Geographically delimited congregations

Eight days ago, the bishop read a letter in sacrament meeting that instructed the members of our ward to attend a special meeting at the stake center for eight different wards from three stakes the following Sunday. The boundaries were to be changed (Note to church administrators: in the future, I recommend not giving speculative lead time). Yesterday, after much instruction heralding the inspiration of the imminent changes, the boundaries were revealed. Then a voice of wailing was heard out of Zion: “How are we spoiled! we are greatly confounded, because we have forsaken the land, because our dwellings have cast us out.”

They rearranged some of the wards according to school district and gave a few of the wards from our Stake (13 before the split — too many for effective administration) to adjacent Stakes. Very prudent changes, actually. The wisdom and inspiration behind the changes was nevertheless no prophylaxis against the heartbreak that inevitably follows such action. There were audible gasps and many, many Saints who wept, some uncontrollably. I’m grateful that it was painful for so many; it is a testament to our bonds of love. Still, I heard that more than one individual had severe crises and vocalized dissent from the concept that one’s congregation should be assigned.

I visited some of my closest friends in the ward that are now in another stake. It is hard. What’s more, their parents aren’t members and are incredulous of being told which congregation they should attend. I can understand how assigned congregations would seem odd to the outsider, and perhaps there are some cases where it doesn’t make sense. But as a rule, I am a resolute believer in them.

Congregations by volition are frequently ghettos. There are liberal congregations, conservative congregations, ethnic congregations, etc. There is still some ghettoization that results from geography (just as there are in school districts), but as a rule, people end up serving and worshiping with a pastiche of Saints. Perhaps few of the members would be chosen as friends outside of congregational constraints, and many would not. We are to face the challenge of Zion in the first person. Learning to love and serve. There is also the stewardship of succoring those that are in need within the boundaries, Home Teachers and Visiting Teachers.

As I considered the sundry crises, I thought of the Saints that after moving and moving again were asked to do the ridiculous — colonize the desert of Southern Utah, or leave their families for missionary service.

The Church does seem to be introducing more flexibility into Ward structure. Members can transfer their records to other wards within a Stake with Stake President approval (no longer the First Presidency approval of yesteryear). The new pilot program for single members is a ministry without geographic constraint. There are urban wards that incorporate all the families with children in the entire Stake. Still, to toil with our neighbors in Zion is a great blessing of Mormonism.

Comments

  1. I was raised Catholic and we always had assigned geographic boundaries. It was not big deal for me when I joined the church. I think most of the whining from converts comes from those used to the cafeteria approach available in the Protestant denominations (primarily Baptist).

  2. Number us among the people who don’t attend in our geographical boundary ward. Since my husband and I are both converts and were both baptized into a particluar ward, when there was a split, it was incredibly difficult for us.

    We have no familial support, and the only church support was in our baptismal ward. We went to our geographic (sparsly attended and struggling) ward for six months, and my husband went completely inactive (he had only been a memeber for 2 months when the split came). Our wonderful stake president saw what was happening and transfered our records back. My husband is now on the EQ presidency and we are doing fine.

    That may be faithless on our part- but I knew we were dying on the vine in the other ward, and I frankly am grateful for the flexibility the SP has.

    That said, we know someday, either we move to where we want to be, or we bite the bullet and be obedient. But that day isn’t yet.

  3. I’m not mormon, but I’m interested in what all churches do.
    What happens if you don’t see eye-to-eye with leadership from a certain church? As you said, some groups are conservative, some are liberal. What happens if you disagree with something or someone? Is this sufficient reasoning to transfer?
    What happens if you live in one area and just show up at another? Does the priest look you up on a map and tell you to attend the closest church to your address?

    The Catholics try and do what you stated as well. If a family lives within the boundaries of a certain parish, one is expected to attend that parish. It’s doubly hard if you live in one area and you have kids and one set of kids goes to one parish school and their friends have to attend another. You can obtain permission from the diocese to attend another parish, but you have to provide reasoning that they can reject. Some parishes that are tight on money reject the transfers.
    Do Mormon churches do this as well, or are financial attributes not taken into consideration?

