Conference Report
A Principle With Promise
Elder Gordon B. Hinckley
Of the Council of the Twelve Apostles

Gordon B. Hinckley, Conference Report, April 1965, pp. 75-78

I seek the direction of the Holy Spirit that the things I say may be in harmony with the inspirational things to which we have listened.

To the Galatian Saints Paul wrote these stirring words: "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage" (Gal. 5:1).

I thought I witnessed something of this bondage recently while riding in the lounge of a crowded plane with three other men.

A Yoke of Bondage: A Panel of the Enslaved

As the jet began the fast climb to its assigned altitude, I noticed that the man across the table had his eyes fixed intently on the "No Smoking" sign. The instant it went off, he reached for his cigarettes. As he began smoking, the man next to me became nervous. He clenched and opened his fists, looked out the window, turned to look at the man across the table, and his face reddened. The air was a little bumpy. I thought he might have been frightened. I took a closer look. He was a man of good physique, well-dressed immaculately groomed. He did not look the kind who would be frightened by a little bumpy air.

Then the fourth member of our quartet took a pack of cigarettes from his pocket. He offered me one, and I declined. He then offered my seat companion one, and he replied, "I'm trying to quit, and it's nearly killing me."

I had started a conversation.

The first man to light up told how he had resolved to quit after hearing in January 1964 the report of the Surgeon General of the United States. He recounted a tale of agonizing days and sleepless nights and of a final surrender to a habit that had held him for many years. He placed his cigarette between his lips, inhaled long and deeply, then lowered his head as the smoke drifted slowly from his lips and nostrils "I couldn't lick it," he said with an evident air of defeat.

The next smoker took up the conversation. "I almost quit. I'd been burning two packs a day. I thought I could taper off. I cut down to one cigarette after each cup of coffee. That was my formula. It lasted for a time but I found myself drinking too much coffee. Now I'm back to a pack a day."

He had the manner of an educated man. He held in his hands a business journal. He said that the report of the Surgeon General had frightened him also, but then he had read counteracting statements. Perhaps, he concluded, the relationship between cigarette smoking and cancer is only coincidental; the disease could just as likely come from the exhaust fumes we breathe. Then with an impulsive display of self-mastery, he crumpled his half-smoked cigarette into the ash tray, snapped shut the lid, and commented, "Just the same, I wish I could quit."

My seat companion then spoke: "I'm convinced there's some truth in what I've seen and read on the subject. We take the government's word for an awful lot these days, conclusions based on less convincing evidence than this I don't believe you can deny the facts. There is a hazard in smoking. But I'm having a terrible fight. I never dreamed a habit could be so tough to break.

One of them looked at me. "What about you?" he asked.

I replied: "I've never used them."

"How lucky can you be!" was his response. Without wishing in any way to appear self-righteous, I thought the same thing—"How lucky can I be!" And I thought of a day long ago when as a boy I sat in this Tabernacle and heard President Heber J. Grant speak with moving conviction on the "Little White Slaver," as he bore eloquent testimony of the Word of Wisdom as a divine law. I was greatly impressed that day, and that impression gave me resolution.

Who could question the bondage in which these men found themselves? Our conversation indicated that all three were educated, able men who made important decisions every day. But in a matter admittedly affecting their own lives and health, two already had conceded defeat, and the third was fighting a terrible battle, the victim of a habit that would not let him go.

One study indicates that among men who had stopped smoking, 371/2 percent reported they were smoking again. And even among those who reported that they had gone for as long as 12 to 24 months, nearly 18 percent had relapsed into the old habit. (Consumer Reports, March 1964, pp. 112-113.)

Cigarette Smoking—a Health Hazard

Commenting on the January 1964 report of the Surgeon General, an editor concluded: "No longer can reasonable men argue whether smoking is or is not a major health hazard. It is. The remaining topic for consideration is what can be done about it." (Ibid., p. 112.)

A veritable mountain of evidence has been produced by the Surgeon General's office, the Federal Trade Commission, the American Cancer Society, the American Medical Association the National Tuberculosis Association, and many other groups and individuals. Responsible officers are concerned over the grim statistics indicating that somewhere between 125,000 and 300,000 people a year die in the United States from diseases that may be associated with the smoking of cigarettes, that your chances of death from lung cancer are 70 percent greater if you smoke cigarettes, that the hazards of other diseases are seriously increased.

It is an issue of serious magnitude when the American Cancer Society estimates that "one-pack-a-day smokers die five years earlier than non-smokers . . . Heavy smokers, two packs a day or more, die seven years earlier. This means that each pack shortens life five to seven hours" (The Evidence is Clear, p. 13).

Much of this shocking statistical data has been repeated in Washington during the past two weeks where public hearings have been going forward on proposals to nullify to a degree the effect of cigarette advertising with health warnings.

Notwithstanding the flood of evidence, there has been determined and skilful opposition.

Millions to Advertise the Slave Master

Well might this be expected. Involved in this problem are the 8 billion dollar a year tobacco industry, the 200 million a year spent with advertising media, the millions paid in taxes, much of it to the federal government. This creates the strange anomaly of a government that is doing little if anything to reduce the smoking of its citizens and thereby safeguard their health, even though its own official agencies have produced alarming evidence of the hazards inherent in the continued use of cigarettes.

Britain has been more forward. It has placed a governmental ban on cigarette advertising, as has Italy.

The American tobacco industry recently set up a new advertising code. But make no mistake about it, advertising continues, with as much as 10 million dollars being spent to launch a single new brand. Pleas are made that as long as the manufacture of a product is permitted, its advertising should be permitted. To which comes the rejoinder that in cases where serious hazards are clearly indicated, there is a responsibility also to indicate those hazards.

Emancipation from Tobacco Slavery, a Health Issue

To the many able and devoted men and women across the nation who are concerned with this problem, it is not a religious issue. It is a health issue.

But with all that has been said, with all the statistics that have been accumulated, with a constant and painful parade of surgery cases through the nation's hospitals, the consumption of cigarettes increases. There was a decrease in 1964 for a time, but the trend again is upward. There is belief but there is no faith.

132 Years Ago, God Said, 'Tobacco is not good for man.'

In contemplating all of this, one appreciates the incomparable wisdom of the Lord who in 1833 in a rural town on the frontier of America spoke these simple and encompassing words: ". . . tobacco . . . is not good for man" (D&C 89:8).

He did not say that one would get lung cancer, develop heart or respiratory problems if he smoked. He did not produce mountainous statistics or recite case histories. He simply declared that ". . . tobacco . . . is not good for man . . ."

That declaration was given as "a principle with promise" (D&C 89:3).

"In consequence of evils and designs"

It was given as a warning and a forewarning, "in consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days" (D&C 89:4). How aptly descriptive these words are in light of what we today observe.

The Way to Liberty

God be thanked for this declaration and the promise that accompanies it. Can there be any doubt that it is a Word of Wisdom when great forces, with millions of dollars at their command and some of the cleverest minds in the art of advertising, promote that which sober men of science also now say "is not good for man"?

One cannot read the testimony without recognizing that true freedom lies in obedience to the counsels of God. It was said of old that ". . . the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light" (Prov. 6:23).

The gospel is not a philosophy of repression, as so many regard it. It is a plan of freedom that gives discipline to appetite and direction to behavior. Its fruits are sweet and its rewards are liberal, as I am confident my friends on the plane would have been happy to have testified.

"Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage" (Gal. 5:1).

". . . where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." (2 Cor. 3:17). In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.