Be Thou My Vision

Steve Morreale of Mount Royal Ministry (MRM) in Idaho Falls recently wrote this in his February newsletter:

Visions are important, especially in the middle of cold and difficult seasons, such as an Idaho winter or worse, times of despair. The worship time at MorningStar Christian Fellowship recently included a great old hymn, Be Thou My Vision. It is actually an adaptation of an Irish hymn from the 8th century. The words, while classic King James vernacular, are timeless. Read them, and extend grace to me as I integrate an attempt to be encouraging.

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart – Naught be all else to me save that Thou art; Thou my best thought by day or by night – Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Let God be the Vision of our hearts, our innermost being, and let nothing else get in the way. He can be our best thought any time of day (such thoughts chase away fears and doubts). Indeed, He is our true light in the dark seasons of life.

Be Thou my wisdom, be Thou my true word – I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord; Thou my great Father and I Thy true son – Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Let God be our source of wisdom and not the temporal and ever-changing ideas of men. Let God’s word be the word we live by because it is the truth that sets us free! Let God the Father be our eternal Father and let’s choose to be His eternal children. Our decision to believe (and it is a decision to be made) in Jesus as God the Son, makes us children of the Father and together we are one.

Be Thou my shield and my sword for the fight; be Thou my dignity, be Thou my might; Thou my soul’s shelter and Thou my high tow’r, Raise Thou me heav’ward, O pow’r of my pow’r.

Remember the only One who can truly protect us is God – He is our shield and our sword. He is the source of our dignity and our might, not our accomplishments or our position.  He shelters our soul: our thoughts, desires and feelings. He is our fortress and He raises us to heavenly ways and all of our power, all of our ability, is rooted in His omnipotence.

Riches I heed not nor man’s empty praise – Thou mine inheritance now and always; Thou and Thou only be first in my heart – High King of heaven, my treasure Thou art.

Forego the riches of the world and the approval of men. Instead, let’s earnestly pursue real treasure. Let God be first in our hearts because He alone is the eternal treasure we were created to desire.

Colombia report from Rachel Barnes

Her husband, Charles Barnes, notes:

Here are a few excerpts from Rachel’s report of her trip to Columbia.  If you would like her 3-page report that contains more specific answers to prayer, let me know.

Your prayers really created a thick protective covering over me the entire trip to Colombia and back.  There was evidence of the Lord’s help at every turn, not just for me, but for the bigger picture as well.  So thank you from the bottom and top of my heart.

The thing I see as most important is that my missionary friend Terry was able to complete the checking of Luke 2:41-chapter 10, combing through remarks and questions brought up from a consultant check.  That portion is now about ready for publication.  This was a big accomplishment.  They finished this the day I was to leave to come home.  Terry felt a very definite sense of the Lord’s enabling in their work sessions so that they were able to dive right in and make progress as well as they did.  It is a tedious process since the language helpers are still learning to read their own language.  The sessions not only involve figuring out what the Scripture is saying and how to say it in their language in a way that will not be confusing, but also working with reading skills, so it goes slowly.  But the goal is not only to leave them with a book, but to leave the people with skills as well.  This takes a lot of commitment, patience, diligence and love.

Along with me being able to do little odd jobs, learn the system for filtering water and sterilizing dishes and fruits, sweep up dust every day, keeping on top of laundry, opening up and closing windows and doors for airflow, getting meals on the table when the hired cook was not there, etc., probably my most important contribution was to take the morning session each day to pray for the work in progress, and all the things I was aware of that were connected to our presence there.  Also, it was very helpful to Terry to have someone to pray with about anything and everything as it came up.

