Changes

August 8, 2012 | 53 comments
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We talk about our Heavenly Father loving us, and our leaders say they love us, but sometimes it feels like they mean “us” in general, and not “me” in particular.

We are told that almost any righteous man and woman can have a successful marriage if they are both committed, if both of them have enough faith to do everything right. [fn1] The particulars of the individuals, the quirks and preferences that make up our personalities, don’t much matter. And many couples in contented arranged marriages can testify to the viability of this idea.

In the same way, any given community of saints within any arbitrarily drawn ward boundary has the potential to foster Zion within it. We don’t choose our wards, not really. We serve and worship where we are assigned. We learn to love each other in our particularity as we serve together through years. We are not just numbers, we are fellow saints who struggle and celebrate and mourn together. As we come to know each other, we develop compassion and charity. We learn to love.

But we cannot allow ourselves to forget how arbitrary are those boundaries that foster these relationships.

On Sunday the ward boundaries were changed throughout my stake. I’ve never experienced this before, and I was surprised at how devastated, how bereft I felt about being cut off from my ward family, the ward I have served in for the last three years, the ward that welcomed us here and convinced us that this move was a good idea. I feel cut adrift, rejected, exiled. I felt like a number that had been shuffled around, my individuality denied and the particular character of my ward ignored.

I don’t like the change or how it was presented to us. It felt heavy handed, a fait accompli that we are given little choice but to accept. I was still in shock, still trying to process the changes and their implications when we were asked to give a sustaining vote. And I really didn’t like being congratulated on my faith in accepting these changes while I was still trying to grasp the enormity of those changes.

I worry about my ward, what was my ward, my old ward, losing so many families and people who were serving reliably. It hurts me that I won’t be there to help anymore; not that my help would solve all the problems, but at least I wouldn’t feel helpless.

I don’t expect I’ll remain so upset for long; it’s just not possible. By the time Sunday rolls around and I attend my new ward for the first time, I should be ready to start working and worshipping with my new group of fellow saints. After all, their ward was gutted worse than ours; they’ll need me and put me to work. And I already have good friends there.

I hope this change will expand my sense of community. I hope it will be a chance to build more friendships. And I hope I can continue to be a good neighbor to everyone I will no longer see on Sundays. Perhaps I should see this as an opportunity to exercise the Buddhist principles of compassion and non-attachment.

I don’t know that this is a good change, but I will work to make it so.

 

[fn1] “It is certain that almost any good man and any good woman can have happiness and a successful marriage if both are willing to pay the price”  Spencer W. Kimball. Marriage and Divorce (1976), 16. http://www.lds.org/ensign/2002/09/choosing-and-being-the-right-spouse#footnote4-22909_000_015

 

53 Responses to Changes

  1. Jon on August 8, 2012 at 8:43 am

    It’s hard to start something new when you have had something so good. But who knows if hidden blessings are waiting?

  2. Kristin on August 8, 2012 at 8:57 am

    Sometimes inspiration such as the type invoked for these changes would benefit from consultation with local leaders so the “us” are truly numbered.

  3. Rachel Whipple on August 8, 2012 at 9:03 am

    In addition to the appeal to authority (revelation, inspiration) which is a huge factor for latter-day saints, it is just much more efficient to make decisions at the top, especially when some proportion of those affected will be upset with the outcome no matter what procedure led to it.

  4. E.D. on August 8, 2012 at 9:14 am

    Boundary changes are difficult. We had one in four of our units about 2 years ago in order to re-apportion and form a fifth unit. I think it is still difficult for many because there were no changes before that for many years. It is a big shift to go from knowing you will see friends 1-2 times a week to maybe seeing them 3-4 times per year unless you make the effort to keep in touch. One good thing though is that it shakes up the callings a bit, which I am almost always in favor of.

    I have also experienced my home branch being dissolved and split among 3 other branches/wards. It didn’t help that the Stake President was in our branch and his wife actively complained/campaigned to have a branch centered closer to their house. Virtually everyone in my home branch has gone inactive because of a)the way it was handled or b)the tremendous increase in driving distances for everyone but the Stake President. There were a lot of hurt feelings when the change was announced, but people were in shock during the sustaining vote.

  5. Bryan S. on August 8, 2012 at 9:24 am

    We’re actually in the same stake. We got thrown into a new ward as well. I was actually kind of surprised at how shocked I was that we got moved to a new ward and I’m still kind of bummed that we no longer go to the church that is across the street and instead go to the one a mile away (I know I know, spoiled).

    We are (or at least I am) also excited to get somewhat of a fresh start. We didn’t do so well in being social in our last ward. I didn’t find all that many people to relate with. So maybe I can do a better job in this new ward.

    One thing I did think was weird was how secretive and mysterious they seemed to be in announcing the meeting in my ward. The stake president came and just said there would be changes and to not ask the bishop or anyone about what those changes would be. I was under the impression that it would be some sort of change to home teaching or something, I had no clue they were intending to reorganize the stake until I got a mass email from the stake clerk. I think that if I had been completely blind sided it would have been even more of a shock. Don’t know why they felt the need to not say that there would be boundary changes.

