In March, 1977, President Spencer W. Kimball presided at an area conference, at La Paz, Bolivia. As plans were being made for this and other area conferences, Elder Robert D. Hales asked for President Tanner and Romney to help him get President Kimball to rest during the La Paz area conference. They only smiled and said, "You can try."
Elder Hales related: "Detailed plans were presented to the First Presidency for area conferences in Mexico, Central and South America. I saw President Kimball make two small red check marks next to La Paz, Bolivia, where there were two meetings that he was not scheduled to attend. 'What are these meetings? Why am I not attending?' he asked. There was a pause; then I replied, 'That's a rest period, President Kimball.' And he remarked, 'Are you tired, Elder Hales?'" (Robert D. Hales, October, 1981 General Conference)
The group of visitors flew from sea level to La Paz, a city over 12,000 feet. As the plane approached La Paz, an announcement was made to the passengers warning them about the thin air at that altitude. Headaches, chest and stomach pains were possible. As soon as the the plane's door opened, Dell Van Orden of the Church News began to be sick. By the time they arrived at the hotel he felt as if he was dying, so a doctor sent for some oxygen. This helped somewhat.
"Half-seriously he felt as if the end were near and his family would never see him again. When he heard a knock at the door, he was impatient--somebody was disturbing his dying. He flung the door open, and there stood President Kimball. "How do you feel?" the prophet asked. Dell did some fast repenting. "President, I feel fine." The President left and went to the next door, then the next. Everybody was ill, but President Kimball, who must have felt quite ill himself, was out checking on the welfare of others." (BYU Studies Vol. 25, No. 4, pg.51)
The first meeting held was a cultural event. President Kimball took no oxygen. He greeted, embraced, and shook hands with 2,000 Saints. After the last meeting of the conference, he invited 1,000 more Saints who had come down from the Altiplano, to come shake his hand. "Mothers carried their babies in their arms and on their backs as they passed by him. Old people, young people, the lame, the crippled, and the blind, as well the healthy--they all came to shake hands with the prophet. It was a touching sight. For forty minutes they filed past President Kimball and other brethren. Some left crying; others left with exuberant smiles." (BYU Studies Vol. 25, No. 4, pg.49)
Elder Hales further related: "Dr. Wilkinson was concerned with the President's vigorous activity at twelve thousand feet and approached him. He asked President Kimball if it would be possible for him to stop soon. President Kimball said, 'If you knew what I knew, you wouldn't ask me that question.' President Kimball is driven by the knowledge that we are preparing for the second coming of Jesus Christ. He knows that it is his responsibility, along with those who are chosen to work with him, to take the message to all nations in their own tongue and language."