Arlington Ward: A Little History
In May, 1984, the wards of Boston Stake were reorganized, and the Mormon Arlington Ward was formed, with Bob Chandler as the new bishop. Tony Kimball went through the 1963 Cambridge Ward Directory, and found several families who were still living locally in 2007, including the Chandlers. The old Cambridge Ward included Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Somerville, Arlington, Belmont, Watertown, Newton, Waltham, Medford, Chelsea, and Everett. That’s 13 towns and cities. There have been at least three dozen church units organized in that same area since 1967.
The Boston Stake was split and the Hingham Stake was formed. The old Boston Stake then covered about the same area as the original Cambridge Branch (a group of members too small to be a ward). Though many members of the Latter-Day Saint wards and stakes in the Boston area come from a variety of vocations and backgrounds, the fact that many are students or professors of Harvard and Cambridge adds color and verve to this collection of Latter-day Saints.
It’s true that some of us are not tolerant in our dealings with our neighbors or others in our communities, and not everyone who attends church always manifests it, but in terms of the overall tone of the area, this quality is very unusual when compared to many of the places where the church has been entrenched for a long time. I am sure no Salt Lake ward ever would have had a karate demonstration as part of a Sacrament Meeting talk, as happened in this ward years ago, nor would I, as a single man, ever have been called as a Bishop. I’m not advocating either of these things, mind you, but I’ve seen in all of our stake presidents the same tolerant spirit manifested time and time again.
Boston Mormons have been all over the doctrinal and behavioral map, and around the country were known for their unorthodox perspectives. Several programmatic innovations were developed in this stake under creative stake presidents like William Fresh, L. Tom Perry, and Richard Bushman, which were initially[questioned] by the church, and, then, within a couple of years, put out as church-wide programs. The members here were generating programs to meet local needs which became church-wide.
East Cambridge was the earliest focal point of congregations of Mormons. Wilford Woodruff wrote a good bit in his journal about his visits to the Boston/Cambridge area in the 1830s.
In 1843, eight of the Quorum of the Twelve were in attendance at a conference in Boston. Nearly all of them were still in this area when they heard of the murder of Joseph Smith, and, of course, rushed back to Nauvoo. (Deseret News 1999-2000 Church Almanac, 210.)
In the early 1840s Brigham Young sent one of his daughters to school in the Salem area and she stayed with Nathaniel Felt, a great-great grandfather of Tony Kimball. Virtually all of the original members of the Mormon Church came out of New England. Since then, many interesting Latter-day Saints have lived in the area.
Evan Stephens, who is the composer of many of the hymns Mormons sing, attended the New England Conservatory in the late 19th century. Edna Wells Sloan took in boarders, including Truman Madsen’s mother, Emily. Edna decided to earn income by joining a bake sale. Her homemade potato chips were such a hit, she went into the potato chip business.
Click here to read more recollections from Claudia Bushman’s, “Remembering Cambridge.”