Jubilee year Toronto Ontario Stake turns 50
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The 300th stake of the Church was organized in Toronto, Canada, in 1960 by Elder Mark E. Petersen of the Quorum of the Twelve during President Thomas S. Monson's tenure as president of the mission here.
As members of the stake were commemorating its 50th anniversary in a special conference, President Monson, now in his third year as president of the Church, was in Italy where, on Oct. 23, he dedicated the site for the temple to be built in Rome. (Please see Church News, Oct. 30, p. 3.) Although he was thousands of miles removed from Canada, his presence was felt here, especially by members who were present in the Odeon Carlton Theatre where the stake was organized on Aug. 14, 1960.
President Monson, who began his service in April 1959 as president of the Canadian Mission with headquarters in Toronto, had key roles in the formation of the stake. He had been acutely aware that there were no stakes in all of Eastern Canada. Stakes in Western Canada included one in the province of Alberta that was organized in 1895, the Taylor Stake, oorganized in 1903, the Lethbridge Stake, organized in 1922, and the Calgary Stake, organized in 1956.
When the time came for the Toronto Stake to be organized, President Monson and his first counselor in the mission presidency, Ev Pallin, arranged to rent the Odeon Theatre. Some 2,250 people — the largest assembly of Latter-day Saints in Ontario — attended the conference at which Elder Petersen (who had served as a missionary in Toronto 40 years earlier) and Elder Alma Sonne, an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve, organized the stake. (See Heidi S. Swinton, To the Rescue, the Biography of Thomas S. Monson, Deseret Book, pp. 192-193.)
Now, half a century later, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve attended the jubilee conference Oct. 23-24 and extended the love and best wishes to the members from President Monson and his wife, Sister Frances Monson. Elder Ballard said President Monson would have loved to join their celebration, but he was in Rome breaking ground for the new temple, an event that brought tears of joy and gratitude to the eyes of the Italian members of the Toronto Ontario Stake.
In connection with the jubilee conference, Elder Ballard also visited with missionaries of the Toronto Canada East and West missions, spoke to a regional public affairs council with representatives from Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic Provinces and held a priesthood leadership meeting for leaders from the area.
At the Sunday morning session of the conference, Elder Ballard told of the great experience he and Sister Ballard were having staying in their old mission home. He asked Sister Ballard to stand at his side as he told the members they had come to Toronto 36 years ago with six of their seven children to preside over the mission. They have been married 59 years. Their son-in-law, President Bradford J. Brower, now serves as president of the Canada Toronto West Mission with their daughter, Sister Tammy Ballard Brower.
The conference was the culminating event of a year-long jubilee celebration, which included a production of the play, "Savior of the World;" 50 quilts for 50 years, which were given to various charitable organizations, and many other activities.
Feelings of love, reverence and respect were palpable as members joined together in the Sunday morning session at the Toronto Ontario Stake Center. Before Elder Ballard addressed the conference, Canada Toronto East Mission President Chris A. Eyre asked all members of the stake who had been born outside North America to stand. More than half the congregation rose to their feet.
Elder Balllard recited the words of Wilford Woodruff who — leaving for his mission to England and quite ill at the time — quoted the Prophet Joseph Smith: "No matter what may come upon you, round up your shoulders and bear it ... God Almighty is guiding the course of this world and kingdom. ..."
Elder Ballard said that he had not been in the members' homes, but he knew that all members of the stake have challenges. He reminded them that they have the gift of the Holy Ghost to guide and comfort them, and it was a "great gift that God has given His children." He shared many personal examples from President Monson's ministry as well as his own, encouraging the members to always live worthy so that the Spirit of the Lord would be with them prompting them to do those things that will touch the lives of Heavenly Father's children and cause the Church to continue to grow "in this great area of Canada."
The conference was well attended with overflow seating set up in the Relief Society room. "Members of the stake presidency spoke with great power, giving guidance and direction to the members of the Church," Elder Ballard noted.
"Elder W.T. David Murray, Area Seventy serving in Toronto, shared a powerful messages with the members. Toronto Ontario Temple President Stephen Hadley bore his testimony." (President Hadley served as a missionary in Toronto during President Monson's tenure as mission president.)
Toronto Ontario Stake Patriarch J. Bruce Smith served with President Ballard when he was mission president. After the conference, Brother Smith said, "I was deeply touched by the realization that we were being taught by an apostle of the Lord. We have been close friends for nearly 40 years, but listening to him speak transcended that personal relationship as we heard inspired counsel given by one of the Lord's servants."
Toronto Ontario Stake President Tyrone Wong said, "We were thrilled to have Elder and Sister Ballard with us; especially towards the conclusion of our jubilee celebration. Members, from old friends to new converts, were overjoyed to have an apostle teach us up close and personal. It was a wonderful, spiritually uplifting conference weekend for us."
Elder Murray added, "Having Elder and Sister Ballard here this weekend was a wonderful culmination of the 50th anniversary celebration of the Toronto Ontario Stake. It was a highlight."
Toronto has been the scene of active missionary work of the Church since its early history. In 1836, six years after the Church was organized, Elder Parley P. Pratt, then a member of the Council of the Twelve, did missionary work in Toronto. Among his converts that year was John Taylor, who became the third president of the Church. In August 1837, the Prophet Joseph Smith visited Toronto (2010 Deseret News Church Almanac, p. 450).