    As a Lutheran, I can attend and place my children where I wish, as long as it is with a Lutheran church in the same synod.

  4. Kevin Barney says:

    I agree with you, J., I like assigned congregations (but then, I’ve always been LDS, so that’s all I know.) They just recently dissolved my ward, and sent the pieces to other wards in the stake. A lot of people were upset or sad, but I was thrilled. It was a great decision and it needed to be done. I saw it as our leadership stepping up and doing the right thing. (My old ward was too small, and the youth program had dwindled to almost nothing.)

    This reminds me of the (Grondahl?) cartoon, where a leader wearing a suit at the pulpit spreads his hands like Moses, and the benches in the chapel start to split down the middle and separate. Towards the back two women are grasping each other, holding on for dear life over the widening breach, and one woman screams: “But the Hendersons are our best friends!”

    It’s all a little silly when we realize that no one has actually moved, and everyone is perfectly welcome to continue their friendships without the ward superstructure imposing it.

  5. What is the new pilot program for single members?

  6. Kevin,

    As an outsider to the mormon church, I am fascinated by what seems to be a control issue. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the mormon leadership seems almost draconian at times in, as you so eloquently put it, the superstructure imposing their will upon the congregants.
    I’ve been told by mormons I’ve worked with that the church also gets involved with families’ schooling in terms of checking up on how little Johnny is doing? Is there any truth to this, and if so, is it the local priest, etc?

  7. Tracy M, your situation sounds exactly like the right course of action. As I mentioned in the post, there should be some flexibility.

    John, theoretically, you try to work out any conflicts. Also, Mormon congregations are run by themselves, i.e., someone from the congregation is asked to lead the congregation for about 5 years then it switches to somebody else. All the administration (Sunday School teachers, charity, activities) are all staffed by the congregation, with no full time or professional support.

    Finances are centralized and distributed according to need.

    No one is going to be asked to leave a given congregation. Though, participation in all aspects of the congregation will be sometimes extended by the assigned ward.

  8. Maria, our stake is ~1/3 single folks which have about an 8% activity rate. There was a program that started in UT, which is being pilotized in the Seattle and Phoenix area that basically tries to have activities and outreach without focusing on geographic region. I’m not sure exactly what is involved, and I think that this will only reach some of the saints (there are other systemic problems, I think). But I understand that it is having some great success.

  9. John- No clergy has ever checked up on my kids schooling- nor has anyone ever stuck a nose in anywhere having to do with our private lives.

  10. Kevin Barney says:

    John, I’m unaware of any oversight over children’s schooling.

    I think you may be thinking of home and visiting teaching. Two men or two women are assigned several families to visit each month to teach them a brief lesson and see how they are doing. If they need help (out of work, etc.), then available resources can be brought to bear on the situation. This is meant to be the equivalent of a pastor’s visit in a church without a professional clergy.

  11. To answer John’s question, I have never heard of a church being involved in “checking up” on how well a child is doing in school. I’m not saying it hasn’t happened somewhere (there’s a reason the phrase “unrighteous dominion” exists), but I’ve certainly never heard of such a thing. I do know, however, of at least one case where the church went to considerable expense to pay for a tutor to help a child who was struggling in school because a single mom couldn’t afford it but felt that help was necessary.

  12. I really liked this post and like Kevin, I like assigned congregations. However, I can relate to the sadness of losing sabbath day connections with ward family members. My ward is now the biggest in our stake and will be next on the chopping block for being split. This makes me sad because I know I will be separated from some of my dearest friends because of where we live. But at the same time, I’m excited by the opportunities afforded to us to build Zion within our own communities with people not of our own choosing.

    Thanks for the vivid description J. — I could “hear” the gasps. :)

  13. a random John says:

    My parents were recently removed from the ward that my father has been in all his life and that my grandfather spent 90 years in. Luckily they are in a ward that is mostly composed of people that were in the original ward until a decade ago so it has been an easier adjustment than it might have been. However some families happened to get picked off and get placed in neither the old ward or the newer one but in a third and altogether unfamiliar ward. For some people this is a real strain. They may or may not be able to handle navigating a new ward, that itself didn’t change much at all. I can certainly see both sides here. Such splits provide opportunities for growth, but the challenge is too much for some.