  6. Laura Mabey on August 8, 2012 at 9:27 am

    I hate being told that all this is wonderful and we are so blessed by (whatever) it is. When we were meeting in the funeral home, we were told how blessed we were to be there. I would rather have driven farther. Maybe instead of telling us how “blessed” we are, they should encourage us to have faith as we face these changes and it is okay to mourn a little about it.

  7. Naismith on August 8, 2012 at 9:46 am

    Nice thoughts on the bittersweetness of this sense of loss and excitement.

    We’ve lived through two or three of these. The one that my husband was intimately involved as stake clerk, the membership was very involved in the process. There was an advisory committee made up of rank-and-file members that met regularly for months.

    One of the things they came up with with the idea of pods or neighborhood groups. To identify groups of saints who carpooled together and relied on one another, then build from there. People might curse the boundary lines now, wondering why it runs down a parallel side street rather than a major road, but the original intent was not to mess with carpooling for early-morming seminary, etc.

    But I am sure that some folks still found the process heavy handed, if they or their friends weren’t on the committee.

    During one redistricting, the existing bishop found himself over a ward in which only 20% of members were from the previous boundaries. One of his counselors became bishop of the new ward, but the pre-existing bishop had the challenge of being slammed with 80% new members, many who resented moving from a ward where they loved their bishop.

  8. Suleiman on August 8, 2012 at 10:09 am

    I hope no one takes this wrong, but there are great reasons to have boundary changes. Boundary divisions do teach us something… families (and according to Joseph Smith… friends) are forever, church is temporary!

    We often place great stock in our relationships and status in our wards. But they are neither real nor eternal. Status tends to create a sense of pride which is obviously counterproductive to our spiritual growth. Relationships based on passing in the hall or by outward appearances in church meetings are superficial. That is why most of those relationships come to a screeching halt the instant we move an imaginary line. If they had real meaning and value, boundary changes would not affect them. Or more accurately, we would not let the boundary changes affect them.

    So boundary changes are good. They remind us that no one is really an officer, we are all “enlisted” persons in this campaign. We then have opportunities to serve in a variety of roles. And we have repeated opportunities to build real, lasting friendships (How rare they are… unfortunately!) which are not affected by mere boundary changes.

  9. Janell on August 8, 2012 at 10:26 am

    On the bright side, in my experience, ward boundaries changes increase my feeling of community within the stake itself. (On another scale, _stake_ boundary changes. Those I just don’t like as it pretty much means I’ll never run into some people through church ever again.)

    But I agree, there’s a certain feeling of shock and almost betrayal that comes with loosing a ward family when you’re not the one instigating the change.

  10. Curtis Pew on August 8, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    I’ve been through several of these changes, most recently just last month, and my experiences have always been positive. You get to meet new people, and to enjoy the knowledge that the church is growing in your area. (Also, now I only have to go 15 minutes early to sit on a soft pew in the chapel instead of a hard chair in the cultural hall. It used to be closer to 25 minutes.) I still run into old friends in the hall and at stake and multi-stake activities, not to mention in the temple. It’s much better to deal with changes than to watch things slowly stagnate.

  11. John Taber on August 8, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    I am (still) an assistant stake clerk. About two and a half years ago we realigned four wards and a branch into six wards. That happened two years after I had first proposed the idea to the stake presidency. In between there was much back and forth between members of the stake presidency, several (if not all) high councilors, the bishops involved, the stake clerk, and myself. I probably had the least say, except that I ran the numbers for each draft proposal that came down the line – and there were many.

    The stake clerk and I drew up the final map and put together the report for the brethren in Salt Lake about six months before the change actually happened in April 2010. When it did, there was some wailing and gnashing of teeth, because there had been no boundary changes within the area involved since September 1991; most wards hadn’t been affected since March 1990, and one hadn’t since September _1981_. Many members changed meetinghouses for the first time in their lives, or at least in decades.

    I know it seemed like a bomb was dropped, but there was a good deal of discussion along the way. And while I felt one of the most significant spiritual experiences in my life putting together the initial proposal, I recognized that what was settled on was what the Lord wanted – or something resembling that.

  12. Adam Greenwood on August 8, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    There is a curious paradox in Mormonism where we emphasize relationships so heavily and then are fairly unsentimental, even ruthless, about them.

  13. Been Moved on August 8, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    Thanks John Taber for explaining so well the time and thought and prayer that usually is found behind boundary changes and unit creation. I, too, have been involved at the stake level. At least in my stake, changes are not made frivilously. Some of the comments and the OP give the impression it’s just a bunch of people at the top making capricious decisions. That is not the case at all. Most stake leaders have extended families in the wards and branches. They live in those wards and branches. They are well aware of the turmoil and emotional challenges that come with these changes.

