In Part 1 of this post, I shared about how I used to read the scriptures dishonestly in order to keep from really seeing what the Lord expected of me as an addict as I tried to forsake my sins. My number one example was the story of Enos. I wanted a repentance experience like what his appeared to be: in secret, in isolation, 100% solo! Here’s another example of my dishonest scripture reading.
2. Alma the Younger. This account was a very close second to Enos’ in my addict mind. It appealed to me so much for a single reason: “And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.” That’s Alma chapter 36 verse 19. Instant forgiveness and miraculously no more desire to do evil! That’s what I wanted! How awesome would that be?
Alma the Younger was a bad man. He went around with the sons of Mosiah looking for opportunities to disrupt the progress of the Church and just basically to mess with people’s lives. As he and his friends in wickedness were out on the road, an angel appeared to them and focusing his wrath on Alma, said basically, “You can go to hell if you want, but you’re not going to take anyone else with you! Knock it off!”
The event with the angel crushed the wickedness out of Alma to such an extent that he became comatose for three days. During that time, he experienced being “racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins” (Alma 36:12). Three days of torment seemed like a small price to pay to be done with my “little problem” forever. Oh, how I longed for an Alma experience! God intervenes and takes away my compulsions–never to return.
In my selective and dishonest reading of Alma’s story, I refused to see several of its important components. First, there was no secrecy or isolation! Alma’s repentance experience took place in broad view of all who were important to him: his parents (including his father, the prophet and priesthood leader), his friends and the people he had hurt. After his experience, he lived a life where his sins were no longer a secret. He actually talked about them repeatedly including to his sons Helaman, Shiblon and Corianton.
Now this is not to say that he disclosed to the world the details of each and every sin. But the general facts of his previous life of sin were not a secret. If I had realized this while I was in denial about addiction, I suspect that Alma’s story would have lost much of its appeal. No secrecy, no isolation and no taking care of his “little problems” on his own. Ugh says the addict in denial! Why couldn’t I see this? Because I was studying my scriptures dishonestly.
One of the important components of addiction recovery is accountability: having someone to whom you go to deal with the mental obsession with your drug. This is not the confession of sin which requires the participation of a priesthood leader. A lot of the time it’s not even dealing with things that might ordinarily be considered sins. I’m talking here about a sponsor, friends in the program and the meetings themselves in which addicts confide about fear, resentment and the things that are putting our recovery at risk.
It now seems to me that Alma engaged in a tremendous amount of accountability work. Rather than the “confess and forget” that most addicts are praying for, Alma (who certainly may not have even been an addict) went the route of “repent and remain accountable through disclosure and transparency.” More than ever, Alma is a hero to me. Before, however, he was a hero for the wrong reasons because I was a dishonest scripture reader.
Coming up in Part 3: Dishonest scripture reading and hairsplitting. I’ll talk about how I actually used the scriptures (unknowingly) to keep myself away from true repentance.