Who Was Wallace Toronto?

Wallace Felt Toronto became a pioneering missionary leader for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints among the Slavic people.  He served three missions among the Czechs and continued as their mission president in absentia for another 25 years.

Born December 9, 1907 in Salt Lake City Utah, Wallace was called to the German Mission.  In 1929 he joined the first elders transferred to open the Czechoslovak Mission under Arthur Gaeth.  When released, Wallace studied at the University of Utah and soon married Martha Sharp.

In 1936 he was called to preside over the Czech Mission.  New cities were opened, and conversions continued.  The Nazi occupation of Czech lands in 1938 and 1939 led to the evacuation of all missionaries.  During the war, Wallace became the director of the Utah Red Cross.

In 1946 Wallace and his family returned to Prague.  With a larger missionary force, the Church expanded even after the February 1948 Communist coup.  Buy by 1950 the missionaries were expelled, and the registration of the Church was cancelled.  Faithful Saints were now left without the opportunity even to hold branch meetings.

At home Wallace taught seminary, served the Young Men’s MIA board, and became executive secretary of the Utah Cancer Society.  Through cryptic letters, he kept in touch with the Saints in Czechoslovakia.  In 1964 President McKay assigned the Torontos to visit the Czech Saints as tourists.  In 1965 he was asked to return alone to meet with the ministry officials.  He did so, but only after he was arrested following his interview on television during the huge national sports festival.  His request for Church recognition was rejected, and he was deported at the German border.  Wallace Toronto remained president of the Czech Mission until his death from cancer on January 10, 1968 in Salt Lake City.

Garr, Arnold K., Cannon, Donald Q., Cowan, Richard O. Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 2000.1255-1256.

To find out more about the Toronto Family’s experiences in Czechoslovakia, please click here to read A Cherry Tree Behind the Iron Curtain”, the Autobiography of Martha Toronto Anderson.