  14. Rachel Whipple on August 8, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    Been Moved-The OP gives that impression that it was a top-down decision with little ground level input because that is the impression received by its author. I would not say capricious or frivolous; rather it felt like we were shuffled around until the numbers worked out. If that was the case, it may have been expedient and possibly insensitive, but not frivolous. The first hint we had of anything was when my husband was released from his calling in the bishopric without explanation the day before the changes were announced.

    I am glad to hear though other commenters about the care and negotiation that goes into making these decisions. Our stake president did talk about the prayer and consideration that went into these changes, and I don’t doubt that they considered prayerfully.

    The people who seem the least upset are those who have seen the most changes. I just wasn’t prepared for it; it had not even crossed my mind that I would be leaving my ward unless we had to move away, and knowing you’re going to move is a kind of preparation.

    I can’t say now that I like this change or that I think it is good. But I hope good will come of it, and I will do my best to make it so. I’m willing to try, and that’s the best I can honestly do.

  15. jennifer Ruben on August 8, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    knowing first hand the negative effects of new ward boundries that are leaked too soon I understand why the stake leadership is very careful about sharing that information. There are numerous reasons that planned changes may not actually take place including in our case mass deployment of the majority of the priesthood holders days before the planned announcement. I have also always felt that my sustaining vote on occasions when I am “shell shocked” can be either I support the theory and office raise of the hand or I’m waiting for my own inspiration non-vote.

  16. Bryan S. on August 8, 2012 at 4:26 pm

    My wife and I ultimately felt that there was no way the Stake President could have made everyone happy with the redrawing of boundaries so it was just a matter of chance that we got moved. I am pretty sure that at least the bishops were involved in the decision though I am not sure to what extent.

    I can also understand and fully support the idea that you don’t want information about where ward boundaries will be drawn to be leaked. I don’t understand keeping the mere fact that ward boundaries will be changed as a secret. I can remember two or three times my stake was reorganized and ward boundaries changed growing up. We always knew in advance that it was going to happen and were able to make mental preparations appropriately.

  17. John Taber on August 8, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    They don’t announce that change is coming for two simple reasons: 1) members will start lobbying the stake leadership about changes (“Don’t divide me away from Sister X”, “Please divide me away from Brother Y”, etc.) 2) Members will start sitting on their hands, so to speak, until the change is made. In my stake, we had stake conference the week before, and not only was that business not taken care of, but the special meeting for the next week not even announced. (It went out by email a day or two later.)

    Yes, my job was to carve the affected area into building blocks. (Sometimes a leader would suggest a potential boundary and I’d have to split a few blocks.) But we always kept our eye on school districts, good ways to divide towns down the middle, and even the current ward boundaries (parts of which were preserved). I never looked very hard at individual blocks’ statistics, but much more at total statistical profiles from combinations.

    All the while, I strived for the Spirit, but recognized that I wasn’t the one holding the keys.

  18. Naismith on August 8, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    Re #11, the big difference I see between how my stake did it and how your stake did it is that, at least according to what you reported, absolutely no women were involved in the decision. Yes, I failed to mention that about half of the committee members in my stake were women, because that is how it should be and typically is where I live.

    To have a bunch of men deciding something this important without any input from women seems Just Wrong.

  19. Rob Perkins on August 8, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    I think long experience has forged the approach General Authorities take when they change boundaries. They don’t disclose tentative plans, or the number-gaming you have to do to explore options, because gossip inflames feelings about things which might not happen. There are fewer spiritually damaging problems with the top-down-announce approach than with a more democratic and open setup. And you’re right to point out, then, that everyone gets back to work almost the very next week.

    Years ago, my father was on a committee which attempted to use census and other data to predict where and how our area would grow, and where the wards might be centered. By and large his committee correctly identified the growth patterns and the names they chose, drawing from older regional names for each area, became the names of the wards.

    I mention this to point out that planning for ward boundaries includes efforts that go back dozens of years, in many cases. It is never capricious. (Though someone did tell me a story that when they created the third Swiss Stake a number of years ago, no wards which had the city limits of Zurich actually ended up in the Zurich Stake. The only way to balance administrative workloads at that moment were to assign Zurich I and II to St. Gallen. We had a chuckle about that together. :-) )

    My sense of it is that there is almost always a prayerful approach. Splitting a Stake still requires Qo12 approval, doesn’t it?

  20. Meldrum the Less on August 8, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    I do not know enough about this specific ward change to comment. I have been through a few and they are often difficult.

    A minister friend of mine is amazed that we Mormons get away with these splits as often as we do with so little chance for anyone to express an opinion. It is a rule of thumb that when you divide a Protestant congregation you are going to lose about 30%. In other words if a congregation of 1000 is split into two congregations, they will be lucky to have 300-400 members in each when the dust settles. Congregation divisions are to be avoided as much as possible. (Pastor-ology 101). Some Protestant congregations are divided due to dissention and disagreement. A high level of loss might be expected in circumstances of contention. But even when divisions are driven by unemotional factors such as growing out of a building or other physical changes a large number of people will be displeased enough to leave. If you think Protestants are just flaky and these pressures do not apply to us then you are mistaken. It is not as easy for us Mormons to leave one church and go somewhere else, but we will still have a similar amount of dissatisfaction, undoubtedly expressed differently.