  14. I enjoyed this post. When we first moved to the city we are in now, we called the mission home and asked what ward we were in. I was told the ward, given the meeting times, and directions to the chapel. We happily attended for three months before anybody noticed we were actually outside the boundaries of the ward we were attending, and that the ward we were really living in met in a chapel that we could almost walk to, instead of take the 15-minute drive we were doing.

    It turned out though, that the bishop of the ward we were directed to had direct experience with someone who had a life situation that was very much like our highly unusual one. Unlike the leadership of the unit we moved from, he was not judgmental, but understanding and sympathetic. Once our lease was up, we moved into the ward.

    One of my wife’s best friends in the ward is a recent convert. She did the opposite of what we did. She moved out of her baptismal ward, but the stake president did what Tracy M’s did and let her stay where she had/has connections. She moved again last month, this time into another ward that isn’t ours, but since it is the same stake, she remains in our ward.

    We are grateful for this flexibility. My wife has had struggles with the Church and leaders who think they know more than they do. If we had not been misdirected when we first moved here, I am not sure she would be active right now. I am also pretty sure her friend would not still be attending either.

  15. Molly Bennion says:

    I agree with you, Jonathan, that generally assigned wards are wise. They do broaden our associations and hopefully provide enough varied talent to run the programs of the church. But when they truly do not work, as one ward did not for our family, one should make the case for exception. One of the last official acts of President Tanner was to officially change our family into a ward in which our children would not be the only youth their ages. We had tried to get the stake president to make the change and he would not, but a kind bishop wrote to President Tanner pleading our case successfully. Similarly, a neighbor a block away no longer attends our ward so she can be with her children and grandchildren at church. Seems right to me.

  16. I can see both sides of this geographic issue. In our area, our geographic line happens to coincidently be also a new housing/old housing line as well as a rich neighborhood/less rich neighborhood line. In this sense, people have jokingly termed my ward the “red headed step child” of the stake and we actually moved into this ward from a wealthier ward only because we felt spiritually impressed to do so. (Although it wasn’t the financial quality of the ward which was an issue, but the fact that my in-laws reside in the ward now as well.)

    There can be a real issue in that a “poor area” ward in an otherwise wealthy stake can feel looked down upon, as auxillary programs in wards are generally better in wealthier areas, as members are more willing to contribute without reimbursement from the Ward budget, and in general, wealthier wards have more overall ward free time, from my limited perspective.

    I do not think that removal of geographic bounderies would resolve this problem, however, but would only cause greater problems in general. As the Church is volunteer fed, It is better to have geographic boundaries for home teaching and all the multiple auxilary activities which require driving to meetings, etc.

    Recently, our previous ward (wealthy ward) gave a section of itself to a poor ward, and there was much complaining, from many involved in the transitional area, not because of the loss of friends, but in the perceived change in social class involved in the move.

  17. Nick Literski says:

    I lived at one time in a Utah ward which contained both the poorest and wealthiest portions of the city. Like most Utah wards, the geographical area was small, but the two sections were divided by a major highway and a golf course. I observed some interesting things there. First, the ward leadership was overwhelmingly found in the wealthy portion of the ward. This caused some interesting difficulties, such as Relief Society “outings” that involved significant personal expenditure, effectively ruling out the sisters in the poorer segment of the ward. Second, home teaching and visiting teaching assignments seemed to reflect perceived economic status. While nobody would have to travel long distance in the ward boundaries, the poor visited the poor, and the wealthy visited the wealthy, almost without exception. While I think the ward boundaries were originally established with “balance” in mind, the practice which developed had some real challenges.

  18. We had a change of boundaries here almost a year ago, and it was a real struggle for almost everyone involved. I was one of the few that changed from Ward 2 to Ward 1 (Most of the shuffling went the other way), and I was miserably unhappy in the new ward, to the point of complete inactivity.

    When it was time to get a new apartment, I made sure the new place was in the boundaries I wanted and now I’m active and happy.

