The Shape of Things to Come

November 3, 2006 | 29 comments
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For many years, northern Bavaria had a duplicate Church geography, with a stake for American servicemen sharing the boundaries of a German district. But after the first phase of American military disengagement in the early 1990s, the German district and the dwindling American stake were combined to form a single stake. The remaining American military bases provide the basis for a handful of majority-American wards, while the third and fourth generation of German members provide the foundation in another set of wards, leaving a third group of congregations composed in roughly equal numbers of Germans and Americans.

The Nuremberg Stake still faces challenges faced by servicemen’s stakes everywhere–a population with near-complete turnover every three years, and long-term absence of adult male members during times of crisis (in other words: nearly without interruption since 1990). On top of that, there are the unique challenges of making a bilingual stake function. At Stake Conference last Sunday, the speaker and the translator stood at the podium together and alternated sentences. The primary children’s choir sung two prelude numbers, with one verse in English and the next in German, or the other way around; the chorister had to give all instructions twice, once in each language. All stake auxiliary presidencies need at least one counselor for each language, and they have to be able to communicate with each other as well. You’ll hear an occasional question about when the Americans will finally learn German, but for the most part it all proceeds harmoniously. Sometimes it’s overwhelming to see so many people going to such lengths to accommodate each other. Half the members have left behind home and family to come here, and often the other half has sacrificed just as much to join the Church: strangers in a strange land, and strangers in their own land.

As the shifting tides of a worldwide labor market sweep members of the Church away from areas of high concentration in North America to places of far lower density outside it, American Mormons will not always come to rest as evenly-spaced deposits in foreign congregations, where their minority status would obligate them to adapt to their hosts, nor will they always live in convenient proximity to a nominally polyglot but functionally English-speaking international ward in a major urban area. Immigration, to the US or from it, tends to be lumpy. At least one way the future might work out in many places is like the Nuremberg Stake: not like the UN, with everyone in the minority, nor like the US, with Americans predominant and everyone else on the margins, but with Americans and members of one other nation depending on each other to make the Church work.

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29 Responses to The Shape of Things to Come

  1. Wilfried on November 3, 2006 at 5:26 am

    It’s a situation we know well in Belgium too, in particular in Brussels, with many Americans, an international ward that has been dwindling since 9/11, but still part of the French-speaking stake. The question who belongs to what unit is always vivid (and where he or she prefers to go)… Same in the Paris area, with also BYU students on semester abroad, not anymore together in one ward, but scattered over a few wards. A lot of adaptation and integration required.

    But, Jonathan, the real lingual (and other) challenge(s) we face is not “American + locals”, and only two languages (where many locals understand English), but the multicultural dimension of European branches and wards. I think that in my home ward in Antwerp we now have about 15 different nationalities, with refugees or immigrants from African and East-European nations, and as many languages. We “function” all right, the Spirit is present, but I don’t think we have really analyzed such situations thoroughly, in terms of burden on local leadership, intercultural misunderstandings and tensions, safety issues, welfare, inactivity, legality of our help to illegals… Much work still to be done!

  2. Septimus on November 3, 2006 at 6:01 am

    I am also currently residing in Germany, although in a different region. I have a different impression of the church here. We attend a native German ward, comprised almost entirely of very old couples. By and large they raised their children faithfully in the church, but when their children served their missions (almost exclusively in the U.S.) they subsequently found spouses and relocated there, leaving an aging group of stalwarts behind. In this respect, the ward here seems to fuel the American cultural colossus rather than leavening it. While we do have an English-speaking military ward nearby, the members seem to keep their distance from it.

    A second and extremely depressing thing we have found is the huge numbers of members who have been caught up in competing pyramid schemes promulgated by Mormons from the U.S. Anyone care for a drink of pure aloe vera? A papaya beverage perhaps? The infighting is unbelievable. At times it feels like we’re caught between the Capulets and the Montagues.

