The History of the Saints in Trinidad & Tobago Book One
Having been blessed by the Lord to be called through a prophet to serve as a full-time missionary in the England Manchester Mission(1) (North West England and Northern Wales), I've seen how great an impact history can have among people!
The history of the Church in the United Kingdom is very colorful and strengthening to the members there. Charles Dickens(2) described the British Mormons as, "The pick and flower of England." What about the Trinidadian Mormons? I felt it important that we should also know of our own pioneering history.
This book* has been produced to enlighten those who seek knowledge of important events that took place in the lives of members and non members in Trinidad & Tobago(3). The Lord has stated for us to
"Study and learn, and become acquainted with all good books, and with languages tongues and people "- (D & C 90:15)
I do not claim to be a great historian nor writer; in fact without the help of my editors, the prompting of the Holy Spirit and my cooperative member friends this book would not have been. It is permissible to review and quote from this book for historical information when teaching or sharing testimony. Any other use of this book must receive written authorization from the author.
1.Served October 1991 - October 1993, called by Pres. Ezra Taft Benson
2.'The Pick and Flower of England' by David W. Pickup p.6
3. Official name: The Republic of Trinidad & Tobago
* Refers to this Electronic Book as well - modifications were made from original text to make this E-book logical in its presentation.
. If you are like the average 'Joe', then what you don't have as actual first hand knowledge about anything in particular will be doubted and avoided by you. It's true like a contagious virus - you don't want it around as it will be harmful to your already satisfied self. You criticize what the majority also ridicules and therefore end up the same as then, not knowing the truth.
The Gospel can set you free, but it can only be found by those willing to pay the price, which is simple desire to know followed by action to make it happen. It would be foolish to go to a bakery to purchase a cricket bat instead of a reliable sports store, just as it would be to go searching somewhere else for information about The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints instead of the source, the full-time missionaries, members and its literature.
Bible and The Book of Mormon drawn by Gavin IshmaelIf great men like Christopher Columbus had concentrated on the rumors and arguments against his theory of the world being round, instead of making the discovery, then what would have happened? Find out fearlessly about the Church or as we are called, the Mormons(4), for yourself. Two missionaries, both Elders of the Church, will visit with you and your family at a time convenient to you. They will share with you a book of scripture called the Book Of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ. This sacred book covers a time period of more than a thousand years about the ancient American Indians and the prophets of Christ who taught His gospel among them, the highlight of this book being Jesus Christ's visit to these people after His resurrection see (3 Nephi 11). The missionaries can answer any questions you may have.
4. Although this name seems to be attached to the fact we use the Book of MORMON - it should be understood that we refer to ourselves as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and not members of the 'Mormon Church' or 'Latter-Day Saints Church'.
Who Was the First?
Ezra Taft Benson shakes the hand of the Honourable Victor T. Bryan in Trinidad Here is some background information into the earliest records I could find about Trinidad & Tobago and its contact with the Church.
In 1843, Joseph Smith called Addison Pratt, Benjamin Franklin Grouard, and Noah Rogers to serve a mission in Tahiti, which was then called the 'Society Islands'. Later that year, they set sail from New York in May, 1843, on the Timoleon, bound for the South Pacific by way of the Caribbean, South America and Cape Horn.
The Timoleon stopped at many of the principal ports in the Caribbean and South America, including Maracaibo and Caracas, Venezuela. Addison Pratt, remarked in a letter to W.W. Phelps that they also sailed near Trinidad on on their way south to Cape Horn.
"We landed on two of those islands, St. Nicholas and St. Jagoes: we saw some others, the most interesting of which was Fogo, or Foigo la Tera; in English it would be the land of fire. It has been a volcano, and has the appearance of a great sugar loaf sat in the broad ocean with its top far above the clouds. We left those islands the 19th of November and stood to the south; light winds and calms with very warm weather attended us till after we crossed the Equator; then we took strong south east trades; they carried us towards Brazil, we were near the island of Trinidad."