    I know of several LDS extended family members or friends who went inactive after a ward division. Yeh, it wasn’t the only reason. But the ward division certainly gave a strong kick in the arse to someone who was already bent over for other reasons.

    The continual dividing of wards and stakes is driven as much by a paradigm of inevitable continual growth as by rational data recorded by clerks demonstrating some statistical need to divide. The one true church has to be the fastest growing church. We do not seem to be able to comprehend even the remote possibility of a growth plateau or stagnation for a season. We effectively lie to ourselves by ignoring inconvenient evidence.

    My opinion is that most of our wards are too small to function as well as they should. Most of our buildings are too small even for the multiple small wards using them, let alone a decent-sized church. Larger groups of people can support more specialization and greatly increased creativity and efficiency. Two small wards might have twice as many people in the Bishopric and head of established auxiliaries. But combined together they could create better auxiliaries and more than make up for the fewer high profile positions. They would also bring more people into callings who might not fit the standard Bishopric or auxiliary leader template. A ward too small is part of what causes the Same Ten Families problem.

    I had a conversation with a member of my stake presidency a few years ago. I pointed out that the boy scouts were the most effective youth auxiliary with the most experience during the 20th century and were strongly influenced by some of our top leaders. Perhaps we could look to their experience in best developing our youth programs. The BSA has studied carefully the question of what size of a troop functions best. They are flexible but they recommend 3 patrols of 5 to 8 boys as a minimum, not an average. The best troops seem to have 40 to 60 boys which might be 5 to 8 patrols of 8 or more boys. The 3 patrols match up fairly well with our 3 Aaronic Priesthood quorums. If we insist upon a separate youth auxiliary program for the young women, it probably needs to be roughly about the same size.

    This line of reasoning would indicate that our wards should have no fewer than 30 to 50 youth as a MINIMUM, not as an average or as some future goal. Ideally, we might be wise to have even larger youth programs of 80 to 100 total at YM/YW. That would not include all the names of people long inactive. We might also consider a larger number to cover the fact that participation in YW/YM is sort of by inscription and not entirely voluntary as it is in the community boy scout troops. If the size of the ward had to increase dramatically to support youth programs of this size then the other adult programs would have to become more flexible. Is not this a better way forward?

    My stake presidency friend agreed with me in principle and promised me that future divisions of wards would look beyond sacrament meeting attendance and number of Priesthood holders. But recently he presided over the splitting of our ward with single digit numbers of youth. The ward I now attend has 0 YM /3 YW. If my children were still in the YW/YW we would be looking into attending another ward with a better youth program in spite of the flack we might expect to receive. The few families with small children still in primary are looking into doing the same and they have my blessing.

  21. Bryan S. on August 8, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    There is more to consider than just youth though. I’ve heard this argument and it actually applies to the OP’s stake which has very few youth due to it’s proximity to BYU. There are a number of issues. To have that many youth a ward would have to be up in the range of 600-1000 members. This would create enormous stress on the bishop of that ward as well as many other leaders. Retention would be much more difficult. Many people would find themselve without a calling because one ward just can’t support that many callings. There aren’t enough meaningful jobs, even if you split Elder’s Quorums and Relief Societies.

    In our stake the plan is to combine the youth programs among the wards.

    So when you ask “Is not this a better way forward?” For the youth perhaps it would, but the youth are not the only part of a ward, so the overall health of the ward might not benefit.

    In fact I believe wards used to be of that size and they changed it because it was hard to manage.

  22. Sam Brunson on August 8, 2012 at 9:26 pm

    Rachel, I’m curious: is your ward/stake generally transitory, or is it filled with the same people who’ve been there forever?

    Our ward split almost exactly two years ago. Frankly, there had been a lot of signalling beforehand; it was anything but a surprise. But also, we have a transitory ward. Two years later, at least half of our members have lived in our ward less time than the ward has existed. At three years (between the two years in this ward and the prior year that we’d moved in), we’re on the long-ish side; one family’s lived here for seven years, but most haven’t.

    As a result, though we’d made friends, the split was not traumatic. And the same held in my New York ward which had ~30% turnover every year. Yes, we didn’t see some people as frequently, but they probably would have moved within the next couple years, anyway, so it wasn’t terribly traumatic.

  23. Rachel Whipple on August 8, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    Our ward is divided. There are a number of homeowners and families that have been here for many, many years that seem to form the foundation of the ward. Then there are a lot of BYU married students who are around for 3 months to 3 years (if they’re in law school).

  24. Stephanie on August 8, 2012 at 11:56 pm

    My husband is a Stake Executive Secretary, and his experience has been like John’s. They start talking about it months/years in advance and move very slowly behind the scenes and need approval from higher authorities. A lot goes into the process.

