Church History in Canada: The First Mission

Church History in Canada: The First Mission

When the Prophet Joseph Smith first ventured outside of the United States to preach the gospel in Canada in October 1833, he recorded by candlelight his impressions and predictions of the destiny of the restored Church in that great new land: “We had many peculiar feelings in relation to both the country and the people. The congregation gave good heed to the things which were spoken, what may be the result we cannot tell but the prospect is flattering. We hope that good may yet be done in Canada which O Lord grant for thy name’s sake.” (Canada: From Struggling Seed, the Church Has Risen to Branching Maple – Richard E. Bennett)

Nearly a century later, Church growth in Canada had taken root due, in large part, to the work of early missionaries. The following is the story of one of them, Elder Fred Fjeldsted, who was called to the Northwestern States Mission, covering northern and western Idaho, Washington and Oregon, and later Vancouver, BC and Alaska. He was set apart October 10, 1916 by Elder Rudger J. Clawson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Upon his first arrival in British Columbia, Elder Fjeldsted wrote:

'We have again commenced our street meetings, and are meeting with much success. Bro. William Carroll, who has recently returned from three years’ service at the front as a British Soldier, and who is an excellent speaker and has a strong voice, is assisting us at these meetings. The fact that he appears in uniform is a great attraction, and we are getting crowds of between one hundred fifty and two hundred people. There are also several Mormon boys from Utah here training who favor us with their presence occasionally. The people of this section are fast being convinced that Mormonism is a wonderful religion, and that our people are among the foremost in patriotism and loyalty.” 

“At our evening session we were honored with a record breaking crowd. Mission President Melvin J. Ballard fairly out did himself in the delivery of his speech, 'Why Mormonism is a paying proposition from a business standpoint'. It was practical and soul inspiring and created profound appreciative comment by all who were present. Pres. Ballard also sang several patriotic songs which were well received. One baptism is reported for the month of September in this conference.” 

From the missionary journal of Frederic J. Fjeldsted, 1918

“One of the most remarkable manifestations as to how God compels some men to accept the gospel, even against their own will occurred at Vancouver, B.C. The man of which I have in mind had been investigating the restored gospel for several years, and it became my lot to visit him. In our conversation we finally approached religion, when to my surprise and astonishment, he fairly ridiculed and made light of the manifestation wherein our Father in Heaven and His Son appeared and talked to Joseph Smith, and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. I was amazed, I was dumbfounded, I scarcely knew what to think. I had understood that he was thoroughly converted and ready for baptism. Never in my life did I feel the power of the Lord any more than upon this occasion. I rebuked this man and told him that he knew enough of the work to know that it was true, and that God would hold him accountable.' 

The presence of sister missionaries was established in the Church many years ago, with effectiveness. Elder Fjeldsted writes:

“Sister Leona Carlisle who has been laboring in Vancouver and Victoria, has been transferred to Everett Wash. We welcome to our Conference Sister Olive Johnson, who at present is laboring with Sister Mary Sinfield at Victoria. These sisters have charge of the work in that city. Sister Johnson was transferred from the Eastern States Mission on account of her health. There is one particular phase of our work that is showing excellent results - namely our activity in preaching the Word of Wisdom. Several of our friends account the men have quit using tobacco, and quite a number of our lady friends have left off their tea and coffee feeling convinced that our teaching is correct with regards to these things, and remark that they are enjoying better health as a result.”

“Elder Clynard Lundgreen who has been laboring at Victoria with E. Webster was suddenly called home because of the death of his father. We are sorry to have to report this sad news, and the missionaries, Saints and friends extend to him and the family their deepest sympathy, praying the Lord to comfort them in their sorrow and bereavement. Elder Lundgreen has spent some twenty two months in the mission field, and has labored faithfully. Elder Webster has been transferred to Seattle, Washington, and at present is visiting friends and Saints at Vancouver.”

Elder Fjeldsted continues: 

“The message of the Restored Gospel is being proclaimed and the results are being felt in this part of the Lord's Vineyard. Recently a baptismal service was held at Victoria by Elder Webster and Pres Fjeldsted, in which four souls were brought in to the fold. We feel very good over our success in that city, because a little more than a year ago we hadn't a single member there. In fact, for several years we have had missionaries in that locality, and not withstanding their faithful labors it was considered a baren field. Now their efforts are being crowned with success and today we have five families, or twenty-two members, who are very much interested and active in the work of the Lord in that city.”

This following story of Elder Fjeldsted was related by Elder Melvin J. Ballard in the 88th Annual General Conference of the Church in Salt Lake City, Utah:

“I recall a circumstance that happened some six weeks ago in British Columbia, one of the conferences of our mission. A certain man had been approached to obtain permission to have his daughter baptized. The wife and some of the children belonged to the Church. He first gave in, and then rejected the Elders and withdrew his permission. They labored with him two or three nights in succession, trying to persuade him not only to give permission for the daughter to be baptized, but to be baptized himself; and at last he became bitter, abused them, refused to have anything more to do with them, and said he was sorry he’d ever met the Mormon elders. 

“When they left him, they told him they had born witness and testimony to him of the truth, and that he knew enough to condemn him, that they would be witnesses against him at the day of judgement, and that the Lord would deal with him. He simply laughed and said, ‘I am not afraid of the consequences, don’t you worry at all about the judgment.’ 

“The next night about 9:00 he was stricken with a malady and suffering. He refused the assistance of a doctor, he felt that he was dying, he was filled with pain from head to foot, and writhed in agony and refused to respond to the treatment that was administered. He suffered for hours until his proud, haughty spirit was broken, and then he turned to his wife and said, ‘You go find those Mormon elders.’ 

“It was 1:00 in the morning when the brethren was brought to his bedside. He began to cry when they came in, and said, ‘I have been in Hell this night. I have been taken at my own words, and God has punished me.’ He humbly begged their forgiveness, and said, ‘I will not only give consent for my daughter to be baptized, but I will be baptized myself.’ They laid their hands upon him and blessed him, and his malady left him.'

“He arose the next day, and, with his daughter, was baptized. I saw him three days later and heard his testimony, and he said, ‘As Paul was stricken on the road to Damascus, so I have been stricken and I am now willing to do what the Lord wants me to do.’”

Elder Frederick Fjeldsted's sacrifices of service in Canada continue to bless generations.  “My grandfather's journal has been a great strength to many members of our family,” says grandson David Fjeltsted, “and he has influenced his posterity greatly.”