While I was stationed in the England Missionary Training Center I was introduced to Elder James E. Faust, an apostle, and he remarked to me that during World War II his ship made a stop in Tobago. He could still picture the island in his mind.
(Above - Left) The original cover of the printed version.
Notice the Picture of Ezra Taft Benson meeting with the honorable Victor T. Bryant at Piarco, Trinidad, West Indies. At that time Elder Benson was an apostle and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and Mr. Bryant was a Minister in Government. They were meeting on some matters of State. Of this meeting Pres. Benson stated,
Graphic reproduction of Ezra Taft Benson "In Trinidad, which is in the British orbit, we found a member of the Church serving as one of the secretaries of the consulate."
(General Conference, April 1955).
There was an Elder named Blaine R. Kemsley who came to Trinidad from Venezuela with his companion in 1975. These missionaries could be considered the first here, but as Elder Kemsley relates below… their entrance to the country was limited to searching for referrals and not much follow-up was done after.
Pres. Marsh directed this event, he being the Mission President in Caracas. Pres. Marsh later sent a letter to the Ishmael family about the Bordes some years later… this can be read within this E-book. Elder Kemsley was wise to keep an account of his stay and I thank him for allowing me to share his journals in this E-book:
From the Missionary Diary of Blaine R. Kemsley.
"The following are entries from March 20 - 26, 1975 during which Elders Jack Jorgensen and Blaine Kemsley were sent to Trinidad to check references provided to the Venezuela-Caracas Mission during a 10-year period. 20 March 1975. Took us over 12 hours to get here, but we're here.
Got to the airport at 9:00 AM, right on schedule. We checked in at Aeropostal Airlines, and everything went smoothly. We had no problems with overweight baggage, although we were overweight, and were checked through Emigration in nothing flat. That was about 9:30 AM. Then we began to wait.
We began talking to one man standing with us in line. Found a lot about him, and talked with him about the Church. He had known a lot of Mormons, his wife being an inactive member. He was very nice but had reservations as far as coming to church was concerned. We became very good friends during the course of the day. We were there in line until about 10:00 AM, when the plan was scheduled to leave. But at 10:15 AM, we were informed that the jet would be leaving at 10:30, and by 11:00, everyone knew that something was up. We had talked to a few other people, also all of whom had know about the Church previously.
Everyone showed up at the Aeropostal ticket counter asking an explanation of what was happening. Apparently, someone's signals were crossed, and it was understood that there were some demonstrations and strikes all over the island. This was the reason that the flight was canceled.
Immediately, the other airline (Viasa) was jammed with people asking for tickets on a later flight that evening. That proved unfruitful, as they could not guarantee that there would even BE a later flight. We called Caracas to come get us.
The Aeropostal flight for tomorrow morning was sold out and the Viasa flight was unsure. We decided to try the Viasa and were told that it would not be sure until later that afternoon. So we waited."
Here is the first photograph of the 5 Elders (Left to right, Kemsley, Jorgensen, Worden, Potts, Jespersen)
"When Elder John and Elder Jesperson showed up, at 4:30 PM, we were waiting for assurance from Viasa, which was given at about 5:00 PM. Had dinner, waited and read, and finally got checked through Emigration again. The flight left at about 9:45 PM--a DC-9 full of tired-of-waiting Trinidad passengers.
At Trinidad, at 11:00 PM, we were held up because of an entry problem. We had declared ourselves "Missionaries" and our purpose for visiting the country was to proselyte. To do that in Trinidad, you must have a license from the government. We finally talked the guy out of that, and he allowed us in on certain conditions. One was that we have no preaching in open areas such as streets, churches, etc.
Caught a $5.00 taxi to the Pelican Inn Hotel ($8.50 per day). Air conditioned, old fashioned room. It is now 1:00AM and I'm pooped. I'm very tired of traveling.
