Lawn's father was employed by the Mormons as a stonecutter and drafter on the Nauvoo Temple. He also was a guard in the Carthage Jail a day prior to the murder of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. His father attested to a prophetic remark made by Hyrum. In 1849 Lawn's family traveled overland to California. They settled in the town of San Juan in 1851. About 1853, William McClellen, a Mormon missionary visited the town and baptized about fifty people including many members of Lawn's extended family. His grandfather's brother, Ephraim Twitchell, was appointed to be the president of the branch. Following counsel of Parley P. Pratt, some of the members of the branch moved to San Bernadino in the fall of 1853. The remainder, including most of Lawn's extended family, moved to Carson Valley in Nevada in the spring of 1854. Upon their arrival, they were shocked to learn that Mormons practiced polygamy. This caused them to return to their homes in San Juan where still held religious meetings. Lawn's family joined the RLDS church in 1873.