My good friend from Kingston, Ontario, once spoke at a youth conference when all of our kids were in the youth program. He asked each of them to bring a small picture of when they were younger with them to the conference. He then asked them to place this phrase “What have you done with this child” on the back of the photo, and carry it with them in their wallets.
God sends us into this world pure and innocent. Some of us into good and loving homes, and others into depravity. Some of us make good choices, some of us veer off. The reality is that we live in this fallen world and we are all exposed to things in life that affect us each in the long-term. Each of us differently, but we all have issues and struggles.
My friend suggested that at some point in our lives it’s up to us to take responsibility. Despite what life brings us, it’s up to us to determine what we will do. He has kept that photo in his wallet his entire life and takes it out every once in a while when he is making decisions. He looks at it and asks himself what he is going to do for that little boy. We can have God’s help along the way, but it’s ultimately up to us to care for ourselves, and make decisions that will bring us safety, peace, and good things.
This is a story of a little boy, Stephen. This little boy is my husband’s brother. Here are the details of the first 60 years of his life.
- His parents converted to the gospel when he was a little boy. Their family was sealed in the temple when Graham was a baby.
- Stephen attended church until he was 13 and then stopped. He got into drugs and the party life. This little boy chose a different life.
- He went to prison three times in his 18th year – all drug related. First time for overnight. Second time for a week in solitary confinement. Third time for 45 days. He never went to prison again after that.
Stephen said the following is what his addiction to drugs and alcohol cost him.
- Only completed grade nine education.
- Exceptionally good at sports, but quit playing at 14-15 years old – he had a couple of friends who became pro hockey players and he was just as good.
- Gave up playing music at 14-15 years old.
- Numerous jobs and relationships busted up.
- He says his addiction cost him his soul. He didn’t care about himself or others.
- These were his priorities in life. 1/ Cocaine 2/Alcohol 3/Cigarettes 4/Pot 5/Porn 6/Friends (all addicts) 7/ Wife and son, (who were the most important people in his life) 8/Extended family 9/Work
- In his own words… “I never thought of myself as a liar, but I now know undoubtedly, if you are addicted to something, you need to cover up for that addiction, in turn you have to lie. This equals liar. My definition of addiction = it controls you. You do not control it.”
- Again in his own words. “Nine years ago in 2013, I thought I had everything. Home in Huntsville, Ontario. Home in Florida. Beautiful wife. My own business. No debts. If I needed something, I just went out and got it, cash. I had everything I needed, but really, I had nothing. It was the best of times, as well as it was the worst of times. My ego and pride were consuming me. I lost total respect for myself, my wife and everything else that totally mattered.”
- His wife of 32 years divorced him and his son became estranged. Business troubles ensued. Life was a mess.
At that time, Graham’s brother Stephen was still not being honest with himself or God, or us. Graham had no idea that his brother was still into drugs. He was able to hide it well.
The rest of this story is miraculous. This little boy’s story has a new ending with the grace of God.
Stephen became honest with himself, with Graham, and God.
He quit cocaine, but alcohol became more of a struggle. There were two attempts to come out west to be with Graham and dry out. Both times he returned home, he went back to it eventually.
He began attending church at the age of 60 and he also began in earnest receiving counselling and help from members of the church. There were some pretty rough years and pretty rough conversations.
Stephen finally went to rehab. He was there during the time his dad, Leon, passed away of cancer. Stephen tells of the desire he had to leave, but the tender mercy of a worker calling to him, as he was heading out the door. He stayed for the entire time, got sober and has been so ever since.
Here is the rest of the story as told in Stephen’s own words –
My dad Leon was my biggest cheerleader, but by far the most important, the Lord, my Saviour was always there, especially in my quietest moments, which was the vast majority of the time.
My favourite scripture is Ether 12:27 – And if men come unto me, I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”
The key word in that scripture for me is humble
Then comes the promise of strength.
Not living the word of wisdom puts you in chains. Living the Word of Wisdom frees you. Spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically. (The Word of Wisdom is a health code we choose to live by as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – no alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, addictive substances like coffe/tea, etc.)
The longer I waited or postponed overcoming my bad habits and addictions, the more freedom was taken away (47 years). At a certain point during this slow ride into hell, the effects of alcohol and drugs started to compound and I was having more and more difficulty maintaining my sanity and well-being.
Without the Word of Wisdom, I do not make it. It is impossible. There is no chance. I had been playing this con far too long. Through Humility, the Lord, family, and my efforts I found hope. I renewed my relationship with God through faith, prayer and daily repentance. That relationship with the Lord will never cease as long as I am here on this earth.
Breaking the word of wisdom took me totally away from God and His church at 13 years old. Keeping the word of wisdom brought me back to God and his church at 60 years old. I now have some peace in my life as I continue my struggle to stay on the straight and narrow path.
This was a remarkable testimony that Stephen gave in a talk at church a couple of years ago. Since then amazing things have happened in his life.
In November, 2020, he and his wife, Angie, reconciled and remarried. She was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the same weekend of their marriage – a rebirth. After a lifetime of smoking and trying to quit, with the grace of God, she was able to give it up. Several times over the course of twenty + years, she found herself wanting to learn about the gospel and connect with God, but this time, she found the strength to finally overcome. Stephen and his beautiful wife, Angie, have totally transformed their lives with the help of God. It’s been an amazing thing to be witness to. On January 8, 2022, Graham and I were able to travel to the Toronto Temple to witness their sealing (a special covenant that binds a couple together) for time and all eternity. Words can’t express how grateful we were to be there with them. I will never forget the look in Angie’s eyes as they knelt across the altar from each other. As they gazed into each other’s eyes, I saw total peace and happiness. I know Graham’s parents were watching down from above and so happy to see them find peace and joy together in this life.