First impressions: A country of law and order. That is evidenced by the hassle we got in the airport at Customs, the manner in which people spoke and acted, and the policeman who asked our taxi driver to use his parking lights while dropping us off at the hotel. Nothing like this ever happened in Venezuela.
There is a "Total strike" going on. Transportation is very limited and expensive. There is no gasoline. The electric company is also on strike, I believe.
There are about 1,000,000 people on Trinidad. One hundred thousand live in Port of Spain. Forty percent are black, 30% are Hindu or European, and 20% of a great mixture--black, Indian, European, American and Spanish being predominant. The people must be well educated. The taxi driver was very smart and well informed. English is spoken, though not very pure.
I'm loving it already.
21 March 1975
Elder (Jack) Jorgensen is a trickster. He started to feel ill in Caracas yesterday, and didn't tell anybody. But after breakfast, it was very apparent that he was hiding something. We got 2 blocks from the hotel when he decided he just couldn't do it. He drank only one glass of orange juice for breakfast, and it didn't stay down very long.
So we headed home. Elder Jorgensen went straight to bed, and I went about organizing the references. I looked them all up on the maps and marked as many as I thought I could.
Elder Jorgensen continued ill throughout the day. I studied I Samuel and rested. We both skipped lunch and dinner.
That evening, we got to bed early--and both got quite a lot of sleep.
22 March 1975
We got off quite early this morning. We had a lot to do, and that was what we set out to do--a LOT. We looked for Chan Wan, a member, and found out that he had moved about 5-6 years ago from the address we had. We tried everything we could think of, but never found him. We then spent the rest of the day trying to find references. Most were people of black descent, as is the majority of the country. We did move from the Pelican Inn to a guest house more to the center of town, and were on a more friendly basis with the staff. The lady of the house is very congenial and friendly. We were served lunch--a huge one, too--and paid a smaller price than at the Pelican Inn. Our expenses are not low yet, but are to the level where we must watch what we spend.
We found Mrs. Evelyn Harris at home and gave her a First Discussion. She's divorced, with no children at home. The reception was fair, but she demanded that we should not "Push" her, but rather let her take the initiative to do things. She would not commit herself to read the Book of Mormon, nor to do anything else. But we did bear strong testimony.
We found some other references at home, but nothing we felt that we could teach to. The results so far are not very promising.
23 March 1975
We had a very enjoyable morning. First of all, I called home (Collect, of course) to inform my parents that our stay would be lengthened by 2 days at least. Dad and Mom (And Rusty) were all still in bed when I called, and I think they all had a bit of a shock at 6:00 AM. Mom sounded worried, Dad confused and Rusty was just sleepy. But it was great to hear them once again. I can't wait to see them, and put my arms around them.
Then off to hunt references. First one just arrived while we were there, and really wanted nothing to do with us. Number 2 wasn't home. But then we struck it lucky. The Dorothy Phillips reference. We were writing a short message, because they weren't home, on the back of a pamphlet. As we finished, the entire family drove up, and they were very, very friendly. They had just come home from Church--the Church of Scotland--and were about to go out on a service errand. We talked with them, and soon became friends. We talked about their church, churches in general, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The discussion (3rd) was great. The family was wonderful, and should we writing us in the near future. They gave us a ride home, and were most friendly as they wished us happy traveling and "God speed." I hope they take to heart our message, and remember how great they felt.
We then ate another big lunch, and took off for the bus depot to go out to St. Augustine, where another member is reported to live.
The busses were full, but we caught a taxi who took us to the street where this member was supposed to live. After asking around and making a phone call, we had some success. We got a hold of his mother, who invited us over--but in another part of town. So we walked a great deal, and finally arrived at the Imam home. That's when the surprises began. Hayden, the member, was in Canada for study, but we did get to visit his father, Wilfred, his mother, Cynthia, and Wanda, his younger sister. Apparently, there are two other brothers in the family--one on Trinidad who wasn't home yet, and another, Rocky, who is in the Dakota-Winnipeg Mission--serving his own mission! He has to be the only missionary from Trinidad. Boy, were we surprised! We decided to write to them from the US and let them know of the visit. Should be interesting.
