News Story

Mormons Celebrate Their Heritage at Ontario Church History Conference

Richard E. Turley Jr., managing director of Public Affairs for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and former assistant Church historian, recently gathered with hundreds of participants at the Brampton Ontario Stake Centre for the Ontario Church History Conference. The conference celebrated Canada’s 150th anniversary and the more than 2,000 converts who joined the Church in the 1830s and 1840s.

Turley acknowledged his Canadian roots during his keynote address, speaking of his third great-grandfather Theodore Turley, who was baptized in 1837 while living in Churchville, Ontario, now a historic district in Brampton.

At the Churchville Cemetery, Turley offered a prayer to dedicate the newly placed historic marker and grounds, asking God to bless the marker and grounds as a place for visitors to feel God’s presence as they ponder the lives of those early Mormon converts who joined the Church in Churchville.

Sarah Pengilley, a representative of the Churchville Cemetery board, attended the event and stated, “It was an honour to have this marker placed in the cemetery to remember those early Mormon converts who lived in Churchville.”


Doug Whillans, city councillor for Brampton (representing Wards 2 and 6), attended the Ontario Church History conference and viewed the activities along with Helen Warner, public affairs director for the Brampton Ontario Stake and the conference organizer.

“This was an amazing conference,” Whillans stated. “I thoroughly enjoyed being here today.”

Warner added, “We are so grateful for those faithful members who paved the way for us to enjoy a thriving Church in Ontario today.”

Following Turley’s keynote address, participants were invited to hear stories of many early Church converts presented by “living statues.” Each statue wore a “START” label; when pressed, they told their story.


Richard Turley listened to Ethan Fischer relate the story of Theodore Turley, Turley’s third great grandfather and an early convert to the Church in Ontario.


Elder Brigham Ballard, a full-time missionary for the Church, posed as Joseph Fielding, an early convert and missionary for the Church and an ancestor of Elder Ballard’s.


Lexi Desmond, posing as a living statue of Lydia Knight, shared Knight’s history with conference participants. Lydia joined the Church in Canada and later married Newel Knight, a prominent Church leader.


Several living statues were modern-day pioneers such as Olademiji E. Jegede, who comes from Nigeria. Jegede told how he joined the Church and what he loves about it.


At Black Creek, Richard Turley joined Everett Pallin, a long-time Church member who has studied the early history of the Church in Ontario; Edward Aguiar, director of public affairs for Ontario; and Elder Loren Morse, a full-time public affairs missionary. They visited the site where it is believed that John Taylor and Joseph, Mary and Mercy Fielding were baptized.


Workshop presentations were scheduled throughout the conference, featuring specific areas of Church history in Ontario. Bruce Smith presented a workshop on the history of the Church in Fort William and Port Arthur, which were later consolidated to become Thunder Bay, Ontario, on the northern shore of Lake Superior.


Over twenty displays featured significant events of the history of the Church in Ontario. The displays included several paintings by Brian Turner featuring early Church history sites in Ontario.


The Brampton Ontario Stake president, Scott Goobie, and Richard Turley converse at the dedication ceremony of the historical marker placed at the Churchville Cemetery. President Goobie stated that during the conference, he had been influenced and changed by learning about the history of the Church.

Offering the dedicatory prayer for the historic marker at the Churchville Cemetery, Richard Turley prayed, “We dedicate this marker that those who visit the cemetery will feel Thy spirit and that they will read the text and feel the power of Thy work and Thy glory.”

While summing up his attendance at the Ontario Church History Conference, Richard Turley commented on the significance of Canada’s role in early Church history: “The first place the gospel went after the host country of the United States was Canada, where it arrived even before the formal organization of the Church and where it continues to spread today.”

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