    I’m sure many of us have seen areas where ethnic groups attended culture-specific wards and areas in which there were no distinctions. My unfortunate experience was that when combined, the minority culture tended to be subsumed by the larger (American) one. In spite of this, I like to remember:

    “…neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God.” (4 Ne 1:17)

  3. Jonathan Green on November 3, 2006 at 9:26 am

    Wilfried, the kind of diversity you describe is something I’ve also seen before, and well worth discussing, but I don’t know if it will be the norm for the international Church in the future as it has been in the past. Refugees and immigrants recognize that the only long-term solution is to learn the language of their new home, so that the tendency will be for them to join the language bloc of the host country. If the numbers of Americans concentrated in a few places falls so that American/international wards are no longer a viable option, or if more Americans are transferred to places without international wards outside of the usual metropolitan areas, the result could be more situations similar to what I described, where wards and stakes are composed not of one or many but of precisely two language blocs: English for the semi-transient Americans and the language of the host country.

    One way that the situation Septimus describes might work out, if the American base reduces its force, is that the American and the German wards would be combined to give it a more robust basis and a more typical demographic distribution, leaving the members to figure out how to negotiate the linguistic and cultural differences. Maybe it would end badly (and Septimus, you do sound a bit pessimistic), but it doesn’t have to. With enough good will on both sides, it could be beautiful.

  4. Wilfried on November 3, 2006 at 10:57 am

    Septimus touches upon problems that do exist in certain area’s, but to variable degrees. The move of Mormons from abroad to the US continues. Attempts by (so-called) Mormons from the US to misuse the trust of members abroad have not been frequent in my experience, but we should be on guard. And, also true, majority cultures tend to be stronger than minorities.

    Jonathan, I don’t think the natural integration of people with other cultures and languages in European wards is that easy or obvious, and not comparable to the US. First, some of these people move around a lot, expelled from one country or trying their luck elsewhere, and Europe is not unilingual. We get refugees from e.g. Kazakstan who first lived in France, than in Germany, now in Dutch-speaking Belgium. Second, the flow of new ones from abroad is continuous. On the positive side: it’s an enriching challenge to welcome these people and work with them. I have an immense admiration for some our local leaders and the many members who handle these situations to the best of their ability, for so many years. On the other hand, I don’t think enough is done from the top in terms of professional analysis, development of guidelines to local leaders and missionaries, cooperation with the proper civil and judicial administrations etc.

  5. septimus on November 3, 2006 at 11:03 am

    At the risk of being the wet towel in your thread, I must confess that I have been a bit disappointed at the interaction between American and German cultures in our unit. As an example, consider the pyramid schemes which engulf our unit.

    The sales pitch begins with a photograph of the member together with the American (L.D.S.) business executive for their product. We are told about the church leadership positions this executive has held. Frequently this is followed by semi-spiritual testimonials about the product. And when I confess that (as a licensed physician) I am unfamiliar with (for example) the medicinal administration of oral aloe vera this is met with surprise. I am assured that it is an extremely common and accepted practice in the U.S.

    Perhaps I am burdened by my perception of pyramid schemes. I confess a certain bias in this regard. But frankly I think that it smacks of an ugly sort of exploitation. I infer that you have not encountered this during your stay, so perhaps it is only a local problem.

    In spite of this, I personally support the integration of units. From my perspective, it seems difficult to justify sorting people into “-ites” on the basis of their culture or language. I sometimes wonder why such segregated units are still so common in our church. But I worry that too often we give local members the worst of our culture rather than the best.

  6. Wilfried on November 3, 2006 at 11:13 am

    For those interested, I once wrote a post on the choice between separation or assimilation of church units with different languages.

  7. John Taber on November 3, 2006 at 11:27 am

    In my mission in Italy there was one stake, which at the time had four wards and ten branches. One branch was Army, another was (mostly) Air Force. The first time I went to stake conference I saw plenty of Americans wearing headphones for the English translation.

