Creak, creak. Bang, bang, bang!
John looked up from his plate as he heard footsteps and then a loud pounding at the door. It was early evening on a steamy summer Sunday, and five-year-old John was finishing supper with his parents, two brothers, and three sisters. He wondered who could be visiting his family.
Father got up and opened the door. “Let us in, Zachariah!”
John groaned inside as he turned to see his father’s cousins. Dan and Marv were loud and swore a lot, and they didn’t like Mormons. Ever since John’s family had been baptized six years ago, their relatives had harassed them about being Mormons. Lately it had been getting worse.
Dan pushed past Father and stepped into the room. “We’re here to say that you have to stop associating with those missionaries and leave that church of yours,” he said. “Your relatives are tired of being called ‘Mormon-lovers.’”
“I’ve told you we’re not leaving our church,” Father firmly replied. “We joined because we know it is the true Church of Jesus Christ.”
John’s parents had been baptized before he was born, but he had heard their story many times. The elders first knocked on their door in the spring of 1883. Father was impressed with the missionaries’ knowledge of the Bible and the good feeling they brought with them on their visits. He spent months studying with them and finally decided to be baptized. Mother and the older children also joined the Church.
Cousin Marv’s face darkened in anger when he heard Father’s answer. Marv leaned toward Father and spoke in a threatening tone. “If you won’t leave that church of yours, you’d better leave Tennessee. If you don’t, we’ll take care of you just like they took care of Gibbs and Berry.”
John shuddered. He was named after the missionary who baptized his parents, Elder John Gibbs. Five years ago, Elder Gibbs and Elder Berry had been martyred by a mob.
Father straightened his back and stood tall. “I will not leave my church or stop supporting the missionaries,” he replied in a steady voice. “I would rather die a martyr than renounce my faith in Jesus Christ and His Church.”
John’s eyes widened, for Father’s face seemed to shine as he spoke. John felt a warm and peaceful feeling replace his fear.
“Leave our home now,” Father told his cousins. “I will take my family to Zion. You won’t be bothered with our presence here much longer.” His cousins glared at him, then tromped out the door and slammed it behind them.
Mother stood up and walked over to Father. She put her arms around his waist and looked up into his eyes. “We’ll have to leave sooner than we thought,” she said.
John’s family was trying to save money to move to Zion, but they barely had enough to survive. He wondered how they would get enough for the eight of them to make the journey from Tennessee to Utah.
As if reading John’s mind, Father spoke to the family. “We don’t have enough money saved to travel all the way to Zion, but we will start our journey next week. We’ll have to work along the way to earn money for the rest of the trip.” He paused, then quietly added, “The missionaries taught us that no sacrifice is too great for the Lord. Now it’s time for us to follow their example.”
As John finished his supper, he thought of the journey ahead. How long would it take? What would Zion be like? John didn’t know what lay ahead, but he would stand tall in faith, just like his father.
“We will face fear, experience ridicule, and meet opposition. Let us have the courage . . . to stand for principle.” President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency, “Courage Counts, ” Ensign, Nov. 1986, 41.