The Heart t’ Heart 12 steps or “why I am glad Colleen had a weight problem”

July 18, 2006

After years of struggle with her weight and her self-esteem, Colleen Harrison reached a breaking point in 1981. She could no longer keep up the pretenses and the falsehoods that greased the wheels in her life. She was broken and she could not fix herself. Her best efforts had produced either no result or negative results; when she dieted, she usually gained weight. She knew she was hurting herself and her family; she knew that she was losing her faith and her sanity.

I was down for the count and I knew it. I knew it because I had finally done all that I could do. I had sewn, canned, cleaned, quilted, made babies, served husband and children past a righteous balance (Proverbs 11:1) and had held four church positions at the same time. I had stayed up late and gotten up early. I had gone to Education Week classes, read books, made charts, made pledges, gone to every “quick-weight [money] loss” program I could afford. There was nothing left. Nothing. I couldn’t even pray – at least not out loud. I felt much like Joseph in the grove, oppressed under a great cloud of darkness; only mine had not appeared in seconds – mine had taken years to build up

I literally crawled to my bedside and crumpled there, and the tears finally came – tears of complete surrender to God. No words, no excuses, no pleadings, no answers – just tears. There were not the tears of “poor-me” or “why-me.” Instead, there were tears of “not my will – but Thine be done. (He Did Deliver Me from Bondage (hereafter HDDMFB), ix-x)

She was prompted in this moment to reach out. In reaching out, she was led to Overeaters Anonymous, a 12-step program for those with a food addiction. At first, she was intrigued, but somewhat suspicious. There were all these people talking about God (some not even LDS); what had she gotten herself into? She bought a copy of The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, thinking that she would give it a once over, but not thinking that it would help her.

I took that “Big Book” home, and began to read. As I read I found how true it is that God is no respecter of persons. I read of Bill Wilson (the founder of AA) and his desperate need for a power greater than himself to solve a problem that he could not solve alone. I heard and felt echoes of Joseph Smith’s own deep need which had been ansered for him when he read James 1:5. It was as if I were hearing the scripture for the first time, caught between a prophet’s witness on the one hand and a derelict alcoholic’s on the other.

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to ALL men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. (James 1:5-6; emphasis added)

“Nothing wavering” – at about the same moment those memorized words passed through my mind, I found myself reading these words on page 13 of the AA text:

There I humbly offered myself to God, as I then understood Him, to do with me as he would. I placed myself unreservedly under His care and direction. (italics added)

And then the next sentence wrung out my heart as it echoed the very words of LDS scriptures:

I admitted for the first time that of myself I was nothing; that without Him I was lost (AA “Big Book,” p. 13)

I had to turn back to the title of the little book in my hands to make sure I wasn’t reading Mosiah 4:11, Alma 26:12, or Moses 1:10. No. This was the AA “Big Book,” and these were the words of Bill Wilson. (HDDMFB, xiii)

As she applied these principles, she lost weight, a lot of weight. She also began to wonder how closely all the 12 steps tied into the principles of the gospel. After a lengthy relapse, she found herself listening to the Prophet Ezra Taft Benson and his promises regarding the Book of Mormon.

Over and over again, he stressed the gift of the Book of Mormon, calling it the most perfect book ever written, containing the power to bring us closer to God than any other book. He pled with us to sup from its pages daily. He chastened us with the truth that as a people we were under the condemnation of “vanity and disbelief” – the only solution to which was reading the Book of Mormon and living by its precepts

I believed our prophet. I heard and took his counsel personally, as a single member of the “us” and the “we” of the church. I began a personal study of the Book of Mormon and was staggered at how perfectly its “precepts” harmonized with the “precepts,” or principles in each of the Twelve Steps. I began marking and color-coding my scriptures, particularly the Book of Mormon, for each of these twelve powerfully true principles….

In the midst of all this personal trauma, I clung to the Book of Mormon and used the Twelve Step model to sort out its precepts. Conversely, I used the Book of Mormon to magnify the concepts in the Steps with the glorious power of the Restoration.” (HDDMFB, xviii-xix)

From these notes and this study, Colleen H. produced a study guide, He Did Deliver Me from Bondage, and she founded the Heart t’ Heart group, a 12-step society for Latter-day Saints. Her influence has been great, leading to LDS Family Services using HDDMFB in all of their addiction recovery programs until they developed their own manual earlier this year (which Colleen consulted on).

