I served in the United States Navy near the end of World War II. Navy boot camp was not an easy experience for me or for anyone who endured it.
When Sunday rolled around after the first week, we received welcome news from the chief petty officer. Standing at attention on the drill ground in a brisk California breeze, we heard his command: “Today everybody goes to church—everybody, that is, except for me. I am going to relax!” Then he shouted, “All of you Catholics, you meet in Camp Decatur—and don’t come back until three o’clock. Forward, march!” A rather large group moved out. Then he barked out his next command: “Those of you who are Jewish, you meet in Camp Henry—and don’t come back until three o’clock. Forward, march!” A smaller group marched out. Then he said, “The rest of you Protestants, you meet in the theaters at Camp Farragut—and don’t come back until three o’clock. Forward, march!”
Instantly there flashed through my mind the thought, “Monson, you are not a Catholic; you are not a Jew; you are not a Protestant. You are a Mormon, so you just stand here!” I felt completely alone.
Then the chief petty officer looked in my direction and asked, “And just what do you guys call yourselves?” I had not realized that anyone was standing beside me or behind me. Almost in unison, each of us replied, “Mormons!” Joy filled my heart as I turned around and saw a handful of other sailors.
The chief petty officer thought for a moment and finally said, “Well, you guys go find somewhere to meet. And don’t come back until three o’clock. Forward, march!”
As we marched away, I thought of the words of a rhyme I had learned in Primary years before:
Dare to be a Mormon;
Dare to stand alone.
Dare to have a purpose firm;
Dare to make it known.
How grateful I am that I made the decision long ago to remain strong and true, always prepared and ready to defend my religion.