News Story

Remembering My Father: A Father’s Day Tribute

For over 100 years, Canadians have been honouring fathers on the third Sunday in June. Many families will celebrate by spending time with their fathers. For Grace Saunders-Hogberg, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Ontario, this Father’s Day will be different. Her father, Walter Oswald Saunders, died on January 22, 2022, at the age of 93. This Father’s Day, she pays tribute to him by sharing some of her memories.

Interview with Grace Saunders-Hogberg

How would you describe your father?

Dad was an amazing storyteller. He enjoyed sharing stories with us from his life. As a child, my favourite one was when he was a young boy in Jamaica.

He was swimming and playing with his friends in the crystal-blue sea when one of the boys spotted a shark and shouted, “Shark! Shark!”

With claps, shouts and funny impersonations, Dad would re-enact the panic of swimming back to the shore. By the end of his storytelling, everyone would be laughing to the point of breathlessness.

Yet the potential of a shark encounter never stopped Dad from swimming in the sea again, which is ironic because Dad never considered himself much of a risk-taker. Suggest going on a cruise with Mom? Not a chance; he opted for terra firma. Add a new (albeit minor) ingredient to a familiar recipe? Forget it; he’d rather have crackers for supper.

With time and with his passing, I’ve reflected on my dad with hindsight. I now realize that it wasn’t that he was risk-averse, but rather, reward-motivated. And for Dad, that reward would need to be purposeful and important to him. This is what motivated him and my mother to emigrate from Jamaica to England and from England to Canada with six children in tow. And similarly, this is what motivated him to seek a connection with God.

What did he teach you?

My father was a man of faith who taught me to fill the void between uncertainty and knowledge with faith in Jesus Christ.

It was November 1977. Dad was preparing for a Christmas celebration unlike any in the past. He had purchased a new basement bar and began stocking it with alcohol to revel in the season with family and close family friends.

On the surface, life appeared to be as usual. But beneath the surface, a different story was unfolding. Dad began reading his Bible and praying. Then one day, he prayed to God to lead him to His church. The next day, his prayer was answered when two missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came to his door.

Calling that Christmas “unlike any we’d had before” turned out to be an understatement. Dad sold his brand-new bar and gave away his alcohol when he learned about the Church’s health practices. These health practices include abstaining from alcoholic drinks.

Though Mom immediately joined him on his faith journey, he was, for the most part, ostracized by friends and even some family members. “How could you join a church that was racist!” they’d argue. Yet, even with the crescendo of opposition and the mass exodus of friends from our lives, my parents quietly went ahead and got baptized in the Burlington Ontario Ward on their wedding anniversary that December.

I was 9 years old when this new chapter in my dad’s life began. I can recall the heartache and loss as close associations evaporated. Not only were we recent Latter-day Saint converts, but we were also the only Black family in the ward. Yet I have vivid memories of my parents’ joy and the loving acceptance and friendships they gained in our congregation.

Dad’s faith in Jesus Christ was unshakable. Even the prospect of not being ordained to the priesthood unphased him. Dad moved forward in faith.

What is an important memory of your dad?

Shortly after my father joined the Church, the world received the revelation by President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) announcing every faithful, worthy man could be ordained to the priesthood. Our phone rang nonstop that evening as excited ward members called our home. That Sunday, we were swarmed by members who hugged and kissed us and wept tears of joy for us.

Our bishop wasted no time in getting Dad ordained to the priesthood and preparing us to go as a family to the Washington D.C. Temple. Two couples from our congregation joined us on that 12-hour journey. I remember the happiness and peacefulness radiating from my parents’ faces as our family participated in a religious ceremony to “seal” us together for eternity. This sacred event was the catalyst for Dad’s lifetime love for temples and family history.

Members of the Church believe that marriages performed in temples are sealed, or blessed, to last for eternity. The concept that the family unit can continue beyond the grave as a conscious, loving entity, with the marriage partnership and parent-child relationships intact, is a core belief of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Bible teaches us to honour our father and mother. This is the fifth of the Ten Commandments. What are some things you do to honour your father?

My father’s faith journey began with his search for a connection to God. As his faith matured, Dad desired that his family — both his ancestors and his descendants — would experience the same joy he felt. Family history was at the heart of this.

Researching information about ancestors, especially our enslaved ancestors, is a passion project that we both shared. As well, my family is working on various family history projects —digitizing nearly 2,000 family photos, transcribing Dad’s journals and sharing audio recordings of his stories — so that Dad’s descendants can be entertained and inspired by his stories just like we were.


Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles reminds us: “Perhaps the most essential of a father’s work is to turn the hearts of his children to their Heavenly Father. If by his example as well as his words a father can demonstrate what fidelity to God looks like in day-to-day living, that father will have given his children the key to peace in this life and eternal life in the world to come” (“Fathers,” April 2016 general conference).

Read the story in French

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