    Maybe I should have had more faith or whatever, but I tried to attend the new ward for a few months and it never got better. It was almost like I just didn’t exist.

  19. Serenity Valley says:

    While I share Nick Literski’s concerns about intra-ward socioeconomic privilege and segregation – I saw it while living in Utah, as well – I am by and large a big fan of geographically assigned wards.

    I must admit that in the years after my baptism, I benefited from the flexibility of a university family ward’s boundaries – for a little while, I needed a cultural familiarity my geographically assigned ward couldn’t provide but that the university ward could provide. It really helped me make the adjustment to life as an adult Mormon.

    Nowadays, though, I appreciate the chance geographic assignment gives me to meet Mormons unlike myself.

  20. I wonder: has any stake, as a pilot program or otherwise, ever tried an “open choice” program? I suspect the 9:00 a.m. wards would be more popular. Or maybe the wards with softer pews. Or maybe the wards with better Sunday School teachers. Or maybe the wards with better youth programs. Who knows? It would be an interesting experiment to see how Mormons voted with their feet were they given the opportunity.

    And given how attentive budget-conscious bishoprics are to sacrament meeting attendance (which drives stake budget allocations to the wards), I wonder if the element of competition in an open choice program would improve the quality of sacrament meetings?

  21. Dave, the big challenge I see in a full open-choice is in setting up consistant volunteers. to teahc the classes, be the bishops, etc.

    That being said, is there any church which has an open choice policy for it’s priesthood?

  22. My understanding is that until a year or so ago, there were no geographic boundaries for the three singles units in Albuquerque. But three of the four stake presidents involved “voted” to establish official boundaries for the units. I understand that those new official boundaries, like official boundaries for singles wards everywhere (or almost everywhere) else seem to be mostly advisory in nature.

    I think the official Church handbook still provides that the First Presidency has to approve moving a family or individual from the geographic ward, but as long as I can remember, it seems like that question has been resolved by the stake president and bishops involved.

  23. Kevin Barney says:

    Justin, thanks for finding that cartoon. That’s the one I was thinking of.

  24. Nick Literski says:

    #20,
    I wasn’t trying to decry geographically-assigned wards. If anything, I was saying that those drawing the boundaries need to be sensitive to what effect their ecclesiastical gerrymandering (for lack of a better term)will have on the units. I imagine that when a stake presidency formed that ward, they believed they were making sure that the ward would have stable leadership that didn’t count on the poor, thus more transient, area. Unfortunately, there were unintended consequences which could have been headed off by careful and observant leadership.

    Without geographically assigned wards, you’d end up with bishops increasing their ward attendance on the basis of popularity—a rather dangerous precedent in many ways.

  25. As a non-member, I have to say I kind of like the idea of assigned wards and ward and stake boundaries. Of course, it only works for a church that has a central “head”, and, well, being Jewish, there’s the old saying that if you put ten Jews together you get eleven opinions. It would be like herding cats. But I know that, in DC, there’s a big problem of people — hundreds and sometimes thousands of people — belonging to a church within the city, but not living anywhere near. They double and triple park there cars from neighboring states at DC churches. When you let people choose their congregation, their first inclination is to want to be with people like themselves, and yet being with people who are not like you is much more helpful, I think, from a spiritual perspective.

  26. Tanya Spackman says:

    I definitely believe that geographically assigned wards are the best option (size control so as many people can participate as possible, fairness, minimizing un-Zionlike divisions), but ward splits still usually suck. As a teenager, my family lived in a rapidly developing area of Utah, which mean a ward splitting every 1.5 to 2 years (the stake splits didn’t bother me so much).

    The second split (the first one occurred soon after we moved in, before I’d made many friends, so I barely noticed) happened to take a full subdivision out. Unfortunately, almost all of my friends in the ward were in that subdivision (made friend with one person and then became friends with her friends, and they all lived near each other). I was sobbing and whining and in despair for several months until I made new friends. Of course, most of those friends were mercilessly hacked out at the next ward split. (Yes, being Utah, we all went to the same school, but as a teenager, it still mattered a lot to me that we be in the same ward.)