    Then I was transferred to the city that included the Air Force branch. The companion I was leaving had served there before, and he warned me of the American branch’s disdain for all things Italian. I thought maybe he was exaggerating, but when I got there, I found that, if anything he had understated the situation. If there was an activity that the (larger) Italian branch invited the American branch to, for instance, all the active Italian members came but only one or two American families. The worst part was the branch president’s open disdain for the Italian stake leadership, and his frustration that the Venice Italy Stake didn’t have all the programs he was used to the Church having.

    My last Sunday in that city happened to be stake conference again. I saw the same number of Americans wearing headphones, and I knew now that 90% of them came from the Army branch. After all, the only members from the Air Force branch I saw were a divorced member who was starting to date (and would marry) an Italian member, and the newest family to come to the branch (who apparently weren’t in on the joke). This despite the stake having recently called a member of the Army branch to be high council advisor to the Air Force branch, and the stake president’s (incidentally, now an Area Seventy) open posturing to the disaffected members in stake conference.

  8. John Taber on November 3, 2006 at 11:32 am

    Along those lines – sort of: An Italian member I met on my mission took a job with the Church office in Frankfurt. She tried the German ward, and the American ward. Despite knowing English very well, certainly much better than German (how she got the job with the Church) she decided to be part of the German ward. It was closer culturally, and the American ward had too many kids running around.

  9. MikeInWeHo on November 3, 2006 at 11:38 am

    Are these pyramid scheme-like sales pitches occurring inside the meeting houses??

  10. Mark B. on November 3, 2006 at 11:40 am

    There are parts of the United States where the situation is just as you describe in the Nuremberg Stake.

    In the New York NY East Stake, which existed for just 6 years (1985-1991) there were seven units: three Spanish speaking wards, two English speaking wards and one English speaking branch and a Chinese (Cantonese) speaking branch. In the Brooklyn New York North District right now, there are three Spanish speaking branches and two English.

    And, of course, those units have all kinds of cultural diversity within them, of the kind Wilfried describes. In the Spanish language side, you have the Mexicans and the Central Americans and the South Americans of various stripes–there’s one branch were most of the leadership are Ecuadoreans. The cultural and national differences are something that a fifth generation English-Welsh-Danish-Arizona-California-Utah Mormon whose best foreign languages are Japanese and German, with Spanish a far distant third, has a hard time figuring out.

    Even where the language is all English, sort of, how can one sort out the cultural issues that arise between the African Americans and the Jamaicas and the Haitians (who may speak some English) and the Guyanans and the stray Ghanaian or Rwandan? The possibilites for cultural stepping on of toes are legion!

    In our last district conference every speaker had a translator by his or her side. We don’t have enough headsets for the whole district, and the quality of translation when using headsets is poor, at best–unless the speaker has a written talk and provides that to the translator well in advance, as in general conference.

    We sing the hymns in two languages–we tried alternating one time, but the mysteries of English spelling, and its tenuous connection with pronunciation, were too much for most of the Spanish speakers.

    I’m with Septimus in supporting (in theory, at least) the integration of units. As a practical matter, though, the difficulties are overwhelming. Beyond the challenges of the use of language at church, there’s the cultural divide that makes the establishment of friendships difficult. I’ve yet to invite any of the good Spanish-speaking couples from the church to join my wife and me at the opera, for example–if we could get Met Titles [where's that "R" in the circle?] in Spanish, maybe we could try it.

  11. Septimus on November 3, 2006 at 11:55 am

    @MikeInWeHo

    I have never personally been targeted by a sales pitch in a meetinghouse and have no personal knowledge that it ever happens. It has come instead in the form of social invitations. However, the consequences of the competing groups spills over into the meetinghouse in the form of inter-group rivalry and feuds.

  12. manaen on November 3, 2006 at 12:58 pm

    9. MikeInWeHo,
    10. Mark B.

    Or this Septimus is another/same fraud like the BoH mess last year. Who can tell anymore? Such a legacy!

