After being arrested due to some very poor decisions that I had made, I was embarrassed, ashamed, and upset at myself. I had never felt so alone. I had been an active member of the church, a loving husband and father. And now I was in jail.
I worried that my family and friends would abandon me and that I would never see them again. I did not feel worthy of their love or support. I relied on prayer and the Holy Spirit with an intensity that I had never experienced before. I wanted so desperately to feel that I was still important in God’s eyes. I was living in an environment that did not encourage the presence of the Spirit, but I pleaded to feel His comfort.
I am grateful to say that Heavenly Father heard my prayers and provided ways for me to feel His presence and grow personally and spiritually. He did this through members of my family and church members who were willing to minister to me while I was incarcerated. Jesus Christ said, “I was hungered, and ye gave me meat . . . I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison and ye came unto me.” (Matthew 25: 35-36) Prior to these experiences, I had thought of ministering to the sick and the hungry, but had somewhat ignored the last part of Christ’s teachings. Thankfully, others did not ignore His words, and they found ways to minister to me.
Since this life changing event occurred, I have received many letters that arrived at just the right moment with just the right message. In some of my lowest moments, when I was feeling new levels of despair, I received letters or conference talks from people who had said they felt an impression that they should write me or send me that particular talk.
There were also members of the church that sent me items such as scriptures, books by LDS authors, and material from the church’s 12-step Addiction Recovery Program. Every time I finished reading something, it seemed that I would receive something else in the mail that would build on what I had just read.
Some people chose to minister to me in person and came to visit. It is difficult to describe how much joy those visits bring me. While in Liberty Jail, the prophet Joseph Smith wrote, “No tongue can tell what inexpressible joy it gives a man, who has been enclosed within the walls of a prison, to see the face of one who has been a friend.” (Joseph Smith, Jr., Letter, Liberty, MO, to Presendia Huntington Buell, Clay Co., MO, 15 Mar. 1839 ;in JS, History, 1838–1856, vol. C-1, between pp. 897—898)
I received visits from members of wards I had not lived in for years, including some of my past Bishops. These people weren’t “assigned” to me, they simply followed the spiritual impressions they received. Many people later expressed that they had been nervous at first and unsure of what to write or say. Fortunately they pushed through those uncomfortable feelings and allowed themselves to be led by the Spirit. There really was no “wrong” thing to say to me.
The blessings that have come into my life because of these ministering brothers and sisters cannot be numbered. I know that God loves me and I am His son. I know that I can repent and make the necessary changes in my life. I have learned that the atonement applies to me, and I can be forgiven for my sins. The service that those ministers give to me has allowed me to be in a place spiritually where I am now able to minister to others while serving my time in prison.
It is important to point out that by ministering to me, there were also things they were NOT doing. By ministering to me, people were not condoning my actions or approving of the illegal behaviors I had done. They were not turning their backs on any victims of my crimes. They were simply ministering in the way that Christ wanted them to.
I still have several years left in which I need to pay my debt to society, and I have lost my membership in the church. Making the horrible choices that I did could have led me to abandon my faith and go even further down a destructive path, but thanks to the love I have felt from Heavenly Father through all those ministering to me, I have had my testimony strengthened and have felt my weaknesses turning into strengths. I know that I can return to Him someday.