Bruce McDonald is the new branch president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Slave Lake. This denomination is more widely known as the Mormon Church. Bruce and his wife Jana moved to Slave Lake in late April from Thompson, Manitoba.
“Our main purpose in being here is to care for our membership,” says Jana.
“We’re here to serve with the other churches,” says Bruce.
The couple is also interested in working with the Mosque and any other religious or social service groups in the area.
Communities are strong when they have a broad base of religion, says Jana.
The couple plans to maintain the relationship between the church and the Slave Lake Native Friendship Centre.
The last branch manager told Bruce that one of the couple’s jobs is to clean the Friendship Centre bathrooms on Friday. The branch manager also organizes the fall food bank drive.
The branch manager is similar to a lay pastor. There are no paid positions among the Latter Day Saints.
Not even the apostles or prophets get paid, says Jana.
The branch manager leads the branch council, says Bruce, which includes the other presidents of the societies such as the relief society president and elders quorum president.
The relief society is the “oldest worldwide ladies” relief society, says Jana.
The couple is eager to get involved in social projects.
Bruce has a lovely singing voice, says Jana.
Every year the couple volunteers with the Salvation Army Christmas kettles.
Both Bruce and Jana are retired. Her from psychology. Him from 41 years as a Canadian fisheries officer. This is their second marriage. They met eight years ago in Whitehorse, Yukon. They volunteer with the church as both missionaries and branch president.
“It’s not typical for missionaries to be branch presidents,” say the couple, but it isn’t uncommon in Slave Lake.
Jana’s late husband was the branch manager in Slave Lake from 1981 to ‘86. Two of Jana’s five children were born in Slave Lake, so moving back seems like a homecoming.
Combined, Jana and Bruce have eight children, and 22 grandchildren.
Jana has lived all over Alberta and the Yukon. She also travelled all over the world on short-term humanitarian projects as a psychologist.
Bruce worked with fisheries in British Columbia, the Territories, and a brief administrative stint in Ottawa. He also volunteered as a branch manager and missionary.
Bruce was involved in the fishing crime unit. He investigated people commercial fishing on the ocean and other types of fishing crimes. The federal fish department deals with all fish in the ocean and anadromous fish. Anadromous fish are born in freshwater and live in salt water. All Canadian ones are in the same family. These are salmon, cutthroat trout, and steelhead trout.
When they were dating in the Yukon, Bruce introduced Jana to ice fishing. She really enjoyed it. Both are looking forward to fishing, snowmobiling, and quadding in the area on and around Lesser Slave Lake.
With COVID-19, senior missionaries like Bruce and Jana were sent home, which is why the McDonalds left Manitoba.
During COVID-19, the Mormon Church has suspended all services worldwide.
Not being able to meet in person has made it difficult to get to know the congregation, says Bruce. However, people are staying connected on the phone and via tele-conferencing services.
The Slave Lake church serves a wide area. People attend from as far as Trout Lake, Peerless Lake, and Wabasca. The church has 60 to 70 people.
Back in the 1980s when Jana was here before, the number was much smaller. When they arrived it was around 30. The church met in local schools. In order to build a church, the congregation needs to be at least 60.
During that time, it grew to around there. The year after Jana and her first husband left, 1987, the first Mormon church building was built.
Unfortunately, this one was burnt in the 2011 fire. The current building, near the police station in SE Slave Lake was built after the fire.