  13. Septimus on November 3, 2006 at 1:45 pm

    I found the BoH reference, but hadn’t expected that sort of response. Sorry for intruding on the thread.

  14. christine frandsen on November 3, 2006 at 2:18 pm

    My husband and I recently returned from living in Hungary for 2 years. He served his mission there and speaks the language fluently. I had lived in Romania on an internship and afterward instructed a course in preparing for cross-cultural experiences at BYU, so we decided that even though there would be an international branch, we would be more enriched by attending the Hungarian branch in our area. We still associated occasionally with the members from the IB, and we became good friends with several families. We also made very good friends, best of friends, in our branch and most of our time was spent with Hungarian people (with me trying to become conversational in Hungarian in a hurry). We always felt like we were living somewhere between two distinct worlds.

    A couple of times we tried to bring those two worlds together, but we always had pretty pathetic results. Its true that IB members just don’t really go to Stake activities, its scary and uncomfortable for them. They also complain about “The Hungarians” they share a building with. On the other hand, native members do not often go out of their way to cross the language/cultural barrier because they say the Americans have an elite attitude. The church is just old enough now that there are returned missionaries who are recently married with small children, and any bridging of gaps when it comes to stake auxilliary meetings seems to originate with them and their English speaking abilities. There were also the “American lovers” who are natives who speak English or served in America, or who pretty obviously are yearning to marry an American and leave Hungary. They are a really interesting group to observe- the Hungarians are a bit disgusted with them.The Americans accept them and praise them, but only to a point and then it becomes clear that the benefits and acceptance only run “so deep” and then those people end up becoming embittered against the Americans and sewing more seeds of dislike or distrust within the native branches.

    As someone mentioned before, there’s a very high turnover rate in the IB, and very few of the American or Brittish families living in Budapest really sought out the chance to live there. I think the biggest part of the divide is good old fashioned culture shock. Most english speakers in European branches are not immigrants, they are visitors, and it makes a huge difference in the ammount of effort they put in to overcoming culture shock and embracing the new culture. In the church its not as bad as in the expat community as a whole, since we are all constantly reminded that we are brothers and sisters. But, many of the international members belong to international expats groups (even I did, when we first arrived) and these are often breeding grounds for counterproductive cultural attitudes. Wives especially get together and vent their frustrations with the country and the theme of the activities usually centers around making yourself more comfortable by creating your own little American bubble to live in.

    But the encouraging thing is that, at least in Hungary, things are trending towards improvement, I think. And the interesting thing is that progress and unification mostly happens through the youth.

    Just before we moved back to America in August, they created the very first stake in the former eastern bloc in Budapest. Our little branch building, newly remodeled and extended, became the new stake center. Elder Zwick spoke at the conference, through a translator (the Americans could take their head sets off) and talked about the unity and love that must exist in a stake of Zion. Many times I realized that with very few exceptions, I hadn’t been able to combine my “two worlds” without making my friends terribly uncomfortable. But at our first stake conference, I have to say, we felt very unified, the Spirit was incredibly strong. There are a lot of people really making an effort, on both sides of the divide. Sometimes my husband and I would get really discouraged and mired down with the imperfect details of the church in Hungary, but in general I think the key is perspective. Going forward with faith as President Hinckley says. I think we only helped the situation when we chose to be optimistic. That sounds simple and obvious, but from my experience the best medecine for these problems is optimism and a positve attitude.

    By the way, we have plenty of multi-level marketing going on in Budapest. Some of it is legit and great in creating jobs. But, I have been really worried too about the way that they seem to have opened the doors for pyramid schemes. Its most troubling that its almost always RM’s who are involved in this type of thing. The members are really unaware and I think its going to start getting really bad and causing a lot of tension and apostasy if something isn’t done to nip it in the bud soon. Sadly, the main catalyst for these groups seems to be mission websites.

