How Could He Tell I Was a Mormon?
June 1977

“How Could He Tell I Was a Mormon?” Ensign, June 1977, 68–69

How Could He Tell I Was a Mormon?

The tourist standing by the service station counter was obviously well-to-do and sophisticated. I had just filled his car with gas, washed the windshield, and checked the oil. Stan, the station manager, had completed the credit card form, and since it was a slack time of the day he began making small talk with the stranger.

The service station in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, opened early during tourist season, and if there was anything harder than getting to work by 6:30 A.M., I had not yet discovered it. After several hours of seeing to the needs of the steady stream of thirsty automobiles coming out of Yellowstone and Teton national parks, I was tired and settled comfortably into a daydream, sprawled in a lounge chair near the stack of oil cans.

“Mormon!” The word suddenly brought me out of my semiconscious state.

“Isn’t this Mormon country?” the tourist asked.

“I suppose so,” Stan halfheartedly replied.

“Are you a Mormon?”

“Nope. Not me.”

The stranger turned. Looking straight at me, he pointed his finger. “He is. Look at him. It’s written all over his face.”

I said nothing. As the tourist got into his car and drove away, Stan went off to inspect the lube room and I went straight to the cash register.

Who was this fellow? What was so graphic about my face that he could tell at a glance what my religion was?

I quickly opened the cash register and looked at the top credit card form. The man was a minister from somewhere in the East. To think that a perfect stranger from far away, a minister of another church, could discern without the slightest hesitation that I was a Mormon! The whole thing seemed even more strange since as an independent seventeen-year-old I was trying very hard to ignore everything I had been taught about my religion.

Growing up in an almost totally Latter-day Saint community on the other side of the Tetons had exposed me to many Primary, Sunday School, MIA, and seminary lessons about the gospel and the Church. My parents and brothers and sisters had set fine examples. Yet at this point in my life, worldly pleasures and pursuits not consistent with Mormon teachings seemed more glamorous and desirable. I even relished the fact that I was required to work at the station on Sunday—it provided me a summer’s vacation from Church attendance.

The remainder of the day I was quite oblivious to much of what was happening around me, but something deep within me began to stir. What the stranger had said that morning caused me to search my innermost feelings for an answer. What is so different about being a Mormon?

That day I began to discover that I really was different. I knew that Jesus Christ had restored his church and that that church was now presided over by a prophet of God. I knew that there was really only one way I wanted to live my life, and I began to see dangerous pitfalls in the route I was taking.

I had been identified that day, and the process I went through to unravel the mystery of it all sustained me in asking Stan if I might open the station at 5:30 Sunday mornings so I could attend sacrament meeting in the afternoon. It later sustained me in filling a mission to Denmark and in a variety of other Church callings, and it sustains me now as the head of a Latter-day Saint family striving to live the gospel.

I know nothing about the minister—and still don’t know exactly what it was that caused him to say what he did. But I do know that he knew who I was and did me a great favor by calling it to my attention.

  • D. LaMont Johnson, an associate professor of special education at the University of North Dakota, is a high councilor in the Dakota District, South Dakota Rapid City Mission. He resides in the Grand Forks First Branch, where he teaches the gospel doctrine class.