Then we looked up another ten year old reference, left them a Book of Mormon. Another reference, one more, and then home. A but would not take us aboard ("... There is no room on this bus… "Though it was half empty), but we soon caught a taxi for 75 cents that took us to downtown, and then home to Woodbrook.
We had a light dinner, and then held a short Testimony/Sacrament Meeting. Elder Jorgensen directed. We sang one verse of "Oid El Toque del Clarin" and Elder Jorgensen offered the opening prayer. We then partook of the Sacrament. Elder Jorgensen blessed the bread; I blessed the water. After that, Elder Jorgensen bore his testimony, followed by my own. We then sang "We Thank Thee, O God, For a Prophet" (1st verse only) and knelt in closing prayer. It was a very beautiful experience, and shall not be forgotten for a long, long time.
24 March 1975
Happy Anniversary! Two years ago today I was in the Mission Home in Salt Lake City! Congratulations to me.
This morning was great. We left before 9:00 AM for Pan Am's downtown office to straighten up our ticket problem--and now it's no problem. We stay until Wednesday morning.
Headed up to Belmont for a reference that wasn't there, and walked way up in Cascade to find another that wasn't there. But on our way out, we started walking towards Queens Park Savannah, and ran into Hermano Julio Cesar Perez from Barquisimeto (Venezuela)--the one we met in Cachamay in Puerto Ordaz about 2 months ago. He was then en route to Trinidad. I almost died. We went up to his "Flat" and talked for awhile. He's doing fine but would like to have more information or missionaries on hand to help teach the people here. It was sure a surprise and a privilege to meet Hermano Perez there.
After lunch, we headed downtown to catch a taxi down to San Fernando, about an hour away. We got to San Fernando at about 4:00 or 4:30 PM, which didn't give us very much time to look up all of the references. We went to one who had since moved to another part of town, but who worked downtown. So we made a couple of other contacts--one very special one where they really felt great… and grateful. We then returned to the first house and got directions on how to get to Mr. Muradale's work. Walked down, found him there and made a good contact. Turns out he's a radio station owner, and has contact with most of the city. We, therefore, asked him to contact several others for us, and we looked for two more. One was a Hindu family who also gave us their "Bible" or the basis of their religion. One other and we were out of time.
Caught a taxi home and made it by 9:45 PM. So, with 15 minutes left, we went looking for some root beer, which we did not find. But we had already had 2 cans earlier in the day, so we weren't too let down.
25 March 1975
Slow morning. We got out and looked up 3 references, from one end of Port of Spain to the other. One old man was on another island, and family set up a visit for tonight and one didn't exist. The Fernandes Family moved a few months ago and didn't leave a forwarding address. We tried to find some more root beer, but were again unsuccessful in our attempt. Bought some postcards to send to the USA and Venezuela. Typical cards that show what Trinidad is like. It's hot today.
We left in the afternoon and went straight to the city of St. Joseph. There we found the parents of a reference that was a few years old, and he had married and lived in some other part of the world. More on that later.
Then we went to Barataria, then to Morvant--finding either moved or otherwise not-there references. Then we headed back to give a C Discussion to the Majabir Family, and it went very well. They offered to help us financially, but we told them to bless the building fund in the future, when we build our chapel there.
We left there about 8:45 PM, heading for another quick visit--the one we heard about at the start of the afternoon, the one that was now married and lived across the world. When we got there, the lights were out, and it was an impoverished-looking house. We weren't too enthusiastic about it. But we knocked downstairs--no answer. So we walked up these side stairs, knocked and "Who's there?" was the reply. About 2 minutes later, a man standing in a towel answered the door, and, after a brief explanation, he invited us inside. He excused his appearance and the condition of the house--it was quite messy, and asked us to explain more about who we were and what we were doing there at such a late hour (9:00 PM). His wife was still in bed, which took up most of the "House" and the four children were spread throughout the rest of the house. We talked and soon became friends. I felt very, very comfortable and happy, despite the surrounding circumstances. I hope to hear from that family before too long.
