On the whole, I am in favor of the smell of tobacco in church, but it is a tricky question. The smell of tobacco is always a good sign, because it indicates that someone beyond the edges of Mormon orthodoxy has entered the chapel in search of God and community. This is a great thing. Indeed, this is one of the reasons that we have the church at all. Hence, as a member I feel a duty and desire to make the person feel welcome and at home. On the other hand, the church must mean something beyond happy acceptance if it is to fulfill its mission. The difference between Christ and Oprah or some other apostle of pop-psychological perfect acceptance is that Christ wants us to change. He loves us, but he also calls us to repentance and preaches righteousness. I want the sinner to be welcome in the church, but I don’t want welcome to become complacency with sin.
In the cosmic scheme of things, of course, tobacco is an extremely minor vice, and I’ve no doubt that our chapels are filled with sinners who do greater evils that simply have no public aroma. (I certainly fall into this category.) Yet in some sense, this makes question more difficult. At least the smell of tobacco signals that I should avoid (or perhaps make) a jeremiad against violating the Word of Wisdom. For most sins the issue is murkier. The church needs to be a place that genuinely welcomes and invites in sinners, without patronizing or infantalizing them. At the same time, if the church has nothing to say about sin, we might as well shut the door or at the very least be honest about its transformation into a social club.