“Faith and Old Faithful,” Ensign, July 1975, 65–66
Summer jobs have several advantages for the college students fortunate enough to find them: money, work experience, and new friends. But the Latter-day Saint youth who work in the national parks or other holiday areas have an added blessing: they can be a part of an unusual missionary program. One such place is Yellowstone Park in Wyoming, where enthusiasm is high in the “every-member-a-missionary” program.
Spreading the gospel there is easy, according to Lynn Dudley of Rupert, Idaho. “When people find out you’re a Latter-day Saint, they come up and ask you questions. And we have to keep studying so we can answer them. In this holiday atmosphere, people are really open and honest, so it’s easy to talk to them.” Church members call it the “Spirit of Yellowstone.”
Two years ago Kathy Wipfler went to work in the park. After meeting a girl across the hall from her in the staff dormitory who was a student at Brigham Young University, she exploded, “Wow! Have I got some questions for you.” Apparently Kathy liked the answers, because she was baptized in Yellowstone Lake later that summer.
Last summer she was back again, and doing her share of missionary work. “Firesides up here are great,” she explained. “They really are right by the fire, and they’re an excellent setting for missionary work. Young people up here are always looking for something different to do.”
Apart from gospel conversations, there are many activities to spark an interest in the Church. Youth conferences are held once a month, each in a different area of the park. A Pioneer Day celebration is part of the July schedule. Last year there were 150 participants in a steak fry and mammoth game day.
Betsy Goddarn, who teaches spiritual living lessons in the Yellowstone Lake Branch Relief Society, says friendshipping at Relief Society and visiting teaching are prime methods of sharing the gospel. “Often young people go to beer parties just to be with others. We offer them a different way to meet people.”
James (Kimo) C. Lemes warned those teaching him, “You aren’t going to get me easily, because I don’t believe in organized religion.” Kimo (who says the word is a nickname he was given in Hawaii) first became interested when a nonmember dorm mate told him he “was just like one of those darn Mormons” after he had declined a beer party invitation. Another friend gave him a Book of Mormon and then asked him to read James 1:5 in the Bible. He attended a Church service and was impressed with the warmth and honesty of the members. “The spirit they showed me was beautiful, and the next thing I knew I was set up for the missionary discussions,” he said. “I asked God and Jesus Christ if this was the true Church, and I knew they wouldn’t let me down. I’d be sitting there thinking about a question, and before I could ask it, the missionaries would answer it.” Later that summer Kimo was baptized in Yellowstone Lake.
Linda Jordin of Tucson, Arizona, firmly believes that working in such an area is testimony-building for the individual. “I think it’s a kind of holding together. There are so few of us that we have to make our own atmosphere.”