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Distorted Self Appraisal

Let me relate an experience with a drug enforcement officer that illustrates how justification can distort our honest view of ourselves. For if we bend, the light we reflect bends.

Distortion

As newlyweds living in Logan, Utah, we were invited to hear an officer speak about drugs at a relief society activity. The officer began discussing problems youth were facing and an emerging gang influence, but the relief society president stopped him and asked him to talk about prescription drug abuse instead. He quickly said, “Oh, we have a real problem with that.” He told of standing on a doorstep with an older woman, trying to explain that her copying of a prescription that she drove around to fill at multiple pharmacies was not normal behavior. It was actually prescription fraud and a sign of addiction. He continued that this was not an isolated incident. It was a troubling part of his job to convince people there was a problem. As he talked, heads started to sag around the room, as the expected comfortable focus on ‘struggling youth’ turned to an introspective question, ‘Master, is it I?’

The natural result of sin in any degree is that we see things through the distorting lens of justification. Straight lines can appear curved and vice versa. The question of “How can I be completely clean?” is replace by false statements like “It isn’t that bad” or “This doesn’t really affect me.” Sins of omission often are couched in, “I’m too tired” or “They don’t really need my help”. Addiction starts in a cloud of denial which is why things typically get really bad before one seeks help.

Step 1 in addiction recovery is honesty, but it is also the first step for anyone to turn their life to our Savior. Honest self-assessment is critical to our growth. President Uchtdorf properly identifies its importance in two wonderful talks “Lord Is It I?” and “On Being Genuine”.

President Uchtdorf stated, “… none of us likes to admit when we are drifting off the right course. Often we try to avoid looking deeply into our souls and confronting our weaknesses, limitations, and fears. Consequently, when we do examine our lives, we look through the filter of biases, excuses, and stories we tell ourselves in order to justify unworthy thoughts and actions.”

I am blessed to work with men who have finally become honest enough to admit their problem and reach out for help. They often have broken hearts that are ready to be healed and filled. I promise you that if you reach out, there is a hand that will receive you and never let go, as long as you keep reaching. The atonement can reclaim us from any addiction but it starts here, with honesty.

Finding Lost Sheep

Lamb_Small

When I was a boy, we would go out to see sheep shearing on my grandfather’s ranch located in a dry and remote area Northeast of Promontory Point on the shore of the Great Salt Lake. One year I brought my trumpet and my sister and I decided we would climb a nearby hill overlooking the camp where I could wind my trumpet long and loud. I was naïve to think it would carry clearly over the long distance to the camp in the open air. Even at full volume, it sounded empty and hollow.

Winter_Range

Promontory bordering the Great Salt Lake

After we were done, we climbed higher. This being spring, the normally hot and dry desert peak was pleasantly green and refreshing. After some distance we heard a faint bleating sound and soon found it came from a little lamb that had been abandoned on the hillside. Our priorities suddenly changed from a vain show to a rescue mission. We looked for signs of a mother sheep somewhere nearby and finding none we carried the lamb down the hill and ended up taking it home with us. It was one of quite a few bum lambs my grandfather gave us that I would clumsily help nourish with bottles of milk as I grew up in a small town in Northern Utah. We saved many of them and raised them in our back pasture.

One lamb wouldn’t take the milk, despite my best effort to open its mouth to give it a taste of the life saving liquid. It was getting very weak just before we had to leave it in the care of our neighbor for a week while we out of town. When we got back, I was overjoyed to see the lamb had not only recovered, it was full of vitality, now excitedly wriggling its tail in anticipation of feeding. I wondered how I could learn to nurture like my neighbor. I was grateful to him.

When the Savior taught us to leave the 99 safely enfolded sheep to find the one that was lost, he didn’t explain why the sheep was lost or justify why it should be saved. In his love for his sheep, he was simply concerned that the sheep be found and nourished.

A dear friend of mine reminded me that sheep don’t typically wander because they are rebellious or spiteful. They wander because they are hungry. The further we wander from God, family and the warm hands of friends the more hungry we become. Let us remember to feed the flock close at hand, but also to remember that the very people who are hardest to love, especially those who struggle with addiction or wonder if they belong, need love the most.

So, perhaps if I am not too busy making a vain display of how good I am… I will have time to seek out brothers and sisters who need healing and hope. This is the Lord’s work. It is our work.

JOY IN REPENTANCE

I cannot begin to express the powerful emotions I felt in our ARP (Addiction Recovery Program) meeting last night.