My final thoughts before leaving our "Tropical paradise" are these: I am eternally grateful for the privilege of going to Trinidad. I'll never forget the people or the work done here in these last 5 days. The type of work we did was quick, but very satisfying. I pray that these people may take to heart our message and do something for their salvation.
The people are great. I love the (British) accent, the life and the law and order here, the attitude of the people in general. I hope that Trinidad may one day find herself among the stalwart stakes of Zion, led by a Trinidadian of true conviction. I am thankful for the testimony no only gained, but the testimony we have left with these very fine sons and daughters of God… my Trinidadian brothers and sisters.
26 March 1975
Piarco Airport, 9:40 AM. We're really leaving! We've checked our bags, stamped our tickets and have really done all those preparations… we're going home! Oh, that dreadful day has come. We are REALLY on our way home. Maybe the plane will be delayed--there's always hope.
Got out no problem. Just getting to JFK International Airport and those darned Customs… "
I wrote the The History Of The Saints In Trinidad & Tobago (Copyright 1995) when I was active in the LDS Church. This site used to have its own URL, but since I have chosen to sell the domain and make most content administrated from a database I have decided to move the content into the LDS Board for whomever is still interested in the content.
Synopsis: Missionaries came to Trinidad in 1975 as visitors from the Venezuela Caracas Mission and then returned. Later, Elizabeth Dopson, a Trinidadian member returning form the UK, requested full-time missionaries come to Trinidad from then President of the Church Pres. Spencer W. Kimball. Through this missionaries came in 1977 and baptized the first member families: Payne & Borde. A lot of government restriction delayed the early organization of the Church.
Trinidad & Tobago Mormons History Books
Select the aspect of the History of Saints in Trinidad & Tobago that you are looking for:
Trinidad Mormons - Book One
Covers the beginnings of the Church, journals of members, dedication of Trinidad & Tobago, formation of the Port of Spain, San Fernando and other key Branches. Begin reading in the next Post below.
Trinidad Mormons - Book Two
The continuing progress of the Church locally, Book Two goes into some of the author's travels, the establishment of new Branches and more testimonies from Members.
Trinidad Prophet Visit - Fireside: Pres. Hinckley
The visit of Pres. Gordon B. Hickley and James E. Faust of the First Presidency to Trinidad. Meeting with Prime Minister Patrick Manning, video clips and more.
For a brief time before the creation of the Port of Spain Trinidad Stake there were two Districts formed, click here.
Trinidad First Stake
The formation of the first Stake in Trinidad & Tobago on 1st March, 2009.
This work is Copyrighted and Registered under the Laws of Trinidad & Tobago, and respective International Law. You are not to reproduce any of the material here without the expressed written permission of the Author. In the case where you quote to cite the material in this web site a link should point to the original source.
Author Jean A. B. Borde - updated from printed version
Editors Many Thanks To: Pamela A. Persad, Arthur N. Ince, Elizabeth Rogers, & Maria S. Borde
Design Calligraphy, Design & Programming: Jean A. B. Borde
Art & Graphics Comic Art: Gavin R. Ishmael
Graphic and Line Art: Jean A. B. Borde
History Official History: Dale E. Miller, records of Basil D. Borde, Elder & Sister Colby (Arima), Kennick Suepaul (Sangre Grande) and personal Journals
Background Information: Elizabeth Rogers, Lucy Payne, and Reuben R. Raphael
Testimonies Quotes: Various Members and Friends
Book One Sections
About the Author
In the Beginning
Port of Spain Branch
San Fernando Branch
Sangre Grande Branch
MORMONS in the CARIBBEAN?
