“Look!” Danielle lounged against the bed, holding a pencil “cigarette” between her fingers.
“You look like a girl in the magazines,” Sidney said. “Will you smoke when you grow up?”
Danielle frowned. “I don’t know.” They all knew that her mom smoked.
“People die from smoking. Aren’t you worried about your mom?” Jessica asked.
Danielle tossed the pencil down. “Remember the policewoman who came to school and talked about drugs? Well, I went home after school that day and asked Mom to quit.”
“Wow!” Jessica exclaimed. “What did she say?”
“She said that she’d tried to quit when I was a baby, but it was too hard.”
“That sounds like my parents,” Sidney said. “When I told them that drinking alcohol was bad, my dad said, ‘It is a tradition in our family to drink wine, and I’m not about to break tradition!’”
“It’s strange,” Danielle said. “They teach us in school not to do something, but everyone still does it—even our parents and teachers.” She glanced at Jessica. “Everyone but your family.”
Jessica’s face grew hot. She didn’t know what to say. She was relieved when Sidney’s mom called to her. “Jessica, your mom is here!”
Jessica ran for the door. “Bye, Danielle. Bye, Sidney. I had a lot of fun.”
As Jessica joined her mom, she thought, It’s too bad Danielle’s mom smokes. If Mom smoked, I’d worry about it all the time.
Mom saw her frown. “What’s the matter?”
“Nothing.” Jessica jumped into the car. “I’m just glad you’re so healthy.”
Mom started the car and pulled into traffic. “I’ll feel healthier after this baby is born.”
“A few weeks, right?”
“Right. That’s why Grandpa is watching you kids tonight. Dad and I are going on a date before life gets too busy.”
“Yahoo! Another late night!”
Mom laughed. “But not too late. Tomorrow is Sunday.”
Later, when Kaylie and Meghan were in bed, Jessica and Grandpa played games and talked.
“You’ve been painting your nails, Popcorn.”
Jessica smiled at her nickname. “Sidney and Danielle painted my nails.”
“I remember them—two little pixies.”
“That was a long time ago, Grandpa. We’re growing up now. I’m graduating from Primary in a few months.”
“A young woman! Not my granddaughter!” Grandpa harrumphed. “Pretty soon you’ll think you know everything—just like your mother at your age. Why, she was the one who persuaded me to become an active Latter-day Saint.”
“Grandpa!” Jessica gasped. “I thought you were an active member of the Church all your life.”
Grandpa shook his head. “I joined the Church when your mother was a young girl. Before I joined it, I smoked and drank. Later, I went back to my old bad habits. It was hard to quit again.” Grandpa shrugged. “I finally just gave up trying.”
Jessica stared at him. “And Mom got you to quit?”
“She came home one day singing about eternal families. She wanted to know which temple we were sealed in. When I told her that I couldn’t go to the temple, she cried.”
“But you were married in the temple, Grandpa! Mom told me.”
“Yes, but only after preparing myself. I had to work at it.”
“Did you ever feel like smoking again?” Jessica asked, remembering Danielle’s mother.
“All the time. But whenever I did, your mother knew. I can see a lot of her in you.”
Grandpa poured them each a glass of apple juice, and they went out to the back porch swing. Something was troubling Jessica, but how could she explain it to Grandpa? Finally she said, “Grandpa, our family is different.”
Grandpa grinned. “Downright peculiar.”
“Grandpa!” Jessica was relieved that he wasn’t angry, but she still needed help. She remembered how embarrassed she had felt when Sidney said that Jessica’s family did everything right. Why was she embarrassed about being good?
Grandpa took a sip of his juice. “So you don’t like being different.”
Jessica shrugged. “Danielle’s mother smokes, and Sidney’s parents drink wine, but our family never does anything like that. Some of the kids at school watch movies that Dad and Mom won’t even see. I just feel like I’m kind of strange.”
Grandpa smiled. “You are strange, Popcorn.”
“Grandpa, I’m not joking. It’s hard to be different. I’m afraid I’ll lose my friends.”
Grandpa got up and went inside. He came back with his well-worn scriptures and thumbed through the pages. “‘But ye are a chosen generation,’” he read aloud, “‘a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.’” * He looked up. “Do you know what that means?”
“That we’re supposed to be different?”
“Yes, and we are different. You accepted the name of Christ at baptism, Jessica, and you promised to follow Him. Now you are getting old enough to see more clearly what that means and the wonderful difference it makes.”
Jessica thought it over. “My friends see the difference, too, Grandpa.”
“If they are true friends, they’ll stand by you. Some of them may even stand with you.”
Jessica thought, Maybe Grandpa’s right. Mom stood for what was right, and Grandpa quit smoking. What if I stand by Danielle?
She smiled up at Grandpa. “I’m glad Mom helped you quit smoking. Otherwise we might not be a forever family.”
“I’m glad, too, Popcorn. I’m glad, too.”
“Whether we like it or not, each [member of the Church] is set apart from the world. … Though discipleship with the Lord requires times of standing humbly and courageously apart, the Lord will not forsake us. He also gives us the association of others who can edify [inspire] and strengthen us as we go about our work of blessing others in the world.” President Gordon B. Hinckley (Ensign, September 2001, pages 2, 5.)