History of the Church in Trinidad and Tobago

David R. Crockett

Church History in Trinidad and Tobago

[A special thanks to pioneer member of the Church, Jean A. B. Borde , for providing much of this information. See Jean's page on the history of the Church in Trinidad and Tobago at: http://members.tripod.com/~Jabb98/index-4.html ]

The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is located on the Caribbean islands furthest to the south. Trinidad was one of the islands visited by Columbus. The two islands together are about the size of the state of Delaware. Trinidad is only seven miles from the coast of Venezuela. In 1962, Trinidad and Tobago achieved independence from Britain, and became a republic in 1976. See a tourism page at: http://www.visittnt.com/

During 1844, LDS missionary Addison Pratt, sailing to his mission, to the Society Islands (Tahiti), remarked in a letter to W.W. Phelps that his ship "Timoleon" sailed near Trinidad on its way south around Cape Horn.

In 1955, Elder Ezra Taft Benson of the Quorum of Twelve, and also the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture visited Trinidad during a Caribbean and South American tour. He said: "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).

On February 4, 1974, Elizabeth (Liz) Anne Rogers, a Trinidadian by birth, married a member of the Church, in England, Emil Paul Dopson. She was baptized two months later. She later related: "As I read the Book of Mormon, everything fell into place for me, all my questions were answered. . . . It was as though the prophets in the pages I read spoke to me and I could feel their presence all around. I had no doubt in my mind that the gospel contained all the truth I was looking for." (From Jean A. B. Borde's "History of the Saints in Trinidad and Tobago.")

In 1976, the Dopson family moved back to Trinidad. They desired to share the gospel with friends and relatives, but knew that they needed missionaries to be able to proselyte and hold meetings. Liz Dopson wrote a letter to President Spencer W. Kimball, requesting that full-time missionaries be sent to Trinidad. President Kimball forwarded the request to President Howard B. Marsh, President of the Venezuela Caracas Mission. Soon the first two missionaries were sent to the island. Government officials interrogated the elders and questioned the Dopsons to know why they were in Trinidad. The officials encouraged them to think about returning to England and tried to discourage them regarding their desires to establish the Church in Trinidad. The elders were held at the airport and despite Emil Dopson's efforts, they were deported back to Venezuela. The Dopsons were patient and soon two elders successfully entered the country with little objection from immigration. They were Elders K. Don Bigalow and La Mae Olds. (Ibid.)

The first sacrament meeting was held in Trinidad during November 1976. The first person to be baptized in Trinidad was Lucy Josephine Payne. She met the missionaries while visiting the Dopson home. She was baptized on June 2, 1977 by Emil Paul Dopson. She was confirmed by Daniel Rector, son of Elder Hartman Rector Jr. Lucy later said: "I felt very proud of myself on taking a stand to be baptized into the Church. I knew without any doubt in my heart that it was the true Church." (Ibid.)

During 1977, the Von Johnson family, members from the United States, moved to Trinidad. Sacrament meetings moved to their large home. Also that year, Basil Borde met the missionaries and his family started to attend Church meetings. Basil and Felicia Borde were baptized on Trinidad's Independence Day, August 31, 1977. Liz Rogers recalled: "Basil kept putting off the date for baptism and Elder Daniel Rector and his companion covenanted with the Lord that they would fast until the family were actually baptized. The Elders fasted for many days, but the Lord answered their prayers." Also in the Borde family were children, Jean and Ann. After the Johnson family returned to the U.S., meetings were alternated between the Borde and Payne home. Others soon started to attend Church, including the Ferran family. (Ibid.)