Neither Do I Condemn Thee: Go, and Sin No More

Neither Do I Condemn Thee: Go, and Sin No More

Hi, and welcome back to my new series:

Today we discuss Step 2:

Step 2: Hope–Come to believe that the power of God can restore you to complete spiritual health.
LDS Addiction Recovery Program (ARP)

As a recovering alcoholic, my entire adult life has been a study in contrast; a lesson in extremes.
Evil and Good, Sickness and Health.
Vice and Virtue, Darkness and Light.
Pain and Pleasure, Fear and Faith.
Disobedience and Obedience.
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And…as STEP 2 has taught me:
Despair and HOPE


As you and I know all too well, these contrasts are NOT unique to those suffering with addiction. This was part of God’s plan for all of us from the beginning, and none of us are exempt. In a blessing to his son Jacob, father Lehi taught:

“And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen…and they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.
But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things…

…Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.”

2 Nephi 2:22,25 (Book of Mormon)

In the heat of battle, it’s not easy to keep this perspective:

If WE knew no sin, we could do no good,
and if we knew no misery, we could not recognize and appreciate joy.

I can testify from L-O-N-G personal experience that overcoming sin prepares us to do good. And overcoming trials and misery is a step on the path to true joy. After all, isn’t that what Christ has done for each of us? The ultimate GOOD he did for each of us was to take upon himself our sins. And in some incomprehensible way, he actually took upon himself and experienced those things that make us miserable, so that we could experience true joy.

And all he asks is that we follow the path of the twelve steps to recovery…
THE 12 STEPS TO ATONEMENT.

For many, MANY years, I walked constantly in sin and misery. I had many good things in my life, but because of my alcoholism, life was not good. Addiction takes the joy out of our personal relationships and our everyday experiences. I loved my wife and kids. I could even say (at least sometimes) that I loved God.

Unfortunately, my chemically-imbalanced brain told me that survival was not possible without alcohol. And when my cravings kicked in, booze was more important than my own well being. More important than my beautiful family. And ultimately, more important than my relationship with my Savior.

My journey of recovery started when I realized (Step 1–HONESTY) that my life was a hot mess, and that I needed to make some major changes…changes that I couldn’t make by myself. Step 2 gave me HOPE–the hope that comes when we realize that God can restore us to complete spiritual health.


God’s First Commandments…

I’ve been intrigued as of late with what I like to call “God’s first commandments”. For example, what was God’s first commandment given in this, the dispensation of the fullness of time? To the 14-year-old Joseph Smith, God’s first words were this:

“This is My Beloved Son…HEAR HIM.”

(thanks to S. Michael Wilcox for pointing out this profound truth in his Time Out for Women talk entitled “Enquirers After Truth”.)

From that time on, Joseph (and by extension, each of us) are commanded to hear and follow the words of Jesus Christ.


So… what were God’s first commandments to all of man-kind?


When God created Adam and Eve, he planted a beautiful garden for them to live in. We know He commanded them to multiply and replenish the earth and not to eat the forbidden fruit.

But then, as he sent them to the garden, he also commanded them to take care of the garden and to
be happy and have joy“.

Was this commandment revoked after Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden? No! For, as Nephi taught us…“Men (and women) are, that they might have joy”.


As I facilitate LDS Addiction Recovery Meetings and help those struggling with addiction at the Davis Receiving Center, I’ve come to realize something I wish I’d known 30-something years ago. Over and over, in every dispensation of time, God has given a message to humanity.

God says to each of us:
“I love you, and my grace is sufficient for you!”


Lost in Translation

Just a couple of days ago, I walked in on my wife Julie as she was studying the scriptures. She looked up at me and said:

“I like God much better in the Doctrine and Covenants…He loves us. God in the Bible is scary, angry, and vengeful.”

I get it. I see her point. And there are several good explanations as to why this is. The one I’d like to talk about is something I discovered while doing my personal “Come Follow Me” study over the past week or two.

