Canada was the first country outside the United States to hear the message of the Restoration. Missionaries first preached in British North America (what is now Canada) within a year of the organization of the Church. In the summer of 1832, missionaries to Upper Canada (Ontario) included Phineas Young, Eleazer Miller, Enos Curtis, and Elial Strong. Joseph Smith himself visited Mt. Pleasant, Brantford, and other areas west of Toronto in 1833 and said of his visit there, “We hope that great good may yet be done in Canada which O Lord grant for thy name’s sake” (journal). Two of the most successful of these early missionaries were John E. Page, who baptized almost 1,000 people in the upper Rideau Canada/Lanark County regions in 1836 and 1837, and Parley P. Pratt. Elder Pratt was instrumental in the conversion of British-born John Taylor and Joseph Fielding and his sisters, Mary and Mercy, and in doing so opened “an effectual door” for missionary work in the British Isles.
Missionaries also sought out friends, family, and listeners in the southern townships of Lower Canada (Quebec) and in the maritime provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, where several small branches were organized in the 1840s.
With the call to gather with the Church, the Mormon presence dwindled dramatically in eastern Canada such that by 1861 the official Canadian census counted only 74 Latter-day Saints in all of Ontario. Over the next several years, Church membership in Eastern Canada lapsed into near oblivion.
Meanwhile, shortly after the constitutional birth of the country in 1867, President John Taylor dispatched Charles Ora Card to western Canada in 1886 and 1887 to establish a new settlement free from the antipolygamy raids in Utah and anti-Mormon hysteria of the time. Card successfully formed a small Mormon colony on Lee’s Creek, some 125 miles south of Calgary. The Mormon presence soon flourished from a few hundred settlers near Cardston to almost 10,000 in 1911, living in nearby southern Alberta “Mormon towns” such as Raymond, Stirling, Taber, Glenwood, and Kimball. Alberta missionaries fanned out from Cardston to Saskatchewan and Manitoba in the east and to British Columbia in the west. Gradually Latter-day Saints became well respected for their hard work and industry in building an economy based on ranching, sugar beet farming, and canal building. The Church established the Canadian Mission in 1919, and President Heber J. Grant dedicated the Cardston Alberta Temple in 1923.
The Canadian west became a marvelous nursery of leadership and inspiration as second and third generation Alberta Saints pursued their careers in Canadian cities from coast to coast. A symbol of this more recent growth was the dedication of a second Canadian temple in Toronto, Ontario, in 1990. Several prominent Canadians have served the Church, including N. Eldon Tanner, Hugh B. Brown, Ardeth G. Kapp, Elaine L. Jack, Victor L. Brown, and Alexander B. Morrison.
At the beginning of the year 2000, in this benevolent country of wide cultural and linguistic diversities and a population of more than 30 million, the Church counted 156,575 members and 44 stakes (19 in Alberta), with 454 wards and branches. Whether in Yellowstone, Northwest Territories, in Sudbury, Ontario, or in Cranbrook, Newfoundland, the Canadian Saint is a study in faith, tolerance, loyalty, and courage, meeting the challenges of sparse membership, vast distances, extremes in climate, and religious misunderstanding. In 1999 the Church dedicated temples in Halifax, Regina, and Edmonton, and the following year one in Montreal.
[Year-end 2005: Est. population, 32,237,000; Members, 166,442; Stakes, 46; Wards, 311; Branches, 168; Missions, 8; Districts, 5; Temples, 6; Percent LDS, 0.5, or one in 190; Source 2007 Church Almanac.]
Bennett, Richard E. “A Study of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Upper Canada, 1830-1850.” Master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1975.
Card, Brigham Young. et al., eds. The Mormon Presence in Canada. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1990.
Smith, Joseph, Jr. Journal. 17-22 October 1833. LDS Church Historical Department, Salt Lake City.
Tagg, Melvin S. “A History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Canada, 1830-1963.” Ph.D. diss., Brigham Young University, 1963.
RICHARD E. BENNETT
From Arnold K. Garr, Donald Q. Cannon, and Richard O. Cowan, eds., Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2000), 176-77. Used with the permission of the Deseret Book Company. Copies prohibited by law.