  15. Nate Oman on November 3, 2006 at 3:13 pm

    Septimus: I don’t think that anything you have posted here is “intruding” nor do I think that there is anything you need to apologize for.

  16. manaen on November 3, 2006 at 4:23 pm

    I also saw this 2-culture problem in the U.S. I interned in Texas while a grad student at BYU. The local ward, long used to summer drop-ins, called us all to home- and visit-teach each other and to be assistants-to in ward callings. It made for neat severability when we left but we didn’t get to know the local members very well. However, it did create relationships among us that transferred easily back to BYU. Some of those lasted for years after.

  17. Brian G on November 3, 2006 at 4:59 pm

    Septimus,

    Sorry to ruin your good name. If it’s a real name, I think that’s great. If it’s an adopted moniker, I can totally understand why you like it.

    It would be a shame if you stopped commenting on this and any other threads due to the fact that I long ago used the name Septimus to create a fictional character at a blog that proved to be quite controversial for a time, and surprisingly still generates some heated responses.

    I don’t foresee ever commenting under the name Septimus again, at least not on these august pages, so please keep commenting. The bloggernacle’s a small place, but there’s definitely room for another Septimus.

  18. Jonathan Green on November 3, 2006 at 5:05 pm

    Yeah, Septimus, don’t go so soon, I’m still waiting to hear how you ended up in Germany. (“Septimus,” it seems, is a moniker associated with some unfortunate events in the past, although I’m not quite sure what manaen’s point was. One way to avoid this kind of confusion is to eschew anonymity, although Mark B. has his own sorry tale to tell about that…)

    Christine, thanks very much for your comments, which go along well–both as comparison and as contrast–with my original comment. One thing your comment brings out is the crucial role played by bilinguals in spanning the cultural divide. Sometimes it’s the natives who know English who play that role, sometimes–but not often enough–it’s Americans who have learned the language of their hosts. How long do you have to live in a country before it’s worth making an effort to learn the language to some degree? For some people, three months is enough. Somebody has to make the first step toward creating Zion, and eventually everyone has to do their part.

    I had no idea that MLM schemes were such a problem in Europe. My wife usually turns down all invitations to selling parties, but it’s hard to say no to people who had just furnished our apartment for us, and we actually needed the tupperware. Anything above that level seems like an abuse of the ties of church membership.

  19. Septimus on November 3, 2006 at 6:04 pm

    I appreciate the explanation for the associations with my pseudonym. Unfortunately for me, I used a pseudonym precisely to avoid attention. My wife (who knows some of the bloggers here) has been trying to interest me in sites like this for years. But she has simultaneously warned me against putting personal information into the “public domain.� Regrettably, my nature is such that I am not content to observe – hence the pseudonym. I fear that for the next few days I’ll have to hide the computer form her. If she finds this thread I’ll be up the proverbial creek.

  20. Naismith on November 3, 2006 at 8:13 pm

    “How long do you have to live in a country before it’s worth making an effort to learn the language to some degree?”

    I joined the church in the Frankfurt military ward many years ago (30 years next month, now that I think of it). As a soldier in Europe, I was apalled at the separatist attitude of most American servicepeople who accept living in a ghetto (military housing), not learning the language, watching only American TV and eating only at restaurants frequented by Americans such that the staff spoke English.

    I took college classes (at night) in German because I acquire language best when hung on a grammatical framework. I lived in a regular apartment, rode the streetcar to work, shopped at local markets, ate at the neighborhood gasthaus and was level 2 to 2.5 fluent (on the foreign service scale of 1 to 5). I was there for 3.5 years.

    So years later when we had the opportunity for a sabbatical in Brasil (5 months), I took a semester of Portuguese before we left. All our interaction with ward members was in Portuguese. The stake president did speak English, but he insisted that everyone speak to us in Portuguese, that it was the only way we would learn.

