“Q&A: Question and Answers,” New Era, Apr. 1992, 17
You know the answer even before we say it. Of course, it’s better to never start, never even try once, things that can turn into destructive habits. It is incorrect to assume that you can only learn from your mistakes. You can learn even better lessons from doing right.
You are mistaken if you think that experimenting will make you wiser or stronger. Giving in once just opens the door to having to make the same decision over and over. Not only will other people doubt you when you say that you don’t drink or smoke, you’ll doubt yourself. How can you avoid being a hypocrite when you tell your friends that you do not drink or smoke when they know different? They’ve already seen that you gave in once and suspect that you’ll probably give in again.
Here at the New Era we’ve talked to teens from around the world about how they resist temptations in their lives. We’ve heard many people explain how their nonmember friends actually help them stay strong. When their friends learn that they are Mormons and that they really mean it when they say they don’t drink or smoke, the friends will often step in and make sure that they aren’t offered unhealthy things. Just think how disappointed these friends would be if they found out that their Mormon friends didn’t really live what they professed to believe.
Experimenting in private to avoid being a bad example doesn’t work either. While you might avoid disappointing your friends, you will disappoint yourself even more. Things can get a little scary if you can’t trust yourself to make decisions you know are right. Instead of making your life easier and clearer by experimenting, you are asking for unnecessary pain and confusion. How can you feel assured that you will never slip again when you’ve already done it once? Curiosity isn’t a very good reason for breaking a commandment. Although you may never develop a damaging habit, you cannot know that up front. Too many people who have ruined their lives also thought they could experiment just once.
Modern science has established the disastrous effects smoking has on the body. Accidents of all kinds have a shockingly high correlation to drinking. You’ve undoubtedly heard people talk with regret about how smoking or drinking has caused big problems in their lives and how they wish they could go back in time and simply never start. You’ve heard Church leaders encourage you to make right choices. Why don’t you believe them? What could you possibly learn by experimenting that you haven’t already been told by knowledgeable sources.
Keeping the Word of Wisdom brings blessings, not only physical blessings but spiritual ones (see D&C 89:18–21). Learning obedience by keeping straightforward commandments such as not drinking and smoking can help you learn the value of obedience. If you’re struggling with physical addictions, it makes learning to live a Christlike life so much more difficult. One of the biggest problems the use of alcohol, tobacco, or drugs presents is that it makes you less susceptible to receiving and listening to the promptings of the Spirit.
Please believe the many readers who wrote saying that it isn’t worth it to experiment even once with smoking or drinking. It’s better to never start.
It is right that the Lord has sent us here to have our own experiences. But why should we have the same bad experience millions of people before have had? If you have friends who tell you the opposite, you should wonder if they are real friends.
Frank Diener, 18
You made a covenant with your Heavenly Father at baptism to stand as a witness of God at all times, and in all things, and in all places (see Mosiah 18:9). He’s counting on you.
Lanesa Mackey, 18
Make up your mind now that you won’t drink or smoke. Then tell your friends about your decision and maybe they won’t ask you to drink or smoke again.
John Collins, 14
Clovis, New Mexico
Never trade what you want most in life for what you want at the moment.
Tiffany Pargeter, 15
You just have to believe that among the Lord’s commandments there is a law of health known as the Word of Wisdom. Breaking this law will do a lot of harm by damaging your physical body and harming your spirit. Read Doctrine and Covenants 89:18–21 and see the blessings of the Lord on those that keep the Word of Wisdom. [D&C 89:18–21]
Mercy Ekpenyong, 17
Honestly, you cannot say you would never do it again. I work with a great man who used to do drugs. He had told me that all you have to do is give in once, and then it is really hard to say no again. Your Heavenly Father loves you and wants you to follow his plan, including and especially the Word of Wisdom.
Robert Rookhuyzen, 15
I always told myself that I would never drink or smoke because that was what I was taught. Then I started doing things with people that did drink and smoke. The more I was around them, the more curious I became. One night I drank; then a couple of days later I tried smoking. Smoking made me sick, so I know for a fact that I will never do that again. But it took me almost a year to realize that drinking is wrong and that I don’t want to drink any more. Most people do want to find these things out for themselves rather than take other’s advice, but please remember this. It’s easier to say no if you have never tried it even once.
You will never regret staying pure and keeping the Word of Wisdom. It is so easy to say yes to alcohol or tobacco, but it is so much better not to begin.
Mandy Mcdonald, 15
Stockport, Cheshire, England
When I was about 14, I had come to the conclusion that trying a beer once would be perfectly all right. Before I had tried one, however, I had an interview with my bishop to go on a youth temple trip. One of the questions was about experimenting with drugs or alcohol. I was glad I could say no, but the question puzzled me. “Wasn’t experimenting okay?” If that question was important enough to ask in a temple recommend interview, it must not be okay. Since then, I’ve realized if you never take the first you will never take the rest. I am grateful to the Lord and a bishop for guiding me and helping me avoid so much sorrow.
Elder Aaron Ellsworth, 20
Washington Seattle Mission
As soon as you try something once, you open the door for more temptations and great regret.
Elder Mike Southworth, 21
Tennessee Nashville Mission
It takes only once to become trapped by alcohol and tobacco. And it takes only one time to harm you. Just remember that our Heavenly Father wants what is best for us.
Marina Y. Choo, 16
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada