“Canadian LDS Experience Is Topic of Scholarly Forum,” Ensign, Sept. 1990, 79–80
Latter-day Saint and non-Latter-day Saint scholars met in Lethbridge, Alberta, June 20 to 24 to discuss the history and contemporary challenges of Latter-day Saints in Canada.
The event was sponsored by two Canadian federal agencies—the province of Alberta and the city of Lethbridge. More than one hundred people attended.
The Church has continued to grow steadily in Canada since 3 June 1887, when seven immigrant wagons and eight families led by Charles Ora Card arrived in Southern Alberta. Canada now has 125,000 members and a total of thirty-four stakes. The dedication of the Toronto Temple this year is an indicator of this growth.
The following is a sampling from papers and presentations given at the conference:
Settling Southern Alberta
Jessie L. Embry (Brigham Young University): “Nineteenth-century Canadians were delighted with the Mormons’ industry and settlement patterns, but they were concerned about the Mormons’ religious practices and their loyalty. The positive elements, intermingled with the negative responses, illustrate the dilemma the Canadians felt about the Mormon settlers.
“Government officials expressed the same mixed feelings. In his report of 13 September 1887, John S. Dennis wrote: ‘Any person visiting the colony [Cardston] cannot help being struck with the wonderful progress made by them during the short time they have been in the country. … They are an exceedingly industrious and intelligent people who thoroughly understand prairie farming.’
“With the passage of time, the Mormons were not only accepted but embraced.”
Joanne A. Stiles (University of Toronto): “Mormons, led by Jesse Knight, pioneered agriculture and industry in the town of Raymond. A sugar refinery was established there at the turn of the century. Mountains of sugar beets came from hundreds of nearby irrigated acres to be processed in Canada’s first sugar refinery.”
Georgia Fooks (Lethbridge Community College): “The Mormons brought their irrigation expertise to Canada and were hired by the Galts to construct the main irrigation canal from the headgates at Kimball to Lethbridge between 1898 and 1900. Charles Ora Card plowed the first ditch. Now the waters of five rivers spread over 825,000 acres, and alfalfa and grain can be successfully grown.”
Roy A. Prete (Royal Military College, Kingston): “The history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its peoples needs to advance beyond the sphere of analysis based solely in social and economic factors to include the religious discourse of its leaders and members in order to understand the phenomenon of Mormonism in its total perspective. To tell the story of Joseph Smith without an integral discussion of the revelations of the Book of Mormon, as is sometimes done, is indeed to tell the story of Moses without a law.”
Mormons in Upper Canada
Leonard J. Arrington (Brigham Young University): “Among the Canadian Saints in need of more study and appreciation are Joseph and Mary Isabella Horne, who were baptized in Upper Canada in 1836 and later joined the Saints in Missouri. Joseph Horne was a resourceful and effective colonizer, builder, and community leader. Mary Isabella Hales Horne was also a leader, particularly among the women. Her Canadian upbringing, character, and organizing ability served the Church well in her many leadership roles, and particularly her contributions to the cause of women’s suffrage. Joseph and Mary Isabella Horne were proud of their Canadianness and exhibited throughout their long lives the richness of their Canadian experience.”
Richard G. Bennett (University of Manitoba): “The nineteenth-century press influenced the sentiment of the general Canadian population toward the Mormons. Coverage was both uneven and localized. Most articles were highly critical of the Mormon experience, with emphasis on the sensational and the dramatic. The criticism for Mormons was muted by the sympathy for the sufferings they were enduring. For example, appearing in the St. Catherine’s Journal in the summer of 1839 was the following Illinois-based reference to the Missouri difficulties:
‘The Mormons are an orderly, industrious class of citizens. … From the very first they have been more “sinned against than sinning.” We hold no fellowship with their absurd doctrines … yet this furnished no excuse for the commission of violence against them. The press should speak out upon this subject in tones of thunder and hold up the perpetrators of these atrocities to all good men.’”
Stephen C. Young (LDS Church Family History Department): “Parley P. Pratt’s first visit to Toronto in 1836 was met with obstinate opposition. Nevertheless, it is one of the better-known missionary efforts in the history of the Church in eastern Canada. Of short duration, it resulted in the conversion and baptism of several persons who subsequently became influential in the Church for decades to come. Among the fruits of Elder Pratt’s labor was John Taylor, a future Apostle and President of the Church.”
Paul L. Anderson (Church Museum of History and Art): “The Alberta Temple was considered boldly modern when it was built in 1912. Today, it stands as one of the great architectural creations of the Church. Currently, the temple is undergoing interior remodeling and exterior cleaning. As we view the temple across the prairies of Southern Alberta, we are still struck by its beauty and the appropriateness of its design.”
Canadian Mormon-Indian Relationships
Clem Bearfoot (Blackfoot Tribe): “Before I joined this Church, I had a great hatred toward it. This hatred stayed with me until spring of 1975, when a missionary couple taught me what true Mormons stand for. …
“When I go to church on Sundays, I do not go to have someone shake my hand or to be hugged or praised. I go because I want to worship. If members choose not to shake hands or show affection, then it is their problem, not mine. I have learned that if you live the standards of the Church and follow the admonition of the Church leaders, you just don’t have room for prejudice.”
Canadian Mormon Identity
Paul Wright (Teacher, British Columbia): “About 45 percent of the Canadian Latter-day Saint population live in Southern Alberta, and their life-style closely resembles that of American Latter-day Saints in Utah and Idaho. The remaining 55 percent possess a life-style similar to the worldwide Latter-day Saint population.
“But I suggest that this is not a problem. Canada is a big country filled with a glorious rainbow of colors, styles, and varieties. There should be room enough in our country and our Church for this and more.”