Water

Water!  Life for a community!
Except for the name “Eagle Rock,” water is implied in all of names of Idaho Falls. In the early days of the community, the water brought by canals gave life to the town as the barren land was transformed to one of farms, homes, trees and lawns.  The name “Idaho Falls” was chosen purposely to change its image from a bleak, dry, barren place to one of life and abundance.  And water was critical in creating the opportunities to do that.  The name “Idaho Falls” was selected to indicate abundant water which in turn meant hope for life and community. The sandy area along rocky banks of a river that was once called uninhabitable developed into a community.
Barrenness transformed to life and community through water – that’s one way Idaho Falls can be characterized from a historical perspective.  There are other ways.  Most everyone who lives here has their own opinion and perspective of what Idaho Falls means, why they came and why they stay.  They may live here because of their occupation, family connections, recreational pursuits, or many other reasons.  Or it might have something to do with their religion.  Anyone moving to Idaho Falls sooner or later discovers the dominant role religion plays in this community.  Another name for this part of Eastern Idaho is the “Mormon Corridor.”
Idaho Falls, as every community, is constantly changing.  Families move here and people move away from here.  Babies are born and residents die.  Businesses start and grow and others close.  New churches start, some churches grow; others decline and close.
In the flux of history and people, what can we say about Idaho Falls, and its immediate surroundings?

Idaho Falls Power Generation and the INL

Idaho Falls Power Generation

Power is another important theme running through the history of Idaho Falls that combines the people, the river and geology, and the economy of the city.

Since 1900 the City of Idaho Falls has operated an electric generation system, initially using water flowing in a canal.  This first power generated by the city was used only for street lights.  Three hydroelectric facilities were built on the river in Idaho Falls between 1912 and 1940, two of which were virtually destroyed when the Teton Dam failed in 1976. The Bulb Turbine project replaced these two and a third was added by 1982 to enable the generation of up to 24,000 kilowatts of energy. Along with the Gem State Power Plant, located just south of the Bonneville County line, the total annual generation of electricity is approximately 220 million kilowatt hours, supplying electricity to all within the city limits and at times exported surplus energy.  As a result of these power plants, Idaho Falls Power Company’s rate for electricity is lower than any other state in the nation.

Idaho Falls and the Idaho National Laboratory

Power has also been a primary focus of the Idaho National Laboratory and its predecessors.

While agriculture dominated the business life of Idaho Falls from roughly 1900 to 1950, since then the Idaho National Laboratory has played a major role in the economy of Idaho Falls.  Appendix 1 contains a brief history of the INL and its predecessors, and several books have been written that provide a more complete story.  How has the INL affected Idaho Falls?

One obvious answer is that the Department of Energy and INL contractors have provided jobs and brought people to town who otherwise wouldn’t have come here to live and work.  The Bel Aire subdivision was built in the early 1950’s to provide affordable housing to the first “Site workers.”  The rush to build the first facilities on the Site involved over 2,000 construction workers; and the spurt in Idaho Falls population growth in the 1950’s is clearly due to these employees, as well as others who came to work in those facilities once they were built.  Employment by INL contractors grew to 5,000 by 1965, and in that year 65% of them lived in Idaho Falls.  Three years later, that percentage increased as the Department of Energy decided to move all office personnel into town.  By 1990, 3,223 INL employees were working in 22 buildings in Idaho Falls, and of course many others who worked at Site facilities lived in Idaho Falls.  Besides DOE and contractor employees, about 39,000 Navy sailors spent from 3 to 6 months in the area from 1953 to 1995, while being trained to operate nuclear submarines at the Naval Reactors Facility. Many lived in Idaho Falls during their training.  Recent data from the Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce shows the INL as Idaho Fall’s top employer, with 7,500 employees, followed by School District 91 with 1,700, Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center with 1,311 and Melaleuca with 1,300. So the economic impact of the INL has had on Idaho Falls is obvious, and has been detailed in various studies.  But has the Site affected the character or identity of the city?  Here’s my opinion.

The early years of the INL (then called the National Reactor Testing Station), even the first two decades, were filled with optimism of nuclear power as the answer to the nation’s energy problems.  There was much optimism also in using nuclear power as well to improve areas of national defense – not in bombs but in powering submarines and airplanes and military power installations.