    As an adult, the splits still left me with some tears and sadness, but much less drama, and I eventually became attached to the new ward.

    Now I live in an area where ward concerns are more along the lines of, “Will we be turned into a branch?” rather than splitting.

  27. Preston Bissell says:

    I live in a city with six Catholic parishes. A number of years ago the bishop of the diocese instructed the priests that parish boundaries are not meant to force people to attend a particular parish, and that people are free to attend whichever parish they choose.
    About that same time, a friend of mine (a Catholic priest) told me that it was his impression that Mormons are far more “parochial” than are Catholics.

  28. My ward was just recently eliminated. Dissolved. Absorbed into a few surrounding wards. There were people who were very upset about, including the Bishop. I didn’t really mind, but I don’t socialize with people from church much.

    My husband was really upset, because he figured we wouldn’t be needed in the new ward and he wouldn’t get a calling. He worried that a lot of people would be lost in the shuffle. He was called to the EQ presidency, same calling he had previously. And now he’s partially in charge of shepherding the ones getting lost in the shuffle.

  29. #26, I agree completely. I am a convert to the church, having been raised a United Methodist. My family attended the church because we liked the people (they were similar to us, meaning in ’80s Oklahoma the congregation was all white and upper middle class). The church we attended was very popular, had a colorful and entertaining minister who drew largs crowds each week. In the end, as I became dissatisfied, I felt it was more of an entertainment show than anything else.

    So, I love ward boundaries and how they usually mean for a good cross section of society and talents. It is not always easy, but the gospel never promised to be such. In the end, it comes down to priesthood authority. Like Catholics, we believe that congregations are stewards of the chosen priesthood authority and that, in our case, he can receive direct revelation for the ward members. Remove the idea of boundaries and leave the decision of what ward to attend to the individual then there is no ecclesiastical oversight or revelation and you end up with my old Methodist church.

  30. Except for singles wards, First Presidency approval is still required to attend a ward in which you do not reside. This was recently reiterated by a recent letter from the First Presidency and confirmed by a visiting member of the Presidency of the Seventy to our stake.

  31. Perhaps, Fred. But it is also possible that different areas received different instruction.

  32. What I like about “assigned congregations” is how is makes good use of each Meetinghouse. We have several mega churches in our area. One can house 15,000 people per service – but most are around 3000 per service. I could go on about how this set up appears self-serving for any lead pastor trying to cultivate a TV or politically centered following…but another day…

    A stake center can hold just as many people with three or four overlapping meeting times, half the space, and more intimacy in “having” to serve, live and worship in Zion with ward/neighbor members.

  33. I wish we were a bit more flexible. My nephew was molested by a ward member and his family is STILL fighting for permission to attend another ward. Right now they are just attending the other ward anyway, without permission, but they are not allowed to hold callings or really participate, since they aren’t SUPPOSED to be there. The Stake President doesn’t believe the molestation really happened, so he won’t give his permission. It’s rather outrageous actually.

  34. wow, that is certainly a unique case. i must say that if it were me, there’s no doubt that i’d be heading to the next ward. and if the stake president won’t listen, i would easily go above his head for the right approval which i think is absolutely necessary in our church.

  35. (Note to church administrators: in the future, I recommend not giving speculative lead time).

    I’ve been through a few reorganizations, and every time it was well known in advance. Each unit had a rank-and-file member on a committee that met over a period of weeks/months and gave recommendations.

    One of the things the committee did was to designate “neighborhood groups,” families that carpooled together, etc. Although sometimes this was obvious, sometimes it was not, or did not follow a major street, so having members provide this information was crucial. By designating those groups, and then reclustering the groups, it helped to minimize disruptions.

    I think the members also gave their opinions on various proposals. They never knew what the final submission was.

    I assumed every stake did that. Is it ever a total secret?

  36. I’m pretty sure our Bishop didn’t know our ward was being dissolved until pretty much the last minute.

  37. Kevin Barney says:

    We’ve had various situations that have necessitated families meeting in different wards than those to which they were assigned. In one, some members were litigating against each other. In another, a family’s’ house burned down, and they blamed the RS candle she had been given at enrichment night. I have no idea whether they got permission, but they met in a different ward after that.