  25. christine on August 9, 2012 at 12:16 am

    i think you can get special permission to remain in your ward. someone recently told me. we have a slightly larger ward in Courtenay (this is where I attend church) and a very small one in Campbell River (it is on Vancouver Island) some people who live in between and could go either way may petition to belong to the ward of your choosing….might be worth a try…

  26. christine on August 9, 2012 at 12:20 am

    (“your ward”) …the half of your previous ward which you would rather be in……

  27. michelle on August 9, 2012 at 1:20 am

    We’ve been through several of these — they happen about every 3-4 years or so where we live.

    It’s very hard. But I’ve seen significant blessings arise from them, even as the bittersweetness has never really gone away. You always miss the people you came to love and don’t see as often. But then you get more people to love and serve.

    I recall our stake president talking about walking through the stake in the early mornings. He walked by every house, pondering and praying for guidance about how to draw the boundaries. I have felt similar care and concern with other changes as well…even as I haven’t always understood them. I think it’s really easy to assume that it’s all done hastily and without thought, but I suspect it weighs heavily on these leaders. I know our leaders felt that.

    Good luck. Let yourself mourn. It’s ok to grieve it, I think. The only way to take the pain out of the change would be to not have the love and community you have felt.

  28. Egee on August 9, 2012 at 7:16 am

    I’ve never been involved personally in any ward or stake divisions but my impression has been that the decision to divide is based upon number of Melchizedek priesthood holders and number of temple recommend holders. Obviously, some consideration to the practicality of boundaries has to be made but it can’t all be geography if a ward is going to function.

  29. Aaron R. on August 9, 2012 at 7:26 am

    I do not have much to add by way of substance but I found this a simple but beautiful post. I have never had this experience but I am in the middle of a transition (although one that has been chosen) and this resonated with me. Thank you.

  30. NewlyHousewife on August 9, 2012 at 8:30 am

    Egee, that is the way it is done. Recently our ward also split here and to me it was an embarrassment. We were the ward that regularly overflowed the chapel, come Christmas it was like Stake Conference with chairs all the way back to the gym stage. The only reason we had so many people in our wards on Sunday in the first place was because there was not enough temple attending Priesthood holders to support both wards. Anyone who worked in Primary was aware they were understaffed prior to the ward split.

    Now it’s everyone who lives on the military base goes to one ward, and everyone else who lives in town attend the other. The one in town is still overpopulated…

    Personally, I didn’t really care about the ward split. I found it enlightening that the people who I used to think were friends turned out to be church acquaintances.

  31. themormonbrit on August 9, 2012 at 9:47 am

    I agree with Aaron. I don’t really have anything to add to or comment upon your post, so I’ll just say: thank you.

  32. CS Eric on August 9, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    In my experience, sometimes these things work out, sometimes they don’t. About 15 years ago, we moved into an area that had recently been split off from the stake into a district, with the intent to grow into a stake. This new district had three branches in our building, and three or four more in other buildings. Rather than grow, both membership and activity in our district shrank, and about 10 years later the district was disbanded and absorbed back into the old stake.

  33. Meldrum the Less on August 9, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    Bryan S:

    First, I agree that exceptions might be made right next to the one and only BYU. And there are other unusual circumstances. But that does not address the problem in 25,000 wards across the church.

    I am really bad at making a point. Others often make my point better. Please accept my appology and bear with me.

    My point is this: What would a ward of 1000 look like?
    Would it have to be as bad as you think?
    What if it could be…BETTER?

    Do you remember the mega-wards of the 1960’s? Did you live in one? They were wonderful. But the auxilaries tended to overpowered the priethood. It was hard to control everyone. Talented people in the trenches could easily make controlling leaders look foolish (who often got their position through relation as much as by revelation). They were not easily transplanted to smaller areas.

    As the church became more like franchises and in an effort at fairness, the lowest common denominator was sought. The lowest common denominator is zero. We have the mess today as the result and I do not think it is sustainable.

    What if the Bishop didn’t have to wipe the snot off everybody’s nose and actually delegated many of his duties? What if we didn’t have cookie cutter callings that fit only the Same Ten Families and were large enough to accomodate creativity and specialization? These large wards would not all have to be identical.

    Almost all of the sucessful churches around here are that size. Or larger. If Protestants (thick enough between the ears to believe in the trinity and Biblical infallibility and closed cannon and yada, yada) are smart enough to figure out how to make larger churches work, then what is the matter with us? It can be done and is being done successfully in many places.

    And I take it that I have no disagreement (so far) that youth programs would work better at the 30-50 range? (I concede that there might be cause for debate about problems at the 80-100 range.) And so I conclude in most wards we are throwing not a few of our youth under the bus because, what? Our leadership is too inflexible to deal with larger congregations?

    While those Stake Presidents are wandering past every home in the stake (we have over 1 million non-LDS people residing in our stake) in deep spiritual contemplation and concern, maybe they need to stop thinking entirely inside of small boxes and consider a larger perspective. I never intend to imply they do not care. This is a problem of the head not the heart.