The name 'Mormon'(5) brings mixed feelings to many depending on what they have heard(6) about us, more so in the melting pot of religious sects here in the West Indies. The name comes from a book of scripture we use together with the Bible called, 'The Book Of Mormon '. This sacred book of scripture starts around 600 BC(7) with a family led by a man named Lehi, a Prophet of God. Lehi was a prophet who lived in Jerusalem when Zedekiah was king of Judah.
The Lord commanded Lehi and his family to leave Jerusalem. They went to the coast where they built a ship under direction from the Lord. They sailed and landed on what we now know as Central America. From here sprung the tribes of Indians that we know as Caribs, Mayans, Aztecs, etc. However, before these different civilizations emerged the Book Of Mormon records a great last battle between the Nephites and Lamanites (Two groups of people that constantly fought one another). The Lamanites - won, but a Nephite prophet called, ' Moroni ' managed to live long enough to bury the gold plates which kept a record of the people and what is now the Book Of Mormon (Gold plates were used because it was plentiful and could not be destroyed easily through climate).
Joseph Smith, the first prophet of the Church in these modern times, was later shown by the angel Moroni where the plates were buried. Joseph Smith was born in Vermont, U.S.A. On the 23rd of December, 1805*. When he was only 14 years old he was very interested in religion. His interest caused him to search the scriptures diligently. James 1:5 had a special impact on him. In his own words,
"I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads:
IF ANY OF YOU LACK WISDOM LET HIM ASK OF GOD, THAT GIVETH TO ALL MEN LIBERALLY AND UPBRAIDEITH NOT AND IT SHALL BE GIVEN HIM.
Never did any passage of scripture come to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine."
This led Joseph to go into some woods near his home and pray to God to get answers as to which church was true. Joseph knelt in fervent prayer. As he records it,
"I saw two Personages whose brightness and glory defy all description standing above me in the air. One of then spoke unto me calling me by name and said, pointing to the other - this is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!"
Later on in Joseph Smith's life he was given instructions to translate the gold plates into English. Today the Book Of Mormon is used to learn much about Jesus Christ and His Gospel along with the Bible. I know from reading it again and again that it is true and that any person can know of its truthfulness simply by taking up the challenge by Moroni (Moroni 10:4 - 5)** which states,
"And when ye shall receive these things I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things."
I feel it important to mention that Mormons do not worship Joseph Smith or Mormon. We worship God, the Father through Jesus Christ.
The name of His Church exclaims our belief in Him for we are indeed Latter Day-Saints who belong to the Church of Jesus Christ. This message of joy is to be had by all who are willing to listen. I invite you to contact the mission office nearest you so that you too can learn more.
As I had previously mentioned under PREFACE of my visit to England / Wales, I found how significant a role history plays in our lives. In Trinidad anybody can easily see how the British played 'their part' in our life style and culture. Many religions have grown here through establishing 'roots' when they first came. Slaves, indentured laborers traders and colonialists brought what they believed and whom they worshiped in this blessed isle. Many religious groups are evident in our society due to the events of the past. In a way it has helped us greatly to get along and in some ways we stand as an example of a Nation that can live in peace with our fellow man without war, or unjust treatment.
It is important to note that Mormons believe in respecting the views and beliefs of others (See Articles of Faith 11)†. As missionaries preach in this land, they encounter these differing religions among the people and so you can see what kind of task it was to bring news of 'another' religion from North America. Nevertheless, this book is about those who accepted these missionaries when they first came to Trinidad and the Church's growth here to this day. I've also included some other interesting activities and testimonies by some members locally and abroad.
Map of T and T drawn by Jean A. B. Borde
5. Or 'Mormons' or 'Latter-Day Saints'
6. Many researchers take second hand information through those who would seek to destroy the Church rather than find out on their own. We refer to researchers of the Church as 'investigators'.
7. The Book of Mormon also has records going back to 2000 BC
* Joseph Smith History, Pearl of Great Price
** Page 529, Book of Mormon
† The Articles of faith are 13 short verses or statements declaring our beliefs.