“Fiftieth Year for Eastern Canada’s First Meetinghouse,” Ensign, Sept. 1989, 76
The first LDS meetinghouse built in eastern Canada is fifty years old this year. President Thomas S. Monson, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, was among those who joined in celebrating the anniversary of Toronto’s Ossington Street chapel.
President Monson, who presided over the Canadian Mission from 1959 to 1962, commented that “thousands of investigators and newly baptized members regard the Ossington meetinghouse with a spirit of reverence. Here they were introduced to the truth, here they were baptized, and here they accepted their first responsibilities as members of the Church.”
The building was built in 1938 and dedicated by President Heber J. Grant in 1939. It has since been renovated and remodeled; additions have included a cultural hall and classrooms. The building currently houses the Toronto First and Sixth wards.
Bernie Nellis, first counselor in the bishopric of the Toronto First Ward, said three hundred people attended a homecoming dinner on Saturday, June 24, to celebrate the building’s anniversary. Among them were ninety-three people who attended meetings there when the building was first dedicated.
While he served as mission president, President Monson and his family went to church at the Ossington chapel. During their recent visit to Toronto, he and his wife, Frances, attended the anniversary events—the Saturday dinner and the jubilee sacrament meeting on Sunday.
The history of the Church in eastern Canada goes back to the 1830s, and early converts from the area had a significant impact. For example, on a mission to Canada in the mid-1830s, Elder Parley P. Pratt of the Quorum of the Twelve baptized the man who would later be the third president of the Church, John Taylor. Elder Pratt also baptized Mary Fielding, who became the wife of Hyrum Smith, mother of President Joseph F. Smith, and grandmother of President Joseph Fielding Smith. Other early converts from Canada were instrumental in taking the gospel to the British Isles in the late 1830s and 1840s.
Most of the early Canadian converts emigrated to Nauvoo, then to Utah; by the second decade of this century, there were only a handful of Latter-day Saints in the eastern part of Canada. But Church growth came again to eastern Canada in 1919, when the Canadian Mission was reopened. Today there are 88 buildings, 119 Church units, and more than 35,000 members within the boundaries covered by the mission in 1919. Now, 11 buildings, 21 units, and some 8,000 members are within the boundaries of the branch that met in the Ossington chapel in 1939.
Perhaps the greatest sign of this growth, President Monson noted, is the temple that is progressing toward completion at a suburban Toronto site.