    To me, not being able to have a calling would be a plus.

  38. Yes! For me, being able to not have a calling would be relaxing! But, Kevin, when I asked if I could attend a branch that was not the one I was geographically assigned to, I was told in addition to not being able to hold a calling, I also would not be able to get a temple recommend. That kind of did it for me.

  39. David Brosnahan says:

    The beauty of geographically delimited wards is that it eliminates competition. Consequently, you don’t find LDS mega-churches nextdoor to stuggling branches. Also, it fosters a culture of caring. There is an ideal size for a congregation, too big and it is impossible to take care of everyone’s needs.

    “That you may be aequal in the bonds of heavenly things, yea, and earthly things also, for the obtaining of heavenly things. For if ye are not equal in earthly things ye cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things” (D&C 78: 5-6).

    “Nevertheless, in your temporal things you shall be equal, and this not grudgingly, otherwise the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit shall be withheld” (D&C 70: 14).

  40. I will add, just from a sociological perspective, that the addition of a temple here in San Antonio has had an interesting effect on the geographically situated wards. The Ward that the Temple is in has split into 3 Wards over the time since the temple has been built, most of it being people who have moved to be close to the temple.

  41. A ward would never lock its doors if it saw someone coming. In other words, Members ultimately have the choice of which ward they will attend. Yes, you likely will not have callings or responsibilities if you choose to attend a ward different then your geographically assigned one, though some Bishops might be more flexible then others, and it might make getting a temple recommend more difficult. But if it is a matter of someone choosing between not going to church at all or attending where they would be more comfortable, then the option of just going to a different ward is the better option. There really is nothing stopping someone from “shopping” around for attending a ward they would be more comfortable in, other then fear of not being accepted by doing so.

    So, I believe, the real dilemma is dealing with the perception of being judged. Since anytime you go against the expected norm, it can be difficult (though sometimes that is more personal perception then reality), since there will likely be those who gossip or you think are gossipping. But what is most important? What others think of you or your ability to recieve the spiritual assistance possible in worship by regular church attendance?

    I speak from experience. There was a time my wife and I had some serious marital difficulties, and counselors recommended a therapuetic seperation. So as part of that seperation, for months, we attended a wards different then our geographically assigned ones. I tried a couple of different wards, and overall, I felt myself and my children welcomed at one more then the other.

    For myself, I believe that feeling “victimized” is really a self-serving excuse for not taking personal responsibility for myself. So, I wouldn’t let ward boundaries get in the way of what I believe to be the healthiest thing I need to do for my family and my own spiritual practice. I wouldn’t dream of making such choices without a lot of prayer and leaning on the spirit as much as I possibly can, which I would recommend for anyone else faced with a decision like this.

  42. #29 was my experience growing up catholic. we had one mass saturday night, three sunday morning, and one sunday night. we usually went sunday night because they had the best music. each service tended to have its own clique… elderly went at 7:00 a.m., young adults went at 11:00 a.m., families sunday night. when i became lds, i thought the idea of geographic assignments was spectacular!

    #35, in our last ward, there was a total restructure and several wards that had previously been split were once again all lumped together. it was a huge secret and no one knew what was happening. there were audible gasps and lots of tears during the meeting. interestingly, that was when we were living in a stake different from the one we attended. my husband was gone for seven months and the kids and i were staying with my anti-lds family. we got permission to attend my mother-in-law’s ward (actually closer than the ward we should have attended). my mom couldn’t wrap her head around why i needed permission to go somewhere else. she thinks it’s so convenient to be able to go somewhere closer, somewhere close to where she’s running errands that day, somewhere that meets later when she sleeps in, and so on.

    we once lived in a half military ward where it wasn’t immediately discovered that we were a street outside of the boundaries. they let us stay and thank goodness. we were newlyweds and my husband was just coming back to church. it was THE perfect ward for him to be in and i think it was divine that we ended up there. it was a ward with lots of concessions, though… there was a fist-fight between women during homemaking, restraining orders between families, and so on. the leadership was very divided between military versus local residents and even as far as military only vt military and the same for local residents. the men never seemed to have a problem, but the women did and the ward seemed veeeeeery familiar with special circumstances for who attended where.

