Thursday, December 1, 2011

Latter-day Saint Women Around the World: Curls from British Columbia, Canada

My guest post today is by Curls from Motherhood: The Great Adventure. It has been fun for me to get to know her better the last year or so and I loved reading her thoughts about being a Latter-day Saint in Canada. You can read more about her adventures (and her super cute little girl) at her blog.

1. What is the dominate belief system in your country?
Do most people consider themselves to be "religious"? Are business and stores closed on Sunday? Do most people attend church?

Since Canada is such a big place and I have only lived in BC, I’m just going to talk about the province of British Columbia. British Columbia is actually considered part of the bible belt which runs from the south up through the Midwest and ends in BC, so there are churches everywhere and most people are familiar with Christian beliefs, even though hardly anyone attends. I would say the dominate belief system is belief in self with Christian familiarity and a sizeable Sikh minority.

The city in which I live (Chilliwack) has the highest number of churches per population of any city in Canada, and as such it is actually much more religious than other parts or the province. However, most businesses and stores are open on Sunday, even banks now, and most churches aren’t well attended except at Easter and Christmas.

2. How long have you been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? If you are a convert please tell us a little about your conversion. If you were born in the church tell us a bit about your family and who was the first in your family to join the church.

I’ve been a member since I was eight. The first members in my family to join the Church joined on both my dad’s and my mom’s sides way back when the church was in New York and Ohio or in the early missions to England. They then crossed the plans by wagon and settled in various places around Utah. (Draper, and Cache Valley) Eventually they ended up spread throughout Idaho and Utah (no Canadians as far as I know, no one got that far North). They were for the most part the diligent humble saints who are never mentioned in histories but who drive the work forward through simple acts of faith. I hope to be just like them.

3. What is the LDS church attendance like in your area? How many stakes, wards, or branches are there in your area? On an average Sunday how many members attend church? Do people have to travel far to attend church? What are the demographics of your ward? Are most members young, old, married, single, are there more women then men? Or it is it a good balance?

We have two wards in my city, we recently split about a year and a half ago. According to the LDS Newsroom there are 29,273 members in BC with one Mission and one recently built temple (2010) and 78 congregations. Our stake has wards from three different cities. Most people only have to travel a few minutes by car to church, but those who live rurarally have to travel farther. We only have a 2 minute drive from our apartment to church.

In our ward we have 127 sisters on the rolls but only about fifty attend regularly. (I don’t know what the full numbers are for our ward) One challenge we face is many retirees who travel for significant portions of the year, some are gone for four to five months at a time quite often.

Our ward’s demographics are mainly: empty nesters/retirees, young married couples with children in kindergarten and under, many widowed older sisters, and only 4 to 5 families with older children and youth. As such our primary and youth programs are quite small, but we are constantly having new babies born in our ward.

Another interesting demographic is that many people in our ward are from different countries. We have Argentines, Chileans, New Zealanders, Scots, Americans, Brits, Samoans and French. It’s a very diverse ward in terms of culture and finances. We have very poor people and very rich people with most people falling in between.

Most members in our ward are in family units, but we do have many widowed older sisters and a few single mothers as well. There is a fairly good balance between men and women.

4. How far away is the nearest temple? When was it built? How busy is it? Do most people in your country know about it? What are their feelings about it?

The temple is a forty five minute drive from our house. It’s in Langely, BC and was built in 2010. Unfortunately the temple itself isn’t very well attended, there are times we have been to a session and there were only five other people there. It’s one of the smaller temples, and relatively unknown. There are only 30,000 members to get the word out to a population of about 4 million, but the open house was well attended. I think most people don’t really have much a feeling either way about it.

5. What sort of reaction do you get from most people when they find out you are Mormon? Are people familiar with the church? Do you often have to defend or explain your beliefs?

Most people seem surprised that a young college educated woman would attend any church. Most of them have only heard of Mormons in the context of the FLDS group living in Bountiful BC and so think that all Mormons practice polygamy. I’ve never had to defend my beliefs, but I do explain them from time to time. Not so much right now since I’m at home with my baby, but when I was working it happened once or twice a month. Most people I’ve talked with about Mormons are themselves religious, those who don’t have any religious beliefs aren’t interested at all in mine I’ve found.

