Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I am grateful...

I am grateful to be a child of God, who loves me and cares for me through my trials.

I am grateful for the opportunity to change my life and not let the mistakes of the past destroy my future.

I am grateful for the 12 step program which is like remedial repentance of those of us who can't figure it out any other way. The power of the 12 steps has helped save me from darkness.

I am grateful for a wife who loves me, supports me, and stands by me. She has suffered immensely due to my choices, and I am grateful for her charity towards me.

I am grateful for the Sacrament. The spirit and cleansing power I feel as I partake worthily each week is very valuable to me.

I am grateful for prayer, and the answers I have received every time I have knelt sincerely.

I am grateful for the spirit in my life. Nothing has protected me more, and helped me see the light.

I am grateful for the answers I receive when I ask the question "Lord, what would thou have me do today."

I am grateful for the men in my Addiction Recovery group, for their testimonies and their humility, and especially their examples of people who never give up seeking to make difficult changes.

I am grateful for priesthood blessings which have lifted my weary hand when I didn't think I could go on.

I am grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ which gives hope to any of us who desire to improve our lives and become like Him.

Most of all...I am grateful for the atonement of my Savior Jesus Christ. For the chance it gives me to change me life and be completely clean of the dreadful mistakes I have made. I love Him, and on this Thanksgiving I want Him to know I am grateful for the sacrifice He made for me.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Step # 11

I don't know if I am supposed to have a "favorite" step, but I do. It's Step 11.

"Seek through prayer and mediation to know the Lord's will and to have the power to carry it out."

Nothing has helped me in the process of personal change more or brought me closer to my Savior than this simple step. In the difficult change of addiction recovery, reliance on the Lord is the way out. Step 11 is essentially daily reliance. I suspect the principle holds for other personal change, especially the soul searching, difficult changes the gospel often requires.

Let me share four brief thoughts about Step 11 that may apply to anyone attempting to change or improve their life through living the gospel more fully.

1) Living worthy of the spirit is the foundation.
I spent years living a life that utterly disqualified me from the blessing of having the Holy Ghost near me. Living every day so I am worthy to have the spirit is essential to understanding what God's will is for me. Without this step the others will fail. For me, this means being cautious about what I watch on TV or listen to. It means daily scripture study and pondering the words I read. It means taking the Sacrament every week. And it certainly means avoiding the deadly drug of pornography.

2) Ask the Lord every day to know his will concerning you.
This is another example of a simple principle which took me forever to figure out. In prayer, often asking is the only requirement the Lord puts on us. He wants us to kneel and ask to know his will. Kneeling every morning and asking what the Lord would have me do that day has truthfully changed my life. It's not a difficult task, the prayer doesn't have to be lengthy or profound. Humbly kneeling and submitting to the Lord, asking to know his will for me, and then making every effort to carry it out...this process has been a powerful director of my efforts to change.

3) Take the time to listen.
Again, a principle probably obvious to most, but the Lords answers are generally subtle and almost always quiet. It takes sincere effort hear them. I often do this in the car on my way to work. I will turn the radio off and breathe calmly for a few minutes. I will then open my mind to the Lord by addressing him, and then let the thoughts go where they will. I have received small and simple truths from the Lord this way. I truly believe I get guidance and direction during these quiet times.

4) No matter what the Lord asks, do it.
When the answers come, and they will come, it is time to climb in the wheelbarrow. If we want the Lord to trust us, we have to obey immediately. Sometimes the answer will not be what you are expecting. I recall receiving inspiration to pay my tithing when I was thinking about a difficult personal problem. The answer may sometimes be difficult. But it is essential that we obey, and obey immediately. Obeying simple promptings of the Lord builds trust with him and allows him to direct our lives even further.

President Ezra Taft Benson said "The constant and most recurring question in our minds, touching every thought and deed of our lives, should be, "Lord, what wilt thou have me do?'

Sunday, November 16, 2008

What holds us back?

When dealing with an addiction, and from my experience especially a pornography addiction, there are many things which can hold us back from recovery. Therapists or bishops will often advise addicts to identify what items are holding us back, and remove them from our lives. The list may include: the tv shows we watch, the music we listen too, the blogs we read, thought patterns, blaming others for our problems, how we deal with stress, etc.

I spent a lot of time identifying these issues and working to deal with them. This effort was helpful and helped me make significant improvements. However, it took me years to realize what one of the biggest titems holding me back was. The item was FEAR brought on by my past failures.

To illustrate, let me share the endless cycle I seemed to go through. Most addicts will recognize it. Regularly I would reach the bottom, I would get sick of the terrible way the addiction made me feel, and the damage it did to my life and my relationships. At this point I would swear I was never going to relapse again. I would make commitment after commitment, promises to myself, and promises to the Lord, that this was absolutely the last time. It would never, EVER happen again.

I would do well for awhile. I would remember the pain caused by my addiction, so I would avoid it completely. But after a period of time, I would start to be scared. Scared that I wasn't going to be able to last. The reason I was scared is because I had FAILED SO MANY TIMES BEFORE. That was the only thought in my head...you've gone this far before, and you've always failed, therefore you will fail this time. As soon as I started thinking this, my effort and commitment would begin to fail me. Every time a lustful thought would enter my head, it would be evidence of my hopelessness, rather than an opportunity for me to turn to the Lord.