  43. Nick, thanks for the clarification (#25), but don’t worry, I didn’t actually take what you said as a criticism of the concept of geographically assigned wards.

    I do always like it when I live in a stake that’s aware of the special problems which can come up in socioeconomically diverse wards, because not all are aware of such issues.

    When I was a kid in Salt Lake, a close friend lived in a ward that was right on the East Bench/valley floor economic divide; half the ward was really, really poor, and half the ward was really, really rich. And the stake didn’t much care. All the Priesthood leadership positions and all the auxiliary presidencies were staffed by rich folks; the Primary and Mutual activities frequently involved extra fees (“It’s not in the ward budget, but who can’t afford $10 for the Beehives’ dinner out?”), and there was a lot of bad feeling in the congregation. Contrast that with the ward next to mine, which had a similar divide but which managed it beautifully. Economic status didn’t seem to affect the distribution of callings, and if the ward activity budget was supplemented, it was done anonymously.

    Awareness is everything.

  44. Julie M. Smith says:

    “In another, a family’s’ house burned down, and they blamed the RS candle she had been given at enrichment night.”

    That is so funny. I’m having a hard time catching my breath.

  45. #45: It does seem like black comedy, doesn’t it?

  46. I’ve wondered what things are taken into account when a ward it split. I’ve heard that the number of active priesthood bearers in a ward is the main thing, but I don’t know if that’s correct. In our last ward split, it seemed to me that they went by economic lines. Two very wealthy wards, one ward mostly of renters, then two more middle class wards and one sort of wealthy ward. I really wish they had looked at the school boundaries and tried to keep kids in the same elementary and middle schools together. My son ended up being the only kid in our ward in his elementary school. There were other LDS kids, but in a different ward. It was more a problem at church than at school, since the other kids at church who all went to the same school weren’t friendly to him. The other issue is keeping a reasonable number of kids at each age level, so that kids have plenty of chances to find friends. It took at least two years for the teenagers in our ward to regroup after the last ward boundary change. And mostly the problem was solved by them growing up and moving on.

  47. Wow, what a story about the candle… It is stories and outlooks like this that amaze me! I think the assigned wards are a great idea.
    After all if a such a great friend is removed from your ward, and after it is split you can’t go see them, were they really such a great friend?! They didn’t move, they are still in the same spot. You aren’t going to get struck by lightning by taking cookies to someone not in your ward…

    The system is good and helps “Mix it up” so to speak. It doesn’t mean that the church is assigning or forcing you to become bosom buddies with anyone you don’t want to.

  48. Paul Mouritsen says:

    For what it’s worth, here is a comment from C.S. Lewis on this subject:

    “If a man can’t be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighborhood looking for the church that “suits” him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches. The reasons are obvious. In the first place the parochial organisation should always be attacked, because, being a unity of place and not of likings, it brings people of different classes and psychology together in the kind of unity the Enemy desires. The congregational principle, on the other hand, makes each church into a kind of club, and finally, if all goes well, into a coterie or faction. In the second place, the search for a “suitable” church makes the man a critic where the Enemy wants him to be a pupil.”

  49. Was it a gel candle?

  50. Kevin Barney says:

    As I understand the story, which I have about fifth-hand. there was a RS lesson that involved giving the sisters each a small, cheapo candle. (It was probably something about not hiding your candle under a bushel.) One sister had her candle lit, went out to feed the horse, and the house caught on fire. They think maybe the cat knocked it over or something. It burned a substantial part of the house, but not all of it, and killed the family dog. There were extremely hard feelings over this, and possibly even lawsuits (I don’t know). The family involved definitely started attending a different unit of the church after that. That’s about as much as I know about it.

  51. When the stakes in Europe where organized, branches were consolidated to create wards. Instead of meeting in an assembly of apartments in back alleys, we built new chapels.

