truth, even if not the whole of it, it shouldn't be surprising that the Spirit would manifest itself and proclaim the truth of those bits. And now I really enjoy attending other meetings and investigating other creeds.
I know my surprise probably has its roots in the idea that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the gospel of Christ restored in its fullness -- something I generally believe, of course -- but I don't think this principle precludes the Spirit from speaking to us when the truth manifests itself in other places.
But I have to wonder -- as with many things -- if that's something that surprises many in the Mormon community. If I had converted, instead of being raised in such an orthodox household (at least during those younger years), would I have felt that surprise? Is the appreciation for truth in other places something we need to foster more, or would that be dangerous to testimony?