Tom Smart, Deseret Morning News
Steve Brown, assistant clinical director; Kris Groves, addictions counselor; and H.R. Brown, intake director, at Renaissance Ranch.

The last thing H.R. Brown was thinking about nine years ago was joining the LDS Church or starting a drug-and-alcohol treatment program.

"Mormon marketing" was a meaningless term if the Catholic man had ever heard one. As an alcoholic, most things outside your next drink are meaningless.

Wondering where he would land if he ever got sober, Brown saw what is now Renaissance Ranch. Now he looks back and sees what he calls a miracle because he experienced one there — and he continues to see them, small and large.

Tucked away just off I-80 in Parleys Summit, the new residential treatment center geared specifically to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints doesn't have to market.

There's already a waiting list.

It is one of a number of service-oriented businesses springing up to serve the unique needs of Latter-day Saints whose theology regarding sin, redemption and the vital nature of healthy family relationships is well-defined.

Some, like LDSMingle.com or the new LDSSingles.com, market themselves openly, emphasizing the happiness that comes from new friendship or romantic relationships.

Both Web sites attract thousands of visitors who are looking to share information and connect with others.

But the darker side of reality for many Latter-day Saints means they are living lives that don't match the values their faith espouses. It's something they often hide to avoid being ostracized, yet addiction of many kinds — particularly to pornography — plagues LDS families in numbers that reflect the national average, according to one study.

Pornography and addiction are often the topics of sermons by top leaders of the LDS Church, which sponsors regular education forums through Brigham Young University that offer advice on how families can deal with such challenges.

The number of forums has skyrocketed in the past decade, with the advent of the Internet and the church's growing membership, meaning services to deal with such problems are likely to be an expanding market for care providers in Utah.

Believed to be the first of its kind anywhere, the ranch offers a 60-day residential drug and alcohol program featuring an LDS adaptation of the 12-step recovery program that focuses LDS understanding of Christ's Atonement and the power of repentance.

Most clients come from the Wasatch Front and have participated in the LDS Church's own weekly addiction recovery meetings. But those who need residential treatment have had no LDS options — until now.

The 5,000-square-foot log cabin looks out over a meandering stream and fish pond. Ducks, chickens and horses call the place home, in addition to Brown's charges — boys and men who are there in a last-ditch attempt to redeem themselves before it's too late.

"There's an incredibly large problem in Utah County with heroin," Brown said, adding he knows one stake president in Orem who has seen four kids in his area die from overdoses within the past six months. Prescription painkillers are also a major problem, he said, but carry less social stigma among Latter-day Saints.

Brown teaches spiritual principles every day and is not shy about his belief that his work is a mission of mercy, despite the fact that he charges $6,000 per month to house and mentor each of his clients. "I could charge $20,000 a month, and I'd be full in about two months."

Demand for his services is larger than the Ranch's ability to accommodate, so he's already got plans to expand the men's facility and add a women's dorm on the property as well.

LDS structure and members' belief in the eternal nature of family relationships mean that as long as there are Latter-day Saints who struggle with addiction there will be a need for services that go beyond secular treatment, Brown said.

"Sometimes people in the church say they'll just pray and go to church. That's necessary, but it's not going to help you stay sober," Brown said. "You can't go to quorum meeting and say, 'You know what, I'm feeling pretty crummy and I want to start drinking.'

"Every now and then a person in recovery has to talk with someone who has the same problem."

For information, see www.renaissanceranch.net.


E-mail: carrie@desnews.com