A Positive Mormon

A Positive Mormon

From Chicken Soup for the Latter-day Saint Soul

A Positive Mormon

For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.

John 13:15

At the age of eighteen, I received the Melchizedek priesthood and was ordained to the office of elder by the bishop of my ward. During that ordination, the bishop also pronounced a blessing upon me and issued a call from the Lord for me to serve in the armed forces of our country.

As I was preparing to depart for active duty, the bishop gave me a pocket-sized book titled Principles of the Gospel. This book instructs servicemen in the performance of priesthood ordinances, outlines the conduct that is expected of a Latter-day Saint soldier while in combat and when facing moral adversities, and offers other items of counsel. It also instructs that we should not allow “Protestant” to be stamped on our army dog tags, but rather that we should insist that “Mormon” or “LDS” was indicated so that if we were wounded on the battlefield, we might receive a blessing from another priesthood bearer.

During the first few days of basic training, we underwent a battery of medical tests, received vaccinations, and completed administrative in-processing involving wills, finances and similar things. At each point in the process, yet another document was generated and inserted into our personnel file. At the very last station, a clerk reviewed the file to insure that each step had been properly completed. Then, using the information that had been documented, she would begin stamping out dog tags for each of us.

The only information that didn’t appear in our file was our religious affiliation. So as the clerk was completing each man’s dog tags, she would ask him for his religion and then stamp that on his tag in addition to the other information.

As my turn for the religion question came, I remembered the counsel I had received, leaned fully halfway across her desk and, pointing right at her, I yelled “Mormon!” The clerk finished stamping my tags, then handed them to me and asked that I verify that everything on the tags was correct. She had listed my full name, my service number, and then had stamped: “A Positive Mormon.” I have to admit that I felt pretty smug as I thought to myself, Wow, I guess I got that across to her!

Our four months of training sped by, and I was shipped to Southeast Asia. My barracks there housed 360 GIs and two soft-drink machines. Of the twelve selections those machines offered, one was a caffeinated drink and the other eleven were different brands of beer at fifteen cents each. I think it’s pretty safe to say that the conditions we faced overseas probably led to the nightly drunken stupor and immorality that many of those servicemen unfortunately chose. And yet, for a few, it made us stronger and made us appreciate even more having been introduced to the gospel and receiving the subsequent blessings. I was humbled and brought to tears many times as I thought of that proclamation, permanently stamped in stainless steel and lying against my chest, which testified of my resolve and stance—that I was indeed “A Positive Mormon.” Those dog tags became an ever-present reminder for me, throughout my career, of just who and what I was.

As you might well imagine, though, I was indeed humbled even further several months into my overseas duty when I finally realized that the young clerk back in basic training hadn’t been trying to describe my attitude and my commitment towards the gospel when she stamped those tags. Instead, she had indicated my blood type—A positive—and my religion!

Douglas Scofield

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