I don’t know about you, but I think the writings of Isaiah are pretty intimidating. Often it just seems like so much gibberish. And I’m not alone…Nephi himself admitted his children had a problem understanding Isaiah (because they had not lived in Jerusalem). Then he explained:

“…my soul delighteth in the words of Isaiah, for I came out from Jerusalem, and mine eyes hath beheld the things of the Jews… and there is none other people that understand the things which were spoken unto the Jews like unto them, save it be that they are taught after the manner of the things of the Jews.”

2 Nephi 25:5 (Book of Mormon, emphasis added)

Bad news…and good news!

Did you catch that…? Nephi told us that NOBODY could understand the things which were spoken to the Jews except they are taught after the manner of the Jews.

So, the bad news is this: To understand Isaiah, we need to understand something complicated and foreign to us…Jewish culture, circa 740 BC. Do you start to comprehend the challenge of understanding Isaiah now?

But here’s the good news: The writings of Isaiah are profound and beautiful. You just have to know a little about the Jewish culture and language. Even better, YOU don’t have to be a scholar…you just have to know where to look for help. Just for grins, follow this YouTube link and see what comes up when you search for BYU Education Week. You’ll be astounded at the HUNDREDS of hours of enlightenment you’ll find if you just look! And as a side note…near the top of the list here is an amazing talk by Calvin Stephens, who many of my readers have personally known and loved for several decades.


I’ve also become quite fond of an LDS Living Magazine podcast called “Sunday on Monday“. Each week, Sunday on Monday podcasts a group discussion on the current Come Follow Me lesson. This past week, Sunday on Monday host Tammy Uzelac Hall, gave some incredible insights on the week’s lesson (which includes some of the “Isaiah chapters” of the Book of Mormon).

As luck would have it, these chapters also nicely address Step 2 of the twelve steps of addiction recovery and I was able to share some of these insights with my “12-step” friends last Tuesday.


Here’s some stuff I shared with my ARP 12-step group this week:

For many years, I’ve heard a few people talk about how AMAZING the “Isaiah chapters” of the Book of Mormon are. Here’s a little insight to let you in on WHY they’re so cool. Think about it: Here we have the testimony of FOUR different prophets…testifying of God’s love for us. How so?

Here we have:

  1. Joseph Smith translating a record written by the Book of Mormon prophet…
  2. Nephi, who is quoting his brother, the prophet…
  3. Jacob, who was expounding on the writings of…
  4. ISAIAH, who was writing prophetically about the Savior Jesus Christ and his mission of atonement.

WOW, This must be important stuff!! So what do these FOUR prophets want us to know?

“Yea, for thus saith the Lord: Have I put thee away, or have I cast thee off forever? For thus saith the Lord: Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement? To whom have I put thee away, or to which of my creditors have I sold you? Yea, to whom have I sold you?…”

2 Nephi 7:1 (Book of Mormon)…Compare with Isaiah 50:1

WHAT??! I wanted the Love of GOD! What’s this talk about bills, divorces, and being sold into slavery?? Where’s the wisdom of the four prophets here? Time for a little enlightenment on ancient Jewish culture.


Jewish “Divorcement”

In Jewish law the only way to be properly divorced is for the man to write a legal document (a “bill”) stating that he is divorcing his wife. If a married woman claims that her husband permanently kicked her out of the house, the first question would be “where is the bill of your divorcement?” And speaking of getting rid of family members… a man in debt could settle the debt by selling one of his children into slavery to the debtor.

So here, the Lord is asking “Have I put thee away (another term referring to a legal divorce), or cast thee off forever?” And then he asks “Where is your bill of divorce? Or to whom have I sold you?” Now let’s read the rest of the verse:

“… Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves…”

2 Nephi 7:1 (Book of Mormon, emphasis added)…Compare with Isaiah 50:1

Well…that puts it in a whole new light. The Lord was telling us that HE has not divorced us, sold us into slavery, or left us to our own devices. On the contrary WE have sold ourselves into slavery by our iniquities.

