I Don’t Understand Why ‘Smoking’ Makes Me A Bad Person!


A number of years ago we held an open house at the church. I had direct responsibility over the event.  I was in the middle of a conversation with a lady when another woman came into the chapel. I directed one of our members to help her. Later, I was told that she was inquiring in regards to our temples. I understand that one of the more forceful questions she asked was if people who smoked and drank alcohol were allowed to go inside. When she was told that they were not, she complained and said, “I smoke, and I’m a good person. I’m living a Christian life. I don’t understand why smoking a cigarette makes me a bad person!” I wasn’t there to answer her question, but we all know that if someone is a smoker, that doesn’t make them a “bad” person. I’m sure there are many “smokers” who live their lives better than many nonsmokers. This fine Christian’s woman’s question, standing alone, is hard to explain. So what of it?

Well, if you remember from reading in the 89th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Word of Wisdom was initially “sent as a greeting”(vs. 2) One definition of “greeting” is “a friendly message from someone who is absent.”  (Dictionary.com). Well, how about that. It seems that Heavenly Father was sending us a “friendly message” via one of his prophets. That message was intended to show “the will of God in the temporal salvation of all saints in the last days-” (vs 2). Note that the Lord’s will was regarding “temporal salvation”. What is temporal salvation?  Marion G. Romney gave these thoughts back in 1981 regarding the subject:

“…we feel compelled to reaffirm certain basic principles of temporal salvation.At the opening of this century, President Joseph F. Smith explained the importance of temporal salvation and its relationship to spiritual salvation:

“You must continue to bear in mind that the temporal and spiritual are blended. They are not separate. One cannot be carried on without the other, so long as we are here in mortality. …

“The Latter-day Saints believe not only in the gospel of spiritual salvation, but also in the gospel of temporal salvation. We have to look after the cattle, … the gardens and the farms, … and other necessary things for the maintenance of ourselves and our families in the earth. … We do not feel that it is possible for men to be really good and faithful Christian people unless they can also be good, faithful, honest and industrious people. Therefore, we preach the gospel of industry, the gospel of economy, the gospel of sobriety.” (Gospel Doctrine, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1939, p. 208; emphasis added.) (“Principles of Temporal Salvation”, April 1981, First Presidency Message).

Looking after the “temporal” also includes looking after our bodies. The Lord’s message, given to us in February of 1833, was a revelation of warning and one of love. He was suggesting, at the time, that we should stay away from taking certain substances into our bodies, because it would have a negative effect on them. It is well documented that taking these products into our bodies will shorten our days here on earth, or more often , it will create health issues that hinder our ability to provide for ourselves temporally. Man is slow to act unless compelled. So the Lord patiently waited for almost a hundred years before making obedience to this “greeting” a requirement to go to the temple. As parents, I think sometimes we do the same with our kids. When trying to teach, we give them a “friendly message”, but when they repeatedly ignore it, we step up the “intensity” of the message to a command.

So, what of the woman’s question? Well, as stated by a prophet, “you must continue to bear in mind that temporal and spiritual are blended. They are not separate. One cannot be carried on without the other, so long as we are here in mortality.”  The Lord has now “commanded” us to follow His health guideline so that we can live healthy lives, and provide for the temporal needs of our families. I am sure that this woman is right. She probably is a good person. And I’m sure that the Lord wants her influence to be felt here on earth as long as possible. So He has revealed to her, how she can do her part in keeping her body healthy and strong, thus extending her life here on earth. The fact that she smokes is not what makes her “unworthy” to enter the house of the Lord. It’s her unwillingness to do her part, as revealed through a prophet of God. I’m sure she doesn’t understand that. And that is why it is difficult to explain many gospel principles when they are “standing alone”. But I hope we all understand that living temporal laws are intertwined with spiritual laws. I thank the Lord for revealing that certain substances are not good for my body.  Without it, perhaps I would have developed habits that would now be vexing my body, or even sent me to an early grave. I’m grateful to a Father who has lovingly revealed a minimal health code that is blessing my life.

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