In the fall of 1857 Joseph F. Smith, just 19 years of age, left his mission in Hawaii to return home. He came home by way of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Bernardino. “In southern California, just after the little train of wagons had traveled only a short distance and made their camp, several anti-’Mormon’ toughs rode into the camp on horseback, cursing and swearing and threatening what they would do to the ‘Mormons.’ Joseph F. was a little distance from the camp gathering wood for the fire, but he saw that the few members of his own party had cautiously gone into the brush down the creek, out of sight. When he saw that . . . the thought came into his mind, ‘Shall I run from these fellows? Why should I fear them?’ With that he marched up with his arm full of wood to the campfire where one of the ruffians, still with his pistol in his hand, shouting and cursing about the ‘Mormons,’ in a loud voice said, to Joseph F.
“‘Are you a “Mormon”?’
“And the answer came straight, ‘Yes, siree; dyed in the wool; true blue, through and through.’
“At that the ruffian grasped him by the hand and said:
“‘Well, you are the ________ ________ pleasantest man I ever met! Shake, young fellow, I am glad to see a man that stands up for his convictions.’” — Teachings of Presidents of the Church, Joseph F. Smith, p. 104; Charles W. Nibley, “Reminiscences,” in Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. (1939), p. 518
As a 17-year-old, I enlisted in the United States Navy and attended boot camp in San Diego, California. For the first three weeks, one felt as though the navy were trying to kill rather than train him on how to stay alive.
I shall ever remember the first Sunday at San Diego. The chief petty officer said to us, “Today everybody goes to church.” We then lined up in formation on the drill ground. The petty officer shouted, “All of you who are Catholics — you meet in Camp Decatur. Forward, march! And don’t come back until three!” A large number marched out. He then said, “All of you who are of the Jewish faith — you meet in Camp Henry. Forward, march! And don’t come back until three!” A smaller contingent moved out. Then he said, “The rest of you Protestants meet in the theaters in Camp Farragut. Forward, march! And don’t come back until three o’clock!”
There flashed through my mind the thought, Monson, you’re not Catholic. You’re not Jewish. You’re not a Protestant. I elected to stand fast. It seemed as though hundreds of men marched by me. Then I heard the sweetest words which the petty officer ever uttered in my presence. He said, “And what do you men call yourselves?” He used the plural — men. This was the first time I knew that anyone else was standing behind me on that drill ground. In unison we said, “We’re Mormons.” He scratched his head, an expression of puzzlement on his face, and said, “Well, go and find somewhere to meet — and don’t come back until three o’clock.” We marched away. One could almost count cadence to the rhyme learned in Primary:
Dare to be a Mormon;
Dare to stand alone.
Dare to have a purpose firm,
And dare to make it known.
— President Thomas S. Monson, Ensign, May 2000, p. 54