Promises of a Loving God

I’m still not getting the “warm fuzzies” here…it still sounds like the words of the angry, vengeful God that Julie was talking about. But…here comes the loving, “my grace is sufficient” Lord. Let’s cherry-pick our way through the next few verses:

O house of Israel, is my hand shortened at all that it cannot redeem, or have I no power to deliver?

2 Nephi 7:2 (Book of Mormon)

In other words the Lord can reach ANY of us, regardless of our transgressions. His hand is not shortened…he can redeem and deliver us. We can NOT fall so low that he can not pull us back up.

Reading on we learn that he will give us “The tongue of the learned” (to speak wisdom), that he will “open our ears” (to hear his voice), and that “the Lord God will help [us], therefore [we] shall not be confounded”. The Lord tells us that when He is near, He will justify us, and he invites us to “stand together” with him. Finally, the Lord tells us that if we hearken to the voice of his servants (his prophets) that we will not walk in darkness, but that we will “…walk in the light of the fire and sparks which [we] have kindled…”

So, even when we fall short of expectations, our loving Father will teach us wisdom, speak to us, help us, stand by us, justify us and give us the power to kindle our own spiritual sparks, and walk in His light. That sounds a WHOLE lot more like the God of the Doctrine and Covenants to me!


One more example of Isaiah teaching us about “Step 2”:

One more short example of the beauty of Isaiah:

“Awake, awake, put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments…

“Shake thyself from the dust; arise, sit down, O Jerusalem; loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion.

2 Nephi 8:24-25 (Book of Mormon)…Compare Isaiah 52:1-2

Here we go again…clear as mud, eh? 😉

For the first part…awake, put on strength, put on beautiful garments…? This one isn’t too tough: As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where do we go to get spiritual strength and put on “beautiful garments”? Yep…this one is referring to making covenants in the House of the Lord! And these covenants are going to prepare us for what?

To explain the second half of this scripture let me do what I do best…take off on a tangent! (I promise, we’ll end up right back here in a minute or two.)

Lessons from The Woman Taken in Adultery

Remember Christ’s encounter with the “woman taken in adultery”? Let me share some insights given by Emily Belle Freeman in her recent Time Out for Women talk: “Finding His Grace Where You Are”.

You remember the story: As Jesus taught the people, the Scribes and Pharsees bring to Him a woman “taken in adultery…even in the very act” and they ask the Lord what they should to with her.

Jewish custom demanded that the unworthy and the slaves were to be seated on the ground when in the presence of the “upper class”. We can assume that these men dragged the woman in and threw her on the ground, where she stayed during the following discussion.

As the confrontation continues we are told that Jesus ignored the Pharisee’s questions, bent down, and started writing in the dirt. We do not know what he wrote, but look at this picture and see what this action does: As Christ stooped down to draw, he met the woman where she was, face to face, and on her level.

Christ finally answered the accusers with the famous line: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her”. Then he continued to write on the ground, still positioned compassionately near the woman, on her level.

As the accusers begin to leave, having been condemned by their own consciences, Christ asks “Where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee?”

Then she said, “No man, Lord.”

And with that, the Savior reaches out to the woman, raises her up, and says to her “Neither do I condemn thee: Go, and sin no more.”

Christ’s mission was to atone for the sins of all mankind, not to condemn them. As we accept his atonement He will say to US: “Neither do I condemn thee: Go and sin no more.”


Now lets return to Isaiah’s teachings and tie this all together…

Remember where we were?

“Awake, awake, put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments…

“Shake thyself from the dust; arise, sit down, O Jerusalem; loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion.

2 Nephi 8:24-25 (Book of Mormon)…Compare Isaiah 52:1-2

OK, “Shake thyself from the dust” is a fairly common scriptural phrase–we know this refers to forsaking our sins. But what’s with that “Arise, sit down…” thing? Sounds like a game of musical chairs to me. This time we don’t need to know Jewish tradition, we need to know the ancient language of the Jews.

