“My Weapon against Smoking,” Ensign, July 1990, 59–60
During high school, I picked up the smoking habit while working at a local gas station. I’m not sure if it was the smoking or something else that kept me from attending church, though I did attend seminary. But I do know that my habit kept me from considering a mission. Whenever I heard President Spencer W. Kimball say that every worthy young man should fulfill a mission, I told myself that since I smoked, I wasn’t a worthy young man and therefore didn’t have to go on a mission.
Unfortunately, each time I heard a talk about going on a mission, the Holy Ghost bore witness to me that I wasn’t exempt from the prophet’s admonition. As my nineteenth birthday approached, the Spirit increasingly touched my heart. I knew that I should change my life and go on a mission.
I became active in the Church again. Still, smoking continued to be a stumbling block that kept me from serving a mission. I had smoked for about four years, but I didn’t think it would be too difficult to quit. I was wrong. I stopped several times, but each time I started again after only a day or two.
I talked to my friends about quitting, but I became even more discouraged when they told me that it seemed impossible for them to quit smoking. I soon realized that I needed to stay away from any places, people, or situations that prompted me to smoke. I did everything I could to overcome this invisible bondage, but I always ended up giving in to the temptation.
The constant mental conflict I went through hurt my self-esteem and left me feeling weak. For the first time since I had started smoking, I clearly understood the chains that Satan had around me, and I felt the anguish of a slave. I could see plainly why I had received so many warnings about the sorrow that would result from not keeping the Word of Wisdom, but now those ignored warnings only added to my discouragement.
I came to the cold realization that if I was going to quit smoking, it was now or never. If I couldn’t muster the strength to change at this crucial point in my life, when I had the motivation to change, then I would likely never change.
After several days of waging war within myself, I finally went to a quiet place where I could be alone to talk to my Heavenly Father. I prayed with more sincerity than I had ever prayed before. I thanked the Lord for the help he had given me in changing my life thus far and pleaded for strength that I might clear this last, critical hurdle. When I arose from my knees, I resolved, with all my energies, to quit smoking.
This time, even though the outward situation was the same as it had been before, the inward situation was quite different. I still had the urge to smoke when I saw others smoking, but when the urge came, I quickly went to a place where I couldn’t be seen, bowed my head, and said a silent prayer for strength. I was immediately filled with willpower and easily overcame the short-term desire to smoke. I went back to work with my mind free of the temptation. A few hours later, when the urge returned, a silent prayer quickly dispelled it again. This process went on, with the impulse to smoke growing weaker until it was completely gone.
It felt great to be free from such a spiritually cankering habit, but I knew that without the special help that had come in my moment of desperation, I would never have won the battle. The strength I had received from God to overcome this problem was a weapon as real as David’s sling when he slew Goliath.
A few months after I quit smoking, I left for a full-time mission. On my mission, I met a family who had been investigating the Church for many years. They had come close to baptism several times, but the fact that the father smoked was the major stumbling block keeping them from Church membership.
The first night we visited the family, the father told us how he had tried to quit smoking but had always given in to the temptation. I explained to him that I knew exactly what he was going through. Then I told him how prayer had helped me overcome a similar challenge in my life. I bore my testimony to him that he could overcome his addiction if he used sincere prayer.
When we returned a week later, the father met us at the door with a smile on his face. He had some good news. He had not smoked since our last visit. His family beamed with pride as he described how he had prayed as he stood outside the store where he normally purchased tobacco, and how his silent prayers had given him the strength to walk on. A few weeks later, he and his family were baptized.
I understand better now what President David O. McKay meant when he said, “The greatest battles of life are fought out daily in the silent chambers of the soul.”