The Second Step: What God does

August 14, 2006

The Second Step: What God doesFrom the LDS Addiction Recovery Manual:

Step 2: Come to believe that the power of God can restore you to complete spiritual health

There are a couple of important verses in Alma 5. They are immanently familiar to you, I am sure, because Janice Kapp Perry has written a couple songs based around them. I am just started to get a handle on their meaning, so please allow me to share what I have discovered.

And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts? (Alma 5:14)

Now, the important thing to realize here is that he is asking if we have become converted. The question we should ask is: converted to what? We often talk about the importance of conversion, but we don’t often talk about what that means. Usually, we treat it as meaning something along the lines of “really believing a lot”. Unsurprisingly, this is not that useful a term used under those conditions. It makes conversion something that is forever out of our reach, something always unattainable because we always must believe a little more. That is addicted thought, by the way. Anytime you put off something good today because you believe that you need to become worthy of it first, that is your inner addict speaking (I am not saying that voice isn’t sometimes right, but I am saying that it might be wrong more often than you think).

In any case, God wants us to become converted. But how and to what/whom? Let’s skip ahead a few chapters to chapter 32. Here we read:

27 But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.

28 Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.(Alma 32:27 – 28)

I know that this is very basic, scripture mastery type stuff. The problem with the scripture mastery program is that it makes the amazing seem mundane and you stop really thinking about what these verses are saying. Remember, both chapters 5 and 32 were written by Alma, who wrestled with sins as dark as yours. He has some knowledge of where you are coming from and how to get out.

In any case, Alma here asks us to actually keep the commandments. Take a “word” (chastity, honesty, fidelity, loyalty, and so forth) and actually try to live up to it. You will probably not do so well at it (you are an addict, after all and virtue has not been garnishing your thoughts), but try it as much as you can and see what happens. Do things go a bit better? Do you find your capacity to do good increasing, even if only microscopically? Do you find your desire to do good increasing? Try it with another “word” or keep trying with the same one. The promise is that eventually your faith in doing this will transform into knowledge. It will stop being an experiment and start being a certainty. It is around there that you start becoming a convert (although you could argue that you became one when you seriously began this experiment).

So, we are converted to and by God’s word. By following it, we become better people and better Christians. But what do we mean by that? It can’t just be the knowledge of commandments, because I knew about the commandments every time I sinned. It can’t just be our capacity to do good, because I knew that it was possible for me to not indulge in sin (I did it quite a bit of the time). The problem is that sometimes, I really wanted to sin. When I really wanted to sin, no amount of commandmental knowledge or personal fortitude could ultimately fight that. So, what is the use of becoming converted, if the second I want to sin again, I will. Doesn’t that just make it worse?

Well, once again, I have to ask what it means to convert. To an electrician, it means to change one type of electrical current to another. In the markets, it means changing the nature of your investments. Change is a necessary part of conversion, a change in something’s nature. So what changes when people are converted? Read on:

1 AND now, it came to pass that when king Benjamin had thus spoken to his people, he sent among them, desiring to know of his people if they believed the words which he had spoken unto them.

2 And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually. (Mosiah 5:1 – 2)

You may say that the above is well and good for the people of King Benjamin, but they weren’t going through what you were going through. If you say that, you are missing the point. What did God do to these people? What did He convert? Their desire. He took away their desire for sin, if just for a moment. God changes desire and our nature changes when God changes what we want. I once heard an alcoholic say that doing the 12 steps had to mean the end of alcoholism, because it became impossible to have fun drinking anymore. It was drinking that changed; the alcoholic simply didn’t want the things that drink provided anymore (or, at least, not as passionately as he used to). This is what God does: He changes our desires and we change as a result.

Now, are we to take this to mean that King Benjamin’s people never sinned again and never wanted to? No, we don’t take it that way, because we are not stupid. People are literally built to sin. However, let’s return to Alma’s speech in Alma 5:

And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now? (Alma 5:26)

Conversion is having a change of desires, the most important of which is to gain the desire to continue in conversion. For most of my life, I would get myself to a point where I could “feel to sing the song of redeeming love”. Even an addict like me has felt mighty changes, moments when I had no more disposition to do evil, but good continually. However, I always assumed that acheiving those moments was all I had to do. The truth is that we can and we must abide in those moments. Maintaining our conversion, becoming able to always sing the song of redeeming love, these are the true definition of enduring to the end and becoming converted. God will change us by giving us the desire to become changed.

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4 Responses to “The Second Step: What God does”

  1. ethesis Says:

    In any case, God wants us to become converted. But how and to what/whom?

    I liked the way you answered that question.

  2. John Anon Says:

    Thanks, Stephen. It took me a while to figure out how to say what I was trying to say.

  3. Lee Says:

    I have been trying different LDS websites regarding addiction. I stumbled onto this a few days ago. I will visit often. I am a long time addict with only a short time off the trip down denile. I’m sure that you have heard this a lot, but it feels so hopeless many times. It feels very alone. I think of the time and years I’ve wasted. My addiction comes from a result of being a victim of porn, alcohol and incest while growing up. I spent three years in trauma therapy over this only to come out with various addictions that seem overwhelming. Sorry to dump. I’ll get back on track. Your article is thoughtful and brings out points that I haven’t thought of. It brings me some hope because I don’t feel alone when I read them. Things take on a different meaning after I admitted to my addiction. Scriptures that I assumed meant one thing now means something different, more personal. That’s what your writing did, opened my mind and heart to a new view. Thanks. I will visit often.

  4. John Anon Says:

    Thanks, Lee. Feel free to comment. I am glad that you find this helpful.


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