Giving up alcohol and following in his father's footsteps led to hockey star Brad Mills joining the LDS Church
Hudson attended the service and confirmed Mills a member of the church. During the blessing, Mills felt another powerful outpouring of the Spirit.
“The Holy Ghost confirmed to me that it was not a fluke,” Craig Mills said. “That has given me the strength to endure the challenges of the past 30 years.”
First period: Family, faith and hockey
About a year later in 1983, Brad Mills was born. The family moved to Olds, Alberta, a city north of Calgary, where Brad grew up as the third of five children in a home where his father was a Mormon and his mother was a Catholic. Craig Mills worked more than 70 hours per weeks while faithfully serving in the local LDS branch. His wife took the children to the Catholic Church. She allowed her husband to hold informal family nights as long as he excluded Mormonism. As the years passed, branch members tried unsuccessfully to fellowship her and missionaries eventually wore out their welcome.
“The missionaries used to come for dinner every week for a long time,” Craig Mills said. “As the kids got older, they would ask questions and some of the missionaries were a little bold in challenging her. One day she said, ‘That’s it. They aren’t coming to my house anymore.’”
Brad Mills vividly recalls the family going to the Catholic Church across the street while his father walked to the LDS Church across a field from their house. As he became a teenager, he wondered why his parents went to different churches.
More pressing, however, was his obsession with hockey.
“In Canada, hockey is considered a birthright,” Brad Mills said.
He grew up skating and swinging a hockey stick before leaving home at age 17 to play for a team in Northern Alberta. From there he was recruited to play at Yale University. Four years after that he signed with the New Jersey Devils organization.
But it didn’t bring him the happiness he had expected. Despite his success on the ice, Mills describes the decade of his life spanning 2000 to 2010 as a dark time.
“During that time, spirituality was an afterthought,” he said, “something I took for granted.”
Second period: Becoming clean
In January 2010, Brad Mills found the courage to attend Alcoholics Anonymous and started to change his life. He began to take care of his body. To his amazement, the decision produced immediate results.
“When I quit drinking I saw this massive improvement in my performance,” Brad Mills said. “I went from kind of floundering and being a depth guy in the American League to being one of the best players each night. I actually felt like I had a legitimate shot at playing at the next level.”
While saving his hockey career was his original motivation, going sober and attending AA meetings also triggered a spiritual awakening. He thought of his father, a man he greatly respected, and resolved to investigate the LDS Church. He located a young single adult ward in Lowell, Mass., and showed up one Sunday morning in late March.
“The Spirit was really strong as soon as I walked into the building,” Brad Mills said. “I didn’t really have the knowledge or experience to understand what I was experiencing, but it was like a spiritual wave washed over me.”
He was welcomed by members and found a seat. As he listened to the speakers he felt at peace. The room seemed brighter than usual. If he had a question, he sent a text to his father Craig, who also happened to be sitting in sacrament meeting in Canada.
“It was the one time I felt like texting in sacrament meeting was allowed,” Craig Mills said.
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