    Youth need a decent peer group or they will find it elsewhere. A community that places other priorities over them sells their future.

  34. Meldrum the Less on August 9, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    I skipped addresing meaningful jobs. It is a common excuse given for a small ward.

    If meaningful means being in charge then you have a point. You can form your own church of one and be the prophet while you are at it.

    If meaningful means working with people one-on-one in some area where you have much experience or interest then the potential is far greater for meaningful jobs in a larger congregation.

    Let me illustrate with two scout troops have been in.

    LDS troop has wa, as the scout master and one father on a trip who probably won’t come again. And a few boys. As the Scoutmaster I have to do everything which isn’t that much since the boys are not that excited. No big deal. I have to be careful because the other adult may have little experience and if there is a problem we are going to be up the creek.

    Community troop has 30 active adults and 80 boys. When we go backpacking about 20 or 30 boys show up and 4-6 leaders. I can specialize in either trying to kill (exhaust) the most athletic boys out in front, or alternatively be the sweeper in back and find (or prevent) the boys who get lost. I can parcel out a Dutch oven and charcoal and the ingredients for a really good cobbler to the strongest boys. I can remember to get that kid in the band to bring his trumpet and spontaneously stage several events that no scoutmaster has the time to plan. I can sit up all night telling bear stories around the fire while the scoutmaster interviews the boys ready for rank advancement then goes to sleep early. Becaue I know other better rested leaders will have their wits about them the next day. Pranks become a reality and since I am in the middle of them I can keep them from going too far. I can put on my chief sniffing weasel act which no scoutmaster or other adult in a position of authority could ever get away with.

    The meaningful callings in a larger congregation are limited only by your imagination.

  35. Stephen R. Marsh on August 9, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    Meldrum — I have seen all the arguments for both sides and I realize that partisans for one side will never accept the other side.

    Given you reject I can not provide any response.

  36. J.A.T. on August 9, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    1) Some leadership gurus will tell you that “gossip” and “leaks” aren’t entirely bad. They exist for a purpose, rather like a coping mechanism. ‘Shocking’ news is really bad leadership. People don’t like surprises at work and they don’t like surprises at church either. We may do it for ‘the church’ but we don’t like it. Every ward and stake should be talking about growth and growing pains in the area. Healthy discussions should focus on how people are welcomed into the flock, what will happen when certain milestones are met, and how we can positively grow together. Every stake leader should be letting people know change is a-foot and how we can all participate. When I was growing up, my parents were established pillars in our ward and stake. They knew about events and changes and would share with us. Now that I’m young married (and at the bottom of our ward totem pole) we’re totally out of the info loop. It really does make a difference in your comfort level and the ability you have to function in a ward.

    2) There was an interesting comment above about mega-wards having ‘overpowering’ auxiliaries. FMH and other feminist bloggers would argue that auxiliaries in the average ward are sadly lacking in power and influence. Perhaps mega-wards are the solution?

    3) I’m really liking the mega-ward idea. Instead of focusing on managing small wards, we could funnel the same energy into some really important work that small wards can’t tackle. For example, what would happen if we were to put 100 saints into family history work callings led by a fantastic ward family history leader who would otherwise be a bishop or RS president? Can you imaging what could happen? What about another 100 ward members working in community welfare services, another 100 members in relief society programs, and (gasp) 100 members as ward missionaries?

    We have about 800 members and three wards in our community of about 15K. We could really ROCK OUR CITY if we had even a TEAM of 100 community welfare specialists led by someone fantastic. If we had 100 family history specialists, our “research” would have 3X more horsepower than the entire staff of our local public library. If we had 100 ward missionaries, we would have more persons focused on missionary work than have cumulatively done so (counting FT missionaries and members) in the entire history of the church in our area (60 years). If RS had even 50 sisters working as RS literacy specialists, LDS community literacy program volunteers would outnumber all the afterschool tutors in the entire school district. If we had 100 community welfare specialists, we would have more regular and “trained’ volunteer hands than our community Red Cross, soup kitchen/pantry, and homeless shelter COMBINED. Putting this sort of muscle into a community would go so much further than any media PR campaign ever could.

    Simply put, there is strength in numbers and we could make a difference if we worked together in larger numbers.

  37. christine on August 9, 2012 at 11:45 pm

    if the size of the building/power plant (A/C heating) is not adaequate it is nonsense to have a ward of 1000…
    Newlyhousewife (30) i too would be curious to see which friendships might survive a split in my ward.

  38. danithew on August 10, 2012 at 6:02 am

    I remember years ago, sitting in a meeting as an EQP and worrying about home teaching reporting for the month. Then we heard from the stand that our ward had been dissolved and boundaries changed.

    Suddenly, as it were, in the twinkling of an eye, all my concerns were wiped away.

  39. Rachel Whipple on August 10, 2012 at 7:44 am

    danithew, I can’t stop smiling about your comment. Thank you.

