I recently flipped through my girls’ most recent issue of the New Era and saw the following article: http://www.lds.org/new-era/2013/09/whats-so-great-about-the-great-and-spacious-building?lang=eng. The part of the article that jumped out at me and stuck in my mind was the concept of “can’t” versus “won’t.” As an adult, it isn’t something I think about much anymore. I made all the big decisions when I was young (like being morally clean and obeying the Word of Wisdom), and once you’ve made those decisions, it’s a lot easier to stick to them. So when I made a comment to my daughter in passing as we sat side by side in front of the computer screen a few hours later, it took me completely by surprise when I realized that my comment could have been misconstrued by the wrong audience. Then I realized that my daughters are my most important audience of all.
I looked at her and asked, “You know that I would dress modestly whether I had been to the temple or not, right?” She nodded, probably wondering why I would ask such a thing. I explained, just to make sure: “You know that I didn’t feel comfortable dressing immodestly before I went to the temple either, right? I don’t dress modestly because I have to; I do it because I know my body is sacred.” She nodded again, giving me a look that said clearly, Of course, Mom; did you think otherwise?
You see, this is my vocal daughter. I know exactly what she is thinking because she tells me, and I know that we think a lot alike. But each of my daughters is different, and I can’t assume that because one of my daughters understands, all three of them do. I realized that day that I can’t assume anything; it could cost me–and my daughters–dearly. They need to hear me, the closest female role model in their life, tell them that I do things not because I have to, but because my Heavenly Father loves me, and I love Him.
We all have our weaknesses. Some things come easier for us than others. Violations of the Word of Wisdom have never been much of a temptation for me. I’ve never actually had to say “I won’t” out loud, though I have said “I don’t” several times in my adult life. Living in Utah, people have always assumed correctly that I’m a Mormon and have dropped it without question, but I could easily give an answer without bringing up my religion. For example, even if I weren’t a Mormon, I wouldn’t drink coffee because it’s one of my least favorite smells and I don’t like the way caffeine makes me feel. But is the deeper reason more important? Should people know that I don’t drink coffee because of my religion? According to the author of this article, it shouldn’t even be a matter of don’t, but a matter of won’t. Why?
Because some things are harder for me than the Word of Wisdom. It doesn’t matter what my weaknesses are. We all have them, and chances are good that you and I share one or two. To remain stalwart, we must say we won’t, so that when the inevitable temptations come, we can stand firmly and say “I won’t do that.” And our children need to know that we are saying “I won’t” so that they can know that they are not alone when they make right choices. They need to hear their friends, their leaders, and other family members say “I won’t” because we can’t be there all the time, and they need as much support to make right choices as they can get. And they need to know that we won’t because we are children of our Heavenly Father who loves us, and we love Him, and that that is the most important reason of all. That is the answer that will stand the test of time, that always works even when other answers fly in the face of logical or social reason. If it is the true answer for everything we do, then we will not be as easily swayed when people we love or admire make wrong choices, when someone comes up with a new theory that challenges our basic beliefs, or when our leaders announce a new policy change. If it is the true answer for everything we do, then our light will shine, and others can follow. If it is the true answer for everything we do, then when we slip and fall, it will be easier for us to take our Father’s outstretched hand so He can help us back to the strait and narrow path, until finally, at the end, we reach the tree of life, beyond the mists of darkness and the influence of those inside the great and spacious building, and we can finally partake of the fruit that is most precious of all.