The projects at the site provided much of the knowledge needed to build nuclear reactors and power plants in the United States and the world. In 2014, 100 nuclear reactors were operating in the United States, which produced nearly 20% of the nation’s electricity.  As of 2015, 435 reactors were in operation worldwide; France produces 77% of its electricity through nuclear power and a dozen other nations from 30-57%.  Whether you are a proponent or an opponent of nuclear power, there’s no question that the work done at the INL was essential in providing the basis for the design and operation of these facilities.  So one contribution of the INL to the character of Idaho Falls is that it has brought greater involvement in the needs of the nation and the world. That involvement consisted of resolve and creativity in designing tests to prove theories and then engineer them into useful and safe processes.  That sense of mission and purpose, and working to meet challenging national needs, has been infused into the character of the city.  One reflection of it is the title of probably the most comprehensive history of the city, Mary Jane Fritzen’s Idaho Falls, City of Destiny. Chapter 20 of that book, written by Ben Plastino, long time Post Register editor and unofficial INL historian, begins: “(The INL) wrote its history in the nuclear and scientific field of unsurpassed achievement.”

That sense of mission and achievement was somewhat dimmed and darkened at times in the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s, as questions were raised about nuclear and hazardous wastes generated at and/or shipped to the Site, as controversial and sometimes complex environmental agreements were hammered out between the state and federal agencies and as opposition groups to nuclear power and nuclear waste treatment arose.
In the past 20 or so years the INL has gone through various changes in mission, at times seeking to refocus the development of nuclear power and at times diversifying into new missions.  Contractors have come and gone; employees have come, contributed, some having moved on and many retiring and staying in Idaho Falls.  Some the Lord has brought to Idaho Falls to bring to Himself though the witness of the gospel.  Some INL employees have become leaders in churches and ministries while employed at the INL.  The Lord brought others to Idaho Falls through employment at the INL and then called them into other areas of service or ministry in the city.

Jesus

A lot of books have been written about Jesus, starting, of course, with the first four books of the New Testament.  N. T. Wright, who has written Simply Jesus (2011) and The Challenge of Jesus (1999) notes that he has 20 shelves of books about Jesus written over the last two centuries.  Philip Yancey, the author of The Jesus I Never Knew (2002) writes that in the front pages of John Ortberg’s Who Is This Man? (2014), 1500 books about Jesus are published every year.

A recurring orientation of many of these books is a search for the “real” Jesus or a discovery or rediscovery of Jesus in a new way.  Some look no farther than cultural expressions of Jesus, others seek “new” or refined or reinterpreted historical understanding.  A few claim to have new information about Jesus’ “lost years” that require (in the opinion of the authors) a radical reinterpretation of who he was.

This book does not attempt to wade through the contradictory claims of the vast collection of books written about Jesus, nor does it attempt to critically evaluate Biblical sources, nor summarize all Biblical and historical material, nor does it focus on particular American cultural expressions of faith in Jesus.  Instead, a few Scripture verses are cited to outline the perspective of Jesus that underlies the remainder of this book, the vantage point from which the authors sought to discover Jesus in the history of Idaho Falls.

Jesus, the Creator

For by Him [Christ] all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.  Colossians 1:16

More than three million people come to see Yellowstone each year.  While not unique in the world, the geysers, canyons, animals, waterfalls, and backcountry of Yellowstone have been a place of refreshment and wonder to millions of people for nearly a century.  The beauty of Yellowstone, and other National Parks, can illicit moments of awe, of sensing something beyond the ordinary matters and concerns and worries of everyday life.

Yet one need not go to Yellowstone to have such encounters.  They can surprise us most anywhere.  Jesus, as Creator, is reflected in His creation.  This is a theme we want to explore in that part of creation within the loose boundaries of what we call Idaho Falls and Southeast Idaho.

Jesus is the creator of the visible and the invisible.  He supplies the water that has made a barren desert into a vibrant community, both the surface water and the rainfall.  He displayed His creative power in the volcanic activity that formed the Snake River Plain; He planned the processes that created the soils in which potatoes, sugar beets and other crops have been grown in Southeast Idaho.  The beauty of His creation is seen in the Teton and Snake River Canyons, in the colors of the seasons, and the clouds and sunsets over the city.