In the Hebrew version of the Old Testament the word that translated to the English “arise” holds a greater meaning than to just “stand up”. Remember what I said about the slave being required to sit on the ground in the presence of royalty? The Hebrew word used here as “arise” means to stand up from the ground and shake off the dirt…like a slave. And Hebrew phrase translated as “sit down”? It means to be seated on a throne–a term reserved for royalty.

So put it all together… Once we put on our strength and beautiful garments (make covenants in the temple), we are invited to rise up from the dust and dirt of this world and sit down on a throne…as Kings and Queens, Priests and Priestesses to the Most-High God. Isn’t that beautiful?? No wonder it got the “four-prophet” treatment!

And what makes this all possible? STEP 2!

When we “come to believe that the power of God can restore us to complete spiritual health”, Christ will lift us up, like he did for the adulterous woman, and say to us “I do not condemn thee–Go, and sin no more”.

Living through alcoholism and recovering from my addiction has given me strength and knowledge I could have never imagined. I testify to you that God has an individual plan for each of us.

C.S. Lewis likened it to remodeling a house. He suggested we imagine that we are a house and that God is the new owner. He proposes to remodel the house, and we agree. At first, he fixes the leaky roof and the broken doors. This is to be expected–we know there were some problems there. But then he starts knocking out walls and making unexplained holes in the ceilings and floors. This is painful, and you wonder why you are being so tortured.

Then, C.S. Lewis points out:

God is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” 

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

C.S. Lewis describes what my journey with alcoholism feels like:

Life has not gone at all like I would have hoped.  Yet, for having gone through it, I am a better man because of it.  I often wonder if we can grow at all as Christians without suffering.  It is through suffering that our faith becomes more mature, and we as people are refined as gold.

C.S. Lewis

I am SO thankful for a loving Heavenly Father. I see and feel his influence in my life everyday. And in hindsight, even when I was in the worst depths of my addiction, I was blessed and protected by His Grace each and every day. My involvement in the LDS Addiction Recovery Program has taught me this truth: Christ LOVES the sinner, seeks out the lost sheep, and will grant us spiritual gifts to overcome our weakness. He will make of us a palace which…”He intends to come and live in…Himself”!


One last piece of advice from an Apostle:

Life is messy. Before and throughout the process of recovery, I was NOT a very nice person to live with. Just ask Julie and my kids…I was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and life for them was frequently NOT FUN!

Honestly, we are all like that to some extent. Change is difficult. Broken spirits and broken minds take time and patience to heal. I hope we can all follow this advice from Elder Holland:

“Broken minds can be healed just the way broken bones and broken hearts are healed. While God is at work making those repairs, the rest of us can help by being merciful, non-judgmental, and kind.”
Jeffery R. Holland
Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ

To finish out today’s lesson, take a minute and watch this video, bearing in mind what we’ve talked about regarding Step 2…and see if the words of Isaiah have changed your perspective has changed a little bit… with belief in God, we can all rise up from the dust and be seated with Him in power and glory!


Thanks for joining me today as we explore the 12 steps to Atonement and strive for a Change of Heart! For more information about the LDS Addiction Recovery Program, click the “Stop Hurting, Start Healing” banner below.

I am inspired and strengthened by your stories of failure and success. Feel free to let me know what you think of Change of Heart by commenting below, or drop me a private message at Kyle@ChangeOfHeart.LIFE.

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Kyle@ChangeOfHeart.LIFE

Husband. Father. Grandfather. Uncle. Son. Pro Musician. Artist. Pro Driver. Mormon. And...recovering alcoholic. Now as a professional Addiction Peer Support Specialist, I share my story at ChangeOfHeart.LIFE, facilitate 12-step meetings for the LDS Addiction Recovery Program, and work for Davis Behavioral Health at their Addiction Treatment Receiving Center.


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AffiliateLabz
10 months ago

Great content! Super high-quality! Keep it up! 🙂

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