LDS 12-step program offers help for addicts and families

Mary Pipes, called as a LDS church services missionary with the church’s 12-step addiction recovery program, sits in the circle of chairs where her and her fellow missionaries Kris Jorgensen and Milisa Boorman help addicts find hope every Wednesday. Pipes has been involved with the program for nine years, five of which have been serving as a missionary,


LDS 12-step program offers help for addicts and families


Robert Stevens

Managing editor



MANTI—”There is hope here.”

That’s what Mary Pipes will tell you if you ask her what you will find at the LDS 12-step meetings she organizes alongside Kris Jorgensen and Milisa Boorman. The trio are local LDS missionaries called to the LDS Addiction Recovery Program that exists as part of LDS Family Services.

The LDS church bases their 12-step program closely on the one made famous by Alcoholics Anonymous but has adapted it to include the doctrine and principles of the Mormon religion.

“The biggest difference between AA and us is that they talk about a ‘Higher Power’ and we call him God,” Pipes said. “The principles in it are very similar. We want to help people realize why they do what they do and that addiction is really only a symptom of a bigger problem. If we can get to the basis of the problem, we can usually take care of the symptom as well, which is whatever their ‘drug of choice’ happens to be.”

Pipes was introduced to the program nine years ago by invitation. Both addicts and family members of addicts are encouraged to attend LDS 12-step meetings and, as the daughter of an alcoholic, Pipes says she was no stranger to the negative impacts of addiction. When she showed up, she thought, “Oh my gosh, I am not alone in this.”

“When I started coming years ago, I learned more about me than I did anyone else,” she says. “As the daughter of an addict I learned a lot about addiction, and the maladaptive coping skills family members of addicts use to deal with the problem.”

Pipes says the LDS Addiction Recovery Program taught her many things, including that those very same coping skills used to deal with addicted family members often ends up just enabling the addict.

After being involved with the group for four years, Pipes was called as a church service missionary with the program. She has been a missionary with the program for five years now.

Pipes says over the years she has seen hundreds of people come and go through the program.

“Sometimes they come on their own or are encouraged by a family member or bishop,” she says. “We don’t care how they end up here as long as they come.”

Even though sometimes it’s the influence of family members that gets an addict to 12-step initially, Pipes says the most rewarding part of helping others through the steps is seeing the light come on in their eyes as they realize the recovery process is for themselves, and not for their spouse, children or parents.

“When they finally realize they are worth it,” she said, “that is so wonderful to witness.”

The religious aspect of LDS 12-step is a major component of the program, Pipes says, and one of the single biggest distinguishing factors it has from non-denominational 12-step programs.

“We talk about the atonement of Jesus Christ,” Pipes says. “We believe that is not only for your sins but any sadness or sorrow or sickness you’re experiencing.”

Pipes says they also read scriptures from the Book of Mormon and the Bible. She says most of the people who come are LDS or come from an LDS background, but all are welcome.

“Anyone can come, and we appreciate what they bring to the table,” Pipes says. “We welcome their point of view. You can also just sit and listen if you feel more comfortable that way, but you do not have to be LDS.”

Pipes says anyone who comes to the meeting will find love, acceptance and understanding, but they will not find judgment.

“I would venture to say that there is not one family who has not been touched by addiction,” she said. “A lot of people come and say ‘I am not an addict, I just can’t stop.’ We want to give them the tools they need to climb out of the hole they are in, that they might never be able to get out of alone.”

More than anything, Pipes says she wants to emphasize that there is hope for addicts and, if they truly want to, they can find it there.

Those who wish to attend a LDS 12-step meeting can meet on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. at the Manti LDS Seminary building at 190 West 500 North. There is also a meeting in Gunnison on Tuesdays at 6 p.m. at the seminary building at 35 E. 600 South. Another meeting is held at the Ephraim Young Single Adult First Stake Center (51 N. 100 East) on Wednesdays at 7 p.m., or the Young Single Adult Ward Building (115 E. 200 South) on Thursdays at 7 p.m. People in northern Sanpete can attend LDS 12-step on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.at the Mt. Pleasant LDS Seminary building at 280 E. 700 South.