Finding Faith as an addict: How a former Latter-day Saint found love and acceptance as a Methodist
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IDAHO FALLS – When 27-year-old Logan Pickens first walked into Trinity United Methodist Church in Idaho Falls a year ago, he was at rock bottom.
He was nearly homeless and battling a drug addiction. One of his coworkers had introduced him to weed several years prior. He then became hooked on other drugs, including meth. He quit for a brief period of time but later started using again after several failed relationships, including a divorce from his wife after just six months of marriage.
He was now facing eviction from his apartment. Though he had a job as a chef at Cardamom Indian Restaurant in downtown, he was becoming dysfunctional because of his addiction. For him, life was spiraling out of control.
Walking into a church was the last thing on his mind at that time, but a trip to the laundromat one day changed all that.
“I used to live by the YMCA and I would go down the street and there was a laundromat there (where I would do my laundry). A friend said, ‘Hey, come over to the church, and you can do your laundry for free,'” Pickens tells EastIdahoNews.com. “So I walked a few extra blocks and got my free laundry here.”
The church has a day shelter that provides showers, food and laundry services for those in need.
Prior to living in Idaho Falls, Pickens had grown up in Missouri where he learned to play the piano, the clarinet and even sing.
As a member of a marching band, music had been a big part of his life back home. It had now been more than two years since Pickens had sung or played a single note, but Pastor Ruth Marsh caught wind of Pickens’ musical ability and offered him a job playing piano at worship services and other church events.
“Part of it was desperation because I needed a piano player,” Marsh says. “I had been praying (to reach) Logan’s demographic for years, and it just happened that Logan was the prototype that walked through the door.”
As a pastor, Marsh says God has often allowed her to see someone the way he does and she noticed something in Logan she wanted to foster.
“I grew up in a household with a mentally ill father, who Logan reminds me of,” says Marsh. “Lots of drug addiction presents itself in the same way.”
With no money to his name and nowhere to go, Pickens found temporary refuge living at the church before Marsh eventually took him in.
“The day the stay-home order went into effect, Logan had brought a few things from the apartment over to the church for safekeeping because he was about to be (evicted) and was going to stay with a friend of his who was on the other side of town,” Marsh says. “I realized … if the stay-home order is so strict that Logan can’t come to the church to play the piano, I’m up the creek without a paddle. So I figured out a way to get a little corner down in the basement where he could at least sleep.”
A year later, Pickens’s life looks a whole lot different. His drug addiction is under control and he now works full-time playing piano, operating sound and video equipment and managing the church’s social media pages.
He’s had many conversations with Pastor Marsh about God and Marsh says it’s helped Logan find his own faith.
“He needed to be able to find out that God was bigger than what he had learned as a young person,” she says.
A journey that began in childhood
Getting to this point has been a journey that began long before he ever set foot in Trinity United. It started when Pickens was just a kid growing up in Missouri.
“I grew up (in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and I was a very active member then. I got to go to the dedication of the Nauvoo temple (in 2002), so I was very familiar with it,” he says.
Over time, Pickens started having issues with some of the doctrines of the LDS church. He didn’t say specifically what beliefs he was struggling with, but many of his concerns revolved around events in the church’s early history. He spoke with his parents about it, but he says they didn’t take it very well.
“I wasn’t allowed to search it out as Joseph Smith did and that’s all I was trying to do,” Pickens says.
(Members of the LDS church believe Joseph Smith was called of God to help restore the church Jesus Christ established in the New Testament after centuries of apostasy.)
Pickens started rebelling against his parents, who he says ultimately kicked him out of the house when he was 16. This prompted Logan to leave his faith behind.
“That was the final straw of ‘Ok if the family (isn’t important to them) — which is a big focus in the church — what else am I being lead astray on?” he says.
His parents ended up moving to Idaho Falls in 2012 and Pickens moved back in with them after graduating high school.
“We had a small moment of clarity where we got along for about six months,” Pickens says. “Very shortly after, I saw there wasn’t much hope for progress or change so I moved out on my own. I’ve been living on my own ever since.”
Pickens started attending many Christian churches but eventually became unsatisfied with what they taught. He ultimately abandoned his search and gave up on religion altogether.
Pickens says there has been a reconciliation between him and his parents over the last several years. Though he still has no desire to return to the LDS church, he is grateful to be on speaking terms with his family again.
Finding love and acceptance in a growing congregation
After a year of association with Trinity United Methodist Church, Pickens says he “was blessed” by the church’s hospitality from the moment he walked in and that’s been highly influential in his addiction recovery and faith journey.
“I came here and it’s the first time I really felt accepted,” says Pickens. “I went by a street name, Quack, for a long time and that’s how I introduced myself here. I said, ‘Hi, my name’s Logan but I’d really (prefer) you call me Quack.’ They did with no hesitation.”
Marsh says having Logan in her home has been a huge blessing in her life and she’s happy to claim him as a son “that wasn’t born to me.” Watching Logan on his journey of recovery and faith has been a rewarding experience for her.
Pickens’s beliefs about God continue to evolve, but one of his favorite words to use when describing Deity is love.
“The God that I understand is just Love,” he says. “It is loving yourself as much as you love everyone else. It’s loving that stranger and doing whatever you can while keeping yourself safe.”
Pickens says this belief has given him a better understanding of who he is and who he wants to be. His goal now is to pursue a life of ministry and he’s currently taking lay servant classes in hopes of serving in a leadership role at Trinity United Methodist Church.
Pickens’s journey has been beneficial in other ways as well. Historically, members of the congregation have been older people in their 50s and 60s. One of the church’s greatest challenges is reaching young people. Marsh says about 40 people in Logan’s age bracket have walked through the doors since he came on board.
“Last summer, we’d laugh and say he was like the pied piper,” Marsh says about Pickens. “Logan was so well-known in this neighborhood. He was traveling heavy in meth circles … and he was able to tell people they can come to the church and it will be safe, neutral ground.”
Pickens says reaching out to people on their level and accepting them for who they are is something that deserves more focus in today’s world.
“Sometimes that means not focusing so much on ‘We really want you at church.’ Sometimes it means ‘Hey, we hung out at Scouts. You like playing Dungeons & Dragons. Let’s go play Dungeons & Dragons because that’s what you like to do and that’s how I get to share this love with you,’ he says. “It’s loving them on their level that allows you to be more Christlike.”