But also in ways more mysterious he created the invisible foundations of the life of this community.  He has given us peace throughout the history of our city.  In ways I’m sure I don’t comprehend, Jesus reigns in Idaho Falls, leaving marks of his creativity and handiwork in many places.  May Jesus be acknowledged as King!

Jesus, the Word made flesh

In these last days [God] has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. Hebrews 1:2
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.  John 1:14

Statements like John 1:14 imply that people who encountered Jesus on earth experienced a concentrated and personalized form of our encounters with Jesus through His creation.  The gospels record that many who in some way saw or heard or met Jesus were amazed at His teaching, awed by his healings, set free by His power and drawn to follow Him.  Some, that is.  Others, primarily religious and civil authorities, were threatened by Him, ultimately leading to His arrest, trials and death.  And others were too busy with their own affairs to seek out or listen to Jesus.

The One who created the world entered into His creation as a man with a message.  He was a teacher, a prophet and more.  Many of the recent books on Jesus have sought new insight into and understanding of the “historical Jesus,” and His message.  It is certainly important to understand Jesus’ life on earth in the context of His time and culture.  The Jesus that we hope to see in looking at the history Idaho Falls and the message of Jesus we hear today must be traceable to Jesus of Nazareth, who actually lived and died in first century Palestine.

For example,

Jesus called men and women to follow Him; we believe He still calls men and women to follow Him.
Jesus responded to requests of people in need; we believe He still responds to prayers of and for people in need.
Jesus’ words and power relieved people of sicknesses and other afflictions; we believe He still heals, bringing about positive changes in those that seek Him.
Jesus sent His disciples to proclaim the good news of God’s kingdom and to make disciples; we believe He has sent men and women to Idaho Falls and from Idaho Falls for the same purpose.

Jesus, raised and seated at the right hand of God

But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.      Luke 22:69
[God] raised Him [Jesus] from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.   Ephesians 1:20-21
Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.  Hebrew 8:1
He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead.  Colossians 1:18

Most anyone can imagine Jesus living in first century Palestine, walking the roads of Galilee, teaching the Sermon on the Mount, attending the wedding in Cana, enjoying a meal with Zacchaeus the tax collector or Simon the Pharisee, and praying in Gethsemane.  The stories of the Gospels are a weekly diet for some; others who rarely attend church have still seen the Jesus film or Mel Gibson’s The Passion of Christ or older films about Jesus such as Cecil B DeMille’s King of Kings.  The Gospels also document that after Jesus was crucified and his body placed in a tomb, He was seen alive by numerous people at numerous times. He was and He was not like He was before His resurrection.  He invited Thomas to touch His wounds; He ate meals; He walked with two disciples to Emmaus, He spoke with His followers.  But also He would appear and disappear.  And His appearances as the resurrected Jesus stopped after the disciples saw Him ascend into the clouds.

The fact of Jesus’ resurrection is the best explanation for the history of the early years of the church.  The fact of Jesus’ resurrection allows us to look for Jesus at work in the history of Idaho Falls and today.

Yet seeing Jesus in recent history, whether looking in the church that identifies with Him or elsewhere, is not an easy task.  Seated at the right hand of God, Jesus is in some sense ultimately behind much that happens in our world. Yet tracing from specifics through the multiple layers of causes can be difficult.  We have tried, and you can be the judge of how well we’ve succeeded.

Jesus, living in His followers

In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.  John 14:20
God wanted to make known to them the glorious riches of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.  Colossians 1:27
…Christ lives in me…  Galatians 2:20

In writing this book we have looked for Jesus in creation, we have used the lens of first century history to help identify Him, and we have allowed that as the One seated at God’s right hand, His influence can be observed in various human organizations.  Yet we have concentrated our search by looking for Him in His followers, people who acknowledge they know Him and who claim that He lives in them, people who have encountered Him and been changed by Him, people who are seeking to live out His kingdom here in Idaho Falls.

