This lesson keeps coming back into my life over and over in the most amazing and profound ways.
As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints there can be a lot of stigma around certain things...sin and repentance for example. What is sin? What do you need to repent about? What do you need to see a Bishop about or what can you pray about on your own? I have sat down to write this hundreds of times over the past month but I really just wanted to put it in my journal. This is personal and painful, but the Spirit has prompted to share here. I hope there is a purpose in this.
Sin comes in many forms. It can be seen in the deepest parts of your weaknesses, something that you may have justified to be right because you want to do it. But deep down in our souls we know right and wrong. We have all been blessed with the Light of Christ; those members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have the gift, privilege and constant companionship of the Holy Spirit. We have this gift so long as we consistently choose righteously. We believe that when we sin, we remove ourselves from the presence of the Spirit and by relationship, the presence of God. However, God is always there to welcome us back. He is there to call to us, to wait in patience and eternal love for us to decide when it is time to return to Him. He sent His son, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world to fulfill the atonement that would allow us to become clean again, as we choose to use it and believe in it. This atonement of Christ has the ability to change our very nature as we let it and consistently choose righteousness.
I have a deep personal testimony of the transformative power of the atonement. I have felt it in my life, I continue to feel it every day as I choose righteous and good things. For years I was trapped by the bonds and chains of addiction. (Addiction to what? I would prefer not to share but if this sounds familiar, reach out to me and we can talk.) It went into every aspect of my life and really changed my nature for the worse. I was a darker and harder person. I lived in secret from my family sharing this only with others who would "accept" it as normal and not wrong. As I grew older the need for it would fade but triggers would come and away I would fall. Spiritually I had gone to a place that was so distant that I didn't know who I was anymore. But, because of the duplicitous life that addiction can have for some of us, my family didn't know, people at church didn't know and neither did friends. I had become a master of lying to those I cared most deeply about. When you are in the sin that doesn't matter, lying was second nature.
I had a few 2x4 moments once I got out of high school. I guess you could say that my brother was my first saving grace. I had been so far in the darkness and double life and lying to myself for so so so long that it didn't seem wrong to me anymore. One night when he returned from his mission we were driving home from institute, he turned to me and said, "I can tell you are struggling. If there is something that you need to talk to the Bishop about, do it. I don't need to know what it is. But know that I love you. Our Father loves you." The next Sunday I went to see the Bishop. There was something in my brother's ability to see through the mask that really stunned me. The next two years were better but still tough. I had gained control over my addiction for months at a time and then a relapse would happen. When I decided to attend BYUI I had been clean for about 6 months and kept good for 97% of the next three years.
It wasn't until March of 2012 that I really had a hard look at my life because when I moved home after graduation it all came crashing down again. I was sitting in a fireside by Elder Bednar here in St. Louis next to a friend I was being reacquainted with and feeling like the biggest hypocrite on the planet. Right after that meeting I made a promise to myself that this time I would reach out to the Bishop again but seek the real, personal growth that is offered by the atonement of Jesus Christ. I knew better, I had three years six months! Numerous spiritual testimonies of truth and 'knowing' but that nature change hadn't occurred yet. I did go to see my Bishop and he responded in love and compassion, something I feel I missed with the previous one years before. This Bishop reached out as a friend and we set out on the road through the Addiction Recover Program set up by the church. For the next five months. They are some of the hardest months I have experienced spiritually and mentally because of the look I had to take at myself, the raw, honest look. That isn't a great thing to do even when you are ready for it, because you are never ready to look at your mistakes.
At the end of ARP, which is never really done, anyone who has worked the Twelve Steps knows it is a life long process, I moved to Boston. I felt such a closeness with my Father in Heaven. I felt this rebirth in so many ways. I still had troubles coping with the emotional fall out of all that happened, but for the first time in a really long time I felt a connection with the Father and my Savior that I had removed myself from. I felt that they had always been there, but they were waiting for me to decide to return to their presence. To decide to work on healing in such a manner that I desire and yearn for their presence. I felt so much joy and hope!
There is so much more to this story and the inward transformation I felt and still feel from the atonement. But, there is only so much space in a blog post. :) The Lord has blessed me with a lot. Though I still struggle with some effects that have remained for now from years previous of addiction, the Lord is there. As the desires of my heart and soul remain focused on righteous desires, as preparing for a mission or marriage down the road and remaining worthy to attend the temple and consistently choosing good, the Lord is there! So excited and proud of the distance I have traveled in such a short time. With the Lord all things are possible, I so strongly and solemnly testify of that.
A belief in Jesus Christ has the ability to save lives, but I know with all my heart and soul that the gospel of Jesus Christ, as restored to this earth by the Prophet Joseph Smith from the days that Christ was on the earth, is the way unto salvation. I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true church on the earth today. I know it.
One gem I found from scripture study tonight. Alma 24:30 "And thus we can plainly discern that after a people have been once enlightened by the Spirit of God, and have had great knowledge of things pertaining to righteousness, and then have fallen away into sin and transgression, they become more hardened, and thus their state becomes worse than though they had never known these things."
The Lord loves us all so much. He is just waiting for us to decide to return to Him and seek Him! It is never too late to return to Him.
*please be kind if you disagree or have contrary comments. I welcome discussion, but with something this personal...please handle with care.