“Montreal: Vibrant City, Vibrant Faith,” Ensign, May 1986, 110–11
In 1642, a group of French colonists determined to share the truths of Christianity with the Indians of New France settled themselves on an island in the St. Lawrence River. They picked the spot where explorer Samuel de Champlain had set up a temporary trading post some thirty-two years earlier. Champlain had called the location “Place-Royale,” but colonizer Paul de Chomedey, Sieur de Maisonneuve, chose to call the settlement “Ville-Marie de Montreal.”
Montreal survived early problems with Indians, grew into a fur trading center, and weathered conflicts that resulted in a transfer from French to British rule in 1763. It went on to become a center of transportation and commerce and the metropolis of Canada.
It is still Canada’s largest city—and also, it is said, the second-largest French-speaking city in the world, after Paris. About two-thirds of its nearly three million people are of French origin. It is home to members of many other ethnic groups as well.
Montreal is also home to a growing group of dynamic Latter-day Saints, drawn from all of those different ethnic groups.
For many years, Church growth in Montreal was steady, but slow, among English-speaking residents, anchored by a core of faithful members who began coming into the Church after the Canadian Mission was reorganized in 1919. Full-time proselyting among French-speaking residents did not begin until 1961.
The Church has blossomed in Montreal during the past two decades. The French-speaking Montreal Quebec Stake and the English-speaking Montreal Quebec Mount Royale Stake now have eighteen units between them, including Chinese-speaking and Spanish-speaking branches.
Frank Lanyon, baptized in New Brunswick, Canada, at age thirteen, is one of that core of members who helped sustain the Church in Montreal for decades. Once branch president there, he is now high priests group leader in his ward. “The gospel is my whole life,” he says. “I don’t know what I would do without it.”
Jean Saintonge came into the Church in Montreal more recently. Brother Saintonge had admired the strong family ties and traditions he had seen among Jewish families in his neighborhood while growing up; he found some of those same qualities among Latter-day Saints. In addition, he was impressed when he learned from the missionaries that “I could come to know the truth myself without going through intermediaries.”
Deborah Savage was raised in a strong Jewish home, and with her brother she attended Hebrew school for four years. “I had never heard anything about Jesus Christ, and when I was taught about him in the discussions, everything seemed so natural and logical.” She married her husband, Bard, a month after her baptism. Also a convert, he had introduced her to the Church. They now have two small sons. Sister Savage serves as Primary president in their ward.
Marc Leclerc came into the Church through his sister’s efforts; she had joined five years earlier. “I always knew she was a very bright girl. One day she gave me a Book of Mormon with a letter inside. In it she stated that she would rather die than deny the truth of the Book of Mormon. That made a deep impression upon me.” The missionary discussions answered questions he had never been able to resolve satisfactorily while studying to become a priest. “I completely relearned theology. I became a full-time investigator.”
The rising generation in the Church in Montreal shows signs of following in its parents’ footsteps.
Luc and Marie-France Salm are natives of France who have been helping sustain the Church in the Montreal area since the early 1970s. Last year they spent two weeks serving as missionaries, with their seven children, at the Church’s Hill Cumorah Pageant in New York. The Salm children have asked to do the same thing again this year, rather than spending their vacation at the beach.
In the gospel, says fifteen-year-old Heidi Salm, she finds protection against the evils she encounters outside her home and strength to remain faithful to her beliefs.
She, and other young members like her, will likely live to see fulfillment of the destiny Elder Wm. Grant Bangerter of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy indicated for Montreal two years ago. In a leadership meeting, he asked a local member how many stakes there were in the area. “Two,” the man answered. “There are twenty-five,” Elder Bangerter stated. “They are just waiting to be formed.”
Correspondents: Foster G. Warren, Montreal Ward, Montreal Quebec Mt. Royale Stake; and Louis DeSerres, Beloeil Branch, Montreal Quebec Stake.