Stories from the General Authorities: An Uncommon People

“Stories from the General Authorities: An Uncommon People,” New Era, Feb. 1974, 28

Stories from the General Authorities:

An Uncommon People

I received a letter from a missionary in California. He was there with his wife and he wrote this: “There have been so many Mormon boys here in uniform, and they have been such fine, outstanding young fellows that they have turned the attitude of the people of this town toward the Mormon Church.”

Now you see they were uncommon boys. Then he told this specific story. He said that one of the women’s clubs was putting on a luncheon at the hotel. The lady in charge had an extra plate placed at the table, and she said, “When the next soldier comes along, we will invite him to occupy this place at the table.” Well, he happened to be a Mormon boy and he didn’t hide his light under a bushel. Like Jesus said, we should let our light so shine that the world, seeing our good works, will glorify our Father in Heaven. (See Matt. 5:16.)

When they passed the coffee around, he didn’t touch the coffee. You see how easy it would have been for the boy to say, “Oh, shucks, Mother isn’t here. Father isn’t here. My bishop isn’t here. I am the only man with all of these women. A little cup of coffee won’t hurt me.”

But he had to show forth the praises of the Lord who had called him out of darkness into the marvelous light, and he wouldn’t touch it. They offered to get him tea and he didn’t want that. Then they wanted to know all about him. That opened the door so he could tell them about how he was raised. And then when they were through eating, they lighted their cigarettes and passed them around. Of course, the young soldier refused. Well, anyway, right there one of those women decided, “If the Mormon elders ever call at my home, I will let them in. I want to know more about a people who can raise a boy like that boy who sat at our table today.” When the missionary wrote me about this lady, she was a very earnest investigator.

Another Mormon boy was sent east to an officers training school. A new commanding officer came into the camp, and they put on a banquet to honor him. There, by every plate, was a cocktail glass. When the proper time came, every one of those potential officers stood up with his cocktail glass to toast that incoming officer. All but one boy, and he raised a glass of milk. It would take a lot of courage, wouldn’t you think, to stand there with all those officers, and see all of those cocktail glasses come up, and stand and raise a glass of milk!

Well, the officer saw it. He made a beeline for that boy after the entertainment was over, and he said, “Why did you toast me with a glass of milk?”

“Well, officer,” he said, “I’ve never touched liquor in my life. I don’t want to touch it; my parents wouldn’t want me to touch it; and I didn’t think you would want me to either. And I wanted to toast you, so I thought you would be satisfied if I toasted you with what I am accustomed to drinking.”

The officer said, “You report at headquarters in the morning,” and told him what time.

I suppose that boy spent a sleepless night, but when he went into the officer’s quarters the next morning, you know what happened? The officer assigned him a place on his staff with this explanation: “I want to surround myself with men who have the courage to do what they think is right regardless of what anybody else thinks about it.” Isn’t that wonderful! He was an uncommon boy, wasn’t he? I hope you are all uncommon. I hope that if you are ever in a situation like that you will make the proper decision.

I would like to tell you just one little experience of my own along that line. When I was a young fellow and was out at the old Saltair beach dance hall on Great Salt Lake, when that was reckoned to be the finest dance hall in all America, one of my girl friends came up and said, “LeGrand, we are having a banquet downstairs. Wouldn’t you like to join us?” Now you know the old saying that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. I couldn’t turn that one down. So I took hold of her hand and went hopscotching down the steps over to the north end of that eating hall. We approached a long table that was all spread, and I saw by every plate a tall beer bottle like they used to have in those days. As soon as I could see that that was where we were headed, I stopped just like I was shot. I looked at that table, and I looked at that girl, and there I was, holding her hand. She said, “What’s the matter? Are you too good to drink a little beer?” Now you know if you have hold of a girl’s hand, you have to think pretty fast when she talks to you like that. I had to think fast.

I said, “Well, Elsie, I guess I am. I thought you were.”

“Goodbye,” I said, and I went up those steps a lot faster than I came down them.

I met a young woman in California who told me this story. She started keeping company with a young man who was a member of the Church, but he wasn’t active. When he got serious and proposed to her, she said, “I will never marry a man who doesn’t honor his priesthood and do his duties in this church. I want to be able to say to my children, ‘You follow your father.’” He wasn’t willing to pay the price, so their courtship ended right there. She was an uncommon girl.

God bless each one of you and help you to make the decisions in your youth that will truly make you uncommon in the world and in this church of Jesus Christ, which is the greatest movement in all the world.

Illustrated by Jerry Harston