by Howard E. Salisbury, Lieutenant—USNR
It has been fifteen months since three of we returned missionaries started our weekly services at the Naval Training Center at Millington, near Memphis, Tennessee. The two seamen who were with me were sent away shortly after we started our meetings and I was left to carry on. In those fifteen months I have never lacked leaders to assist me, among them always a few returned missionaries; yet some of our most capable leaders and speakers have been the eighteen and nineteen year old boys who have made best use of the opportunities provided by the priesthood through the years. I will testify to this before priesthood quorums all my life.
Our numbers have grown from three or four to the record attendance of forty-five who were present to hear Apostle Ezra T. Benson and President Graham H. Doxey on their recent tour of the mission.
My tour of duty with the navy keeps me in Memphis at all times except on occasional trips to the Naval Training Center. On these visits I hold business meetings with five or six members whom I appoint to conduct the services and contact speakers, etc. In the Thursday evening service I regularly occupy the last portion of the time to counsel the brethren and instruct them in the principles of the gospel. The counsel is that which accumulates as a result of the many visits paid me by servicemen, sailors, marines, and soldiers at my office in the police station.
A volume could be written about our weekly meetings, because they are the most inspirational services of worship I have ever participated in, with the exception of a few notable meetings in the temple.
There is actually something reminiscent of a temple assembly in these Thursday evening gatherings. I sit at the end of the first bench where I can see the expression on the faces of thirty-five or forty men in white as they contemplate with the speakers the principles of the gospel. These boys are awakening to the fact that throughout their lives they have possessed a. way which is truly heavenly, and that by traveling that way they are progressing heavenward.
They are men, speaking generally, who have come from communities where contrasts in philosophies of life are not so evident as here in this heterogeneous society of servicemen. The views concerning life which were formerly taken for granted have ascended to the highest place in their estimate of values, because the contrast between their knowledge and convictions and the indifference of their associates is so evident, indeed astounding; a contrast which many of our Mormon boys have never before been in a position to observe.
They come to the meetings the first time wearing vestiges of homesickness which bewildered and humbled them in boot camp. They had learned in the preliminary training that the best palliative is the fellowship of men who hold the same beliefs and standards as they, and who have come from the Zion that now shines with a special glory in their imaginations. After that first meeting they return to gain inspiration and support for the variety of situations which insistently surprise them. Men without free agency seem so sensitive to surprise. Initiative and originality are perforce suspended, and it is with these resources that they are accustomed to arise and meet their problems.
Friendships built on eternal lines are formed among us. At almost every service we say good-bye to one or two of our members who, five months before, stood up and introduced themselves to the group. In their farewell these men, bear their testimonies concerning the values of our worship together. The nonmember friends whom they bring marvel at this.
[Howard E. Salisbury, born February 4, 1911 in Utah. Died June 21, 1977 in California.]