My parents are both LDS (aka Mormon) and thus, raised us kids as Mormons too. But in Ohio, there aren't a lot of Mormons, and in elementary school, I was pretty much the only one. Then about junior high, there were two more, and in high school I think there were about 5 of us out of 1200 students. I didn't always understand everything at church or know how to answer questions that my friends or their parents asked about my religion. But I believed it. I believed in prayer and in God and Christ and in the scriptures. And I lived it.
Still, I had questions myself. Like, why did my cat have to die when I had prayed so hard that she'd get better? (I was in 2nd grade at the time.) Or, why do people sometimes cry at church when they're sharing their testimonies? And, what IS a testimony? What does the Holy Ghost feel like? I remember having those specific questions.
At some point, maybe when I was 10 or 11 or 12, it finally clicked for me what the word "testimony" meant - something that you know to be true. Then when I was 12, my older brother went to this church camp thing called EFY (Especially For Youth) for a week. When he came home, I remember thinking, "He's different. There's something different about him. I want that." He seemed really happy, like he was coming down off of cloud nine. And he was nicer and more helpful. I didn't understand it at that exact moment, but I realized later that it was the Holy Ghost, the Spirit - that's what was different about him. He had come home full of the Spirit.
Some time later, my parents went on an overnight, out of town trip, and my two older brothers were supposed to stay home with me. But they both decided that they'd rather spend the night at friends' houses. So I was left all alone in the house that night. As silly as it sounds, I was afraid of the dark (and still am, to some degree). As I lay in bed, in darkness, trying to fall asleep, I kept hearing those creaking, eery noises that houses make and I got more and more and more scared! I prayed my llittle heart out that I wouldn't be afraid anymore, that the aweful feeling of fear would leave and that I'd feel peace. But it wasn't working! Even with my bedside lamp turned on, the fear wasn't leaving, but was getting worse! Since prayer didn't seem to be working, I remembered my parents and others often saying that we could find answers to our questions or problems in the scriptures. But I didn't know where or how to find a scripture about being home alone, in the dark, with creepy noises all around you! So I sat up, got out my Book of Mormon, closed my eyes, let it just fall open, and pointed. When I opened my eyes, my finger was on verse 37 in the book of Alma, chapter 37. This is what it says: "Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day."
As I read the verse, my mouth dropped open. My eyes started to well up with tears, and I felt an overwhelming feeling of love and peace and happiness. All of a sudden, I KNEW that 1)God existed, 2)that he had heard and answered my prayer, and 3)that the Book of Mormon was true. I jumped to my feet, and out loud gasped, "This is what the Holy Ghost feels like! *another gasp* I have a testimony!" I was so surprised and so excited. I finally understood why some people cry when they share their testimony. And I finally! understood what the Holy Ghost felt like. I was on cloud nine. And I went to bed feeling happiness and joy and peace. A stark contrast to how I had felt before.
Because of that experience, my testimony of those three things is litterally unshakable. Even when my testimony of other things has been rocked or almost completely destroyed, I couldn't deny or forget that those things are true, even when I almost wanted to. And since that experience, my testimony of the Church and the doctrine and the Savior has increased, but at a slower, steadier pace. Little by little. Feeling the Holy Ghost in quieter ways.
All the same, these things I absolutely know: God exists. He listens to our prayers. He knows us and has a hand in each of our lives. Jesus Christ is his son and our Savior, Redeemer. The Book of Mormon and the Bible are the word of God. And the Holy Ghost is a wonderful feeling of joy and peace and understanding.