Spencer W. Kimball

In California, about 19 miles outside of San Bernadino at marker 138 on I-15, travelers are greeted by some striking rock formations.

Locals (and the travel industry) call them The Mormon Rocks.

They were named for a band of Saints who passed that way under the care and keeping of Charles Rich.

I stopped during a recent trip to give the boulders the once over.

They are pocked by weather and worn by the wind. To my mind, they look like the jawbones of giants — as if the place were a burial ground for a race of super-Goliaths.

Now, let's digress for just a moment — back to the Jimmy Carter administration and the peace talks between Israel and Egypt.

A breakthrough was imminent, so an Israeli leader headed to Egypt to meet with Anwar Sadat, the Egyptian president.

When he returned to Israel a reporter asked if he had seen the pyramids.

"No," he said. Then his enthusiasm lifted. "But I did see Sadat!"

His point, I think, was this:

Sometimes the most impressive things in a culture aren't its sturdy monuments and natural wonders, but its sturdy people.

Like great landmarks, great people endure because they don't get knocked off balance by prevailing winds. Chill can't make them crack and storms can't undermine them.

They are planted and secure.

You know where to find them.

You can set your course by them.

Meeting up with a mighty piece of architecture or a natural wonder can be inspiring.

But meeting a mighty person can change the way you see the world.

That's how I feel about California's Mormon Rocks.

They are indeed impressive and worth a visit.

And yet, even though they may look like the jawbones of giants, the real giants of the Mormon world aren't made of stone. They're made of flesh and blood, like Anwar Sadat.

According to a favorite LDS hymn, "Firm as the mountains around us, stalwart and brave we stand."

The best among us are as inspiring as our natural wonders.

I have visited Mount Olympus.

I have also shaken the hand and spoken with President Spencer W. Kimball.

Ask me which experience I wouldn't trade (hint: it doesn't involve geology).

Great landmarks and great souls are similar.

They share the quality of "steadiness."

The philosopher Nietzsche, though never a friend to believers, had some wise insights.

Author Eugene Peterson dug one out for one of his books.

Nietzsche said:

"The essential thing in heaven and earth is. . .that there should be a long obedience in the same direction."

What holds for Mormon rocks holds for the Mormon people.

It's all about being steadfast.

It's about standing stalwart.

Jerry Johnston is a former Deseret News staff writer. "New Harmony" appears weekly in Mormon Times. Email: jerjohn@desnews.com