The first known visit by Church members to Alaska occurred in July 1895 when President Wilford Woodruff and his counselors, George Q. Cannon and Joseph F. Smith, and their families toured Juneau and the southern portion of Alaska via steamship.

The gold rush of 1898 drew a few Latter-day Saints to Alaska, among them John Bigelow and Edward G. Cannon. Little is known of Bigelow, but Cannon, a 79-year-old who had been converted in 1871, maintained a “tabernacle which he moved about on wheels from settlement to settlement” in the Seward Peninsula and Nome area.

On 25 June 1902, Cannon baptized Kedzie Noble Winnie near Nome. Winnie reported in 1907 that gospel meetings were being held and quite a number of people were interested, including Eskimos, as well as miners and others. Cannon and Winnie worked together until Cannon’s death in 1910.

In 1913, a year after Alaska became a territory of the United States, the first two missionaries, Horton E. Fackrell and William F. Webster, arrived in Juneau where they worked for a few weeks. No other known missionary work was done until Heber J. Meeks, Alvin Englestead, James Judd and Lowell T. Plowman, arrived in Alaska in 1928, under the direction of Northwestern States Mission President William R. Sloan. During the next year, the elders held 105 meetings and placed more than 1,300 copies of the Book of Mormon. They also dealt with a widespread rumor that the Church planned to colonize Alaska. Few people, however, joined the Church, and membership consisted only of a few scattered Latter-day Saints.

During the mid to late1930s, a few Latter-day Saint families had moved to Fairbanks and the first branch of the Church in Alaska was organized on 10 July 1938. The branch consisted of the Peterson, Oldroyd and Shields families with Murray Shields as president. By 1941, membership in the territory had reached 300. During the next 20 years Church membership grew due mostly to Latter-day Saints moving to Alaska with some growth due to convert baptisms. By 1961, membership was 3,051 with three branches in Anchorage and additional branches in Fairbanks, Palmer and Juneau. The Alaskan-Canadian Mission was created on 1 January 1961 (reorganized as the Alaska-British Columbia Mission in 1970) and the first stake in Alaska, the Alaska Stake, was organized 13 August 1961 with headquarters in Anchorage.

A massive earthquake struck Alaska on 27 March 1964. Among those killed were six members of the Valdez Branch. As the area was rebuilt after the earthquake, the construction effort led to a building boom that brought additional members to the state. A new stake center was dedicated in Anchorage in 1966. In 1970, membership was 6,744.

The Alaskan-British Columbia Mission was renamed the Canada Vancouver Mission on 1 July 1974 and a few months later the Alaska Anchorage Mission was created on 15 October 1974. Discovery of oil in Prudhoe Bay in 1968 and the construction of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline in the mid 1970s accelerated growth in Alaska and in the Church, but membership dropped after the pipeline was completed. Under the leadership of mission President Douglas T. Snarr, special meetinghouses designed for the Arctic were built in 1981 in many of the smaller branches. Membership in 1980 had grown to 14,414, and by 1990 had reached 21,410.


In the 1990s, members took part in community service projects that helped improve relationships for the Church. For example, when the most destructive forest fire in Alaska history took place in June 1996 near Wasilla, the Wasilla Stake center was used as a drop off center for emergency supplies and stake members worked around the clock sorting and organizing clothing and supplies to help the fire victims.

From 17-23 June 1995, President Gordon B. Hinckleyvisited members of the Church in Alaska, speaking at a regional conference, meeting with missionaries of the Alaska Anchorage Mission, and speaking at firesides.

The Anchorage Alaska Temple was dedicated by President Hinckley on 9 January 1999. Five years later, the temple was enlarged and rededicated by President Hinckley on 8 February 2004.

In 2002, membership reached 27,189.

Sources: Scott Kenney, ed., Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 1833-1898 1985; Andrew Jenson, Encyclopedic History of the Church, 1941; Barbara Jean Walther Adams, The History of the Mormons in Alaska, 1972, Church Archives; Patricia B. Jasper and Daine Lommel, A Gathering of Saints in Alaska, 1999; Oregon Portland Mission (Northwestern States Mission), Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; Alaska Anchorage Mission; Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; “Alaskan LDS Welcome Pres. Hinckley,” Church News, 1 July 1995; Julie A. Dockstader, “Northernmost Temple Dedicated,” Church News, 16 January 1999.