On a cold November night in 1953, the doorbell rang at our house in Columbus, Ga. Dad went to answer the door. In the glow of the porch light stood two men, one tall and lanky and the other short and slightly balding. They introduced themselves as missionaries from the Mormon Church, and to my surprise, Dad invited them in. He turned off the radio and the two men, Elders Grant Packard and Oscar Minke, began to tell us about something called the Plan of Salvation. We discovered they were serving their two-year military draft service at nearby Ft. Benning and had been called to be local missionaries in the local branch.
At the end of the lesson, they asked if they could return the next week and give another lesson. Much to my surprise, both Dad and Mother agreed. The young men returned week after week with an additional lesson that built on the last one and the best of all, Mother always had some dessert for us when they came.One week, Elders Packard and Minke brought new stake missionaries with them. The young men were finishing their military service and were going home. Unfortunately, we soon lost touch with the two young men. Our whole family was eventually baptized and later went to the Salt Lake Temple to be sealed. In 1959, we moved to Ogden, Utah.
Time passed, my sister and I got married, and my parents moved to the Los Angeles area. They were called to be ordinance workers in the Los Angeles Temple. One day in the mid-1980s, Dad recognized the name of a temple patron – Grant Packard. Dad asked him if he had ever been to Georgia, and the man answered yes, he had served in the Army at Ft. Benning. Dad said, "You probably don't remember me, but my name is Arnold Lawson, and if it were not for you, I would not be here in the temple today." He then explained that because Elders Packard and Minke had given their service as missionaries so long ago, many lives had been changed. Other temple workers gathered around listening to Dad's story, many with tears in their eyes. When Dad finished, Brother Packard expressed appreciation for what Dad had said, commenting that it was not very often a missionary gets to hear the "rest of the story."
Our family is grateful for the blessings and opportunities that we have received because of two young servicemen, who, 40 years ago and far away from home, were willing to serve the Lord with faith and diligence.