As we’ve sought to find Jesus in His people, our approach has been to look at the whole history of the city and the whole body of Christ within the city.  Neither of these has been easy, or to our knowledge, has been ever attempted before.  We make no claims to completeness.  History is blurred both by processes that erode and erase – memories fade, details of experiences are forgotten and/or were never documented, people die etc. – and also by evolving ways that experiences are viewed and interpreted.

And where exactly are the lines that define the body of Christ?  The wheat and tares are intermingled, appearances can be deceiving, and God’s Spirit can be at work in surprising places.

As hard as this is, we were convinced that we needed to try – to preserve stories of Jesus at work through His followers to inform future generations and to throw open the door to a broader sense of God at work than is usually seen within any particular group or church.

So we have looked for Jesus in His creation and in His new creation.  We have waded through the history of Idaho Falls seeking to find clues to what exactly Jesus has done based on what He said He would do, such as,

 “…I will build My church…” Matthew 16:18
“If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.”  John 14:14
“As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” John 20:21
And as we talked with people who identify with Him, we have caught glimpses of His kingdom and power and glory.  All of this we want to share with you.

Stories of the early churches

The first eleven churches organized in Eagle Rock/Idaho Falls were:

Church Organized

  • First Baptist 1882
  • Trinity Methodist 1883
  • Catholic 1890
  • First Presbyterian 1891
  • Swedish Mission 1895
  • St. John’s Episcopal 1895
  • First Evangelical Lutheran 1898
  • Swedish Evangelical Mission 1899
  • St. John Lutheran 1909
  • First Christian 1915
  • Salvation Army 1915.

Prior to completion of the first church building, groups of believers met in homes.  People of all denominations attended Rebecca Mitchell’s Sunday school, even Mormons., After completion of the Baptist Church building in November, 1884, it was used by several church groups, and that practice was repeated as other church buildings were constructed and new churches formed. By 1900 there eight churches meeting in the Idaho Falls area, by 1915, eleven, and by 1934, fourteen.

This section contains a few stories of some of the early churches.

Samuel Wishard

Samuel Wishard was a pastor and missionary of the Presbyterian Church. At the request of eight people in Eagle Rock, he came to organize the First Presbyterian Church, with their first meeting on April 29, 1891.

Samuel was born in Johnson County, Indiana in 1825 and grew up on his family’s farm.  Reflecting on his childhood, he wrote, “The summers were spent in juvenile efforts to be useful on the farm; the winters were passed in the old log school house, then a dreaded place of imprisonment, now a cherished memory.” Of his family he wrote, “(My) mother of nine children and wife of a toiling husband was for many years the only praying soul in the family.  Her prayers were heard and an altar of prayer was erected that kept the fire burning until that home was dissolved.”

At twenty-one years of age, Samuel Wishard was converted through the preaching of evangelist Rev. James McCoy.  “In the solitude of a great forest, after hearing McCoy preach, I faced the question, ‘What must I do to be saved?’ and answered it by ‘believing on the Lord Jesus Christ.’”  The evangelist had remarked that he hoped some of the young men who were converted would hear the call to preach, and that became a personal question to Samuel, “Why not you?”  The young convert seriously doubted his talents and argued with God.  But “He set before me the preciousness of one soul and the privilege of winning the poorest wanderer to Christ.  That settled the question sweetly, joyfully, forever.”

The next year Samuel went off to Wabash College with (1) $20 in his pocket he had borrowed from his brother and (2) all the exceeding great and precious promises of the God he loved and trusted.  After six years of college he went to Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati, where he heard and was greatly influenced by Charles Finney.  Graduating three years later, he was ready to preach.  But he found closed doors.  He traveled to Rock Island, Illinois, “making no discoveries except my own embarrassment.” Then he walked across the ice of the Mississippi River and tramped through deep snow to call on a pastorless congregation in Iowa, but was told they did not intend to employ a minister.

