Most people wouldn’t recognize Jath Kevener if they saw him today.
The old Jath had 23 piercings on his face and liked walking around shirtless so others could see his tattoos.
People used to cross the street to avoid him, the 37-year-old said.
“I did my best to make sure no one wanted to be around me.”
Jath was in a dark place, tangled up in a world of drugs and alcohol.
“I remember waking up and drinking what was left from a bottle from the night before and then walking to the bottle shop to get more.
“All day I would just sit at home smoking. I was heavily addicted to methamphetamine and a raging alcoholic.”
Years earlier when Jath was 23, he was a new convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“I always had questions other religions weren’t able to answer to my satisfaction,” he said.
“When I came to understand the plan of salvation, it really resonated with my heart. I gained a testimony of Heavenly Father and Christ. And after two months of praying, I got my testimony of the Book of Mormon.
But a year after his baptism, things changed dramatically for Jath.
“I moved suburbs and I didn’t go for the first week to Church and then every week after that it became easier and easier not to go,” he said.
“I tried to do everything on my own and didn’t ask for help when I needed. I wasn’t fellowshipping with the right type of people either.”
Jath’s life spiralled out of control and he became physically and mentally dependent on drugs.
“At the time, I was doing my best not to think about the gospel. I would tell myself,’ I’m still a good person.’
“I’d go past the chapel on the way to the city and I would shy away from looking. I knew the chapel was there and Heavenly Father knew I wasn’t there. It was guilt and shame knowing I was doing something I shouldn’t be doing.”
In 2015, 12 years after his baptism, the missionaries knocked on Jath’s door.
“They freaked out a bit because I had a really scary Pitbull, I had piercings all over my face and I was running around with my t-shirt off in 20 degree weather.”
Jath allowed the missionaries to re-teach him but continued to smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol.
But it was a visit from his stake presidency that changed everything.
“The stake president and his counsellor asked me to come back to Church and I just looked at them and said, ‘yup’.
“I knew it wasn’t them asking, it was Heavenly Father asking. I didn’t have any excuses.”
Since coming back to Church, Jath said things have just fallen into place.
“I used to be very disillusioned with the world,” he said.
“Once I went back to Church, I had purpose. Now I wake up, open the Book of Mormon, do some reading and my day is instantly better.
“I’m way happier and it’s not just because I’m not on drugs anymore, but its because I think about the big picture now. It helps with the little trials. Trials are always going to be there- but now I’m grateful for them.”
Jath also decided to remove all his piercings from his face.
“If I want to be the best Christian I can be, I need to take those steps to do those things I know Christ is happy with,” he said.
“My piercings were a shield stopping other people from conversing with me.”
He is grateful for the members who minister to him.
“If it wasn’t for the stake president and his counsellor coming over, I would probably be in jail,” he said.
“The members are lovely people who will make the effort to call me up and invite me to dinner.
“They want me to do well and they are doing their best to make sure I am staying in Church. Because I can see the hard work their putting in, I’m putting in the hard work too.”
Jath enjoys serving as the secretary for the Elders Quorum Presidency in the Prospect ward in Adelaide, Australia.
He hopes his story will help those who are going through similar trials.
“You’re never that lost,” he said.
“You are never too far away from Heavenly Father. He will always put in the effort to get us back, but we also need to put in effort ourselves.
“I’ve grown so much over the last year both spiritually and emotionally. I look back and think if it wasn’t for Heavenly Father and Christ, I wouldn’t be here.
“It’s a matter now of waking up in the morning and saying thank you.”