At the northern end of North America, Canada is a confederation with a parliamentary democracy. It includes 10 provinces and three territories. Its population speaks English and French, and is Roman Catholic, 46 percent; and Protestant, 41 percent.
Church History in Alberta
The first known members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to enter what is now Alberta were Simeon F. Allen and his son Heber S. Allen of Hyrum, Utah, who contracted work in 1883 on the Canadian Pacific Railroad between Medicine Hat and Calgary. They were joined by other saints from Utah working on the contract.
A few years later in 1886, Cache Stake President Charles O. Card (1839-1906) received permission from Church President John Taylor to investigate colonizing opportunities in southwestern Canada. At that time prosecution of polygamists in the Intermountain West was oppressing many saints’ families, and Church officials sought to establish colonies outside the U.S. where these families could seek refuge to maintain their cohesiveness and economic stability. Card, accompanied by James W. Hendricks and Isaac E. D. Zundel, traveled to British Columbia in late September 1886. Unsuccessful in locating land there that was both arable and not already leased as ranches, the trio traveled eastward to Calgary. A Montana mountaineer had previously informed them of expansive buffalo plains south of that city. At present-day Stand Off the three men decided to establish a colony. They went back to Utah with plans to return to Stand Off the following year with a group of Saints ready to colonize new settlements.
Upon return to Alberta in April 1887, Card found that the land near Stand Off had been leased by others and was unavailable. A few days later while exploring land farther south near Lee’s Creek, Card and companions met E. N. Barker and Herbert Donovan who described land at the edge of the Blood Indian Reserve that was available for settlement. The entourage investigated the land and decided to establish the new colony there. Saints from Utah began arriving in early May and June. The settlement and ward were first known as Card but later changed to Cardston.
The ward was organized on 7 October 1888 as part of the Cache Stake headquartered in Logan, Utah; John A. Woolf was called to serve as the first bishop.
In November 1888, Charles O. Card and Elders Francis M. Lyman and John W. Taylor of the Quorum of the Twelve visited Prime Minister John A. Macdonald in Ottawa. The trio presented a petition asking for government assistance for the newly established colony at Cardston. The petition requested help obtaining land for town sites, securing mineral, timber, and water rights, purchasing farm and grazing lands at a reduced rate, and establishing a post office. In addition, the petition requested transportation aid for immigrants, reduction of custom duties on imported goods, animals, and machinery and permission to practice plural marriage. Most of the requests were denied. Church President Wilford Woodruff and counselors George Q. Cannon and Joseph F. Smith visited the saints in Alberta in October and November 1889.
By October 1894, more than 674 members were living in the Cardston area. The Alberta Stake was organized the following year on 9 June with Charles O. Card as president.
During the 16 years following Cardston’s establishment as the central LDS ecclesiastical center, migrating saints from Utah settled the communities of Taylorville, Kimball, Aetna, Woolford, Beazer, Leavitt, Mountain View, Caldwell, Orton, Frankburg, Magrath, Welling, Raymond, Stirling, Barnwell, and Taber. The construction of large irrigation canals was initiated in 1898 by a joint venture between the Alberta Railway and Irrigation Company and the Church. The company provided the capital investment and the Church supplied construction crews and teams. Laborers were paid in both cash and land/water rights. The irrigation projects were extremely vital to successful farming in the area. A large number of members from Utah and Idaho were attracted to the area with promises of agricultural development related to the irrigation projects. Church authorities issued calls to many families to migrate to southern Alberta. Many of them began arriving in April 1899.
Charles A. Magrath, president of the Alberta Irrigation Company, distributed seed to the Saints and encouraged them to begin growing sugar beets around 1899-1900. Three years later Jesse Knight and his sons, businessmen from Utah, built the Knight Sugar Factory in Raymond. In subsequent years the sugar beet industry shifted toward the Barnwell-Taber area.
The Alberta Stake was divided on 30 August 1903 to form the Taylor Stake with Heber S. Allen as president. The new stake included the wards in Magrath, Raymond, and Stirling.
In 1906 through the efforts of Alberta Stake president Edward J. Wood, the Church finalized purchase of the 66,500 acre Cochrane Ranch located a few miles north of Cardston. Resulting from this purchase came the last two LDS-established com-munities of Glenwood (1908) and Hillspring (1910).
The cornerstone for Alberta Stake’s Tabernacle in Cardston was laid in August 1908. The building was dedicated on 5 August 1917 by Elder Hyrum M. Smith of the Quorum of the Twelve. A Church Academy was established in Raymond in 1908 as a joint educational venture bet-ween the Alberta and Taylor stakes. It was originally named Taylor Academy and opened in 1910, but later it was renamed Knight Academy in honor of the con-tributions of Jesse Knight and his family.
A temple in Cardston was announced in 1912, but not completed until 1923. It was one of the first temples whose architectural style departed from a traditional tower design. The temple was dedicated on 26-29 August 1923 by President Heber J. Grant. At the time, members numbered around 8,000. Edward J. Wood was appointed as temple president and served concurrently for many years as Alberta Stake president. The temple was rededicated in 1962 and 1991 after extensive renovations.
On 10 November 1921, the Lethbridge Stake was organized with Hugh B. Brown as president. He later served as a member of the Quorum of Twelve and counselor in the First Presidency.
The first known saints to live in Alberta’s capital city Edmonton were Robert J. and Fannie Gordon and their family. They moved there in 1914. Latter-day Saint university students in Edmonton began associating and meeting together as a group around 1931. The first recorded official meeting of members occurred on 26 February 1933 at the home of Alfred and Mabel Strate. Two years later, a branch was organized with Strate as president. He was followed in 1939 by Nathan E. Tanner, later a member of the Quorum of the Twelve and counselor in the First Presidency. In 1941, the Western Canadian Mission was organized with Walter E. Miller as president. Mission headquarters were established in Edmonton. In 1960, the Alaskan-Canadian Mission was organized from a division of the Western Canadian Mission.
