I have been dealing with an addiction for quite awhile now and I am 18 and have been thinking about a mission for awhile.To me, I feel like I need to have a confirmation of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and that the Church is true. Because I have this addiction I don’t feel worthy enough to pray even less read the Book of Mormon to receive a confirmation. Also, since I graduated from High school I have really been questioning the church. Can you please help with my dilemma? (18 yr priest)
No matter how well the devil may know you, God and Christ know you infinitely better. What’s more, they love you and want you to come back home after your mortal experience. They want to bless your mortal experience with all the things you’ll need to come back home. And they’re more powerful than the devil will ever be – so trust them.
The Spirit Teaches Us to Pray
The first thing we need to clear up is your concern that you aren’t worthy enough to pray. Nothing could be farther from the truth! That idea comes straight from Satan and his followers:
And now, my beloved brethren, I perceive that ye ponder still in your hearts; and it grieveth me that I must speak concerning this thing. For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray, ye would know that ye must pray; for the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray.
But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul. (2 Nephi 32:8-9)
Unlike the evil spirit, the Holy Ghost (and all who are followers of Christ) will teach you to pray. If sin – any sin – made one unworthy to pray, none of us would be worthy to pray! Feeling unworthy is one of the best reasons to pray – prayer is a huge part of repentance. You might feel like you’re too far gone to be heard, but Isaiah has the truth of it:
Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. (Isaiah 1:18)
However bad your sins may be, Christ can heal you. There’s nothing you can say to God that He doesn’t already know – so go and talk to God. The act of speaking to him, and listening for His guidance and inspiration will give you strength to improve. The first step can be the hardest, but there is great power in it.
Gaining Spiritual Confidence
In addition to prayer, you mention two things that I think you should work on to help create and maintain the momentum you need to improve. The first of these is hesitance or uncertainty. Life is full of this. It takes hard work to overcome. Here again, the scriptures provide us with guidance (emphasis mine):
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. (Alma 32:27)
From your comments, I feel like you have this desire, but perhaps need help to recognize it for what it is. Throw off the uncertainty – or at least any thoughts or feelings of doubt that certainty can be achieved – it can be! I highly recommend that you study all of Alma 32. You may find the surrounding chapters of use too. Alma’s teachings in this chapter are some of the best out there about how to test truth. The Lord himself provided a second witness of this method:
If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. (John 7:17)
Decide now, not later, but right now, that you are going to “give place” for the teachings in the Book of Mormon, that you are going to test the Savior’s challenge to “do his will”, and see what the outcome is. But be sure you do this sincerely – not to prove it all wrong, but to sincerely trust that if it is right, acting on it will yield good results. (See Moroni 7:6, 9 and James 1:6.) You might think you’re not worthy enough to feel the Spirit or receive inspiration from God. Again, if this were the case, none of us would be worthy, for we are all sinners! The mere fact that you’re reaching out for help tells me that you want to improve, and that is all the Savior needs to work with – a sincere desire!
Gaining a Testimony of the Book of Mormon
Specific to your desire to obtain a testimony of the Book of Mormon, please study Moroni 10. As you do, make notes of the things you need to do to follow Moroni’s counsel:
- What things do you need to remember (make note of them)?
- What does it mean to “receive these things”? (It does not mean only to have a copy of the Book of Mormon in your possession – perhaps go read all the definitions of the verb “receive” in a dictionary and consider which of those are applicable here.)
- How do you develop a sincere heart and real intent?
- How do you increase your faith in Christ?
As you study (not just read, but read, consider, and make notes), the Holy Ghost will teach and encourage you. When you feel the time is right, kneel in a quite place when you won’t be interrupted. Start your prayer with gratitude. Express the sorrow you feel for your sins and weakness. Testify of the truths you already know (it may sound odd to testify to God, but trust me, there is power in this). Then ask him to confirm or witness to you of the truths you have studied.
Regarding your “on and off” thinking about a mission, just as with the above, put aside the indecision and make a choice. Even if you can’t decide that you willgo on a mission, at least decide now that you will prepare yourself for a mission. Above study will help you greatly. You can also study Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service. Learning how to teach others the gospel will also teach you the gospel. All these things will bring you to the point where you can know for yourself the truth and be prepared to share it with others.
Overcoming Sin and Addiction
The final thing we need to address is addiction. By definition, addiction is not something one overcomes alone. If you haven’t already, please go see your bishop immediately. Don’t wait. Don’t be ashamed or afraid. It will be a huge relief to confess and invoke the keys your bishop holds to bring Christ’s Atoning power into effect in your life. If you are truly addicted, one visit won’t be enough, but your bishop can help you to find the resources you need. He can provide spiritual guidance, and he can help you as you study and prepare for your future. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is not to wait – the longer you wait, the harder it gets. (See “Repentance Is Always Positive” by Stephen W. Owen from October 2017 General Conference.)
Go Forth with Faith
This may seem like a lot of work, but remember what I said above about there being power in the first step? I promise it’s much easier once you start. Remember, it doesn’t all have to be done in an instant. You’re looking to create new habits, and this is best done by doing a little at a time, consistently and persistently. Do the things you know are right. Follow the counsel of your bishop. Spend time each day in the scriptures and in prayer. Soon you will find yourself back in control. You will feel confidence in your ability to overcome the doubts and struggles you now have. If you miss a day, or slip up, don’t beat yourself up, just start again. We all mess up sometimes – you won’t be alone in that – so the important part is to start again. Perhaps above all, trust in the Lord:
But he that believeth these things which I have spoken, him will I visit with the manifestations of my Spirit, and he shall know and bear record. For because of my Spirit he shall know that these things are true; for it persuadeth men to do good.
And whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do good is of me; for good cometh of none save it be of me. I am the same that leadeth men to all good; he that will not believe my words will not believe me—that I am; and he that will not believe me will not believe the Father who sent me. For behold, I am the Father, I am the light, and the life, and the truth of the world. (Ether 4:11-12)
You have my prayers, hopes, and best wishes!