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.
Vancouver Island was one of several locations Brigham Young considered as a western settlement site for the Saints. In a letter to the members published on 1 November 1845, he mentioned the island as “one of many good locations for settlement on the Pacific.” The letter sparked a petition by members in England that was submitted to Queen Victoria seeking support for the Mormons in settling the island. However, the petition was ignored, and no Latter-day Saint immigrants settled there until 1875. That year, Church member William and Maria Judson Copley and their three children settled at Shawigan. For the next 15 years they were the only members there. The first convert on the island was Anthony Maitland Stenhouse, a member of the legislative assembly of British Columbia who chose to resign from the assembly and be baptized in 1887. He became a vigorous defender of the faith, living in Cardston, Alberta, and eventually returning to his homeland of Great Britain. How Stenhouse came to join the Church is not known.
In 1886, Charles O. Card, president of the Cache Stake in Logan, Utah, James W. Hendricks, and Isaac E.D. Zundall went to British Columbia looking for a site for colonization. On 3 October of that year they held a sacrament meeting, likely the first in the province. On 15 March 1902, British Columbia came under the stewardship of the Northwestern States Mission. Seven missionaries, led by mission President Nephi Pratt, arrived in Victoria on 13 May 1903 and the Victoria Conference was organized the next day. Their first converts were members of the Copley family. Clara Copley was baptized on 10 July 1904 and Merian Copley on 6 August 1904. A Sunday School was organized, but was later dissolved when several families moved away. Melvin Oxspring moved his family from Vancouver to Victoria in 1937, contacted the Northwestern States Mission president, and subsequently had missionaries assigned to Victoria. A Sunday School was organized on 17 October 1937. There were not enough members in Victoria to form a branch until World War II brought more Latter-day Saints to the area. A dependent branch was organized in 1942 with Robert Gerber as president. It became an independent branch on 11 August 1946 with Rex Nielson as president. A second group began meeting in Nanaimo in 1946, and a branch was created there on 5 May 1948 with Samuel Dyson as president.
The first known members of the Church in the city of Vancouver were Edward Neill and his wife, who had joined the Church in Brisbane, Australia, and moved to Vancouver in 1903. The Vancouver Branch was organized on 12 February 1911 with Neill as president. In 1925, the branch purchased a building to serve as a chapel. The Vancouver Branch became a ward and was included in the newly created Seattle Stake on 31 July 1938. The northern portion of British Columbia became part of the Western Canadian Mission in 1941. The first meetinghouse to be built in British Columbia was in Creston. It was used for the first time on 2 May 1948. When the Vancouver District was created the following June, it included Vancouver, New Westminster, and Vancouver Island and the area was transferred to the Western Canadian Mission.
First Stakes Organized
A new meetinghouse was dedicated in Vancouver on 1 August 1954. The Vancouver District was divided and the Victoria District was created on 2 August 1959, taking in all Church members living on Vancouver Island. The first stake in British Columbia was created on 21 November 1960 when the Vancouver District became the [[Vancouver British Columbia Stake|Vancouver Stake] with wards in Vancouver (two), North Shore, New Westminster, Fleetwood, Richmond, White Rock, Langley, and Chilliwack. A growth spurt during the late 1960s and early 1970s came when a number of Latter-day Saint professors were hired at the University of Victoria, as well as others who came to this area. The second stake in British Columbia, the Victoria British Columbia Stake, was created on 9 February 1975 with wards in Victoria (two), Colwood, and Nanaimo and branches in Courtenay, Duncan, Port Alberni, Sidney, and Powell River.
The Canada Vancouver Mission was organized on 20 June 1974, an outgrowth of the Alaska-Canada Mission that had been created in 1960. Missionary work outside of Vancouver and Victoria expanded as the number of missionaries increased over the years, including missionary work in the native American preserves. In 1980, the Prince George District and the Terrace British Columbia District, were created in northern British Columbia to accommodate growth in membership. President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke to about 2,000 members during a visit to Victoria on 31 July 1998, and the next day to 6,000 in Vancouver and 1,600 in Prince George. In 2002, membership reached 27,984.
Announced in 2006 and completed in 2010, the Vancouver British Columbia Temple is the 131st temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is the first temple of the church to be built in British Columbia. The south end of the temple grounds features a grassy and beautifully wooded retreat that has been incorporated into the immaculately kept temple grounds.
Lethbridge Alberta Stake, A History of the Mormon Church in Canada, 1968; Times and Seasons, 1 November 1845; Northwestern States Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; Western Canadian Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; Seattle Stake, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; New Westminster Ward, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; Vancouver Stake, Meetinghouse dedication program, 1967, Church Archives; Robert J. McCue, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Vancouver Island: The Establishment and Growth of the Mormon Community,” BC Studies, Summer, 1979; Giles H. Florence Jr., “No One Is an Island,” Ensign, August 1990; Julie A. Dockstader, “LDS Roots Run Deep in Community,” Church News, 22 August 1998; Canada Vancouver Mission, Manuscript History and historical reports, Church Archives; Donald G. Godfrey, and Brigham Y. Card, eds, Diaries of Charles Ora Card: the Canadian Years 1886-1903, 1993.