July 1st is Canada Day—a celebration of the Constitution act and Canada’s equivalent to America’s Independence Day. To celebrate, here are a few facts you might not have known about this important country in Church history.
While Americans anticipate the Fourth of July with all of its parades, fireworks, and celebrations, Canadians participate in similar festivities a few days earlier.
Canada Day is a Canadian national holiday held on July 1st. The holiday celebrates a milestone in Canada’s journey to sovereignty when the 1867 Constitution Act brought three provinces together under one dominion and called it Canada.
These provinces played a vital role in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as well, as several important events and people in Church history had roots in Canada. As a celebration of Canada Day, here are seven interesting facts about Church history in Canada.
1. Multiple Church prophets have personal connections to Canada.
John Taylor: Though John Taylor was born in England, he was a Methodist living in Toronto, Canada, when he first heard the gospel from Parley P. Pratt. After three weeks of studying, John Taylor and his wife, Leonora, were baptized. He then later served as a missionary in Canada before being called as an Apostle.1
Joseph F. Smith and Joseph Fielding Smith: The sixth president of the Church, Joseph F. Smith, was the son of Mary Fielding Smith—a Canadian convert. His son, Joseph Fielding Smith, later became the 10th president of the Church.2
Harold B. Lee: President Lee’s great-grandfather was a convert from Leeds County, Upper Canada.3
Gordon B. Hinckley: President Hinckley’s grandfather Ira Nathaniel Hinckley was a convert from Leeds County, Upper Canada, who traveled with his family to join the main body of Saints.4
Thomas S. Monson: President Monson was called as a mission president in Canada in 1959. Called at age 31, he was one of the youngest mission presidents in the Church. His first counselor in the mission presidency said that “President Monson’s great contribution was creating an excitement and momentum that encouraged Latter-day Saints to stay in Ontario and build up the Church there.”5
Russell M. Nelson: President Nelson’s wife, Wendy Watson Nelson, was born and raised in Raymond, Alberta, Canada—a childhood she has described as idyllic.6 While speaking at a 2022 devotional for Canadian saints, President Nelson described his wife’s home country as a “seedbed of faithful Saints from the earliest days of the Restoration.”7,8
2. Some of the first preaching from the Book of Mormon happened in Canada.
Before the Book of Mormon was even published, a curious traveling preacher named Solomon Chamberlin came to visit the Smith family. After Hyrum Smith took Chamberlin to the printing office where the Book of Mormon was being produced, Chamberlin left with 64 printed pages of the book of scripture to teach in what is now Ontario, Canada. Canada would later be the first place outside the United States where missionaries would be sent.9
3. The first Latter-day Saints in Alberta, Canada, were contracted to work on the Canadian Pacific Railroad.
Latter-day Saints Simeon F. Allen and his son Heber had been contracted to work on the Canadian Pacific Railroad between Medicine Hat and Calgary in 1883. While they would be joined by additional Utah Saints working on the railroad, it wouldn’t be until several years later that Latter-day Saints would officially begin settling in Alberta.10
4. The city of Cardston was the site of many international firsts in the Church.
Charles O. Card, under the direction of President John Taylor, first scouted out what is now Cardston in 1887. After an explosion of growth, Cardston became the center of Church operations in Alberta and was where the first stake outside of the United States was created in 1895. It seems only natural that this city was later picked to hosted the first temple outside the United States—the Cardston Alberta Temple.
The Cardston Alberta Temple took ten years to build from groundbreaking (1913) to dedication (1923) and seems to have been a celebrated event by many, as evidenced by this historic postcard hosted on the University of Calgary’s website. You can read more personal accounts of its dedication in Saints, Vol. 3.
5. Many of the first Latter-day Saint Canadian settlers were part of polygamist families.
Latter-day Saints in the United States who practiced polygamy faced unique hardships because of anti-polgamy laws in the country. To find refuge from persecution and prosecution and help keep families together, some of these Saints moved to Mexico or Canada, outside of the reach of these laws.11 For more information on this topic, For more background and history, check out Saints, Vol. 3, chapters 6 and 8, as well as the article “Celebrating 200,000 Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Canada.”
6. The Church was recognized by the Canadian Red Cross in 1985 for making history.
With the help of a special fast held by Church members in the U.S. and Canada, the Saints in Canada raised nearly $250,000 to aid famine-stricken Ethiopia. Because of tax laws, however, the money was first matched by both Alberta and Canadian governments to reach a total of $1 million before being donated to the Canadian Red Cross for the same purpose. The Canadian Red Cross recognized the Church and this historic donation (the largest in the organization’s history at that point) at a special banquet in Calgary.12
7. Canada is home to the largest branch in the Church.
Though not largest in numbers, the Northwest Territories branch in Canada covers 500,000 square miles, which is more area that any other Latter-day Saint branch.13
Other fun numbers to do with the Church in Canada:14,15
- 53 Stakes
- 6 missions
- 9 temples
- 493 wards and branches (combined)
- 200,836 members (the milestone of 200,000 in 2022)
- 152 Family History Centers