Hi I'm Mark Koltko-Rivera.
I'm a native New Yorker. I'm an entrepreneur, a writer, a grandfather--and I'm a Mormon.
I was born in 1956, and grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, in the neighborhood called Greenwich Village—the heart of the counterculture of the 1960s and early 1970s. My mother’s family was from Poland, and my father’s family was from Puerto Rico. I have four children from my first marriage; my children have all grown and are in the midst of making me a multiple grandfather. I am currently divorced and live just outside New York City. I graduated from a Jesuit high school in Manhattan, received my bachelor’s degree from Haverford College (majoring in psychology), took my master’s degree in counseling from Fordham University, and obtained my doctorate in counseling psychology from New York University. I have worked as a clinician (therapist) in psychiatric hospitals; as the director of research in a private firm; as a college and university teacher of psychology, counseling, and statistics. Currently I am focused on my businesses. I am the founder and CEO of two firms, one focused on high-tech projects, one on multimedia publishing. In addition, I write fiction--I published my first collection of stories in 2014--and screenplays. I lead a busy, productive, multifaceted life.
I was raised Roman Catholic. I served as an "altar boy" at the Latin Mass, and as a Commentator at Mass. As I studied my faith , I had many questions: Why does the Bible just end? Don’t we need divine guidance through prophets today, with our nuclear weapons and horrible wars, just as much as people needed prophetic guidance twenty centuries ago? Where are the Twelve Apostles now? And so on. I soon realized that most of the ways that people used to find the truth would not help with my questions. One could not rely on tradition: different people had different traditions. One could not rely on logic: different assumptions lead to different conclusions. The only way one could find out The Truth would be if God spoke to you, and there I felt I hit a brick wall: in my world, God did not speak to kids from the Lower East Side. One summer (1972), I met a few Mormons for the first time, and nagged them with all my religious questions . One of them gave me a copy of the Book of Mormon, and showed me the promise there that God would reveal the truth about anything to someone who sincerely and diligently inquired of Him (pg. 529, Moroni 10:4-6). I went out alone into the woods and prayed, expecting God to tell me that the book was false. Instead, my mind was filled with a feeling of peace such as I had only had glimmerings of before, and with what I can only describe as light. That is why I became a Mormon. My many spiritual experiences since then are why I am a Mormon today.
The Latter-day Saint (LDS) faith is not something that happens for an hour on Sunday. It is a way of life; I strive to live my faith in all that I do. My faith affects the way that I look at and treat other people. The LDS scriptures teach that every human being is literally a child of God, and has the potential to inherit all that our Father in Heaven has and is. That is truly awesome, in the literal sense of that word. This principle applies to every person I see all day long, including the homeless person who sleeps on a rock in Central Park, the people who strike me as rude and unmannered, the people who serve me a sandwich or who collect my trash, and the many people who live by very different principles than I do. I try to treat all people equally, with equal respect and dignity. That’s living my faith. My faith teaches me that I, too, am a child of God. So, I try to show respect for who I really am and what my potential really is. I refrain from polluting my body or my mind with things that would detract from who I am. I seek to improve my body and my mind. Much of our Sunday meeting time is spent in education. I have taught a lot of classes over the years, and I have been a student in many classes, too. I have served in a variety of positions, or “callings,” in my local wards (congregations) as well. Currently, I teach the Gospel Essentials class in Sunday School, which is for people who are not members of the Church, those new to the Church, and anyone who wants to review the basics of the faith. In my private devotions, I spend some time in study and prayer every day. These are all ways I live my faith.