We missionaries contribute at the end of the meeting after the others have shared, so I was last but I could hardly speak. There was a powerful healing spirit that permeated the room. Here were broken hearts and contrite spirits. Every participant had put a sincere offering on the altar in coming there and sharing for their fellows. As I looked into the faces of these men who mean so much to me, I began by paraphrasing a scripture that was given to me in the temple,

“And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along.” (D&C 78:18)

I told my brothers there that I consider them my dear friends and that if the Savior wasn’t there with us, then I didn’t know where else he would be. Did he not say, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matt 18:20). I related how my mission president had told us at the time of his release that he couldn’t help but look out on us and smile, not because we were where we needed to be, but because he knew we were headed the right direction.

We have had many successes and many more setbacks. It isn’t as important where we are, but where we are going.

I love this call and I love those I serve (Alma 29:9-10):

9 I know that which the Lord hath commanded me, and I glory in it. I do not glory of myself, but I glory in that which the Lord hath commanded me; yea, and this is my glory, that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance; and this is my joy.

10 And behold, when I see many of my brethren truly penitent, and coming to the Lord their God, then is my soul filled with joy; then do I remember what the Lord has done for me, yea, even that he hath heard my prayer; yea, then do I remember his merciful arm which he extended towards me.

Destructive Power of a Tornado

Tornado image

The LDS addiction recovery manual uses the metaphor of a destructive tornado to describe how addiction affects others. Let me extend that metaphor a moment.

A person justifying an addiction, or really any sin, is to some extent trying to stand in the eye of a dark storm that isolates them from God and from others. Because the storm itself obscures the damage being done, it is easier to live in denial here and turn a blind eye to the hurt it causes loved ones. When we seek repentance, however, we take the momentum out of the storm and as the debris settles, we begin to see the precious relationships that have been damaged.

You will find there are many things that are lost: lost time that could have been used for a hundred simple acts of service, lost relationships which could have enriched our lives, and a loss of the Spirit which brings us close to God. Indeed, the most important connection all of us have lost in our fallen state is the one with our Heavenly Father.

This week I was reading in Psalms 30:5 and loved the Joseph Smith translation (in italics):

Psalms 30:5 –  For his anger kindleth against the wicked; they repent, and in a moment it is turned away, and they are in his favor, and he giveth them life; therefore, weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

And so we see, the most important connection is one that was never truly lost. It is the one that will be offered back to us without reserve and with a full measure of joy. It is with our Father in Heaven.

In the conference talk given by President Uchtdorf, titled, “You can do it now” he relates falling down ungracefully on a ski slope and being unable to stand. Then his 12-year old grandson came and told him not only to get up, but said, “You can do it now”. I testify that ‘you can do it now’. You can repent and stand and rebuild these relationships.

…and if you fall down again. You can get up again and again until you overcome.

Introducing a Higher Path

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Please let me introduce myself. I am a father, a husband and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I have no greater joy than what I have experienced in seeing lives being brought to our Savior. Whatever your faith is, my hope in posting these is to inspire you to reach a higher path.

Many of my posts will relate to my volunteer work is as an addiction recovery missionary because the Addiction Recovery Program (ARP) is a program of total conversion and as such applies to everyone who desires to have his or her heart made completely clean. I love this program and the power it brings to activate the atonement in so many lives.

That is just a beginning. The scope of this blog is the gospel which has enriched every facet of my life. Callings to serve God’s family on earth teaching music to little children, stories to boy scouts, service to quorum member and work in temples have all given me far more than I can give.

I have no desire to sit on the sideline and watch. I want to take every child of God I can reach by the hand, look them in the eye, tell them I love them and walk with them… on a higher path.

Marcellus Harper

Creation of a Jewel

3 Nephi  24:17 – “And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of Hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels”

The greatest missionaries of the Book of Mormon were possibly Alma and the sons of Mosiah. They were described as ‘the vilest of sinners’ until the miracle of conversion came as the result of a faithful father’s prayer. The sons of Mosiah gave up every worldly thing, including their father’s kingdom because they could not bear that anyone should be eternally cut off from the presence of God, as they very nearly had been.

They did everything they could to repair the wrongs they did in spite of being smitten and ridiculed by many. They left their homes to teach the gospel to their enemies. They fasted and prayed much and suffered hunger and fatigue and the very real deprivations of rejection and imprisonment.

Here is the miracle of the work of God. Only He can take people with cold, hard hearts and refine them into beautiful crystal. He won’t take our hearts. He waits for us to give them to him.

I have heard it said that we are not the light, we only reflect the light, however when we are purified, we not only reflect the light, our whole being can fill with the light of our Savior, and like the crystal, we can turn that perfect light into a rainbow of comfort, peace, hope and charity that others may see and be warmed by.

Addiction recovery is all about realizing we can be completely clean:

D&C 88:67 – “And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things.”

jewels