Sharing ARP With My Elder's Quorum*

The Atonement as seen through Addiction 

“Atonement” was the word I had written across the top of the chalkboard. I told the group of brethren who had gathered together late last Sunday afternoon that this would be the topic we would be discussing that hour. I began by mentioning that the Atonement of Jesus Christ was (or should be) at the center of our worship and our faith. The enabling power, His grace, mercy satisfying the demands of justice—all of these are included in this wonderful demonstration of God’s love for His children.

I told the group that I wanted to approach this same topic, but from a slightly different direction than it is normally addressed in such a setting. Walking to the chalkboard, I erased all of the letters of the word “Atonement,” while leaving only the “A.” I then began to write a new word in its place: Addiction. I turned to the group and had some pretty quizzical looks being shot my way. “What does this word (Addiction) have to do with the word it replaced (Atonement)? Any thoughts on that?”

One brother raised his hand and said that the Atonement is what makes it possible to be free from anything that would otherwise get between us and God. I thanked him for that excellent response and opened it up to the group. “Please help me write some of those things on this board that we often associate with the word ‘Addiction.’” My hand frantically wrote with the chalk as words were being thrown my way from all around the room. Drugs; Smoking; Alcohol; Work; Sports; Exercise; Pornography; Sex; Recognition; Service. Those were some of the answers which I had written at the suggestion of the class.

As you can see, not everything on the list is necessarily bad. One brother (who will be referred to as TK) said that anything taken to extremes could easily be considered as addictions. He said that it used to be that people knew a friend who had a cousin who had a roommate that had a great uncle whose next door neighbor was an addict. But now, that can be reduced to 2 steps—either you know the person yourself, or someone you know happens to know an addict. That was the point I wanted brought home, and he did so perfectly. If we aren’t addicts ourselves, guaranteed we know those who are.

I nodded my head in agreement and said that this was why the Atonement was so crucial. It helps all of us to overcome difficulties—our own, or those that we love. I said that He had not left us without resources to combat these scourges. One underutilized resource was sitting in that room. I pointed to each of the brethren and told them that we are all children of God and we’re here for one another.

I showed them other resources—“The Big Book,” Sexaholics Anonymous White Book, and Clean Hands, Pure Heart were resources I held up and highly recommended for anyone who wished to learn more on addictions and how to overcome them. But I was saving my favorite for last. I passed out a copy of A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing, lovingly known as “Addiction Recovery Program” (ARP, for short) to each of the brethren in attendance. To solidify the “anything” concept, as it was being passed out I read the 1st paragraph from the introduction:

“Whether you yourself struggle with addiction or associate with someone who does, this guide can be a blessing in your life. The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous have been adapted into a framework of the doctrines, principles, and beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They are presented in this guide as key principles at the beginning of each section. This guide will help you learn how to apply these key principles; they can change your life.”

I testified that I knew that to be true.

Sitting on the table in front of the group, I said, “My name is Mike. I, too, am a recovering addict. What I’m about to tell you, I don’t want to tell so that you feel sorry for me or anything different than you may have thought before now. I’m telling you this so you’ll understand how I know that the Atonement works for everyone who utilizes it.

“My story begins when I was 10 years old. This was before the days of the internet, so what I did was harder to do then than it is now. A friend from school had somehow acquired a magazine with scantily-clad to fully-nude females pictured therein. Seeds were planted in those moments which would germinate into a plant that would almost cost me my marriage.

“I continued along, getting exposed to more of such images when I was 12. Going into my teens, the hormones started kicking in and I—like any junkie—wanted more and more. The internet was now in swing, so it was much easier to come by, and take advantage of it I did. I’d repeat cycles of viewing things that I shouldn’t to working with Bishops so that I wouldn’t be stuck in the quagmire. But nothing worked.

“After completing my mission, I got married and thought that’d cure me of this. Sadly, such wasn’t the case. I continued the same self-destructive cycle of using and attempted sobriety, all while feeling like a bigger and bigger hypocrite/failure/schmuck/etc.

“I eventually went down a path that got me disfellowshipped from the Church, and almost cost me my marriage. This all happened because I never realized/admitted how deep I had sunk in the quagmires of sin and moral debauchery. It was as part of working with my Bishop that I was recommended to start attending ARP meetings. This was how I learned of this program, and this is how I personally can testify that it does work.”

By now, the Quorum was stupefied. This sort of frank talk didn’t normally happen in your regularly-scheduled, 3-hour Church meetings. As I scanned the room, though, what I saw weren’t looks of horror or judgment, but the feelings that I got were those of appreciation, and (in some cases) understanding. With that as the “introduction,” I asked the group to turn to page iv in the ARP manual and take turns reading the 12 Steps.

We got through the 12 Steps and I opened up the floor for people to share their thoughts/feelings about what they had just read. Many of the brethren were impressed by the concepts that were addressed. One brother mentioned that (as was stated in the Intro.) this book is for anyone, regardless of whether or not they may be addicts. He had used this book in his home to analyze how he approached stressful situations regarding his family. Was he humble (Step 7) before he got into that argument with his wife? Probably not, thus the negative results.

Another brother mentioned that Step 5 (Confession) stood out to him. He’d been the Executive Secretary and watched the looks on people’s faces as they left the Bishop’s office. He had repeatedly seen tear-streaked faces of those who left as well as the same tear lines on the Bishop’s face after he cried with them.

TK mentioned Step 4 and said that actually doing that is quite a life-changing experience for those who dare to do so. He then very calmly told his own story as a recovering addict who has been clean for 2+ years. He told our group that he had lost 29 friends to drugs/alcohol, to which he at one time was also addicted. He told of the pitfalls of isolation, and Satan’s trickery in using shame to keep us inside of ourselves so we remain in his playground. He also plugged Home Teaching and said that good Home Teachers can give great support to those who struggle.

There were many more excellent comments shared, and all we had done was read page iv, which lists the 12 Steps. I closed the meeting by referring them to a slip of paper I’d put in the front of each book. “Included in your manuals are dates and times for meetings that go into much more details on what we’ve spoken about today. I invite you all—no matter where you find yourself at this point—to attend. If you attend those meetings and put into practice the principles in this book, I promise you that your life will be changed for the better and you will come to know your Lord and Savior on a much deeper level.”

I also offered my understanding ears to anyone who had any questions or just wanted to talk. No judgments. Just me being there and trying to give back to my Savior Who has done so much for me. TK also offered himself as a support person, should anyone wish to talk to him.

Overall, it was an amazing experience, and I would highly recommend anyone who has the opportunity to teach a group like this, to prayerfully prepare and jump all over that opportunity. I felt really blessed by the class, and I pray that the men there were inspired to take me up on those invitations. I know it’ll change their lives, as it has most definitely changed mine.

* The above post was written by my good friend and mentor, Mike. It is a compilation of the thoughts/ideas that were discussed in a lesson which he taught in his Elder’s Quorum on 12/6/15.

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