“I believe my first experience in having the courage of my convictions took place when I served in the United States Navy near the end of World War II. …
“I shall ever remember when Sunday rolled around after the first week [of boot camp]. 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 sizeable contingent 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 somewhat smaller contingent 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 can assure you that I felt completely alone. Courageous and determined, yes—but alone.
“And then I heard the sweetest words I ever heard that chief petty officer utter. He looked in my direction and asked, ‘And just what do you guys call yourselves?’ Until that very moment I had not realized that anyone was standing beside me or behind me on the drill ground. Almost in unison, each of us replied, ‘Mormons!’ It is difficult to describe the joy that filled my heart as I turned around and saw a handful of other sailors.
“The chief petty officer scratched his head in an expression of puzzlement but finally said, ‘Well, you guys go find somewhere to meet. And don’t come back until three o’clock. Forward, march!’ …
“Although the experience turned out differently from what I had expected, I had been willing to stand alone, had such been necessary.
“Since that day, there have been times when there was no one standing behind me and so I did stand alone. How grateful I am that I made the decision long ago to remain strong and true, always prepared and ready to defend my religion.”
Questions to ponder:
What effect does our standing strong have on others?
Can you remember a time when your courage and convictions were tested? How did you respond?
What can we do to prepare ourselves to stand strong?
Consider writing your thoughts in a journal or discussing them with others.