As a young man Brother Clawson had been called on a mission to the Southern States. At that time in America’s history, well over one hundred years ago, malicious mobs were still in existence, outlaws who threatened the safety of members of the Church and others. Elder Clawson and his missionary companion, Elder Joseph Standing, were traveling on foot to a missionary conference when, nearing their destination, they were suddenly confronted by twelve armed and angry men on horseback.
With cocked rifles and revolvers shoved in their faces, the two elders were repeatedly struck, and occasionally knocked to the ground as they were led away from their prescribed path and forced to walk deep into the nearby woods. Elder Joseph Standing, knowing what might lie in store for them, made a bold move and seized a pistol within his reach. Instantly one of the assailants turned his gun on young Standing and fired. Another mobber, pointing to Elder Clawson, said, “Shoot that man.” In response every weapon in the circle was turned on him.
It seemed to this young elder that his fate was to be the same as that of his fallen brother. He said: “I … at once realized there was no avenue of escape. My time had come. … My turn to follow Joseph Standing was at hand.” He folded his arms, looked his assailants in the face, and said, “Shoot.”
Whether stunned by this young elder’s courage or now fearfully aware of what they had already done to his companion, we cannot know, but someone in that fateful moment shouted, “Don’t shoot,” and one by one the guns were lowered. Terribly shaken but driven by loyalty to his missionary companion, Elder Clawson continued to defy the mob. Never certain that he might not yet be shot, young Rudger, often working and walking with his back to the mob, was able to carry the body of his slain companion to a safe haven where he performed the last act of kindness for his fallen friend. There he gently washed the bloody stains from the missionary’s body and prepared it for the long train ride home (in David S. Hoopes and Roy Hoopes, The Making of a Mormon Apostle: The Story of Rudger Clawson, New York: Madison Books, 1990, pp. 23–31).
I tell that story with some concern, hoping no one will dwell on the death of a young missionary or think gospel living brought only trials or tragedies in those early years. But I do share it for an ever younger and ever newer generation in the Church who may not know the gifts earlier men and women—including young men and women—have given us in what our new film states simply in another single word—Legacy.
Fortunately we do not, for the most part, face any such physical threats now. No, for the most part, our courage will be more quiet, less dramatic, but in every way as crucial and as demanding”