Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Church in the Mountains in Montana

I have to admit that I have a love/hate relationship with my religion. I'm on a constant roller coaster of highs and lows, but through it all there's a been a thread binding me to my upbringing. The thread is tradition and love. In 1961 Grandpa Anderson built a cabin in Silver Gate, Montana. Silver Gate is one mile from the northeast entrance of Yellowstone. Every summer since that first year I've spent some time there. When I was really little, Sundays at the cabin were spent having a church meeting with family. I loved these meetings. They were basically testimony meetings where we'd share things that were most important to us--family, love, tradition, the truthfulness of the gospel, how much we loved the cabin, the mountains, nature... When I got my own family we've done this less often. Instead we've followed proper protocol and drove either to Yellowstone to have church at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone at an LDS branch, or later to Gardiner, Montana, but more often to the Cooke Pass LDS branch. Nothing has ever come close to as spiritual as the time I remember Grandpa and Grandma Anderson talking about how they held church in their home in Glendive, Montana because they were the only Mormons in town. Grandpa was the branch president and his family was the branch. At the Silver Gate cabin Grandpa Anderson and Dad passed the sacrament to us. Things were different back then and the Church didn't make a fuss about getting permission to do what my grandma and dad had been ordained to have authority to do. I know I've never come close to feeling the kind of love I felt at those early cabin meetings. My heart overflowed with the spirit. I wanted more than anything to feel that kind of peace and joy every day of my life. Grandpa died when I was ten. We'd said goodbye to him a week or two before at the cabin and drove back to Utah. He died in Yellowstone Park. He was fishing on the Lamar River, caught his limit, and died of a heart attack. My Uncle was with him and couldn't revive him.

It broke our hearts. But  the cabin stands as a reminder of his life, his goodness, his love, his sacrifice for his family and for his religion. He was the best of men.

A couple of weeks ago my family was at the cabin. We shared a few days with our son, his wife, and our three grandchildren. We chose to attend church at a small branch about ten miles from the cabin.  It wasn't as wonderful as those early meetings with Grandma and Grandpa--nothing could be--but it was heartwarming and the tug on my heart, the goodness, the thread that weaves through my life binding me to my upbringing and to my family and to my religion was there.

Top Ten Reasons why Church at an LDS Branch at Cooke Pass, Montana is Better

10: Chance to see wildlife on the way--especially Bison. I've never seen a bison on the way to church in Utah.
9.  I got to go with my grandkids.
8. No church responsibilities.
7.  No classrooms, so priesthood was outside in the pines.
6.  Men wore cowboy boots.
5. My daughter-in-law wore skinny jeans (not even allowed on BYU Idaho campus.) I wore pants. Mick wore jeans--so we were all comfortable. No one cared how we were dressed. I have always doubted that God cares either. 
4. Church was held in a cool cabin with family photos on the wall.
3. Testimony meeting was sweet. People spoke from their hearts and focused more of Jesus and the Atonement than I normally hear.
2. Best Sunday drive after church ever to the top of the Beartooths!
1. Instead of a mind-numbing three hours, church was two hours and they covered everything beautifully without any time for political commentaries from people in Gospel Doctrine class. 
The LDS church in Cooke Pass, Montana

Grandkids over 10,000 feet high in the Beartooths

The Summit of the Beartooths

We stopped to see a waterfall after church.

This is where we turned off for church

The Amphitheater Mountain is the mountain I've looked at from the cabin window for over 50 years.

Youngest grandchild