My son Spencer invited me to go with him and his two oldest boys, 8-year-old Grant and Henry, who is 6. I met them in Pocatello and we drove to Yellowstone Park. It was a wonderful experience in spite of the rain and high temperature of 49F. We stayed Saturday night with relatives in St Anthony and drove early Sunday morning to try to get to church at Island Park.
|Sacrament Meeting is about to begin|
The ward there is normally around 200-300 but in the summer there are often more than 2000 visitors attending. We got there in time to find seats in the new chapel. A man we sat next to said there were more than 3300 attending over the Fourth of July weekend. They have a new building similar to our stake center that sits right next to their older A-frame building. They hold a sacrament meeting at 0900 and another one at 1100, which is when they also have their regular block schedule. There were 800 attending the building we were in and another 600 in the A-frame. That was just for the first session!
In our building there were two sacrament tables set up—one in the regular position at the front of the chapel and another at the back of the activity hall. There were two other tables set up in the A-frame building next door, where they received the broadcast of the meeting by closed circuit TV. So administering the sacrament took about the same amount of time that you would expect in a normal ward gathering. The prayers were read only at the sacrament table at the front of the main building. It was actually very impressive how they handled the crowd.
The meeting was special to me in several ways. One was the efficiency of how they handled the huge crowd. That was done reverently, too, so there was a sweet spirit present. We attend sacrament meeting to partake of the emblems of the Lord’s Supper, but there was more. In attendance at this meeting was Gary Stevenson, Presiding Bishop of the Church, so he was the presiding officer. He was the closing speaker, and he bore a sweet and powerful testimony. The other speakers were a man and his wife who are regular members of the Island Park Ward. The theme was sustaining our leaders, so they spoke about different aspects of that subject. They had been less active for a while until they were called to participate in Home Teaching and Visit Teaching, which got them involved, brought the missionaries into their home to renew the doctrine of the resurrection and of the Atonement, and then they caught the spirit of conversion and became fully active.
The brother who spoke was a retired football coach who had coached at “every major Utah program but BYU.” He told of a young man who had transferred from a junior college, a smaller-than-usual defensive lineman, but who had a heart and determination to walk on and to play football at Weber State. The story was sort of like Rudy, the kid who walked on at Notre Dame. This young man was LDS however, and he worked hard to over come the ridicule of his non-LDS teammates when he would not drink or participate in the celebrations the others did that were not up to his standards. Unlike Rudy, he actually was big enough to earn a spot on the team, and his teammates elected him as one of their captains the next year. After the season was over, a group of those teammates who had not graduated, one of whom had poured beer in the RM’s face to teach him what it tasted like, came to the coach, who they knew was also LDS, and asked him to tell them about the Church. Some of those young men actually joined the Church because of that, and it was a few years later when the coach saw one of them at the temple. You just never know who is watching.
Another high point of the meeting was when Vocal Point, the famous male a capella singing group from BYU Provo, sang “I Need Thee Every Hour” as a special number half way through the meeting. It brought tears to my cheeks as the power of the message and the presentation penetrated into my heart. I guess they were just vacationing there and were asked to sing. Ah, the power of beautiful music!
The highlight of the meeting, for me, however, was when one of the young men officiating at the sacrament table pronounced the blessing on the bread. I don’t know how may thousand times I have heard or read the prayers, but I have never heard it like that time. He spoke slowly and clearly, pronouncing every word with reverence and respect. As he spoke I felt the influence of The Holy Ghost teaching me things that I have never thought of before, things related to the Atonement wrought by our Savior. I noticed that there are three things that we should be willing to do: willing to take upon us the name of Jesus, willing to always remember Him, and willing to keep His commandments that He has given us. It was the "willing" that caught my attention. I have tried to think of the Savior and the Atonement during the time of the sacrament administration every time I participate, with varying degrees of success. This time was different, however, and it was in large part because of how the young man at the table pronounced the prayer. I will never be the same.
|Upper Geyser Basin|
|Old Faithful beginning to blow|
|Amazing Cloud at Old Faithful|
|Watching osprey nest|
|Upper Mesa Falls|
|Old Faithful Inn|
|Henry, Grant, and Fred the Bison|