ARP Step 4

KEY PRINCIPLE: Make a searching and fearless written moral inventory of yourself.

    1. Incident. What happened? In just a few words, give a short description of your memory of the event. Think more in terms of a summary rather than a long story.
    2. Effect. What was the effect on you or others?
    3. Feelings. What were your feelings at the time of the incident? What are your feelings now about it? Consider how your fears may have contributed to it.
    4. Self-examination. How did your character weaknesses or strengths affect the situation? Do you see any evidence of pride, self-pity, self-deception, or self-will in your attitudes and actions? Be sure to record also those times when you acted right.

The Holy Ghost can help you humble yourself and face the truth, even if the truth is painful. With the help of the Lord, you can recognize your strengths and weaknesses (see Ether 12:27). Questions like these may help:

    • What outcome did I want in this situation and why?
    • How did I try to control the situation?
    • Was it any of my business?
    • What actions did I take or omit to get what I wanted?
    • Did I ignore reality?
    • Were my expectations reasonable for myself and for others?
    • Did I lie to myself or to others?
    • Did I ignore the feelings of others and think only of myself?
    • How did I act like a victim to control others, get attention and sympathy, be special, and so on?
    • Did I resist help from God and others?
    • Did I insist on being right?
    • Did I feel slighted for lack of recognition or acknowledgment?
      1. Inspired counsel. What counsel does the Lord give concerning this incident? Remember you have nothing to fear as you submit to the Savior. You are here to learn good from evil, and the Savior can help you forgive yourself and others. Record your thoughts and impressions as you consider inspired counsel from the scriptures and from Church leaders.


Four elements are critical to a successful moral inventory—writing, honesty, support, and prayer. These elements of a moral inventory will help you recognize and overcome sins and shortcomings.

1. Writing.

The inventory of your life will be most effective if you write it. You can hold a written list in your hands, review it, and refer to it when necessary; unwritten thoughts are easy to forget, and distractions can easily interrupt you. As you write your moral inventory, you will be able to think more clearly about the events in your life and you will be able to focus on them with less distraction.

Some people try to avoid writing their moral inventory, feeling embarrassed or fearful about their writing ability or about someone else reading what they write. Don’t let these fears stop you. Your spelling, grammar, penmanship, or typing skills do not matter. You can draw stick figures, if you must, but get your inventory on paper. Until you put it in a tangible form, you still haven’t done your fourth step. As you complete the fourth step, remember that perfectionism—trying to do your inventory perfectly and to please others—can block you from being complete.

The fear of someone reading what you have written can be a genuine concern, but you can overcome it. Those of us who have done an inventory have had to face this fear. We had to do all we could to keep our inventory private and then trust the results to God. We had to care more about healing than about our ego or reputation. The inventory required us to call on God’s help continually, to ask Him to protect and guide us as we accomplished it. You must remember that step 4 is an act of stepping out of shadows of shame and admitting your need for repentance. If you will be prayerful about how and where to keep your inventory pages private, the Lord will guide you to do what is best.

2. Honesty.

Being honest with yourself about the sinful areas of your life can be terrifying. Often people avoid looking too closely at themselves in the mirror of the past, fearing the reflection may reveal the truth of what their lives have become. Now as you take the fourth step, you must face the truth about your life and your fears squarely.

In your inventory, you will not only discover your weaknesses but you will also understand and appreciate your strengths better. Include in your inventory your good traits and the positive things you have done. In truth, you are a combination of weaknesses and strengths. As you become willing to see the whole truth about your past—good and bad—you allow the powers of heaven to reveal the truth and help you put the past in proper perspective. The Lord will help you change your life’s course and fulfill your divine potential. You will learn that you are like all other humans, with strengths and weaknesses. You can begin to face others on equal footing.

3. Support.

The encouragement and support of others who understand recovery can help you in your efforts. They can guide you in discovering the method, structure, or approach that will work best for you in reviewing your past. They can encourage you if you get discouraged.

4. Prayer.

As you consider the magnitude of step 4 and the challenge it represents, think of how the Lord has helped you in each previous step. As you turned to God for comfort, courage, and guidance, you found the help that will continue with you as you do an inventory. Paul taught that God is the “God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation” (2 Corinthians 1:3–4). If you pray each time you sit down to write your inventory, God will help you. You will learn this reality as you take this seemingly impossible step—God can and will always be there for you, if you ask.


“I invite each one of you to thoughtfully review your life. Have you deviated from the standards that you know will bring happiness? Is there a dark corner that needs to be cleaned out? Are you now doing things that you know are wrong? Do you fill your mind with unclean thoughts? When it is quiet and you can think clearly, does your conscience tell you to repent?

“For your peace now and for everlasting happiness, please repent. Open your heart to the Lord and ask Him to help you. You will earn the blessing of forgiveness, peace, and the knowledge you have been purified and made whole. Find the courage to ask the Lord for strength to repent now” (Richard G. Scott, in Conference Report, Apr. 1995, 103; or Ensign, May 1995, 77).

    • Step 4 is one way to follow Elder Scott’s counsel. Find a quiet time to pray for direction and courage as you review your life. Prayerfully seek time for self-evaluation, and record the ideas that come to you as you consider Elder Scott’s questions.


“Turn away from your sins; shake off the chains of him that would bind you fast; come unto that God who is the rock of your salvation” (2 Nephi 9:45).

    • Turning away from sins and shaking off addictive chains cannot begin until you acknowledge that the sins and chains exist. Write about the resistance you feel when you think about being completely honest about your past.


“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).

    • A main characteristic of addiction is denial or self-deception—when an individual denies having a problem. What healing effects can come from replacing denial with truth?
    • How can step 4 help you accomplish such a task?


“I did remember all my sins and iniquities, for which I was tormented with the pains of hell; yea, I saw that I had rebelled against my God, and that I had not kept his holy commandments” (Alma 36:13).

    • Remembering your sins may be painful, but it can propel you into a new life of peace (see Alma 36:19–21). Ask someone who has completed this step how it helped him or her. How can the hope of recovery help you through the pain of remorse to the joy of forgiveness?


“By the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:5).

    • Some people have difficulty remembering or acknowledging the painful truth about the past, but the Holy Ghost can help you remember and can comfort you as you take step 4. You can receive these blessings even if you do not have the gift of the Holy Ghost. Write about how the Holy Ghost can guide you in the inventory process.
    • Why is it important to know the truth about your current situation?
    • Why is it important to know the truth that you are a child of God?


“If men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27).

    • Apply this verse to your life by copying it and inserting your name as if the Lord were speaking directly to you. Write the thoughts that come into your mind about this scripture and its personal application.


“Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).

    • Being honest with yourself and with the Lord, who is also known as the “Spirit of truth” (D&C 93:9), is the key to freedom from the lies that enslave you. As you come to know Him, His power and presence in your life will free you from addiction. How can recognizing truth improve your relationship with Jesus Christ?