Eventually this fear would overtake me, and I would fall to the addiction. Which, ironically, would fulfill my own prophecy. "See, it was impossible, I will never succeed"

What is the opposite of fear? Hope. Step #2 "Come to believe that the power of God can restore you to complete spiritual health."

This principle applies directly to addiction. But I believe it is important for any change we want to make. Does the memory of failure at exercise stop us from successfully sticking to an exercise program now? Does the memory of failed Family Home Evening's stops us from making the effort to get them going again in your house? Does our memory of struggling to overcome anger problems, convince us it is impossible and we should quit trying?

Fear is a tool of Satan. Hope is a tool of our Savior. No matter our past failures, we can succeed in following the gospel of Jesus Christ. He will always be there to save us.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

He that overcometh

"He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son" - Revelations 21:7

"...To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life" - Revelations 2:7

We often hear the words "overcome" and "endure" when it comes to the principles of gaining eternal life. Why is our journey to return to our Heavenly Father described as an effort of overcoming?

A football team which defeated an inferior opponent by six touchdowns didn't overcome. The underdog, who battled and scratched and held on 4th and goal on the one yard line, they are the ones who overcame.

We don't overcome a pleasant walk through a meadow. But the runner who struggled through four hours of fatigue certainly overcame the marathon.

We overcome trials. We overcome adversity. We overcome pain and fear.

The mission our life is to overcome. Addicts desire to "overcome" their addiction. This is a large and obvious struggle. But life is full of these struggles for all. Adversity comes to the most meek and humble. Trials are all around us. It is the person who overcomes all who gains eternal life.

These trials can often seem overwhelming. Personally, I am aware of the consuming fear of addiction, the fear that this weakness simply is out of my power to overcome. It is then that I try to remember Deuteronomy 20:3-4.

"..let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them; For the Lord your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you"

It is through the Lord that I can bravely face the trials of my life. Through the Lord that I can defeat my enemies of addiction and pride. Through the Lord that I can overcome.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Simple Power of Prayer

The Bible dictionary taught me something powerful about prayer that I have never forgotten. "The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them." Prayer then "...is a form of work, and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of blessings."

Applying this to myself, there are often changes I would ask the Lord to help me make. But as simple as it sounds, have I sincerely asked for those changes? I have asked often that I not fall to temptation in my addiction. But I never seemed to ask to have the addiction removed from me. That change made a big difference in my life.

Regarding desires, I have wanted a change of desire for 20+ years. But how often did I kneel in prayer and ask God to change me and my desires, to draw my heart to him. Once again, this simple practice has given me great benefit.

We are told the way to develop charity is to ask our Father in Heaven for charity.

Could it be that often the humble "work" of prayer is exactly what is needed for us to receive powerful blessings that Lord is waiting to give us?

Maybe we have been struggling for years to forgive a wrong done to us. Is it possible that a sincere prayer asking for forgiveness to fill our hearts could be the beginning?

Or maybe we want to develop the habit of scripture study. Maybe the Lord is waiting, willing to bless us with this ability and desire, if only we would ask him to bless us.

There is real power, for me, in the simple asking for exactly what I need. I find that when I am specific it works better. Asking to be righteous is helpful. Asking that this day I have no desire for evil and that I will avoid temptation which I cannot resist, is powerful.

There is more power in prayer than I think I still realize. But I am truly grateful for the blessings that have come as I have asked sincerely and specifically.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


It was the beginning of my mission, and I was having a rough time.   The first month had not been what I expected coming out of the MTC.  My enthusiasm started to dampen.  Sensing this, my companion suggested we have a special fast specifically asking for someone prepared to be taught and to have an uplifting experience.  We started on Saturday night and attended church in the spirit of fasting.  I had fasted often in my life, but never with the sincere purpose I felt that day.  

As church ended we were approached by a young lady who introduced us to her friend.  I believe her exact words were "I have been reading the Book of Mormon with him, he believes it is true and wants to be taught."  We taught him the discussions in three weeks and he was baptized five weeks after we first met him.

I am sure many missionaries have similar experiences of being blessed with an investigator ready and willing to be taught.  For me though, that experience has never left my mind because it gave me a sure testimony of the power of fasting and prayer.  Perhaps more than any other principle, fasting has brought me closer to my Savior as I have struggled with the deep and difficult change addiction recovery requires.  (For that matter, the deep and difficult changes salvation requires).

Flash forward 12 years.  I was driving down the road, lonely and alone.  Consumed by the power my addiction had over my life.  I had lost the things most precious to me and was feeling despair.  The small inkling of thought came to me "Now is the time to humble yourself, fast and pray and the blessings will come".  In that state of despair, I am not sure how the voice made it through or why I listened, but I am grateful to the Lord it did.  I promptly called my parents and asked them to fast with me, which they willingly did.

I fasted that day for release from my addiction, with more sincerity than I had ever fasted before.  I felt the power of the Lord, and the power of my loving parents joining me in the fast.  And while I did not receive the blessings as fast as I had on my mission, looking back today, I believe that was a turning point in my life.  It was then that the Lord started guiding me, putting people and lessons in place to slowly unwind the flaxen cords which bound me.  

I have a sure and firm testimony of fasting.  I am fasting today and feeling the peace and love of the Lord as I do.  I am grateful for my wife who fasts with me and adds her power to mine, in an unselfish effort to help me receive the blessings I so desperately need.

And I thank my Heavenly Father and Savior for the blessings of fasting.