I think that it is impossible to over-estimate the good that this wonderful sister has brought to pass by sharing her journey and her study notes with us. I sometimes think that I ought to thank God that Colleen had a weight problem, because it brought her to recovery and she has brought so many others there. In particular, as weight is not considered a serious sin (like alcoholism or sexual addiction), her confession that she was in the same boat as those other addicts is powerful. Her testimony of the power of Christ in this program is, I think, more readily accepted and the whole program appears more persuasive. She is truly a great, great child of God.

I have written her version of the 12 steps below. It can also be found at the website for Heart t’ Heart (, along with forums and chats in which she often actively participates.

The 12 Steps of Heart t’ Heart

(Bold print are conservatively adapted from the original Twelve Steps of A.A. The italicized versions are interpreted to reflect LDS beliefs as stated in the LDS scriptures).

1. We admitted we were powerless over compulsive/addictive behaviors* — that our lives had become unmanageable. Admitted that we of ourselves are powerless, nothing without God. (Mosiah 4:5; Alma 26:12)

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. Came to believe that God has all power and all wisdom, and that in His strength we can do all things. (Mosiah 4:9; Alma 26:12)

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. Made the decision to reconcile ourselves to the will of God, offer our whole souls as an offering unto Him, and trust Him in all things forever. (2 Nephi 10:24; Omni 1:26; Mosiah 3:19, 2 Nephi 4:34)

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. Made a searching and fearless written inventory of our past in order to thoroughly examine ourselves as to our pride and other weaknesses, with the intent of recognizing our own carnal state and our need for Christ’s Atonement. (Alma 15:17; Mosiah 4:2; Jacob 4:6-7; Ether 12:27)

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. Honestly shared this inventory with God and with another person thus demonstrating the sincerity of our repentance, and our willingness to give away all our sins that we might know Him. (Mosiah 26:29; Alma 22:18)

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. Became humble enough to yield our hearts and our lives to Christ for His sanctification and purification, relying wholly upon His merits, acknowledging even our own best efforts as unprofitable. (Helaman 3:35, 2 Nephi 31:19; Mosiah 2:20-21)

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. Humbly cried unto the Lord Jesus Christ, in our hearts, for a remission of sins, that through His mercy and His grace we might experience a mighty change of heart, lose all disposition to do evil and thus be encircled about in the arms of safety because of His great and last sacrifice. (Alma 36:18; Alma 38:8; Moroni 10:32; Mosiah 5:2; Alma 34:15-16)

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make restitution to all of them (even those we had harmed in what we might have considered righteous anger) desiring instead to be peacemakers, and to do all that we could to come unto God by being first reconciled to our brothers. (3 Nephi 12:9; 3 Nephi 12:24; 3 Nephi 12:44-45)

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. Made restitution directly to those we had harmed, confessing our own wrong doing in each instance, except when to do so would further injure them or others. (Mosiah 27:35; 3 Nephi 12:25; Mosiah 26:30)

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. Realizing that the weakness to be tempted and to sin is a part of the mortal experience, we continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong promptly admitted it, being willing to repent as often as needed. (2 Nephi 4:18; 2 Nephi 10:20; Mosiah 26:30)

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, seeking the words of Christ through the power of the Holy Ghost, that they might tell us all things that we should do, praying only for a knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out. (2 Nephi 32:3; Alma 37:37; Helaman 10:4)

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others still suffering from the effects of compulsive behaviors and to practice these principles in all our affairs. Having experienced a mighty change and having awakened unto God as a result of our sincere repentance demonstrated in taking these steps, we were willing to become instruments in carrying this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs. (Alma 5:7; Mosiah 27:36-37; Moroni 7:3)

* Any problem may be inserted here in place of “compulsive/addictive behaviors.


2 Responses to “The Heart t’ Heart 12 steps or “why I am glad Colleen had a weight problem””

  1. I’ve also been struck by the connection. I’ve been trying to read the free manual, I think I’ll order HDDMFB.

    It is interesting, OA didn’t really change how I felt about food, the SLD did, but the group has made living without food as a buffer tolerable, where it would not have been otherwise.

  2. John Anon Says:

    I would definitely recommend HDDMFB (I’m not paid for my endorsement or anything). I would also recommend attending the online meetings, if you can. Colleen and Phil (her husband) often participate.

    I’ve noticed that it is possible to do the steps on your own, but it is much easier and saner to do them with a group. You have people who understand what you are going through and who will, therefore, let you vent. They will also call you on your lame excuses, which is also helpful. Finally, as you get involved in other people’s recovery (without seeking to control their recovery process), it takes your mind off yourself (you selfish twerp ;)). Groups are good.

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