    And thanks to all of you who have joined in on this thread. It really is helping me feel better to get different perspectives and to have a conversation with people (other than Bryan S) who are not personally affected by this change. As for you, Bryan S, maybe we’ll run into each other at a stake meeting one day. I was in Provo 1st, now I’m in PP11.

    Thank you all again.

  40. JoAnna Collida on August 10, 2012 at 8:08 am

    The building in which one meets is not the church. The people one meets with are not the church. Where there are believers of faith joined together to worship and further God’s kingdom is where one will find the church. The shade of an oak tree will do nicely…even if it is a different oak tree every day. God isn’t concerned with whether we are friends or not, or our comfort level. He wants us there to build His kingdom. Comfort and friends will come.

    Bloom where you are planted! Even if the soil is rocky.

  41. A Turtle Named Mack on August 10, 2012 at 9:40 am

    My only experience with boundary changes occurred while I was serving a mission. I left from one Ward, and came back to another. While I was gone, there was a lot of outreach, community building, and other activities to make the transition complete. I came home to a Ward that I didn’t know. My family had been fully integrated into the ‘new’ Ward. They all knew each other, had developed friendships, held callings, etc. However, I knew very few people (only the small few who had moved over from the ‘old Ward). I didn’t benefit from the transitional activities. I had never intended to attend the local Single Adults Ward (and didn’t really like the experience), but I made the jump pretty quickly in order to get out of a weird Sunday experience. If I hadn’t just returned from a mission, and been in a secure place, spiritually, inactivity would have been a tempting option.

    The LDS take on geographic congregations is quite interesting. A Ward (or Branch) is a place where there is an expectation that people will develop meaningful relationships. However, on what often seems like a whim, boundaries are reorganized and we are forced to make new friendships, develop new relationships. While, technically, old relationships need not be cast off, they typically wane for practical purposes. The context upon which they were formed is removed, and a large amount of time must be spent on building new relationships. Essentially, leadership shows up on a Sunday and announces ‘Here is your new set of Church friends, make it work.’ What is truly remarkable about the whole thing is that members generally put up with it.

  42. Bryan S. on August 10, 2012 at 10:04 am

    Rachel,

    Now this is funny. I was in the 11th ward and am now in the 3rd ward. You’ll be in the ward with my brother-in-law and you must live quite close to me. I look forward to someday meeting in person.

  43. Sharee Hughes on August 10, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    I have only experienced boundary changes once–just a few years ago in my ward. But they didn’t divide the ward, they combined the two wards meeting in our building. The ward I was in was one of those newly-wed/nearly-dead wards. We had lots of older people and lots of young couples, either just starting out or with one or two small children. We had very few Primary kids or YM/YW. For some time, those organizations had combined meetings with the other ward. We also combined wards for Sacrament Meeting at Christmas. No one was the least bit surprised when they combined the wards. The larger ward has worked out wonderfully, although it took some time to get to know all of the “new” people from the other ward. Now, until you look at someone’s address, you don’t know what ward they were in previously. We’re all just one big happy family. It was a great ward before, and now it is an even greater ward. Some of my closest associates in the “new” ward are ones that used to be in the “other” ward.

  44. Katya on August 10, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    We are told that almost any righteous man and woman can have a successful marriage if they are both committed, if both of them have enough faith to do everything right. The particulars of the individuals, the quirks and preferences that make up our personalities, don’t much matter. And many couples in contented arranged marriages can testify to the viability of this idea.

    Have you ever read that Kimball quote in its original context (and the rest of the talk that it’s from)?

  45. themormonbrit on August 10, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    With all this talk of megawards, I hate to put a damper on things, but has anyone considered the fact that if wards were to become more and more consolidated into megawards, a lot of people outside the Mormon Corridor would have to travel large distances to attend church. I know in my particular stake, if the wards started getting joined together to create megawards, a lot of people would have to travel ridiculous distances just to attend church, just because our stake is so spread out and it is a fairly rural area with a somewhat sparse Mormon population.

  46. ZD Eve on August 10, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    When I married my husband sixteen years ago, my parents and in-laws lived in the same ward. Over the last decade and a half, as the stake has mushroomed, the ward boundaries have been re-drawn multiple times, separating them, putting them back together, and separating them again. (I tend to prefer them separated; everyone’s been extremely good about it all, but it’s also a little uncomfortable, somehow, when one’s father and father-in-law are home teaching companions.)

    When we were visiting Utah last week the family living across the street from my in-laws was so unhappy at the latest redistricting that they had put their house up for sale.

  47. Meldrum the Less on August 10, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    Reply to # 45

    Being spread out too far is a problem. In some places geography is the driving force. But why does the entire church have to be divided up so small even in places where we are more concentrated?

    One solution is flexible local leadership. I imagine a community where half the people would have to drive 30 minutes to form a group of 40 youth and have a really good youth program. The leaders decide it is worth it. In the next community half the people have to drive 60 minutes to form a group of 40 and the leaders decide it is better to drive less and go with smaller compromised groups of 20 youth in each unit. This might be determined after extensive discussion with all youth, parents and other wise voices. We do not have to be the same everywhere.

