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.