6. How is missionary work in your country? Would you say that it is difficult or easy for missionaries to find people to teach? How often do you have a new baptism? What are the greatest barriers to missionary work in your country?

I would say it’s difficult for missionaries to find people to teach, although in the past few months our ward has really seen an increase in investigators. We’ve had three new member baptisms in the past year, most of them occurring quite recently.

I would say the greatest barriers to missionary work in BC is the general apathy toward religion, although in some cases it’s actually progressed to mild hostility toward religious belief in general

7. How many families do you know (LDS or not) who have more than two children? If a family with four children moved to your area, would their family size seem unusual? What about a family with six children?

Actually in Chilliwack because of the general religiosity there are many families with more than 2 children, but that is not the norm for BC in general. A family of four would seem a little large, but not overly unusual. A family of six children would seem large. One nice thing about Chilliwack is that in general it’s very family friendly. They are very open to children and nursing isn’t a big deal. Because Chilliwack is so far from Vancouver mostly just family oriented people live here since it provides more outdoor space and housing prices are much lower.

Link8. How many sisters do you visit teach? Do you have to travel far to reach them? What have been some of your best visiting teaching experiences?

I visit teach two active sisters, and I only have to travel a few minutes to reach them. I love visiting teaching, it’s so wonderful to get to know sisters on a more personal level and become their friend. Most the women in the ward that I would consider friends I visit taught at one point.

9. What are the greatest challenges the sisters in your Relief Society are facing?

Because the sisters in our ward are so varied so are their challenges. We have health challenges. We have challenges with children, with finances, with being widowed or divorced. The challenges are fairly varied and unique. We are so blessed in Canada with peace and prosperity and so many other wonderful blessings I think our only communal challenge is our very blessings. Just like the Book of Mormon teaches when the Lord is blessing us the most is when we are most likely to struggle with pride.

But all in all I think I am blessed to live in such a wonderful country with such a wonderful ward.

10. What is the greatest blessing that the gospel of Jesus Christ has brought into your life?

My testimony. The knowledge that He is always there to help me, that I can find answers to any question or problem through the scriptures and personal revelation. The deep joy that my knowledge of the plan of salvation and my experiences with the atonement have given me. My family. Serving others. I couldn’t imagine my life without the gospel and I am so grateful to have been given such a wonderful gift from such a loving Heavenly Father.

Thank you Curls!


  1. I've visited your blog a few times, Curls, but it's nice to see you answer these questions. My grandmother (now a widow) lives in BC near Castlegar, and my dad is Canadian (his family joined the Church when he was a teenager in Winnepeg) so it was fun to hear what the Church is like out that way these days.

    It's interesting (and sad) to hear that Canadians are becoming so nonreligious :(

    I like that you said the women in the ward you would consider friends are women you visit taught at one point :) I think that is one of the best outcomes of properly done visiting teaching :D

  2. My family lived in BC for five years, more specifically, Burnaby and North Vancouver. It was a real eye opener, We lived in the much more expensive part of town and and thus more libral thinking. Most of our ward was retired and our primary was tiny only 10 kids. We had to travel 45 minutes to get to church. Our ward consisted of three towns, coquitlam, Burnaby and Port Coquitlam. When we were there a family of 1 or 2 was normal. A family of 4 would be considered large. I would agree tht most people would say they are christian but don't attend church,I met a few who had never even heard of Mormons. What I loved about living there was the diversity, so many cultures. My son in Kindergarten was one of four white kids in his class so he was the minority. We had a lot of Indian,Chinese and Koren influence. I look back on our time there and have such fond memories.

  3. Thanks! Nice to get to know Curls a little better!

  4. It was great to read about you! We visited the Vancouver Temple while we were on family vacation this year, it is very pretty! I grew up in Washington State just south of the border so we went to Canada all the time, it was strange to have to get passports for my family to come up there (and the border agent though we were nuts for wanting them stamped!)