History of the Church of the Firstborn in Jackson, WY
In 1982, Cliff Kirkpatrick and Merl Hays were working for a man named Ken in Norman, Oklahoma. Ken had some property in Jackson Hole and wanted Merl to build him a vacation home on it. Merl was Ken's foreman and lead carpenter. Cliff was the trim carpenter and cabinet builder. Merl started the house in the summer of 1982 and his daughter Pam was married to Marty Palmer on a bridge there. In 1983 Merl and Cliff and both families came back to Jackson Hole to finish the house. By the time it was done, Ken had decided to move to Jackson Hole and still wanted Merl and Cliff to continue working for him. Both families returned in 1984. The Hays family returned in 1985. Both families returned in 1986. Unknown to anyone, at the time, the Kirkpatricks would remain in Jackson Hole to start the church here and the Hays family would later return to Oklahoma. For a more in depth story of how the Kirkpatricks ended up staying in Jackson Hole, see the below.
We (Cliff and Loretta Kirkpatrick) would have church when brethren came to visit and sometimes with just us on our first trip out in 1983. We did not know when we came out in 1986 it was to stay, but determined to have church every Sunday we were here. We sent out letters to all the churches letting everyone know we were here. Bro. Kenneth and Sis. Mary listed us, at our request, in the directory of churches. As the years went by there were many times we wondered why we were here. Each time we began to get a little discouraged about being out here someone would call or write and encourage us. Most often it was some brother we had never met. We received encouragement too from all our company that came through. Our little assembly seemed to grow little by little. Cliffs parents moved here in August of 1991. Steve and Sheryl Sutton in August of 1992, and Greg and Susan Fisher in 1994, as well as Doyle and Ellen Sutton for a while. A little after Steve moved here he got permission for us to rent the band room in the brand new Middle School building for church on Sundays. Doyle was custodian and had the keys to let us in and lock up when we left. After Doyle left, we were not able to coordinate getting into the building as well and decided to return to having church in our homes. Brethren, except for the Kirkpatricks, have come and gone, some just visiting and some to live here for a while. We have had many rejoicing times when our brethren come to be with us.
In 2000 we started hosting the winter fun weekend in March every year. In 2001 with camp meetings in Colorado no longer happening, we started hosting the camp meetings at Big Elk in Idaho, just over the border from us. The first year was the smallest. The most we have had is somewhere around 400
History of the Kirkpatrick Family in Jackson, WY
In 1982 Cliff and my brother, Merl, were working for a man named Ken in Norman, Oklahoma. Ken had some property in Jackson and wanted Merl to build him a vacation home on it. Merl came out and started the house. Cliff came later and stayed about two months. He came back home and started building the cabinets and all the built-ins for that fabulous home. In the summer of 1983 Cliff loaded a Ryder and a U-Haul trailer as full as it could possibly be with cabinets, tools and various other things needed for the new house and we struck out for Jackson. At that time we just had Kenneth, Craig and Jonathan. I can still remember them in the living room of our little house on Pinedale street, with Cliffs T-Shirts on because I had packed all their clothes, going through Aunt Clois's box of goodies she had packed for them. I think they were almost as excited about the trip as they were about the box of goodies. I can remember finally getting the last thing loaded in the wee hours of the morning, the hugs and tearful good-bye to Clois who stayed to help us load, then Cliff climbing into the truck and the boys and I getting into our little S-10 and leaving our home behind. It was exciting and sad at the same time.
We stayed in Jackson for five months. I could see that Cliff loved it here. I felt like if I didn't take the kids and go back home that we would be here forever. I wasn't ready for that. I did not want to live so far away from any assembly! I prayed that God would not let Cliff fall too much in love with this place. Another family was to move into the apartment we were staying in so, I took the kids and went home. Cliff moved into a little travel trailer. A month or two later I flew back out and drove home with Cliff. We got home just in time for Thanksgiving dinner at Parkland with the Herrmanns.
During the time that we were home in Oklahoma, Jonathan was laying on our couch and sighed really big and said to me, "I miss our happy home!" I told him that we were in our happy home. His reply was, "I mean that happy home." as he rolled his eyes and head towards a picture of Jackson Hole we had hanging above the couch. I wondered then if kids were prophetic.
Keri was a baby when we came back in 1984 to work for the same man, who had decided to live out here instead of just having a vacation home. I could see that Cliff still loved it out here and I still prayed that he would not want to move out here. We stayed for the summer and went back home to put Kenneth & Craig in school.
