Questions and Answers


Answers are intended for help and perspective, not as pronouncements of Church doctrine.

Why shouldn’t I try tobacco and alcohol once so I’ll know what it’s really like? I’ll never do it again. What is the harm if it is only once?

Our Answer:

Actually, you probably know the answer before we even give it: It’s better to never try even once something that can become a destructive habit. Experimenting with alcohol and tobacco can never make you wiser or stronger. You can learn better lessons from doing right.

If you give in just once to a temptation, that same temptation will confront you over and over again. Other people will doubt you when you say that you don’t drink or smoke. They’ll know that you gave in once and suspect that you’ll probably give in again.

Experimenting in private doesn’t work either. While you might avoid disappointing your friends, you will certainly disappoint yourself. Life can get a little frightening if you can’t trust yourself to make the right choice. And you’ve heard Church leaders encourage you to make right choices. Why not believe in their wisdom and counsel?

Here are some sample comments from the many, many letters we received from readers around the world.

Readers’ Answers:

You shouldn’t try tobacco and alcohol because (1) when you were baptized you made the decision to give up the ways of the world; (2) this would show a lack of gratitude on your part for our Heavenly Father and his Son and for the gift of the Word of Wisdom; (3) it would harm you not only physically but also spiritually, by opening you up to other temptations; and (4) a true disciple of the Savior would not do anything to harm his relationship with God. Personally, I am happy to keep the Word of Wisdom and the other commandments so that nothing comes between me and my Heavenly Father.

Martín F. Alama Sono, 16, Pueblo Libre Ward, Lima Perú Magdalena Stake

Everyone knows that alcohol and tobacco can be harmful substances. Those who do smoke or drink usually quit only when something goes wrong with their health. I have seen many people who have experimented with alcohol for various reasons: out of curiosity, to relieve stress, or to help them “forget” their problems. Invariably, they have placed their health in jeopardy and have become associated with undesirable people in undesirable situations.

In Alma 37:35 we read, “O, remember, my son, and learn wisdom in thy youth; yea, learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God.” As a convert to the Church, I envy the youth born into faithful families who were taught the ways of the Lord early in life. I wish I could have found the Church earlier than I did. However, I am grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ, and for the Saints who helped me “learn wisdom.”

Lee Sang Rae, Kim Hae Branch, Pusan Korea West Stake

My father helped me see the consequences of trying something “just once.”

He and I are industrial mechanics. One day he suggested that I should go to work wearing a white shirt instead of my regular work clothes. I couldn’t do that, I said. The shirt would be badly stained by the grease and powder from the machinery. Oh, it’s all right, my father replied; it’s only for one day. But again, I protested that the stains and dirt would be difficult to remove. That’s when he explained that trying alcohol or tobacco “just once” would be like wearing a white shirt to work. The alcohol and tobacco may not harm my body, he said, but using them even once would harm my spirit.

Sin is like grease; it stains us, and the stain can be hard to remove. Repentance is possible, but it is never easy. It is better to never sin—even if it is for just one time, or just a little bit.

Fábio Máximo, 20, Campinas Fourth Ward, Campinas Brazil Stake

To know what it’s really like to use tobacco or alcohol would mean trying them more than just once. You would have to try them again and again to really know, and by then you could be hooked on them.

Trying tobacco or alcohol (or other drugs) just for the experience is a dumb experiment. Why do you have to try them when you know—as everyone knows—that they are harmful. Besides, what you’re likely to experience on that first attempt is a sore throat, coughing, dizziness, an upset stomach, or worse. These symptoms are your body’s way of telling you that these things are poisonous.

Winston L. Cervantes, 24, Santa Mesa Ward, Manila Philippines Stake

We don’t need to smoke or drink to learn that such habits are bad for us. For example, while serving as an observer in the military, I saw men who drank themselves sick. Just by seeing what they did, I could understand the terrible effects of alcohol. I think it is possible to observe the results of such behavior without actually getting involved.

As long as we keep the Word of Wisdom and the other commandments, we can know right from wrong because the Spirit will enlighten us.

Emmanuel Tomadon, 19, Nancy, France

It is stupid and dangerous to even think about using tobacco or alcohol or anything else that is dangerous and destructive. The thought of a deed is the first step, and the act follows on its heels. If you once start with tobacco and alcohol, it is very hard to stop. You then harm not only yourself, but also those who love you.

Our Heavenly Father loves his children, and he will help you if you pray for the strength to resist temptation.

Lea Carta, 15, Cologne First Ward, Dusseldorf Germany Stake

If you choose to try smoking and drinking “just once,” Satan will unceasingly tempt you to try again and again.

A strong sea wall can withstand the onslaught of the largest wave. But even the smallest crack will eventually cause the wall to collapse under the incessant battering of the sea.

Shu Hua Chen, 24, Tao Yuan West Branch, Hsin Chu Taiwan District

While attending high school, I was reluctant to socialize with anyone who smoked or drank, either in school or out of school. I had friends at other schools who would invite me to worldly parties, but I chose not to attend. Rather, I wanted to be a light, or an example, to my friends by showing them that it was possible to live in the world but not of the world.

My example helped many of my youthful friends to become missionaries and great workers in the Church today.

I always remember the saying, “A huge fire started as a little flame.”

Pongia Vaka, 21, Havelulotu Second Ward, Nuku’alofa Tonga South Stake

I understand how you feel. I am the type of person who wants to try everything, and I remember years ago thinking that maybe I should try smoking and drinking.

However, living the commandments is our way of showing the Lord that we are obedient to him. He is aware of our actions from day to day, and it is important that we show our love for him by being loyal to him.

Shiroe Kuwana, 29 Hokkaido, Japan

You might like to know the results of a survey I conducted among one hundred people of different ages who were addicted to smoking.

Three percent said they smoked because everyone else did it; 11 percent said they needed a stimulant; 5 percent said they smoked because they “liked to do so”; and the remainder, or 81 percent, said they began smoking “out of curiosity.” What does this tell us?

One of the people I surveyed told me of her desire to give up smoking. “Had I known from the beginning what was going to happen to me,” she said, “I would never have touched a cigarette—not even out of curiosity.” The vice of smoking, she added, was “degrading, expensive, and deadly.”

If we violate the Word of Wisdom, it will not only affect us physically, but our spirit will also be harmed since we will be breaking one of God’s commandments. Think of all the blessings promised us if we will only keep the law as outlined in Doctrine and Covenants 89.

Rosa Elena Montalvo Martinez, 20, Nueva Era Ward, Veracruz Mexico Reforma Stake

The world is full of sad people caught up in alcohol and drugs who once said, “I’ll try them just once.” Being young, we often don’t fully understand the gospel of Jesus Christ. So instead of indulging our curiosity in things of the world, we should be using our energy to better know the scriptures, to pray for understanding, and to follow the guidance we receive from our Church leaders.

Remember, the Lord promised that if we observe the Word of Wisdom, “the destroying angel shall pass by … , and not slay [us]” (D&C 89:21).

María Eugenía Ramirez Reyes, 22, Nueva Aurora Ward, Viña del Mar Chile Stake

[photo] Photograph by Craig Moyer