With the help of an older minister he was engaged as a pastor in Rushvill, Indiana on New Year’s Day, 1857.  The following month he married his longtime friend and sweetheart Sophia Evarts, a teacher and musician.  In the next 18 years, Samuel and Sophia had eight children.

Samuel served four and a half years at the church in Rushville, then six years at a church in Michigan, from which 50 men left to fight in the Civil War. After two more pastorates, he spent three years working as a traveling evangelist in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, three years as a pastor in Chicago, four years as Synodical Missionary in Kentucky, three years as pastor of the Central Presbyterian Church in Des Moines, Iowa, and then 16 years as the Synodical Missionary in Utah and surrounding areas.  During this period he made frequent trips into Southeast Idaho.

In 1901, at age 76, he travelled 375 miles in the dead of winter to conduct a week of meetings and establish a church in Salmon.  The last 75 miles were by a sled pulled by six horses. Going up a pass the sled became unstable, and Samuel jumped off, ending up being dragged through snow by a rope to the summit.

Three years later he made 66 visits, travelling a total of 4,000 miles, to Pocatello to arouse sufficient interest to start a Presbyterian Church there.  In his 16 years as missionary to Utah he was instrumental in organizing 34 different churches in Utah and Idaho, travelling a total of 346,372 miles by rail, stage and mail wagon.  According to an article in the Post Register on the 75th anniversary of the First Presbyterian Church in Idaho Falls, 15 of these 34 churches were in Idaho, including churches in Idaho Falls, Pocatello, Rigby, St. Anthony and Salmon.

His remarks about his ministry at a meeting of the Salt Lake City Ministerial Association in 1903 included the following:

“The first lesson learned in (my) ministry was this: Any servant of God whom He has called into the ministry can do the work that God has called him to do, provided he counts God in, goes where and as He leads.”

“Some things were settled in (my) early ministry, among them this – God hears prayer, not only, but He delights to answer prayer.  It is His glory and pleasure to hear the cry of His people.”

“Another discovery was made – God can use small men. It is nothing with Him to help, whether with many or with them that have no power.  I think we are in danger of not being small enough for God to use us.”

At age 81, he travelled to New York, Philadelphia and Pittsburg to seek funding for a Presbyterian College in Salt Lake City.  With funding secured, he retired, but continued to travel and preach.  Shortly after retiring to Los Angeles in 1906, he and his wife spent several months with their missionary daughter in China, who had served there with her husband for 30 years.  Another one of his daughter was a missionary in China for 40 years.  In Los Angeles Rev. Wishard was active in evangelism and preaching up to his death at age 90, in 1915.
The Swedish Mission Churches
Throughout the history of Eagle Rock and Idaho Falls, Jesus has been worshiped in this community in different languages. Several of the most recent church plants in Idaho Falls have been Hispanic churches, and naturally they use Spanish in their services to worship the Lord.  Three of the first eight churches in Idaho Falls used Swedish, and a fourth possibly used German.  The Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Gustaf Adolphus Church, which began in 1898, begin switching to English about 1910, while the other two Swedish-speaking congregations, started in 1895 and 1898, continued to worship in Swedish for several decades.
In 1894 the Great Western Land and Irrigation Company was formed by four men of Swedish descent to develop lands to be irrigated by the Great Western Canal and Improvement System.  The company promoted this development to Swedish communities in the Midwestern United States through presentations and advertisements in Swedish-American newspapers.  In large part due to the drought in the Midwest in 1893, the Panic of 1893, and the resulting national depression, many farmers in the Midwest were receptive, some might say vulnerable, to these promotional schemes.
The first Swedish-American immigrants arrived in New Sweden in the summer of 1894. By 1900, 31 families had settled in New Sweden, taking most of the available land.  The immigrants were primarily young couples, most in their early 20’s, some in their teens.  On July 30, 1895, a meeting was held in New Sweden to discuss organizing a Swedish-language church.  Within a month the Mission Church of New Sweden was incorporated, and consisted of 34 charter members (17 couples). In September of that same year plans were drawn up for a church building, which when completed was also used for community meetings and as the New Sweden school until a separate school building was completed in 1901.  Thus the church was constructed while many of the settlers were still living in temporary housing – lumber shacks, dugouts, and a few lava rock buildings – all without electricity.  Building a church was more important to them than building permanent homes, barns or the other outbuilding needed on their farms. The first service in the new church building was held on Christmas Day, 1895. In 1896 15 more member were added to the church, and that same year J. E. Johnson became the first pastor, being paid $20/month.
A second Swedish-speaking congregation, the Swedish Evangelical Mission, began in Idaho Falls on March 10, 1899 with 18 charter members.  The group purchased a small wooden chapel on Western Avenue for $175, which had been the first LDS meetinghouse, constructed in 1885. After purchasing the chapel, it was moved from its original site along the river to Western Avenue. With a membership of 36 in 1906, the church purchased property on 6th and Boulevard.  The following year the church voted to seek membership in the Mission Covenant denomination.
As early as 1901 these two congregations discussed merging, and also considered having a common minister.  Services continued in the New Sweden church until 1928, when the building and land were sold, debts paid and the remaining balance given to the Mission Covenant Church in Idaho Falls.
The Mission Covenant Church discussed holding services in English rather than Swedish as early as 1921, but decided they would remain in Swedish, although English was being used by then in the Sunday school and youth meetings.  Swedish continued to be used until March 27, 1934, when English was used in the minutes from board meetings for the first time.
The Start of First Christian Church

