TORONTO, Ontario — Stakes in the greater Toronto area responded to a request to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Joseph Smith's birth by producing a documentary film detailing the Prophet's missionary labors in the area. The 59-minute film, titled Joseph Smith in Upper Canada, highlights prominent early members from the area who played a role in the growth of the Church.
After more than a year of preparation, the documentary premiered Saturday, Sept. 17, to more than 3,000 members of the Church assembled in stake centers across Ontario.
The documentary is the result of five stakes in the greater Toronto area — Toronto, Oshawa, Mississauga, Hamilton and Brampton — who pooled resources last year to commemorate the 200th anniversary.
Mississauga Stake President Bradley C. Miller suggested producing a documentary about Joseph Smith's visits to Ontario as a lasting tribute. An 11-member team was assembled under the direction of Area Seventy Elder Ross McEachran, who appointed former stake President Russell Willmott as executive producer.
"The film was to strengthen member understanding of our rich Church heritage and to make a greater commitment to build the kingdom in this area, just as the pioneer saints did in Ontario," said President Willmott.
"We were surprised when we started the research how little most of us on the committee knew about the events which transpired in Upper Canada."
Historian Everett Pallin, former mission president, Toronto temple president and patriarch of the Mississauga Stake, verified facts and shared his vast knowledge of Church history and Joseph Smith's two visits to Ontario, the only times the Prophet left the United States.
Directed by James and Terri-Ann Gawthroupe, the video includes clips from other Church-produced videos and background music performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on other recordings.
"We have been blessed tremendously throughout the entire process," said President Willmott. "The Lord has been kind to us.
"The dedication of the committee members and so many others made it possible for this documentary to be created in less than a year. We met every deadline. We came in under budget, thanks to the hundreds of volunteer hours," he said.
"All stake presidents in Ontario have seen the film and have enthusiastically endorsed it," said Sister Terry Smith. "They have ordered more than 7,500 copies of the DVD to be made available for families in their stakes."
President Thomas S. Monson and Elder M. Russell Ballard — former mission presidents in Toronto — contributed to the documentary by sharing experiences and quoting scripture.
Included among the historical highlights is President Gordon B. Hinckley, who had ancestors join the Church in Upper Canada in 1837.