In 1985 Cliff just sent cabinets out. We did not come out that year.
David was 6 months old when we came out in July of 1986 to work for the summer. When we drove down into the valley I felt like we were coming home. I didn't say a word to Cliff because I still wasn't willing to live here. We moved into a one bedroom condo with a loft. At that time there was the seven of us and a sixteen year old young man. (That's another story of how God worked.) We signed a six month lease knowing that when it came time to get the kids back to school in Oklahoma we could easily find someone to sub-lease for the remainder of our contract.
We started having church every Sunday in our living room. Usually it was just Cliff, the kids and myself. During the summer months we did have some brethren come see us and Merl & June. We sure enjoyed those meetings when brethren would be there with us. I still remember how much I was touched by some of the brethren's talks being directed to our children. Oh so many memories as I type this!
When it came time to start school we prayed about it and decided to stay and put the kids in school here. We still considered ourselves here temporarily. When our lease expired we began looking for a larger place to rent. Then we decided that rent was so high that we would just look for something to buy, knowing that we could easily sell it when we moved back to Oklahoma. (Still thinking temporary.)
We looked and looked for a place and found nothing affordable that we wanted to live in. One house that we considered was very tiny and had virtually no yard. It was right next to the school the kids attended though. We were already discouraged when we got a call telling us we had one month to get out or sign a one year lease. I told Cliff about the call when he got home that evening. The next day at work. Rick, the man who owned the house we own now told Cliff that he had a house that just went off the market. Rick told Cliff it was over 2,000 square feet, had four bedrooms, three baths, living room. dining room, office, den, food storage room, two car garage, small barn, horse pasture and shed on 2 1/2 acres. From everything we had looked at, Cliff knew that this house was far out of our price range. Rick convinced Cliff to at least come look at the house. I was at a soccer game, supposedly watching the boys play soccer. I was sitting on the ground Indian style, so depressed, and wondering if we were going to have to live in a tent, like so many here do, move back to Oklahoma and struggle financially, or sign another one year lease in a condo that was quickly getting too small. Cliff walked up, looked down at me and said, "Do you want to go look at a house?" I looked up at him and said, "Yeah! What are we going to buy it with, our good looks?" Anyway we gathered up all the kids and went looking for the house. Rick had not given very clear directions, but we found it. Rick had also not called his wife, Marva, to let her know we were coming. At first she said we could not see it because she had not cleaned it. Then she said for us to come on in and just realize that four active teens lived here and had company a lot too. I felt at home the moment we stepped in the front door. Marva showed us the house and we left. Everything looked perfect to me, although God blinded me to some things, I think. As soon as we got into our van, depression hit me again. I told Cliff that I wished we had never seen it because I knew we could not afford it. I was more depressed than ever. Rick called Cliff the first thing the next morning to see how I liked the house. I heard Cliff saying "She's more depressed now than ever. We just cannot afford to buy your house." To make a long story a little shorter. Rick would not take no for an answer. First of all the price of the house came down quite a bit by just going off the real estate listings. Then Rick came down on his price to sell it to us. Even then, we still could not afford it, so Rick kept coming up with new ideas until finally we came up with something we could afford. He would take a second mortgage on our house in Norman, take our S-10 pickup for a down payment, and take another thousand off the price of the house. We would get a loan we could afford and Cliff would work out the rest on a house Rick built on the 2 1/2 acres behind us.
During all this "dealing" we also did a lot of praying about God's will in this. When we first told Cliffs parents about buying the house they were not happy at all. We sent them pictures of the house and told them about it. We prayed that if it was God's will for us to get the house that they would be happy about it. The next time they called they were all enthused and not only happy about it but ended up giving us the money for a down payment instead of Rick holding second mortgage on our house in Norman. We also prayed that if it was God's will we would be approved for a certain amount (I can't remember now what it was.) When we got the call to let us know what we were approved for it was not a dollar over or under what we had prayed for. It was that exact amount. I can't remember all the things that we prayed about, but the answer was always yes.
The night that we closed on the house, Rick and Marva took us out to dinner. They told us then that when Rick got home the night after we had looked at the house that first time, Marva told him that she had met the family she wanted to have her house. They are Mormons and had raised four kids here and wanted someone with a family to have it. They had almost sold it to another family, but Marva saw the wife outside the grocery store shaking her fist at one of her children. She came home and told Rick, "That woman will not have my home." I know that God worked in Marva's heart for us to have this home today. Rick and Marva moved out soon enough for us to move in within the month's time we had been given to get out of the condo.