“Thompson Saints Sink Gospel Roots in Manitoba Soil,” Ensign, Aug. 1986, 78
People in Thompson, Manitoba, like to call their city the “Hub of the North.” Barely a generation ago, the city wasn’t there, and now it is the third largest community in the province, a center of industry and recreation.
Among its 14,000 inhabitants are more than fifty Latter-day Saints who try to make the small Thompson Branch chapel a missionary hub as well. Last year, their efforts, along with the work of missionaries, helped boost branch membership by ten—a considerable increase in a branch of its size. And the work continues.
Their city’s reason for being was the discovery, in the mid-1950s, of one of the world’s largest bodies of nickel ore. Thompson was built from scratch, beginning in the late 1950s, as a model community adjacent to the nickel mine complex. Then, when the market for nickel softened in the early 1980s, tourism and recreation helped stabilize the local economy.
Latter-day Saints were among the mobile population drawn to Thompson by the mining town. A branch of the Church was organized in the late 1960s, but through the years continual turnover in the membership has helped keep it small. Average Sunday attendance is twenty-two.
Still, LDS influence is felt in the community.
Family values are important to Linda and Glen Sidney, who were married in Thompson in 1984. Mining towns have a reputation for drawing hard-living people, Linda says, but she and her husband avoided that life-style.
Instead, they became friends with an LDS missionary couple in their apartment building, Grant and Edna Jensen. “They were always holding hands,” Linda recalls, and she was impressed with what she learned about the importance of families to Latter-day Saints. The Sidneys investigated the Church and were baptized in May of 1985. Now, in a branch that has ample work for every member, Linda is Relief Society president and Glen is branch clerk.
They are still learning about the gospel, “but as we study and ask questions, our understanding grows,” Linda says. They are also team-teaching an institute class, and preparing the lessons strengthens each of them, Glen adds. His testimony helps him find opportunities to be a missionary among his co-workers.
Ian Findlay, a student at the high school, says being faithful involves choosing friends carefully. Those who genuinely like him also accept his LDS standards.
Branch President Robert Riechel, a technician for the Manitoba Telephone System, sets an example in missionary work. One of those ten people baptized last year is a friend whom he introduced to the missionaries.
President Riechel says the Saints of the Thompson Branch have ordinary human frailties, but they also have a “strong affection for one another.” They are, he comments, “a very happy group.”
Linda Sidney agrees. Not long ago, she was outside the Church, looking in. Perhaps that happiness President Riechel sees—the happiness Linda and her husband found—is one reason she now says that Latter-day Saints in Thompson “really do stand out.”
Correspondent: Bruce Northcott, second counselor in the presidency of the Canada Winnipeg Mission and president of its Thompson District.
[photos] Thompson Branch President Robert Riechel at his amateur radio set (left); sisters arriving at the Thompson chapel for Sunday services; elders quorum president Jim Hinds at work in the nickel mine (right).