Monday, January 24, 2011

On grace and repentance

In recovery circles, where 12-step programs are practiced, there's an understanding that one cannot do it alone. If one takes the AA approach to recovery, one first faces the reality that no one can, by himself, control the disease of addiction. And one walks through steps that lead one to understand dependence on God for rescue from that same disease.

It's not that there isn't a great deal of work to be done by the person seeking recovery (whether an addict, an alcoholic or a co-dependent loved one of an addict). Surrendering oneself to God is no simple task.

In Step 7 of the church's Addiction Recovery Program (which is based on the 12 steps of AA, but is also infused with more direct links to doctrine and to commentary from apostles and prophets), we read these words:

"Genuine remorse filled our hearts, not only because we had suffered or made others suffer but because we regretted that even in recovery we still could not remove our own shortcomings…. We asked that He would grant us grace, that through Him we might maintain this new way of life" (A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing", 41, emphasis mine).

My own experience is that the 12 steps are an elegant application of the atonement in our lives, and lessons from the 12 steps are readily applicable to other efforts at repentance and rebirth. The truth of this particular step is no exception:

All of us who sin (and I think I can safely say that's all of us) cannot overcome that sin alone. It is not enough simply to stop our objectionable behavior (even if we can): we require the mercy and grace of a loving Savior to heal our hearts and our lives.

Herein is God's grace clear, that we have the opportunity to overcome our shortcomings, that He can turn our weaknesses into strengths (see Ether 12:27), that He can lift up the hands that hang down (D&C 81:8). I have seen that grace in my own life, and that is how I know He lives.


  1. I agree that the 12 steps is a great tool to understand and practice repentance.

    But for the grace of God, go I into a place of no light, no hope of escape.

    His grace and love and forgiveness are the source of all good and light and love.

  2. Rich, thanks for your comment. The high councilor in our stake responsible for the ARP program spoke not long ago about the impact on his life of working the steps. It was really revealing to hear its value even to someone who is not "in recovery".

  3. I started studying 12 step materials for their relevance to grief recovery.

    Did not find much, but I found a great deal of value.