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LDS stalwarts in Upper Canada are remembered

SHARE LDS stalwarts in Upper Canada are remembered

TORONTO, Ontario — In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the creation of the Toronto Ontario Stake — the 300th stake of the Church — and the 10 years since the dedication of the Toronto Ontario Temple, a historical monument was dedicated Aug. 19 commemorating contributions of early missionaries and members who served and lived in Upper Canada. The monument was dedicated during a meeting in the Mississauga Ontario Stake Center Saturday afternoon; that evening a fireside was held in the Toronto Ontario Stake center. The plaque will be placed near the entrance of the Black Creek Ward meetinghouse, which is located a short distance from the site of the first baptisms of the Church in Canada in May 1836.

President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, and his wife, Frances, participated in the commemorative events, as did Elder W. Craig Zwick of the Seventy and president of the North America Northeast Area and his wife, Jan. Also attending were two Area Authority Seventies, Elders Lawrence R. Fuller and Ross McEachran and their wives, Debbie Fuller and Linda McEachran.

While they paid tribute to early pioneers of the Church in this area, President and Sister Monson were honored for their own contributions to the growth of the Church in Eastern Canada. From 1959-1961, he presided over the Canadian Mission, a geographical area that now has three missions, and she oversaw work of the mission's Relief Society, Primary and Young Women Mutual Improvement Associations.

A meeting for missionaries in the Canada Toronto and Canada Toronto East Missions was held in addition to the plaque dedication ceremony and fireside.

At various times throughout the day and evening, President Monson spoke of the work accomplished by early missionaries who served in what is known generally as Upper Canada. He spoke of the missionary visit in New York in 1830 by Samuel Smith, the Prophet Joseph's brother. Samuel gave a copy of the Book of Mormon to Phineas Young, brother to Brigham Young. Phineas Young's was among the first testimonies of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ heard outside the United States after the Church was organized. The Prophet Joseph, accompanied by Sidney Rigdon and Freeman Nickerson, traveled to Brantford and Mt. Pleasant, Ontario, in 1833.

President Monson referred to Section 100 of the Doctrine and Covenants as "the Canadian revelation." In verses 1-3, the Lord counseled Joseph and Sidney, who were concerned about their families during their long absence while preaching in Canada: "Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you, my friends Sidney and Joseph, your families are well; they are in mine hands,... Therefore, follow me, and listen to the counsel which I shall give unto you. Behold,... I have much people in this place, in the regions round about; and an effectual door shall be opened... in this eastern land."

President Monson spoke of the visit in 1836 of Parley P. Pratt, who came to Toronto after Heber C. Kimball uttered a prophecy that he would find people waiting for him who would receive the gospel, and that from there the gospel would spread into England, where a great work would be done. In Toronto, Parley Pratt found John Taylor, an English immigrant, who would become the third president of the Church; and the Fieldings — Mary Fielding, who later married the Prophet's older brother, Hyrum, and became mother of one Church president, Joseph F. Smith, and grandmother of another, Joseph Fielding Smith; her brother, Joseph Fielding, who later accompanied Heber C. Kimball and Orson Hyde and others on their first mission to England where he was successful in opening the gospel in Preston, partly because he had relatives there; and their sister, Mercy.

The Prophet Joseph, accompanied by Sidney Rigdon and Thomas B. Marsh, visited Toronto in August 1837.

In addition to the early pioneers of the gospel in Eastern Canada, President Monson paid tribute to those of more recent times, particularly those he met when he served here as mission president. He described preparations for the formation of the Toronto Stake on Aug. 14, 1960, by Elder Mark E. Petersen, who was accompanied by Elder Alma Sonne. President Monson had the assignment of finding a building with an auditorium large enough to accommodate all who would wish to attend. In their search, President and Sister Monson went to a movie, "The Story of Ruth," at the Odeon Carlton Theater in Toronto. Instead of watching the movie, however, he ambled up and down the aisles, counting seats. Since the theater was closed on Sundays, he was able to rent it for the conference at which the stake was created. In attendance were 2,249 members, which constituted 92 percent of the new stake's membership.

At the anniversary meeting, President Monson read from notes he made 40 years earlier: "This foundation has been prepared by former mission presidents and even hundreds and thousands of missionaries over the years. In Toronto the gathering place for the world has already commenced. We have a wide divergency of nationalities in Toronto. The announcement that a stake would be created was met with glee by the young, with amazement by the new converts and with gratitude by the members who understood they had blessings to come from this long-awaited moment. Prayers of thanks were offered in many homes that night following the announcement."

Picking up on a comment made by Toronto Ontario Stake President Terry Harrison that 120 nationalities are represented in the stake today, President Monson said, "I'm glad to see that Canada has been a nation that has welcomed those from foreign countries." He mentioned several converts who had come to Toronto, where they found the gospel, including Jacob de Jager who had come from Holland, joined the Church here and later became a General Authority, serving in the Seventy from 1976-1993.

Returning to Toronto, President Monson said, was like going back in time. "We love Toronto. We're glad to be with you," he said. "It's hard not to have tears of gratitude. I keep my eye on Canada."

On Aug. 15, Elder Zwick became president of the North America Northeast Area. Both he and his wife were given an enthusiastic welcome in each meeting and delivered inspirational and motivational messages. Elder Zwick has Canadian roots. His fourth great-grandfather came to Canada in the late 1700s. "His son was here when Joseph Smith, Parley P. Pratt and others came to Canada, but it was five generations before the message of the gospel was heard by my family," Elder Zwick said. "Though I wasn't born in Canada, I got here as soon as I could."