Joseph Toronto (born Giuseppe Taranto) (1818 – 1883-07-06) was the first Italian convert to the Latter Day Saint movement and was one of the first missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) in Italy.
Toronto was born in Sardinia and was a sailor in the Mediterranean Merchant Marines and on trans-Atlantic freighters. While in Boston, Massachusetts in 1843, Toronto met Latter Day Saint missionaries, read the Book of Mormon (in English), and was baptized by George B. Wallace.
Shortly after joining the Latter Day Saint church, Toronto's ship collided with another, which almost resulted in Toronto's drowning. Toronto abandoned sailing and moved to Nauvoo, Illinois in 1845 to join the main gathering of Latter Day Saints. He donated his life's savings — nearly $2600 in gold coins — to the building of the Nauvoo Temple; Toronto's donation enabled work to continue after it had stalled due to lack of funds.
In 1848, Toronto emigrated as a Mormon pioneer from Illinois to Utah Territory and was the first Italian to set foot in the Salt Lake Valley. In Utah, he was employed as the keeper of the church's cattle herds on Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake.
In 1849, Toronto was ordained a seventy in the LDS Church. In 1850, he traveled with Lorenzo Snow and Thomas B.H. Stenhouse to England and then on to continental Europe and became the first LDS Church missionaries in Italy. Toronto and his associates met with little success due in part to opposition from the Italian media and government. In 1851, Snow and Toronto hired an Italian to translate the Book of Mormon into Italian, a project that was completed by 1852.
Toronto died in Salt Lake City, Utah Territory.
Joseph Toronto's grandson Wallace F. Toronto served as president of the Czechslovakia Mission in adstencia for 25 years as well as serving once as a missionary and twice more as mission president in Czechoslovakia.
- B.H. Roberts (ed.) (1930). Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret News) 2:472.
- James R. Christianson, “Early Missionary Work in Italy and Switzerland,” Ensign, Aug. 1982, 35.
- 2007 Deseret Morning News Church Almanac (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Morning News, 2006)
- Will Bagley, "From the Earliest Days, Italian Immigrants Have Left a Lasting Mark on Utah", Salt Lake Tribune, 2002-10-20, p. B2
- LDS Church News, 1981-06-20, p. 16
- Mathew S. McBride, "Heroes of the Nauvoo Temple Story: Joseph Toronto", LDS Living, 2002-06-26
- Eliza Moody, "Conversion of an Italian member of the LDS Church", BYU NewsNet, 2000-07-19
- "Sketch of the Life of Joseph Toronto” (typescript, n.d.), Mormon Biographies Collection (Salt Lake City, Utah: LDS Church Historical Department)