History

Here is an excerpt from an article found on the LDS Church News website (here) describing some aspects of the mission, the people, and the history of the church in the North Western United States:

‘Live the restored gospel’

Majestic mountains reflect beauty, testimony of members

On a clear day in this harbor, you can see Mount Rainier towering in the distance, its snowy caps seemingly rising out of the clouds to the southeast of Puget Sound. But even on a rainy, hazy day on the Olympic Peninsula, you know the 14,000-plus-foot volcano is there. It’s one of the tallest single peaks in the lower 48 states.

You might say this majestic mountain is symbolic of the lives of Latter-day Saints throughout the 13 stakes of the Washington Tacoma Mission. No matter where they are living and working — whether its civilian or naval service in the Bremerton shipyards, teaching in high schools and universities or homemaking — members of the Church living in the shadows of the Olympic Mountains have one thing in common: They live the restored gospel, thereby instilling testimonies in the lives of their children and youth.

Photo by Julie Dockstader Heaps

Primary chorister Renae Harriman leads singing time in the Belfair Ward.

This is nowhere more true than in the Gig Harbor Washington Stake, about an hour’s ferry ride southwest from the Seattle docks.

On a sunny September Sunday, Stake President Karl J. Fields pondered the faith of the some 3,300 members in seven wards from Gig Harbor to Olalla to Port Orchard and west to Belfair. He related how he watched a congregation gathered for a stake conference.

“As I looked out on our members, I reflected on what President [Gordon B.] Hinckley said when he was asked a question in a 60 Minutes interview. ‘What is the strength of your church?’ He said, ‘The strength of the Church is in the testimonies of its members.’ That was affirmed during [our] conference, that that is so true.”

Sitting near boat docks on Gig Harbor, the Church News met with President Fields and his counselors, Wayne Washer and W. Larry Johns, to learn about members of a stake who not only consistently send out flocks of full-time missionaries, but also serve throughout their communities in such endeavors as working with local faith-based foundations, volunteering in programs to feed needy children and visiting people in correctional facilities.

Photo by Julie Dockstader Heaps

Primary chorister Renae Harriman helps Clara Galbraith during music time in Belfair Ward.

Referring to the missionaries serving throughout the world from Gig Harbor, Primary chorister Renae Harriman helps Clara Galbraith during music time in Belfair Ward.President Johns said: “I think that’s largely a testimony of the strength of the family units. Most of these [missionaries] are coming from families that have lived and taught the gospel and been stalwart.

“There is lots of peer pressure to fit in with the popular crowd,” President Johns added. “We have a strong bunch of youth that band together and do a great job at maintaining ‘For the Strength of Youth’ standards.”

The Church in the Pacific Northwest has come a long way since the early 20th century when persecution was so pronounced that a member’s funeral in Woodland, Wash., had to be held in secret. The first stake in Washington was created in Seattle in 1938, and during World War II membership increased due to the defense industry. Today, there are some 271,625 members in Washington in 55 stakes. There are five missions and three temples.