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LDS World: 12-step program up close and personal

When my friend sang the praises of the LDS Church's 12-step Addiction Recovery Program, I was intrigued and decided to attend that I might accurately describe these gatherings and make others aware of these always life-altering and sometimes life-saving programs.I was a bit nervous when I first entered the room but I spotted my friend sitting in a circle of women. She had saved me a seat and upon sitting the first thing that met my eyes were smiles of welcome.Because these are LDS support groups — for those with addictions or those with family members who have an addiction — the facilitators are called and set apart by church leaders and invested with priesthood authority to serve and act in behalf of those who attend.They are caring, compassionate and fully invested in this wonderful program. This is a calling these people not only take seriously but love because it allows them deeper, richer insight into the unqualified love the Savior has for each of his children.I attended only four of the full program, 12 sessions, but many participants attend on an on-going basis to feel the Spirit of the Lord, to support one another, to learn and to reinforce the profound principles that are taught. I attended a support group for women with loved ones suffering from an addiction to pornography. Many of the women in that circle were in pain. They were deeply wounded by betrayal, by poor choices, and by loss. However, through the 12 step program they have come to understand and feel the love, concern and interest the Savior has for them, in so many ways. They have been educated to better understand addiction, their hearts have been softened, and they are able to more freely forgive. They have also been led to recognize the love and forgiveness available to their struggling loved ones because of the Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ.Truly, the Atonement of Jesus Christ — and ONLY the Atonement of Jesus Christ — gives all individuals involved in these programs HOPE and a bright awareness that mistakes and sins can be overcome and that a life blighted by addiction: to gambling, pornography, drugs, alcohol, or other addictions, can again be clean and pure.Individuals that attend build support networks, find people with whom they can talk, share, who understand their struggles, and who leave judgment to the Lord. It is an extraordinary thing to participate in the LDS Church's 12-step program. It has been modified and adapted from the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous to align with the doctrine and principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ.What is at the heart of this program? The Addiction Recovery Program manual explains from the point of view of the addict: "We have known great sorrow, but we have seen the power of the Savior turn our most devastating defeats into glorious spiritual victories. We who once lived with daily depression, anxiety, fear, and debilitating anger now experience joy and peace. We have witnessed miracles in our own lives and in the lives of others who were ensnared in addiction. We have paid an awful price in self-inflicted pain and suffering because of our addictions. But blessings have poured forth as we have taken each step to recovery. Having had a spiritual awakening, we strive every day to improve our relationship with Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we are healed."We invite you with all our empathy and love to join us in a glorious life of freedom and safety, encircled in the arms of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. We know by our own experience that you can break free from the chains of addiction. No matter how lost or hopeless you may feel, you are the child of a loving Father in Heaven....These principles can help you come unto Christ and allow Him to change you. As you apply the principles, you will draw on the power of the Atonement and the Lord will free you from bondage."The many Addiction Recovery Programs of the church are inspired and powerful. For all who suffer from addiction or have a loved one suffering from addiction, I encourage you to considering participating.