“Saints in Halifax,” Ensign, Apr. 1991, 78–79
When the sun rises every weekday morning in Halifax, Nova Scotia, so do forty young men and women who start their days with early morning seminary. The high number of students who attend the class testifies to the strength of the youth here, and that strength carries over so that more young people are serving missions—at present, nineteen from the four wards in south central Nova Scotia—and more are marrying in the temple.
The commitment these youth display is a credit to their parents and their leaders. But it is also a credit to those who brought the gospel to the province in a time when it must have seemed that the soil was too rocky for the Church ever to take root.
First established in Nova Scotia in the late 1800s, the Church took a step backward at the turn of the century when persecution was so great that missionaries were unable to continue their work. However, in 1920, the Church sent four determined young men, among whom was Elder Mark E. Petersen (later a member of the Quorum of the Twelve), to reopen the area. At first, opposition was both public and vocal. But with the Lord’s help, the missionaries won the favor of government leaders. By 1922, there were eight members of the Church in the province.
Just as those early missionaries relied on the guidance of the Spirit, so do the missionaries who labor here today. On a dark, rainy night in May 1990, two missionaries near Sackville, lost and without their map, prayed for guidance. The elders were led to the home of Walter and Stella Muise. Already family-oriented, the Muises appreciated the Church’s Homefront television spots and were interested in learning more about the gospel. Stella was baptized after only four months. Now the entire family—Walter, Stella, David, and Krystal—attends church regularly. Sister Muise is excited about the changes in her life. But most of all, she enjoys “feeling that I belong. I’m at home among the Saints.”
Aubrey and Thelma Fielden understand that feeling of belonging. They joined the Church in 1953, when there were about twenty-five Church members in Nova Scotia. One branch served an area of about twenty thousand square miles. Because there were few Latter-day Saints, the Fieldens had plenty of opportunities to serve in the Church. Between them, they have held callings in every Church auxiliary, and their example and good works have touched members in every ward and branch in the province.
“We are indebted to a sister-in-law and to great missionaries,” they say. “From them we learned correct principles—and that is everything. They brought us out of darkness and into understanding.”
In the past thirty years, thousands of Nova Scotians have accepted the gospel. The province’s first stake was formed in 1984; today there are thirteen thriving wards and branches, including four in the Halifax metropolitan area. Approximately 75 percent of the members are first-generation Latter-day Saints, but this percentage is starting to decline as faithful members marry and have children.
As more Nova Scotians have joined the Church, the attitudes of those of other faiths have softened. Today the Church is a respected part of the community, and members are increasingly recognized for their positive contributions. For instance, the Canadian Red Cross uses the stake center for its mobile blood-donor clinics, and the Church regularly receives invitations to set up information booths or displays at community fairs. The stake’s annual live Christmas nativity pageant draws hundreds of visitors.
Since 1988, Church members have also joined the community in participating in the Scouting program. As a result of Church members’ participation, Scouts and leaders of other faiths better understand the principles of the gospel. For example, Scouts in Nova Scotia have traditionally held events on Sunday, and at parties and campouts, alcohol may be available. As the result of a request from one LDS leader, Ginny Vacheresse, this year’s party was held on Saturday and at a camp where liquor is not permitted.
The Vacheresse family—Wayne, Ginny, Jim, Marc, and Richard—are members of the Cole Harbour Ward. Brother Vacheresse, a high school teacher, enjoys opportunities to serve the youth and to participate in Young Men activities. “I like to see the strength the youth programs bring to our young people,” he says. “When they spend so much time together, they become a support for each other.”
The Church has experienced remarkable growth in the Halifax area. And every seminary graduation, missionary farewell, and temple marriage shows that when the gospel is faithfully planted and carefully nurtured, rocky soil can become fertile.