Sunday, January 25, 2009

Fear Not I am With Thee

Early on in the process of change I found that listening to General Conference on the way to work was a powerful way for me to feel the spirit. I downloaded the conferences on to my iPod and would occasionally listen as I drove and try to learn from the teachings.

This effort worked well, and while I may not have done it as much as I should have, it definitely had an influence in my life. I would generally skip over the prayers and songs to get to the "meat". One night as I was praying, asking Heavenly Father what he would have me do, I felt a strong impression that I should listen to all of these recorded conferences...Songs, prayers, sustainings, that little introduction they voice guy does at the beginning...the whole thing.

What an odd impression. I was expecting some great revelation, and what I got was "listen to the boring parts of conference". Or at least that is how I took it. I had committed to obey any prompting, so I figured I needed to obey this one.

It slowly became a habit. I didn't particularly find these sections useful, but it became natural to listen to the whole session straight through. One night I was driving home from work, after a really tough day. One the major triggers for my addiction is stress, and this night I was definitely feeling stressed. The temptation was strong. As I turned on the car I was at the end of a conference session, and the choir was singing "How Firm a Foundation". Listening to the third verse, I had one of the more spiritual experiences of my life. It was as if the spirit were imprinting the words in my heard.

Fear not, I am with thee, oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by My gracious, omnipotent hand.
That experience changed me. I was a different man after that night. I wish I could say I never faltered again, but I can say I have never lost hope in the ability of the Savior to change me. I walked away with faith that I could and would be changed, and that the Lord would "strengthen me, help me, and cause me to stand". My fear was gone.

I learned a few things there in my car that night. Among them the power of music to touch my soul. But perhaps most important, I learned that no matter how small the prompting seems, I am always blessed when I follow the Holy Ghost.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Addiction Recovery Program

One of the most powerful tools in my recovery has been my attendance at the Church Addiction Recovery Program. There are two powerful aspects to this program which have each been a wonderful blessing in my recovery process.

First, there are recovery meetings held at church houses and seminary buildings in locations all over the country. I have chosen to attend these meetings once a week, but many choose to go several times a week. These meetings are a place of calm, peace, and healing. People just like me who are struggling with the same addiction I am, meet to build each other up, share hope and faith, and listen to each other share about the joy that comes from turning ourselves over to the Lord.

When I first started going, it was a profound experience to meet other men who had struggled with this addiction for just as long as I had. As time went on, I learned that the great strength in the meetings was to see hope shine in the eyes of men who had suffered for so long. It gives me hope to see others stand up, admit their problem, and then talk about the blessings of the Lord which help them overcome the addiction.

Meeting night has become a highlight of my week. I feel the spirit and feel a renewed commitment to allowing the Savior to change me.

The other resource of the Addiction Recovery Program is a 78 page manual/workbook produced by the LDS Family Services. This workbook lays out the 12 steps in clear language. It also has writing exercises for each step. Much of the writing is done by recovered addicts. Their perspective brings a unique voice to the manual, a voice which demonstrates the power of following the steps.

I love the manual and I use if often in my studies. The writing sections have led to some of my greatest inspirations and moments with the spirit.

I would recommend this book to nearly everyone, but for those suffering from addiction it is nearly an essential tool to being guided back to the Savior.

I have a strong testimony of these programs, and will continue to work them throughout my life as I maintain recovery.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

For After Much Tribulation...

Have you ever noticed that people seem to come through tribulation in one of two ways? Either it makes them stronger or it makes them weaker.

This may be a trivial example, but in our family we have been learning to snowboard. Those of you who have tried it know that the first few snowboarding trips can be painful. Bumps, bruises, and falls all play a large part of the experience. In the middle of all this tribulation, there is no staying neutral. Either you force yourself to learn the necessary skills quickly or you give up. Tribulation tends to eliminate the middle ground.

We've seen both happen in our family. Some kids have hated the falls so they don't want to try anymore. Some have hated the falls, so they want to do everything they can to get better.

Doctrine and Covenants 58:4 teaches "For after much tribulation come the blessings." This principle applies to snowboarding and it applies to the changes in our lives.