 

Nearly 60% of the churches that presently meet in Idaho Falls have fewer than 100 members.  First Christian started in 1916 with 107 charter members!  At that time it was the 11th church in Idaho Falls, yet the fourth largest.

Like many Christian denominations, the Christian Church/Disciples of Christ traces its roots to a movement, actually two separate movements that began in Pennsylvania and Kentucky in the early 1800’s.  These movements united in 1832.  Objecting to practices in churches that expressed denominational exclusiveness, the founders of the Christian Church hoped to restore Christian unity by returning to New Testament faith and practices.

A few years prior to the founding of the church in Idaho Falls, Frank Jones, corresponding secretary of the Southern Idaho Christian Missionary Society, sought to organize a Christian Church in Idaho Falls, but after a few meetings the people he gathered disbanded for lack of a pastor.  However, the Ladies Aid Society of this fledgling church continued to meet, and purchased a lot on South Boulevard.  On November 1, 1915, the South Idaho Missionary Society sent Rev. D. B Titus to Idaho Falls.  He held meetings over a two-week period in New Sweden, which resulted in a number of people becoming interested in forming the church.  A service was held in the Star Theater, and following the service, a meeting to discuss building on the lot purchased by the Ladies Aid Society.  About 30 were present and unanimously voted to authorize Rev. Titus to select a building committee.  Excavation began the following day!

In January 1916, the Taylor Evangelistic Company of Los Angeles conducted an evangelistic campaign on the corner of Elm Street and Eastern Avenue.  According to a written history of First Christian Church, “This was of much value in helping to discover members of the Christian Church as well as adding new converts.”  During this time First Christian held services in the rooms of the Gem State Business College at the corner of B Street and Park Avenue.  By February 6, sufficient work had been completed on the church building that a two-week evangelistic campaign was held there.  On February 20, the building was dedicated.  Following a sermon preached by Rev. Titus entitled, “God’s Portion,” he announced the building had cost $3,200 and $3,000 of bills were outstanding.  After the afternoon and evening services, $3,900 had been collected.  The surplus was used to finish the basement and buy a piano.

