News Release

Mormons Celebrate 50th Anniversary of Landmark Building

Fifty years ago, there were few members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) in Sydney and even fewer in the area between Parramatta and the Blue Mountains.  

However, under the direction of international Church president, David O. McKay, local leaders embarked on a church construction program throughout Australia in the early 1960s. 

In February this year, Church members in Western Sydney marked the 50th anniversary of the construction of one of the state’s first ‘chapels’, as Mormons call their worship buildings.  

The chapel, located in the suburb of Doonside and within the Blacktown City Council area, was erected by volunteers in 1964 as part of the building program. At its creation, the chapel serviced members in a wide arc from Blacktown to Penrith.

Among the dignitaries who attended the February celebration were Blacktown City Council Deputy Mayor, Russ Dickins, and Councillors Stephen Bali (with his wife Anne), Jacqueline Donaldson, Edmund Atalla and Susai Benjamin.  They joined 350 Latter-day Saints and their leaders. 

During the ceremony, Councillor Bali spoke about his own upbringing in Doonside, the suburb adjacent to Blacktown, and described how the Latter-day Saint chapel had been an integral part of the community over the decades of its presence in the area.  

Church members shared stories of the sacrifices made by locals to erect the building.  This was at a time of limited funding availability from Church Headquarters in Salt Lake City.

Olive McCartin, a local resident, remembers cakes being sold on Main Street, Blacktown to raise funds. While the Blacktown train station might have been an equally good location, there was a rowdy pub near the station that the Church women did not want to walk past.  Another resident and Church member, David Innis, recalled as a 10 year-old boy, helping his father, Croyle Innis, lay bricks which formed the main foundation of the building. 

Today, 500 members of the Church attend the Blacktown facility in two separate congregations, the Blacktown Ward and the Doonside Ward.  In the early days of the Church there would have been just 500 members in the broader western Sydney locality.  

Since then, with the significant growth of the Church in the last half century, new worship buildings for the Latter-day Saints have been built in Hebersham, Quakers Hill and Minchinbury.  

Fritz Cruz, bishop of the Blacktown congregation, said, “It was a wonderful event for our Church members and our community.  This building has been, and continues to be, an important part of this area.  We are so happy to celebrate its beginnings and its ongoing influence, which are rich in traditions of faith and family.”

“A chapel is not just a building for Sunday worship,” said Bishop Cruz.  “It’s a place where young and older people learn to be fine citizens, where they are guided on how to give service to others, and where they learn the values that make their lives productive and resilient against the challenges of life.”

This chapel, as Latter-day Saints refer to their worship buildings, was constructed by what the Church then referred to as ‘labour missionaries’. These were young men who were called for two years or more to help with the major construction program, even making their own besser blocks on site. 

The building sits on a prime piece of real estate on a small rise overlooking a major arterial road and has been a landmark or point of reference for the community during its 50 years.

From just a few Church buildings in the early 1960s scattered throughout Australia, the Latter-day Saints now have 220 worship buildings across the country.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a worldwide faith with current membership in excess of 15 million.  For decades, it has been among the fastest growing religions in Australia and throughout the world.  There are 35,000 members of the Mormon faith in New South Wales with a total Australian Church population of approximately 132,000.

The fundamental tenets of the Church are the importance of the traditional family unit as the foundation of society, the eternal nature of the family, and living a life following the example of Jesus Christ.  These teachings are all based on the Old and New Testaments, the Book of Mormon (another testament of Jesus Christ) and other Mormon scriptures revealed to modern-day prophets of God.

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