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His favorite thing: sharing, teaching the gospel

Elder Mervyn Arnold to serve in Second Quorum of Seventy

There's one thing Elder Mervyn B. Arnold doesn't like to keep to himself: the blessings of the Church of Jesus Christ.

In fact, the former full-time missionary and mission president has devoted much of his life to missionary work. He always has a pass along card on hand, say his family. And when they travel, "every airplane passenger, every taxi driver hears the gospel." In 1990, he even left his work in real estate and development to work full time for the Church's Missionary Department.

"My favorite thing to do? Teach the gospel," he said days after being sustained to the Second Quorum of the Seventy April 5.

Mervyn Arnold was born July 19, 1948, in Salt Lake City, to John Everett Sorensen and Jasmine Bennion Arnold. The youngest of seven children, he spent his youth — and much of his adult life — in Granger, Utah, or surrounding communities. His father worked for Kennecott Copper Corp. and owned a small farm.

"We had 1,000 chickens. We all thinned beets. We had a cow; we all took our turn milking the cow," he recalled.

Until his parents could afford an addition to their humble home, Mervyn shared a room with his four brothers. His two sisters slept in the living room. "There was a real closeness," he said. "We had lots of good times around our house. All our friends came to my house. My mother welcomed them; she always had warm bread."

His parents taught their children to love the Lord, work hard and have fun. The family spent time hiking and fishing on an annual vacation to Yellowstone National Park. "My mom and dad always set aside fun time," he said.

But he also enjoyed the time the family spent in Granger, located in the west Salt Lake Valley. "People took care of each other," he said. "I knew very, very few people who weren't just stalwart in the Church. They were the sacrifice-and-do-whatever-is-asked type people. And we grew up with that example."

In August 1967, Elder Arnold accepted a call to serve in the Northern Mexican Mission. When his visa did not immediately arrive, he was assigned to drive the missionaries to the airport every day. It was a struggle to deliver so many missionaries on the way to missionary service, and have to wait himself. But one day he had a testimony-strengthening experience, after which he knew the Lord was mindful of him and his desires.

One morning while driving to the airport he had the impression to slow down. "I had a van full of missionaries and, frankly, didn't heed that warning the first time. But the second time it was very, very clear. 'Slow down!' I let the gas pedal off and I coasted down to about 40 mph, and had a right front tire blow out on me. I know the Lord was protecting those missionaries during that time."

By late December, Elder Arnold finally arrived in Mexico. "My mission set the course for me," he said. "It was the foundation of my life." One of the highlights of his mission came when he served as an assistant to the president, now-Elder Robert E. Wells, an emeritus General Authority.

When Elder Arnold's father passed away shortly after he returned from Mexico, Elder Wells stepped in.

Elder Wells influenced Elder Arnold in other ways. In the mission field, President Wells talked about business and banking, his profession. Elder Arnold got excited about the subjects, earning a bachelor's degree in business from BYU after returning from the mission field.

It was at BYU that Elder Arnold met his future wife, Devonna Kress. The young woman from Rockland, Idaho, was attending a dance clinic in the Wilkinson Center, when Mervyn Arnold and his friends "crashed the class." He asked his future bride to dance, the first move in the six-month courtship.

They married Aug. 12, 1971, in the Idaho Falls Temple.

The couple moved back to Granger, about half a mile from where Elder Arnold grew up. He and his business partners built a real estate, building and development company, then expanded into the banking business. She stayed home with their six children.

Together they withstood economic downturns and Elder Arnold's near-fatal bout with pneumonia and months-long recovery. In 1985, they moved their children to Central America, where he served as president of the Costa Rica San Jose Mission. The entire family learned Spanish and how to rely on each other.

One day while visiting with the then-area president, Elder H. Verlan Andersen of the Seventy, Elder Arnold pondered his career course after he returned home.

Elder Andersen asked the then-mission president, "What did Alma do?"

President Arnold replied, "He gave up his chief judgeship and went out and preached the gospel."

Elder Andersen added, "That is what you should do."

Months after his return home — and return to the real estate/development business — Elder Arnold still recalled that discussion.

"I felt like I needed to do something different to spread the gospel," he said.

So when the call came from a member of the Church's Missionary Department offering Elder Arnold a job, he took it seriously. Elder and Sister Arnold prayed and attended the temple.

"We called him from the temple and told him that we had prayed and fasted and taken it to the Lord. We knew that was the thing for us to do. So I went to work for the Church."

While employed by the Church, Elder Arnold oversaw the international missionary training centers, visitors centers, historic sites and referral system.

Today, Brother Arnold still enjoys the outdoors; once a year he and his family travel to Alaska where they own property with a private pond and creek running through it. They also enjoy scuba diving, skiing, and other sports. Following a tradition set by his parents, he also makes time for family vacations — an opportunity to enjoy time with his children and grandchildren and, of course, to share the gospel.

The family gets in a cab or on an airplane and his children know a gospel discussion will come next. "OK," they say, "here goes Dad."

E-mail: sarah@desnews.com

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