I was the bugler and square dance caller for our stake’s pioneer trek, a major event with some 300 youth and 100 adult leaders involved. As planned, the first morning on the trail I played the bugle call, Reveille, at 4:50 AM to wake the youth for the re-enactment of the pioneer’s handcart company’s journey. It must have left a strong impression because adult leaders soon warned me of youthful schemes they overheard for the trumpet’s abduction.
Trek: The Handcart Trail
I thought the bugle calls were quickly forgotten when, over a week after our trek had ended, I was approached by a trek brother as I was entering the temple in the early morning hours. He told me, “You woke me this morning.” When I looked puzzled, he said, “No, you really did. As I slept, I heard your trumpet playing and I said, ‘I’ve got to get up and go to the temple’”.
We don’t know how deeply impressing our warning voice can be to bring souls to repentance. I love repentance… I love seeing people decide they will really change. I have shed many tears with individuals who are trying, and faltering, and trying again. I have shed many tears myself. But people do change.
At church I recently walked into a lesson where people were answering the question, “Is there a dream or something you really want to accomplish in life?” Into my heart came my fondest unvoiced desire, “I want to bring thousands of souls to repentance!” …and it starts with me!
Stories of Repentance
I share the following with both permission and encouragement from men I have assisted as an addiction recovery missionary.
To Reactivation and Beyond
A dear young man came to our group. He was clearly crestfallen when he first attended our recovery meetings, saddened that addictions had taken over his life. He had gone inactive after going to college and began failing all his classes because of a video game addiction. He returned home and transferred to a singles ward where the addiction took a far worse turn. He ceased church activity for years, such that when his sister went on a mission she wrote to him saying, “Will you be my first investigator? I can tell you are working through something and I’d like to help”. He agreed but related, “I was the worst investigator ever. I would never follow through on any assignments”. After some months he stopped writing her out of shame. Then his heart broke when his sister related, “Every week I wait for a letter from my brother, and every week I cry.” He knew what he needed to do and it was extremely hard. He contacted a bishop and sought help and counsel. When he came to our meetings, it was with a desire to eventually serve a mission. Recovery didn’t happen overnight. It required him to give up lesser, but consuming addictions to both video games and social media. He found he had to be ‘all in’ to really overcome and receive the promised change of heart that God has promised to all who will truly trust in and follow Him. It was a beautiful meeting for all of us when he related, “The greatest day of my life was being worthy to see my sister sealed in the temple.” He has greater days to come. He became a facilitator for our group, but only for a brief time because his long-awaited mission call came.
I love this brother. He knows the redeeming power of our Savior and knows from the depths of his soul what true change feels like. He will teach the atonement of Jesus Christ with convincing power that comes through a true love for Him.
Another man, a dear brother we hadn’t seen at our recovery meetings for a long time contacted me by text and asked if my companion and I were still missionaries. I confirmed we were and asked him if he was alright. He indicated he was doing really well and mentioned he intended to come to our next meeting.
He came and addressed our group during the sharing portion of the meeting with a pleasant and warm countenance. He wanted the brothers to know he wasn’t trying to brag, but something very special had transpired. His ward was recently split and shortly thereafter he was called as the new elder’s quorum president. He recalled the time he had asked for a blessing from my companion and I. At that special time he said he was told he would become an elder’s quorum president. He continued, “I wondered about that and tried not to think about it much, but then it actually happened.” He said that in a very gradual process he had changed. He said he no longer feels a pull toward the addiction and rarely thinks about it. He related, “Men, we must not dabble in wondering what we can keep. If you put your toe in the vortex, it will pull you in. You’ve got to decide to give your whole heart and believe you can do it. Your past actions are not an indicator of what you can do in the future. You will break the addiction if you truly desire it. So keep that desire and keep choosing to overcome. It will happen through the atonement of Jesus Christ.”
At the end of this meeting I embraced several of my dear brothers. Then this young man came, and I found myself looking deep in his eye and the Spirit overcame me as I called him by name and said, “You will be a great Elder’s Quorum President and the men you serve will come to know our Savior through you because they will feel his love through you.”
No More Ashamed
Both of these men were glad to share their stories. The young man now on his mission said, “Please tell my story. Use my name. It’s okay! I used to be so ashamed that if people asked where I was going on meeting night, I would say I have a church meeting, but now I tell them openly, ‘I have an addiction recovery meeting I attend’.
For this young man it no longer mattered. The addiction was no longer in the shadows. It was dissipated from being exposed repeatedly to light. These men, and so many more are now anxious to help others.
I love these brothers. I cannot love them more or less based on if they ‘messed up’. When they are down my heart cries for them, and when they succeed, I joy in their success, but my love for them doesn’t change.
The Universal Call of Repentance
“People are never so one-dimensional” as to fit into a simple bin of bad or good. We all need repentance. Anything that keeps us from being like our Savior, whether it is from a habit of resisting the gentle nudging of the Spirit or a heart-rending failure to keep a major commandment, prevents us from being completely clean.
Tears often come to me when I think of my Savior. I have a deep love for Him. I remember the Spirit moving me when I crested the hill approaching the Bountiful Temple and viewed the Angel Moroni in his glory winding his trumpet. My heart cried out in prayer, “Father, give me a trumpet!”
Yea, he that repenteth and exerciseth faith, and bringeth forth good works, and prayeth continually without ceasing—unto such it is given to know the mysteries of God; yea, unto such it shall be given to reveal things which never have been revealed; yea, and it shall be given unto such to bring thousands of souls to repentance, even as it has been given unto us to bring these our brethren to repentance. Alma 26:22
I love repentance! Repentance is Joy!