A Church in Idaho Falls Planted by a Student Missionary Pastor from Squirrel, Idaho
Several churches in Idaho Falls, most notably Shiloh Foursquare and Calvary Baptist, have planted churches in the surrounding smaller communities of Southeastern Idaho.  But one early church in Idaho Falls was begun by a young missionary pastor while living in Squirrel, Idaho.  Squirrel is about 7 miles east and 3 miles south of Ashton.  The following is extracted from the 1934 Golden Jubilee Edition of the Post Register, and Mary Jane Fritzen’s Idaho Falls, City of Destiny.
In 1902 the Reverend E. P. Meyer of Squirrel, Idaho, a student missionary, sensed the opportunity and realized the necessity for a beginning a mission program in Southeastern Idaho, including Idaho Falls. He organized German Lutherans in Squirrel and Twin Falls in 1903, and started visiting Idaho Falls in 1904. In 1909 he was officially installed as a Missionary Pastor to Idaho Falls and to the surrounding vicinity. He built up the congregation to a communicant membership of eighteen by the time he accepted a call to Memo, South Dakota in 1911.

Cornerstone Assembly of God

This is a story of God answering prayers for healing, but first some background.
Scott Davis, the pastor of Cornerstone Assembly Church in Idaho Falls, has experienced healing by the Lord in his own life.  As an infant, he came down with chickenpox and pneumonia, and some wondered whether he would survive.  His church prayed for him and he was completely healed.
Many years later, as a pastor in Harrison, Arkansas, Scott woke up feeling very weak on an Easter morning.  He managed to get through the activities at church, but after his sermon felt exhausted.  He went home to rest, and had trouble breathing, eating and sleeping.  On Monday he went to see a doctor, and came away thinking he had a flu that would go away in a couple days.  It didn’t.  On Thursday he still felt miserable and was still not sleeping.  Going to the hospital emergency room, they found an abnormally low level of oxygen in his blood, and when they saw the results of an electrocardiogram, the doctors put him on a helicopter to a larger hospital, in Fayetteville.  On the ride to the hospital the Lord spoke to Scott and said, “A mighty miracle will come from this!”  Thinking he still had pneumonia, Scott said, “Lord, how can you be glorified through pneumonia?”  Later, waking up in the hospital, he was told that he had had two massive heart attacks, and doctors were amazed he had pulled through.  These were followed by a minor stroke. Yet Scott will tell you that afterwards, because of the Lord, he felt better than ever.  Besides regaining all physical motion and breathing capabilities, Scott says that the Lord gave and continues to give him strength to handle stress, which was a major cause of his heart attacks.
Scott came to Idaho Falls as Cornerstone’s pastor in 2012.  He attests that the congregation is very attentive to his sermons, and in early 2015 he preached a series along the lines of John Kilpatrick’s Book When the Heavens are Brass: Keys to Genuine Revival.  The congregation then started sensing more of the presence of God in their worship services, and seeing answers to prayer.  Scott posted on the church website:

We have seen some mighty miracles here at Cornerstone in the last few weeks. A two year boy, Gabe, could no longer walk. He was taken to the doctor and specialist and they could not find out what was wrong. The following Sunday his mother brought him up for prayer, he left the church walking and completely healed! Another miracle was one woman, Sydney, had epilepsy. She believed that God could heal her. She came forward for prayer. She then went to the doctor and he ran some tests. The doctor said she no longer had epilepsy!  She had told him the Lord had healed her.  The doctor said “I haven’t seen many miracles”, and Sydney replied, “I am one”.
Sydney’s healing was in February; Gabe’s in April.  When Todd and I caught up with Scott late last month, he told us about several more cases of God answering prayers for healing – a woman having frequent headaches, a woman having pain from falling in her bathtub, and a man who had had numbness in his feet for six years.  All these ailments were brought to the Lord in prayer and He answered their prayers – each person was restored to health.

In September the church planned to have a healing service.  A woman called Scott asking if she could share a testimony in the meeting.  Scott was surprised as this was unusual for this woman and he didn’t know what she would share. But he knew that she had tried to commit suicide twice, once 13 years ago, and then again 3 years ago.  The second time, Scott went to visit her in the hospital and prayed over her. What she shared in the healing service was how God had answered those prayers, curing her of depression.