In a historic visit President Gordon B. Hinckley told Latter-day Saints in Alaska that they “are here for a purpose—to build the kingdom of God in this part of the world.”
More than 7,500 Church members gathered to listen to President Hinckley speak during a June regional conference in Anchorage, the first time a Church President has spoken to Saints in the area. In addition to speaking at the conference, President Hinckley met with missionaries serving in the Alaska Anchorage Mission, spoke at a fireside in Juneau, met with members of a small branch in Gustavus, and spoke at another fireside in Ketchikan. Accompanying President Hinckley during his June 17 through June 23 travels were his wife, Marjorie, and Elder LeGrand R. Curtis of the Seventy, a member of the North America Northwest Area presidency at that time, and his wife, Patricia.
During his address, President Hinckley said that researchers in the Church Historical Department had told him that President Wilford Woodruff had once visited the area. However, Sunday meetings on that occasion were held on the boat President Woodruff was traveling on. “If there had been members of the Church there, [President Woodruff] would have gone to where they were,” President Hinckley observed. “I suppose, therefore, that this is the first occasion in the history of the Church when a President of the Church has had the opportunity of speaking to a great body of Latter-day Saints such as we have here today.”
President Hinckley counseled the members to increase their efforts as member-missionaries and encouraged them to always carry a temple recommend, even though they live far away from the nearest temple in Seattle, Washington.
Noting that the conference was held on Father’s Day, President Hinckley also talked about the responsibility of fathers in the Church. “It is a wonderful responsibility to be a man who stands at the head of his family as one who holds the priesthood of God with authority to speak in the name of God.”
President Hinckley encouraged members “to never lose sight of the fact that the God of heaven brought forth this work in this, the dispensation of the fulness of times, that his true Church might be upon the earth.”
Some Alaskan members traveled many hours to hear President Hinckley speak at the various sites. A youth group that attended the fireside in Ketchikan traveled eight hours on a ferry to attend the meeting. Other members, including several Primary children, gathered in a heavy rainstorm at 6:00 A.M. on June 23 to sing “Happy Birthday” to President Hinckley as he left to return to Utah. President Hinckley celebrated his eighty-fifth birthday on June 23.