I Love to Smell Tobacco in the Chapel

“Utah Mormons” versus “California Mormons”

Our family often drove to Utah in the summer.  We sometimes spotted people walking to church who were smoking.  My children thought it was awful.  “Utah Mormons,” they huffed.

But I thought the sight of someone smoking on their way to church was wonderful. “California Mormons” who smoke “self-excommunicate,” rather than cope with the humiliating sniffs, sighs and stares of the members.  

Judging others by the small of tobacco

As newlyweds, my wife and I lived in a poor inner-city ward in Long Beach, California. My first home teaching visit was to a poor non-church-attending family. Their house was a mess, their kids were dirty, and the place reeked of cigarette smoke. But this humble family welcomed me with open arms and hearts, and we had a spiritually uplifting and edifying visit.

Immediately, afterward, I visited a richer non-church-participating elderly couple.   Their yard and home were immaculate.  They were cordial, and we had a pleasant social visit.

A few days later, I received a nasty letter from this couple.  It said: “Mr. London: If you cannot control your smoking habit that is your problem.  But you are not welcome in our home if you bring your cigarette smell with you.” 

I was shocked.  I had never smoked a cigarette in my life. Apparently, the smell of smoke from my prior visit had gotten on my suit.  I didn’t know whether to laugh or curse.  But I felt the sting of being misjudged by a couple who never even attended church.

We are The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Sinners

We are all sinners and come up short.  That is the only thing in which every ward is 100%.  Every single member is a sinner. We are the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Sinners.  

An old rugged uneducated convert once told me that the church was like a hospital.  Some members are called as “doctors” and “nurses.”  But everyone is a “spiritual patient.”

We should welcome sinners who smoke to join the rest of us sinners at church. We should applaud their courage.  We should encourage their efforts to overcome their addiction.  

I love to smell tobacco in the chapel.

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