    Now back in the states, we are in a bilingual unit where we start with English sacrament meeting, do the rest of the meetings in both English and Spanish, and finish with Spanish sacrament meeting.

    Actually, it seems that approach would work well for a German-English stake. Until our stake recently was stripped of two large units, we had to hold two sessions of stake conference just to fit everyone in. So why not just do one in English and then one in German?

  21. jjohnsen on November 3, 2006 at 8:17 pm

    They had the pyramid scheme problem when I was serving in Australia. A seperate ward was created for Chinese-speaking member, but they called a transplanted Utah man as the Bishop. He started holding FHE’s at his home, each time inviting three or four families from the ward. He was released after about 6 months because at these FHE’s he was putting the hard sell on these members to join his drink-selling enterprise (I can’t remember the name, though I drove past their headquarters near Prove a few months ago). Soon after those members were integrated into English-speaking wards.

  22. Kevin Barney on November 4, 2006 at 10:06 am

    Multi-level marketing/pyramid schemes are a plague even at BYU and elsewhere in Utah. Many of these are marketed with a faux-mission type of organization (a gray-haired leader with lots of impressive church service credentials, white shirts and ties, personal interviews), to fresh faced and naive returned missionaries who need money and don’t know any better.

  23. dan on November 4, 2006 at 11:40 am

    There was a guy who went through Wards in Michigan and Ohio, claiming to be some kind of a super-duper financial/investment advisor. What he did, instead, is that he stole the life-savings of a lot of trusting folks, leaving them penniless, while he escaped somewhere out west. recently, was arrested, and now is gong to be prosecuted.

  24. Ardis Parshall on November 4, 2006 at 11:56 am

    “on each other to make the Church work”

    While this thread has been primarily about coordinating populations along linguistic and cultural lines, I’ve been thinking of how it applies to our Salt Lake City ward, which is fairly evenly divided between under-30 couples (highly transient, mostly students or young professionals who will move on as their careers develop and their finances allow them to buy homes) and over-70 couples and widow[er]s (highly stable, home owners, sometimes the third or later generations of their families in the very same houses), with a tiny sprinkling of those of us between the two age extremes. We have no youth or children except a handful of babies and toddlers who might as well have 50 grandparents because everybody is baby-hungry here. A sizable number of our members come from a variety of other countries, but no more than one or two come from any one place so there is no unified ethnic subgroup. Geographically, it’s a large ward by SLC standards because we’re in the increasingly diverse Avenues; numerically, it’s about the smallest ward I’ve ever lived in.

    We could be two wards culturally, split along age/length of residence lines, but we “need each other to make the Church work.”

    The Elders and High Priests are generally split along age lines, of course, but outside of quorum-oriented work there seem to be few divisions: A mix of both groups blesses and passes the sacrament. The bishopric is drawn from the scattering of in-between men, although until recently our bishop was in his mid-80s. Ward clerks and executive secretaries are very young men — perhaps partly because of the computer skills needed now.

    Relief Society leadership also comes from the in-between group, but from the higher end of that group. Teachers and committee/board members come from all over the scale, including some of the youngest women.

    Sunday School leaders are all over the place, both in administration and teaching. And of course we have no youth or children’s programs beyond the nursery that is handled by a young couple.

    Activities and new-members and other ward-wide committees are drawn from all ages. So is the choir. The single adult group regulars include university students and widows in their 80s, all in the same group, although it’s the younger people who tend to set the activities and run the program. Ward-wide social activities draw all ages, although we tend to cluster by age for casual chatting, and I have yet to see any of the over-70s join in the volleyball games at picnics.

    All in all, it’s a really admirable mix in circumstances that could easily be polarizing. There aren’t enough of either age group to make the ward function alone. Younger people get experience earlier than they might in a normal ward, and we can’t afford to relegate old people to retirement. It doesn’t matter how long or short a time a new move-in might plan on being in the ward — if you’re only here for the semester, we still need you to set up the ward website or coordinate visiting teaching while you’re here. If you’re a great-grandparent who feels like you’ve carried your share of the burden long enough, we still want to hear from you in testimony meeting and class discussions.

