“The Answer in a Paintbrush,” Ensign, Apr. 1977, 64
Shortly after joining the Church in England, I found employment in a painting firm run by two brothers. Skilled in the art of painting advertising designs on trucks, both had the dexterity with a brush that comes from years of experience. They were not religious men, but they were generous and believed in doing good whenever possible.
My membership in the Mormon Church was a constant fascination to them. Both were heavy smokers, and they could not understand why Mormons did not smoke. Constantly they wanted to know, “Why didn’t I smoke? When had I given it up? Had it been easy?” In my replies I quoted the scriptures and attempted to explain a little about the gospel, but they made it plain that religion was not for them.
One day we were all working on the same vehicle, and George, the elder of the two, began asking questions about my activities in the Church. Our discussion continued until the mid-morning break, when George lit his cigarette and again asked why I would not have one. Before I could answer, he was called to the telephone, and I found myself praying in my heart, “Please, dear Lord, give me an answer that will satisfy these men.”
They returned in less than a minute, and George immediately repeated his perennial question, “Why don’t you smoke, John?”
I felt the inspiration of the Lord as I looked at him and answered: “George, suppose I came to you and asked you to lend me one of your very best brushes, and after I had used it for a period of time, I brought it back to you full of paint. I had not cared enough to clean it. What would you think of me?”
He looked at me thoughtfully for a moment, and then quietly replied, “I see your reason now, John.”
On previous occasions I had quoted from Paul that no “unclean person … hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Eph. 5:5), but the illustration of the brush, a most prized possession of these skilled craftsmen, had succeeded where doctrine had failed. Although they continued to question me about the gospel, I was never offered cigarettes again.