Giving up alcohol and following in his father's footsteps led to hockey star Brad Mills joining the LDS Church

Published: Thursday, Dec. 13 2012 5:00 a.m. MST

Brad Mills skates onto the ice during player introductions before the Utah Grizzlies and San Francisco Bulls faced off Friday, Nov., 30, 2012, at the Maverik Center. Mills is a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Brad Mills knew he was ruining his hockey career.

His pattern of late-night partying typically left him dehydrated the next day and translated into injuries and poor performances. As a result, the center/wingman was struggling in his role as a “depth” player for the Lowell Devils, an American Hockey League affiliate for the New Jersey Devils. It was like he was living in a dark cloud, he said.

“I was getting injured a lot because my drinking was getting bad,” Mills said. “Then it started to click for me, 'OK, this is connected; I'm partying and then I'm getting hurt. Time to cut that out.' Once I did that, the path became a lot clearer.”

Mills’ decision to quit drinking sparked his rise to the NHL and also sent him down a path of spiritual fulfillment and conversion to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That path has since guided him to the Utah Grizzlies, where he’s thriving as one of the team’s co-captains this season.

“Everyone’s situation is different. … I’ve seen profound blessings, but I’ve also seen the consequences of making wrong choices. The Lord chastises us because he loves us and wants us to turn toward him,” Mills said. “The big lesson I’ve learned is how to submit to Heavenly Father’s will instead of imposing my own.”

Pregame: A father’s conversion

A key event in Mills’ life-changing journey occurred a year before he was born.

In 1980, Craig Mills, Brad’s father, was taking an accounting class at the University of Alberta when he met Bruce Hudson, a fellow student who had served a Mormon mission in Italy.

“We struck up a friendship,” Craig Mills said. “He was constantly trying to invite me to meet the missionaries and take the discussions, but there was no way I was interested.”

Mills graduated in 1981 and accepted an accounting position in Terrace, British Colombia. Before he and his wife left, Hudson gave him a Book of Mormon with his testimony and family photo inside.

About nine months later, missionaries found the Mills family by knocking doors. When invited in, one elder felt impressed to talk about the plan of salvation and answered many questions Mills had pondered his entire life. The visit ended with an invitation to read the Book of Mormon and Mills remembered Hudson's gift. He began reading and stayed up all night. He finished the entire book in four days.

Mills and his wife continued to meet with the missionaries for several months, with Craig being more interested than his wife. He scrutinized everything the elders taught.

“I debated hard. I’m a thinker and I had a lot of questions. I needed proof and they asked me to pray,” Craig Mills said. “I may have prayed casually, but without sincerity.”

He continued to meet with the missionaries but any prayers felt unanswered. Then in March 1982, something happened while he was driving alone in his car.

“I began to pray vocally. Is the book true? Is Joseph Smith a Prophet?” Craig Mills said. “The Holy Ghost hit me extremely hard. It was a powerful experience. I was unable to drive and pulled over. For about an hour, I experienced an emotional outpouring of the Spirit.”

While Mills told the missionaries he wanted to be baptized, his wife thought he’d had an emotional breakdown. He waited another three months while she continued with the missionaries, but by June he could wait no longer.

“I felt that if I didn’t get baptized, my witness would dissipate,” Craig Mills said. “I made the decision to be baptized without my wife. It was difficult for both of us.”

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