    It would be nice if all our divided-demographic units were as much a family as our ward is.

  25. Jack on November 4, 2006 at 1:40 pm

    I think the difficulty with cultural intergration is a general problem and that it’s unfair to infer that Americans tend to be more at fault than those of other cultures for the lack of such intergration within the church. Look at the problem within the U.S.. Most Hispanics, for example, tend to form enclaves (as it were) of watered-down versions of their own culture rather than assimilate. Hence, even after a hundred years of mingling in (say) Southern California we have entire Spanish speaking stakes–not to mention the myriads of Spanish speaking branches and wards in other areas.
    And I would add that there are many (many!) Anglo-Americans who speak fair to middling to excellent Spanish. Sometimes I speak more Spanish than English at my job–and I love it, BTW.

    Re: MLMs in the church–

    For many it’s a religion within a religion–lot’s of good people (and some not so good) who don’t know the fine line between true fellowship and devouring orphans and widows.

  26. Septimus on November 4, 2006 at 3:57 pm

    Just had a funny moment with my wife when she found this thread. Good news is that she wants me to keep posting. For anyone who cares I’ll post under, “Herodotus” in the future. Warn me if there are similar associations!

  27. Kevin Barney on November 4, 2006 at 5:03 pm

    Septimus #28, Herodotus is a good choice, except for calling to my mind the pain of trying to read him in Greek as a BYU undergrad. (Just kidding; I loved the class!)

    Our newish SP, while anglo, was born in Mexico and speaks fluent Spanish. I can tell that he has made a real effort to integrate better the Spanish and Anglo elements in our Stake. The Gold and Green Ball, for instance, had more of a Spanish flair this year, and it was a big improvement, I thought.

    Unfortunately, I don’t speak a lick of Spanish, so I’m not of much help in this effort.

  28. Jonathan Green on November 4, 2006 at 5:26 pm

    No, Ardis, your example doesn’t involve language, but YES, it’s exactly what I’m trying to describe. I thought my own ward in grad school, with a mix of stable families and a very large number of young couples with maybe a kid or three, worked out very well, but I’ve heard of cases where similar demographics had poor results. What makes one ward work, where others don’t?

    Jack, I’ve also heard people in the US express some of the same frustrations about slowly assimilating immigrants, but Americans often behave much the same in their expatriate enclaves. Not better, not worse. Resisting assimilation–usually just a matter of doing whatever’s easiest–seems to be human nature. I don’t think American wards in Europe or Spanish wards in the US are necessarily a bad thing, by the way; for a lot of situations, it’s what the members need. In a lot of situations, though, the numbers just aren’t there for two separate units.

    Mrs. Septimus-Herodotus: Thank you for allowing your husband to contribute! His contributions have been most welcome.

  29. Jack on November 4, 2006 at 8:06 pm

    Jonathan,

    Yeah, that’s really my point. It’s a general problem–human nature. I don’t fault one culture more than any other–though I would say in the case of American soldiers in Germany–they’re not going over their to assimilate. They’re going over there to do their duty as American soldiers.

    That said, as it relates to members of the church, well we can always do better–though I don’t think we’re doing such a terrible job comparatively speaking. When I was on my mission in South America back in the early eighties I met an American member who had an executive position with an American corporation which had a facility located in that area. This brother, while there, was called to serve as Bishop in his ward. He was fluent in Portuguese as he had served a mission in Brasil years before and now was faced with having to ratchet up his Spanish in order to better serve the people in his ward. He didn’t go to that country as a missionary or to serve in the church in some special capacity, but there he was–and his wife was no less of service–giving of himself in huge ways so as to be a servant to those of another culture. I think there are many like examples out there–good souls who forget themselves even to the point of forgetting much of their own cultural comforts in the service of others.

WELCOME

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