LDS Addiction Recovery: How Mormons Approach Treatment?

Read on to learn about addiction recovery from the point of view of the Mormon religion. 

LDS addiction recovery

Table of Contents

Why Mormon Beliefs Make Addiction More Troubling?

Focus on Sobriety

When it comes to healing from substance use, LDS addiction recovery can be particularly challenging. Most spiritual-religious (S/R) traditions around the world either proscribe against any use of intoxicating substances or, if use is permitted, frown upon heavy use because it can be harmful to health and cause intoxication which in turn can lead to transgressions.1

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (commonly known as LDS  or Mormon) is no different.

Word of Wisdom

LDS was officially organized by Joseph Smith, the first prophet and president of LDS, in 1830.3 At that time, the use of alcohol, tobacco, coffee, and tea was common in society and among members.4 In 1833, Joseph Smith received a revelation from God known as the Word of Wisdom (also known as Doctrine and Covenants 89).

The Word of Wisdom established the LDS practices of abstaining from alcohol, tobacco, and drug use, as well as coffee and tea.5 Initially, the revelation was seen as “good advice” from God, rather than a commandment. For instance, after receiving the Word of Wisdom, Joseph Smith himself still occasionally drank alcohol, his wife still drank tea, and Brigham Young, Joseph Smith’s successor, used tobacco all through the 1860s.6

President John Taylor received a revelation in 1882 that the Word of Wisdom was to be considered a commandment. Still, it was not until the early 1930s, when prophet Heber J. Grant decreed that members of the Church must abstain from coffee, tea, tobacco, and alcohol in order to enter temples (LDS places of worship), that stricter observance of the Word of Wisdom occurred.

Today, the Word of Wisdom is an important commandment, and obeying it is a prerequisite for baptism, temple attendance, missionary service, and other services in the Church. 

Addiction as a Battle Between Good and Evil

According to the guide used in the LDS Addiction Recovery Program (ARP), addictions can include the use of substances named in the Word of Wisdom as well as behaviors such as gambling, codependency, viewing pornography, inappropriate sexual behavior, and disorders associated with eating.

LDS believes these substances and behaviors diminish a person’s ability to feel the Spirit. As Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (the second-highest leadership body of LDS), stated: “Whatever is addictive compromises [the] will. Subjecting [the] will to the overbearing impulses imposed by any form of addiction serves Satan’s purposes and subverts [the] Heavenly Father’s.”

Healing Spirit, Mind, And Body

Healing Spirit, Mind, And Body

According to Robert D. Hales, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, other than in the book of Job and several others, there are very few scriptural references to physical or mortal pain. The pain most frequently spoken of in the scriptures is the pain and anguish of the Lord and His prophets for the disobedient souls. What can be inferred from this matter is that physical or mortal pain is somehow less important to LDS than spiritual pain. It appears the difference is that physical or mortal pain can be treated by doctors, but spiritual pain can only be treated by God.8

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints generally hold that spiritual healing is “available only through accepting the Atonement of Jesus Christ through faith, repentance, baptism by immersion, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost,  and enduring to the end.9 10   

Clinical Significance of Spirituality in Addiction11

While the literature generally supports that spirituality/religion (S/R) protects against substance abuse and highlights S/R’s importance in recovery, high-quality studies and reviews on S/R interventions for substance use problems are scant. In addition, much of the existing analysis is focused exclusively on AA, rather than non-AA S/R interventions. 

Recent Studies

The first systematic review and meta-analysis to examine the efficacy of S/R interventions in treating substance abuse problems was published in 2019. This meta-analysis suggests that S/R interventions are, as a whole, more efficacious than comparison interventions (e.g., CBT, motivational enhancement therapy, community reinforcement approach, and family therapy) for substance use outcomes.

Specifically, the meta-analysis found that twelve-step-oriented interventions reduced substance use significantly more than comparison interventions. However, the elements responsible for this outperformance aren’t clear, and more rigorous studies of such interventions are needed. The meta-analysis further states that more high-quality studies are needed before conclusions can be drawn about the efficacy of non-12-step-oriented S/R interventions for substance use problems.

The Handbook of Spirituality, Religion, and Mental Health refers to this meta-analysis and its limitations, in that “It is…difficult to name spirituality/religion (S/R) as solely responsible for this effectiveness in practice…since the AA model not only activates S/R enhancement (through encouraging prayer, spiritual gratitude, seeking intervention from a sacred Higher Power) but also nurtures positive/protective social networks and cognitive reappraisals aimed at maintaining abstinence…”12 

Religious Community and sobriety


For some members of the LDS Church, the Word of Wisdom is seen as a commitment made to one’s community. For instance, individuals who may be more likely to develop addiction are protected by those who abstain from addictive substances and/or behaviors. As Dieter F. Uchtdorf, another current member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, once said, “addictions are so much easier to prevent than to cure.”13 


The ARP is a drug and alcohol addiction treatment program that features an LDS adaptation of the traditional 12-Step recovery model that focuses on the Mormon understanding of Christ’s Atonement and the power of repentance. The guide used in the ARP was written with support from Church leaders and counseling professionals by those who have suffered from addiction and who have experienced the miracle of recovery through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The steps are as follows:14

  1. Honesty. Admit that you, of yourself, are powerless to overcome your addiction and that your life has become unmanageable.
  2. Hope. Come to believe that the power of God can restore you to complete spiritual health.
  3. Trust in God. Decide to turn your will and your life over to the care of God the Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.
  4. Truth. Make a searching and fearless written moral inventory of yourself.
  5. Confession. Admit to yourself, to your Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ, to proper priesthood authority, and to another person the exact nature of your wrongs.
  6. Change of Heart. Become entirely ready to have God remove all your character weaknesses.
  7. Humility. Humbly ask the Heavenly Father to remove your shortcomings.
  8. Seeking Forgiveness. Make a written list of all persons you have harmed and become willing to make restoration to them.
  9. Restitution and Reconciliation. Wherever possible, make direct restitution to all persons you have harmed.
  10. Daily Accountability. Continue to take personal inventory, and when you are wrong promptly admit it.
  11. Personal Revelation. Seek through prayer and meditation to know the Lord’s will and to have the power to carry it out.
  12. Service. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, share this message with others and practice these principles in all you do. 

Begin the Healing Journey

If you are looking to take back control of your life and overcome addiction, reach out today. Our team can help guide you down the path towards recovery and overcome whatever addiction plagues your day-to-day life. Contact us for more information on the healing journey with The PAC Program. 


If you or a loved one needs help, please call us at
623-523-4748 and our team at Blueprints For Recovery in Arizona will help.

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