    To me that was progress. To many of the older people, it was a loss of community. Instead of meeting downtown, you had to go to the suburbs, which are more difficult to reach. And if you lived in a small town that used to have a branch then consolidation meant that the loss of a neighborhood unit and having to travel several towns every Sunday.

    If you are a seventy year old woman that is hard.
    Of course, consolidation was great for young men’s and young women’s. Finally, there were enough kids to actually have a program but for elderly Saints, consolidation created real hardships.

  52. Hellmut,
    I would suppose that there is a cultural level to your post that many of us (myself included) in the states don’t grasp.

    On the other hand, the plight of the elderly to come to church is ALMOST identical in SLC, where as elderly wards gro older, people pass away and developers grab up their homes (or younger couples build McMansions and reduce the number of homes in an area.) Several dwindling elderly wards are combined with other wards and the elderly then have to travel to go to church. Some do, some don’t and some can’t.

    *In a perfect world, the strong youth groups should be covering the gap . . . devlivering sacrament to the homebound, shoveling snow, driving grandparents in, etc. etc. etc. Huge service and ‘collaboration’ opportunity. We can’t keep passing the buck up the line and whining b/c we have to get off our rear-ends!!!

  53. We spend waaaaay too much time trying to be next to sheep just like ourselves. We need to learn to love and appreciate others who are different. (Scary scary thought, but hold on close . . . the bloggernacle will help walk you through it!)

  54. 60 yrs ago, the PR got together in our mission field rural city and drew the boundries. It’s a squiggely, irradic Picasso “line”. They prayerfull took EVERYTHING into consideration, including # of PR holders, # of families, schools, water wells, farms, number of educated/less educated balanced, ability of each ward to care for the poor in its area (this was before the new financial program), massive travel distances, age demographics, ability of each ward to contribute to the welfare farms, distribution of rural VT/HT routes, distributed trades in each ward, etc. etc. etc.

    It was a beautiful thing, and boundries have accounted for over a half-a-century of sustained and unexpected growth and change. We rode population explosions NOT because they planned the spit out of it (although elbow grease helps), but b/c they prayed and then listened. Then, they got a miracle.

    How does one deal with the massive ward growth in the UT ‘burbs with the same care? Dunno.

  55. On the other hand, the plight of the elderly to come to church is ALMOST identical in SLC, where as elderly wards gro older, people pass away and developers grab up their homes (or younger couples build McMansions and reduce the number of homes in an area.) Several dwindling elderly wards are combined with other wards and the elderly then have to travel to go to church. Some do, some don’t and some can’t.

    That’s fascinating. I actually read the Tribune coverage about the demolished chapel downtown but never made the connection.

  56. Our ward and another were reorganized last week. It was mostly people with the “other” ward’s city on their mailing addresses, and almost everyone who got switched both a) had family in the “other” ward and b) had been using that building for almost everything they could (children’s baptisms, any stake-level meetings they were in charge of…)

    My only objection was how the splitting was handled. If any future Stake Presidents are listening, please don’t say “we’re all going to have a big joint Sacrament meeting, and then all of the people in the ‘other’ ward, including people who just found out they’re in that ward three minutes ago, are going to get back in their cars and drive to the ‘other’ ward building for the last two hours of the block meeting!” Because really, that stank quite a bit.

    One of the kids in my class came to one last meeting, because her parents have callings, but another literally took off after Sacrament, and of course the whole lesson time was taken up with “gee, I wonder if I’ll ever see X again” concerns from the kids being ‘left behind.’ Out here, there was just one kid attending one ward who went to school with kids from another ward — and now her family has gone to the ‘other’ ward, which her classmates attend. So there’s a decent chance the kids in my class really won’t see each other again, at least not until they’re all 14, in six years.

    (this is, incidentally, the first ward split situation I’ve ever been involved with — we always moved too often to be impacted, when I was a kid.)

  57. Re: #31 Fred’s comment, this is interesting “policy”; I’ve never heard this before. For the last fourteen years, I/we have never attended our geographical ward but only to visit. We continue to have calling after calling in the ward where we attend.

  58. Has anyone mentioned Gene England’s essay, “Why the Church is as True as the Gospel”? I highly recommend it. Gene would support J’s thinking 100%

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