The first stake in Calgary was organized in 1953, followed seven years later in 1960 with a stake in Edmonton. Efforts at missionary work among the Indians living on the Blood Reserve immediately north of Cardston were sporadic until 1949 when Golden Buchanan, coordinator of the Church’s Indian Relations Committee came to Cardston to organize the missionary work among the tribe. A separate branch was established there in 1964 with James Blackmore as president.
During the 20th Century three Latter-day Saints were elected to Parliament, all hailing from Alberta. John H. Blackmore served from 1935-1958 and Solon Low from 1945-1958. Both were leaders of the Social Credit Party. Grant Hill served from 1993 to 2004. Elder N. Eldon Tanner, later of the Quorum of Twelve and member of the First Presidency, was appointed speaker of the Alberta Legislature in 1935, and later Minister of Lands and Forests. In 1970, Church membership in Alberta stood at about 28,000.
The Church held a special fast in the U.S. and Canada in January 1985 to raise funds to alleviate famine in Ethiopia. The saints in Canada, with membership concentrated in Alberta, raised nearly $250,000. Tax laws prohibited the transfer of the funds to headquarters in the U.S., so the amount was donated to the Canadian Red Cross. Both the Alberta and Canadian governments matched the donations by Church members and the final total of $1 million was sent to Ethiopia. The Canadian Red Cross recognized the Church at a special banquet in Calgary for donating the largest amount in its history.
From 1988-1991, the Alberta Temple was closed for renovation and restoration. An open house was held for 10 days prior to rededication on 22-24 June 1991. About 40 members of the Alberta Provincial Legislature and provincial Premier Donald Getty toured the temple along with over 100,000 other visitors.
In July 1997, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada recognized the LDS-founded town of Stirling as a National Historic Site. The designation identified Stirling as “the best surviving example of a Mormon agricultural village.”
The Canada Edmonton Mission was organized on 1 July 1998. During a six-province tour of Canada in July-August of that year, President Gordon B. Hinckley visited the members in Edmonton and Lethbridge on 2 August. Also, that summer, a group of Church members and others interested in historical re-enactment, began a 735 mile wagon trek from Preston, Idaho, to Cardston to memorialize the early pioneers who settled Alberta. The caravan of 14 wagons and 90 people left Preston on 10 August and arrived in Cardston on 28 September.
The Edmonton Temple was dedicated on 11-12 December 1999 by President Gordon B. Hinckley. It was one of the first smaller scale temples constructed by the Church. At the time of dedication, Church membership in Alberta numbered about 63,000. The first Church Educational System satellite fireside broadcast hosted outside the United States was held in Calgary on 7 May 2000. Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve addressed the worldwide audience.
In 2001, Church member Greg Melchin of Calgary was appointed to the Alberta provincial cabinet to serve as Minister of Revenue. He had served previously in the Legislative Assembly since 1997.
Members in Alberta have diligently helped with community and Church humanitarian projects. In 2001, members of the Calgary East Stake made 132 bed quilts for the newly renovated Drop In Centre for homeless people. Five other stakes in the Calgary area committed to continue that project. In 2004, the young men and women of the Lethbridge West Stake assisted in Operation Mercury Hope, a humanitarian effort started by Cpl. Russell Storring of the Canadian Armed Forces. The project aids children in orphanages in developing countries where Canadian forces are stationed. The Lethbridge youth sorted, folded and boxed large quantities of goods donated to the project.
Alberta is included in the North America Central Area (2003). Two missions headquartered in Calgary and Edmonton encompass the province. In 2002, membership reached 67,394; and 68,586 in 2003.
General Authorities from Alberta
- Presidents Hugh B. Brown and
- N. Eldon Tanner of the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency,
- Presiding Bishop Victor L. Brown, and
- Elder William H. Bennett,
- Teddy E. Brewerton,
- Alexander B. Morrison,
- Lowell D. Wood, and
- Merlin R. Lybbert of the Seventy.
- Former Young Women General President Ardeth Kapp
- Relief Society General President Elaine Jack were born in Alberta.
- Alberta, Taylor, and Lethbridge stakes, Manuscript histories and historical reports, Church Archives;
- Andrew Jenson, Encyclopedic History of the Church, 1941;
- Lethbridge Stake, A History of the Church in Canada, 1968;
- Brigham Y. Card, et. al, The Mormon Presence in Canada, 1990;
- Donald G. Godfrey and Brigham Y. Card, The Diaries of Charles Ora Card: The Canadian Years, 1886-1903;
- Dennis A. Wright, et al., Regional Studies in LDS Church History: Western Canada, 2000;
- Robert M. Graham, “The Mormon Cultural Landscape at Stirling Agricultural Village, Alberta” APT Bulletin, The Journal of Preservation Technology, 32:2-3 (2001), 47-56;
- “Hundreds Greet Wagon Train in Cardston,” Church News, 3 October 1998;
- “Day of Miracles Has Not Ceased,” Church News, 13 May 2000;
- “Bedding Given to Homeless Shelter,” Church News, 6 October 2001;
- “Latter-day Saints Serve in Alberta Cabinet,” Ensign, October 2001;
- “Operation Mercury Hope,” Church News, 12 June 2004.
- Alberta List of Stakes of the Church
- Canada List of Stakes of the Church
- 2010 ChurchNews Alamanac: Canada