Twenty years ago today, the Anchorage Alaska Temple was dedicated on Jan. 9, 1999. President Hinckley led the dedication as 6,291 members looked on, some of whom traveled as many as 14 hours to witness the historic moment for the Alaskan saints.
According to a Church News article covering the 1999 event, "The 18,000 members in Alaska (had) worked and prayed for this moment." Before the construction of this temple, members had to travel 1,000 to 2,000 miles to attend the Seattle or Alberta temples.
Elder F. Melvin Hammond, who accompanied President Hinckley at the dedication and was a member of the Seventy at the time, recalled his feelings, saying:
"I have been in many, many meetings and some dedicatory sessions of temples, but I have never felt a greater spirit of love and warmth and the Holy Ghost pouring out on the people than I did in those dedicatory sessions."
According to lds.org, Church members in Alaska began meeting regularly in 1938 and the first full-time missionaries arrived in Alaska in 1941. Despite the brutal winters and limited hours of daylight, the discovery of oil in 1968 spiked church growth in Alaska. Newsroom states that current church membership in Alaska is 33,492 and the small Anchorage Alaska temple remains the only temple in the area for thousands of miles.
In 2018, President Nelson announced 19 new temples that will be built around the world in the coming years. Of the 40 temples most recently announced, 34 will be located outside of the U.S. Read the reaction to the 12 most recent temples announced in October 2018 general conference here.