Whitehorse, Yukon: A Way Up North
Contributed by Laurie Little of the Juneau Alaska Stake
"What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly." -Thomas Paine
Being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory is in many ways a unique experience. Whitehorse is a beautiful town of about 24,000 people and known for its short, bright summers and long, dark winters. We usually have a few days, if not weeks, of -40ºC temperatures. This weather doesn’t slow us down, even church is rarely cancelled. We just plug our cars into outdoor electrical sockets, so they will start when we need them and carry on. We meet in a beautiful log building.
The Whitehorse branch is the only Canadian branch in the Juneau Alaska Stake of the United States, and the only branch in the Yukon Territory. Being isolated and part of an American Stake has helped foster a close cross-border relationship. We, and our American counterparts, show great love and concern for each other and we have learned that international issues or cultural differences cannot divide a people whose focus is building the Kingdom of God.
Our Stake is unique in that the members of most branches and wards have to fly, boat, drive or use various combinations of those modes of travel to visit face to face. What would normally be an easily facilitated temple recommend interview could end up being postponed for months or each party driving and flying for hours to meet half way on the side of the road in the middle of a snowstorm. We console ourselves with tongue in cheek by saying “things obtained too easily are regarded too lightly.”
Something as simple as attending stake conference means driving for two hours, then flying in a small aircraft, or taking a 7-hour ferry trip. During the journey, we visit with other members, play games, watch movies, explore the ferry, sleep and eat yummy food all while keeping an eye out for whales, porpoises and sea lions. When we are not able to attend in person, we watch conference at the church by satellite. Of course, there are times when the satellite system doesn’t work and then we listen by speaker phone. Our leadership meetings, stake firesides, seminary gatherings and auxiliary meetings are also held over the phone. Everyone simply calls in to listen to talks, to sing and pray together.
The 13-hour drive to the Temple in Anchorage can take 20 hours when road conditions are bad. But we are not easily discouraged; we see this as an opportunity to spiritually prepare by listening to music, hearing talks on tape, and having good conversation. After temple sessions, we enjoy visiting Anchorage, a beautiful town where moose or bears are often seen on the streets. The members are hospitable and if we are lucky, one will invite us sightseeing in their airplane. While that comes with the risk of turbulent weather and queasy stomachs, seeing glaciers from above is worth it.
Every July, our youth come from all over South-East Alaska for a three-day conference. Then the young women stay for girls’ camp. Many of our branches have only a few youth, so this event is the only time they meet with others in our stake. Adult and youth members alike take advantage of every opportunity to get together, to strengthen and support one another. We know the value of close friendships and are grateful that the Gospel gives us common goals and principles that bind us together and help us build the Kingdom in this remote part of His vineyard.