Step 3: Trust in God: Gophers and Guidance

Trapping gophers was not my favorite job. I have no desire to harm any creature, but I grew up on a ranch where my Grandpa was concerned about erosion from the gophers destroying the sheep range, so I was often sent to run a trap line to reduce their numbers. While preparing to go on a mission this was my task. I was paid by how many gophers I trapped and so I asked my Heavenly Father to guide me to where I could be most effective so I could raise the money I needed to be on His errand.


The impression came clearly: “Go to Davenport.” This was not what I wanted to hear. I prayed again, “Are you sure? Davenport has a pond, but is largely treeless so the ground is sunbaked and dry. I don’t think that is such a good idea.” I knew it was hard to set traps in dry ground. It was hard to dig, and the crumbly tunnels would cave in on the traps. The Lord was patient and once again impressed me to “go to Davenport”. I fought this impression for a full week, before finally moving my trap line there.

It was as I thought: hard work and tough going, but I hadn’t been trapping there many days when I caught an albino gopher. The only one ever recorded on that mountain. It was like the one in the picture, but lacked the faint brownish shading, being completely and uniformly white with pink eyes. For me, it was a sign that my Heavenly Father loved me enough to answer my simple prayer. I sent the gopher to a taxidermist, but was unable to follow up because the week I delayed put me into the start of my mission. The gopher disappeared, but a lesson more valuable than money (and one I’m still learning) remained:

If one seeks the Lord’s help, one’s real intent must be to follow through without delay. God loves us, but will give us a trial of our faith before sending Heaven’s blessings.


Welcome to Step 3 of the Addiction Recovery Program: Trust in God – “Decide to turn your will and your life over to the care of God the Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.” Please remember that I call this program a graduate course in Eternal Life Recovery. This is the decision step. Every person needs it.

My favorite quote from this step is from Boyd K. Packer, a man who I feel love and kinship for:

“Perhaps the greatest discovery of my life, without question the greatest commitment, came when finally I had the confidence in God that I would loan or yield my agency to him— without compulsion or pressure, without any duress, as a single individual alone, by myself, no counterfeiting, nothing expected other than the privilege. In a sense, speaking figuratively, to take one’s agency, that precious gift which the scriptures make plain is essential to life itself, and say, ‘I will do as you direct,’ is afterward to learn that in so doing you possess it all the more” (Obedience, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year [Dec. 7, 1971], 4).

There is an element of hesitation and sometimes fear of overcoming anything and everything that holds us back from the being with the Lord. In addiction recovery, several honest souls admitted the real fear that they don’t know who they’d be without their addiction. “I don’t even know what it would feel like to be normal!” This applies to us all though. Innocent distractions we know are holding us back are not so innocent. “Do I really have to give up this habit I enjoy?”

And so, for those struggling with soap operas, pain killers, excessive passive activities, compulsive social media, romance novels or whatever we find holding us back, re-read Step 1 (honesty), ask “What Lack I yet?”, and then make the decision.

I promise you that whatever you lose will be, “replaced with an abundance of happiness and joy, good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over.” (President Uchtdorf, April 2014 Conference).

Step 2: Real Hope and the Food Metaphor

While living in Japan, my wife’s uncle was diagnosed with liver cancer. The prognosis wasn’t good. In its advanced stage, the doctors indicated he had 6-months to live. But this man had an amazing wife who didn’t give up. She searched all over Japan for doctors who might have a promising cure. She found a holistic doctor who advised him that with a drastic change in his diet and a unique exercise program, he could stop feeding the cancerous cells and restore proper nutrient flow to the properly functioning cells.


He abruptly changed to a strict diet of unseasoned raw tofu, uncooked ground brown rice and raw leafy green vegetables. No condiments like dressing or soy sauce were allowed. He also began an hour per day special exercise and stretching program and he began to improve little by little. The 6 months passed, and then a year and then 5 years. By that point there was no trace of cancer in his body. It has been over 20 years ago now and he is still doing well today. He continues to work hard and provide for his family at their small family lumber mill, and he continues his special diet, aided by his wife who grows and prepares much of their food.

Real hope involves real change.


I remember my wife taking dinners to sisters who could no longer get out in our ward. Many were bed-ridden and several were struggling with diabetes. She would take them healthy food and encourage them to try to get up, even for a few minutes. They recognized the need to do so, but in some cases they admitted they still really liked their occasional ice cream and the exercise was just too hard. It is much easier to identify what we need to do than to actually do it and make real-life, permanent changes. Sadly several of these sisters passed away prematurely.

As an addiction recovery missionary, perhaps my biggest worry is that people go home feeling rejuvenated and hopeful without fully realizing that the temptations are still going to come and as one resists, the temptations become harder before getting easier. Real change will begin to overcome real withdrawal. Its hard. Satan won’t give up ground he has taken without a battle.


Real hope for my uncle came because he honestly confronted his condition and followed through with a life-changing effort. Recovery from poor character traits, bad habits and addictions also requires the whole heart.

Real hope begins with saying, “I’m going to overcome. It no longer matters what others say or do or think. I will change what needs to change in my personal life. I will completely immerse myself in life and living and I will not despair. I will remember that the ‘little stuff’ matters. I will give my heart to my Savior and walk with him.”

Real hope comes knowing that if one fails, they must get up and try again and push forward, knowing the person who fell and got up is stronger than the one who fell in the first place.

Welcome to Step 2 of the recovery program: Hope… to believe that the power of God can restore you to complete spiritual health.

Real hope comes from our Savior, Jesus Christ.


Step 1: Honesty – and the Chipmunk Cage


When I was a boy, I wanted a pet chipmunk. My summers growing up were spent on our grandpa’s sheep ranch in the mountains where these incredibly fast and flighty creatures thrived. One day I finally captured one. I was thrilled and excited to give this chipmunk everything it wanted. And so I brought this sad little creature home where I commenced using string and wire to sew pieces of old window screens together inside a wire hanger frame to form a primitive cage. I created a little screen maze on a lower level leading to a nearly completed main cage area. I was so excited to have the little animal enjoy the cage that I let him into the nearly completed cage, feeling that the frightened creature would stay in the far corner while I finished the final panel.

I let the little chipmunk into the cage, excited to watch him navigate the maze. Instead he obliterated the poorly secured maze and in just a second or so burst from the cage with amazing speed. I believe we found his poor mummified body behind a panel in the attic of our home months later.

We must be careful that the barriers we put up to protect us from temptation are not like my cage: incomplete and flimsy. We need to be completely honest with ourselves and our Heavenly Father about what is keeping us from enjoying his presence moment to moment. Otherwise we leave Satan an opening.

Step 1 in addiction recovery (which I prefer to call ‘eternal life recovery’ – as this applies to all of us) is learning to be completely honest. If each of us would truly and honestly look into our hearts and admit where we were not giving a full measure we would become like Moroni, always shoring up defenses and standing up against evil the moment it raises its head. I love this man, of whom it is written:

Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men. (Alma 48:17)

Just as I cannot almost close the gate of my sheep pasture and take comfort in the secure fence enclosing them, we cannot take comfort in prayer and scripture study (great and needed protections!) if with an honest assessment we see we are purposefully leaving something nearby that we know is a temptation.


23 … we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that
we are saved, after all we can do.
(2 Nephi 25:23)

Be honest: recognize the ‘small stuff’ holding us back, and do everything you can to overcome it.

Welcome to the 12-step recovery program.  Step 1: Honesty