Tuesday, September 4, 2012

History of the Toronto Congregation (Part 1)

John Taylor, the first pastor of the Toronto
Congregation, joined Brigham Young's faction
of the church in 1844 and became president of
the LDS Church in Utah in 1880. 
The Toronto Congregation was first organized in 1836, just six years after the church itself.  Heber C. Kimball, one of the original apostles, had predicted that Parley P. Pratt (another of the apostles) would go to Upper Canada, even to the city of Toronto, the capital where he would find a people prepared for the gospel.[1]

On April 6, 1836, Pratt and five companions left Kirtland, Ohio (then the headquarters of the church), and made their way to Toronto.  There they met John and Leonora Taylor who were part of a small group of religious seekers dissenting from the Methodist church.  After a good deal of preaching and discussions, the Taylors and many members of their group were baptized into our church.  They formed the nucleus of the first Toronto Congregation and when Pratt and the other missionaries returned to the United States, John Taylor was left in charge as the congregations first pastor.

Two years later the Taylors moved to Far West, Missouri, which had become the new headquarters of the church. Several apostles left the church in the schisms of 1837–38 and one was killed during the 1838 Missouri Mormon War. John Taylor was among those called to fill vacancies in the Council of Apostles.  During the succession crisis following the assassination of church president Joseph Smith Jr. in 1844, both Pratt and Taylor sided with fellow apostle Brigham Young. They followed him to Utah, where Taylor eventually became Young's successor as the head of the LDS Church in Utah.

Like much of the church in the Midwestern United States, the congregation in Toronto became disorganized and ceased to meet in the 1840s and 50s.  A new headquarters organization was formed in 1860 at a conference in Amboy, Illinois, where Joseph Smith Jr.s eldest son Joseph Smith III was ordained president of the church.  Joseph Luff and John Shippy were the first missionaries from this reorganized church to return to Toronto.  They baptized a number of new members and reorganized the  congregation, which purchased a building on the south side of Arthur (now Dundas) Street.  Within a few years, however, this branch also fell into disorganization and ceased to meet.[2]

The third (and current) organization of the congregation occured on September 17, 1891.[3]  

[1] Terryl L. Givens and Matthew J. Grow, Parley P. Pratt: The Apostle Paul of Mormonism (Oxford: 2011) 83.
[2] History of the Toronto Branch, [1], unsigned manuscript dated November 1980, in the possession of the author.
[3] Ibid.

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