At Brigham Young University years ago, a bishop said to a bunch of us boys, "If you want a wife who's as true as the North Star, check out the young women who attend 7 a.m. Relief Society."

I never did.

I think I was up well beyond midnight each Saturday night reading the Bible.

But I knew the bishop was on to something.

And I knew it again last week when I dropped in on the little Virgin River Valley Spanish-speaking branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Mesquite, Nev.

The branch meets at 8 a.m. on Sunday — rain or shine.

And that's after most of the members have spent Saturday night waiting tables and working the swing shifts.

They meet on Arrowhead Lane in the center of town, not far from a half-dozen casinos and just as many bars and clubs.

It's not easy being "as true as the North Star" in Mesquite. Meetings are early. Temptations loom on every corner — literally.

But the Spanish-speaking Saints of Mesquite weather it all and rise to the occasion, like the North Star.

The day I was there, the group numbered about 50 (many were out of town for the holidays).

But the 50 souls I met that day were sterling.

President Ponce, a soft-spoken young man with expressive eyes, read a "military hymn" from the pulpit — about Christian soldiers and all — then he gave the words a turn I'd never heard before.

Being a Christian soldier was not just about defending the faith, he explained.

We must be as dedicated and committed as soldiers in defending our families.

Afterward, he spoke with me at length about the goodness of those early morning souls in his branch.

And I thought again of the day I went out to the Utah State Fairgrounds to hear Gary Snyder, the nature poet, read his verse.

Snyder had just won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, but he was in Utah on a cold, rainy day. It was also middle of the week. Only about 10 people showed up to hear him.

I told him I was sorry more people hadn't made the effort.

He waved me off.

"Oh, no," he said. "These are the true believers. These are the ones I want to hear me. These are the ones I want to be with."

After my early morning sacrament meeting in Mesquite, I knew exactly what he meant.

Jerry Johnston is a former Deseret News staff writer. "New Harmony" appears every other week in Mormon Times. Email: [email protected]