When we make a commitment to the Lord to change, and ask for his help, we often receive immediate blessings. From my experience; however, before receiving all the help we need and desire, we generally have to wade through tribulation. This tribulation either makes us stronger and more committed to our goal, or it deflates us and we give up.

Without tribulation our snowboarding would not improve. Without tribulation, we will not develop the faith and humility necessary to make the kind of personal changes the gospel requires.

I have many spiritual bumps and bruises from my tribulations. But on the far end as I have pushed through those trials, I am always grateful I did not give up.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

When the Heat of the Sun Scorcheth

Alma 32 carries many messages which have affected my deeply and helped me understand the principles of faith. Near the end is a passage which I often mentally skipped over in my study. Alma is speaking of a tree which we have already grown from a seed. In other words, we have already put forth the effort to gain a testimony of some principle. He then warns us:
But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it whithers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out. (Alma 32:38)
This principle of nourishment has caused me to contemplate how I neglect principles of my testimony and the damage it can do when hard times come.

I wrote earlier about my testimony of fasting. This testimony was planted on my mission and the tree began to grow. I knew fasting worked. In the 12 years between that time and the time I finally was thrust down to my knees due to the horrible decisions I had made, I neglected that simple testimony. When the hot sun beat on me, I wavered. I didn't turn to fasting and prayer like I should have. I hadn't consistently strengthened my tree and it had stopped bearing fruit.

Henry B. Eyring in his powerful way, taught the principle in October Conference, 2005

It will take unshakable faith in the Lord Jesus Christ to choose the way to eternal life. It is by using that faith we can know the will of God. It is by acting on that faith we build the strength to do the will of God. And it is by exercising that faith in Jesus Christ that we can resist temptation and gain forgiveness through the Atonement.

We will need to have developed and nurtured faith in Jesus Christ long before Satan hits us, as he will, with doubts and appeals to our carnal desires and with lying voices saying that good is bad and that there is no sin. Those spiritual storms are already raging. We can expect that they will worsen until the Savior returns.

However much faith to obey God we now have, we will need to strengthen it continually and keep it refreshed constantly. We can do that by deciding now to be more quick to obey and more determined to endure. Learning to start early and to be steady are the keys to spiritual preparation. Procrastination and inconsistency are its mortal enemies.

There are strong warnings in these words for me. As important as it is for me to build a testimony in principles such as tithing and turning my life and will over to my Savior, it is just as important that I nurture these testimonies every single day.

What did I do today to nurture my faith and testimony in the principles of the gospel? What did you do? Can we do more?

Thursday, January 1, 2009


The Lord has given us a sure promise that he will change us if we turn ourselves over to him, but he has not said exactly how fast the promised change will come.  One of the most difficult items in my addiction recovery is having the patience to let the Lord work on his timetable, not mine.  Often when I am feeling like I am turning myself over to him and exercising faith, I still have struggles that I wish he would simply take away.

I imagine this is true of all gospel change we desire to make.  The Lord's promise is sure, he will change us, he will give us the desired change of heart.  For some it will be like Alma the Younger with an instantaneous change of heart which never wavers.  But for most of us it is a much longer process.  

Doctrine and Covenants 98:2-3 is instructive for me when I start to grow impatient with the time it takes for my heart to be changed.  We are instructed that "Waiting patiently on the Lord" is essential because "your prayers have entered into the ears of the Lord" and "The Lord hath sworn and decreed that they shall be granted".  

As a recovering addict I have a sure and firm promise that the Lord will change me and bless me with recovery if I will turn my life and will over to him.  What I do not have, is a timetable that says "If you follow the 12 steps for 6 months, you will be freed from addiction".  The Lord asks my patience.  

The conclusions of verse 3 says "all things wherewith you have been afflicted shall work together for your good".  

There is a reason the Lord allows change to take time and to often be difficult.  He knows what we need to truly grow and develop in this life.  He knows that the afflictions I struggle with will come together for my good if I will continue on with patience, hope, and faith.

I have faith in Him.  I trust Him.  I will continue to work on my spiritual growth, continue to turn myself over to His care with full patience for a brighter day as He changes me.