Rich Millar was always an active, spiritual kid growing up in Utah, but in his mid-20s, things started to change for him and he abandoned, for a time, the lifestyle that he had once lived. He shares with us here his experience of loving, losing, and ultimately finding his faith again.
I mostly grew up in the “happy valley” of Orem, Utah, and I loved everything about it! I faithfully attended church every week, read the scriptures, and prayed every day. I loved the gospel of Jesus Christ, and I wanted to share it with everyone around me. I couldn’t wait to go on my two-year Church mission to Russia and tried my best every day to be the best missionary I could for those I served, for my family, for the Church, and most importantly for my Savior and Heavenly Father.
I came home and went back to college and dove into serving people in my local Church ward, became a temple worker while attending BYU, and simply loved living the gospel! Needless to say, I was about as straight arrow an LDS kid as you would find. Not perfect but pretty dang good.
And then it happened. I started to slip—something that I never thought would happen to me in a million years. It didn’t happen all at once, and there wasn’t any one moment that set it off. It wasn’t the result of one bad decision, but over time I would come to realize it was a slow process that was the result of many small decisions—seemingly insignificant decisions that began to build on each other.
Growing up I was strong spiritually because of the small daily choices I made: prayer, scripture study, service, church, temple attendance, etc. These things held back the darkness that exists in the world and kept me spiritually aligned. But around my 25th birthday, I reached a point where I thought I had mastered that area of my life. A little too much pride set in, and I convinced myself that I had read the scriptures so much and had prayed morning and night my entire life, so I probably didn’t need to do that stuff everyday anymore.
And slowly I began neglecting the daily and weekly things that had been a staple of my life for so long. I had heard the warnings from others about where I was headed, but like so many before me, I thought I would be the exception to the proverbial rule.
With my spiritual foundation beginning to erode, I starting falling victim to the most basic and damaging lie perpetuated in the world today and the foundation of most pain and sorrow in this world: that instant gratification yields true, lasting happiness. Now, before you think I went off living the life of drugs, sex, and rock and roll, let me reassure you that I didn’t. But I did start chasing happiness in places that are impossible to find it. And without dragging you through the gory details of all my mistakes, it’s sufficient to say that eventually I became unworthy to enter an LDS temple.
Around this time something else happened to me: I became very cynical. I started to question everything about the faith I was raised in through a negative lens. I believe a healthy dose of skepticism is good to have in life, but I wasn’t just skeptical, I became cynical. I started assuming and looking for the bad instead of the good. It’s amazing how quickly that can change everything.
This persisted until eventually I reached the conclusion that my faith wasn’t true. I valued and respected the good the Church had taught me and stability it had provided during my adolescent years. And I loved all the great people, leaders, and Brethren in the Church who I knew from first-hand experience were doing things out of the goodness of their heart and a sincere desire to help others. But I didn't believe some of the doctrines anymore and questioned its validity. I had read a lot of negative stuff about the Church and had reached a very logical conclusion that it wasn’t what I thought it had been.
Fast-forward a few years and I’m in Seattle and dating someone who was not at all religious. So naturally the questions about my faith starting pouring in, and I loved answering them and clearing up funny misconceptions. But as we spoke, something interesting started to happen to me. My testimony began to be rekindled. Somewhere along this path things started to become clearer for me. And for the first time in a long time I recognized the light that had left me, and I knew I needed to get it back. I could also no longer deny that there were certain things I was doing that I knew deep down weren’t right (you know that little voice in the back of your head that you sometimes ignore … well, I had been ignoring it), and I knew I needed to change.
So I decided I needed to give the restored gospel of Jesus Christ another shot. I began to recognize the changes I needed to make. I tried to convince my girlfriend to come to church with me, but ultimately she wasn’t interested. So we remained friends but decided to part ways, and eventually I made the decision to move back to Utah where I could be closer to family. There were things I needed to make right, and the road back was long and filled with remorse, a broken heart, restitution, sincere repentance, many tears, and lots of humbling experiences.
My first step was to begin putting the little daily things I had done before back in my life. I began sincerely praying and searching the scriptures daily, attending and actively participating in church regularly, and making my way back to being worthy to enter the temple. It may sound trivial, but it never ceases to amaze me the power that comes from doing these seemingly small and insignificant things.
This gave me the confidence to talk to my bishop about the mistakes I had made, and together he helped me more fully understand and take advantage of our Savior’s Atonement and its redeeming, sanctifying, and enabling power.
Over the following days, weeks, and months, the same light that began leaving four years earlier was now returning. It’s interesting what happens when this process begins. Your desire to gain more light and knowledge grows while you’re simultaneously drawn to things with more light and they are drawn to you.
Through it all I realized something powerful about the gospel. I learned first-hand of the sanctifying and redeeming power of our Savior’s Atonement. Despite the mistakes I had made, the wrong turns I had taken, and the faith I had abandoned, my friends, my family, the Church, and my Savior were there with open arms, ready and willing to help me back without judgment or ridicule. And despite the repentance process being hard and more humbling than I ever imagined, I was so grateful for what it taught me and am 100 percent certain of its necessity and importance in my true conversion.