    Hey, I’m all for straight revelation, less work for me. But it doesn’t seem to be working. What is ridiculous is to have dozens of units with less than 10 active youth within 30 minutes of several other similar units. That is just plain pigheaded blind devotion to unworkable tenants. It is one of the reasons we are seeing so poor retention among our youth and it pains me when I think of those we lost that I worked with. It brings to my mind a 4 inch nail in a 1 inch board and a**** that need to be whacked.

    Another solution is to think in terms of 30 or 40 years instead of 5 years, the typical term of local leaders. What could we do to encourage people who move in to buy homes closer together? The Jewish people build these large elaborate community centers and over decades those Jews moving in and out tend to get concentrated near them. I think our approach is to be as dispersed as possible under the presumption that it increases missionary success. But it is harder to bring in people to a crappy church.

    Another problem is our buildings are too small and so many of the new smaller ones are not that transferable on the open market. So we are stuck with them forever. Some call this revelation but that 4 inch nail keeps popping back into the seat of my mind.

    ***

    Suggestion to people across the street from in-laws (#46):

    Don’t move. Just start going to the ward you want to attend. What are they going to do? Issue assault rifles to the ushers?

    When I was engaged, my then fiance and I were attending the same student ward where we met but both of us had moved out. The Bishopric came over to her apartment and informed my fiance she had to leave the ward and threatened her: First, with no temple recommend to get married. She said are you giving us no reason to not start shacking up immediately? Second, with no home teachers. She said I have a reliable boyfriend and don’t need them. Third, with no callings! I was half asleep and hidden behind the couch. I poked my head up and inquired, “Could you put that promise in writing, please? They left and we were married in the temple.

    This brings up another suggestion that I have hesitated to raise. But what would happen if we let people select their ward? Good wards would probably get bigger and better in my opinion. Bad wards would get smaller. People who like big wards would select them and people who like smaller wards would select them. I admit it would create problems in some cases. But I think more people would be happier. Instead of ward hopping we could go ward shopping. Are we not a bit past the time when Brigham Young had to force my ancestors to settle in inhospitable places like Cache Valley or Southern Utah?

  48. John Taber on August 10, 2012 at 9:46 pm

    I will admit that after our reshuffling we had a few families move back into their old wards. I have to wonder though, how many of them would have moved around that time anyway? (As in, their lease was up, or their family was growing.)

  49. christine on August 10, 2012 at 11:43 pm

    …the message of the church should be the same so how difficult would it be to be in a new ward ?
    That being said, I have heard some “Alice in Wonderland” stories from an Ex military wife in my current ward, she had crazy things to report about some of the wards she attended during her husband’s military career(incidentally the craziest one was in Germany my homeland)…anyway logistics will prevail and even without those, inevitably wards will change.

  50. themormonbrit on August 11, 2012 at 10:18 am

    Meldrum the less, I actually agree with you. I think areas of high Mormon concentration would do well to consolidate themselves into megawards. I just wanted to make sure you were not forgetting the fact that such an arrangement wouldn’t be ideal for everybody. I particularly like the idea of letting the congregations and youth decide for themselves. We have five active young men in our ward, which is quite frankly ridiculous. If there was a way of consolidating into larger wards, I would definitely support such a movement, if it weren’t for the fact that we are all rather spread out over here.

  51. Loren on August 11, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    I do not intend this to sound self-righteous, but it probably will. Sorry. I do not attend church to be uplifted spiritually or socially. I attend with the purpose of lifting others. In the process of doing that I am also lifted. It does not really matter what ward I may belong to or which calling I have as long as I am able to serve my best. My current calling is scoutmaster. I have always loathed scouting, but I love the young men. So, I do the best I can. Perhaps we need to be less concerned with what may be in it for us – a little less self-focused.

  52. Nathan E. Rasmussen on August 12, 2012 at 11:26 am

    I’m in the OP’s stake too. Attachments to wards can be deep, and losing them can be hard. I’ve done it. Being one of those transient young people, I’ve been in six different wards in the last ten years — and the one I spent the most time in had massive turnover each academic year, making it nearly a whole different ward each time. It’s hard.

    But on the other hand, I think it’s part of the genius of the Church to require us to build Zion with whoever’s at hand. It may require us to take a calling that’s hard, leading to growth. It gives us the opportunity to discover deep and affecting relationships with people we might not have chosen to associate with. But paradoxically, while it’s weaving us together with other saints, it also takes from us the illusion that any particular people are responsible for the goodness of the Church, allowing us to discover how that goodness flows from the power of truth and the care of an attentive God.

    Or, if you prefer a less philosophical approach: Is this the church equivalent of a “first-world problem”? I’d guess at least half the members of the Church live in places where the population is not yet LDS-saturated, those places dismissively known as “the mission field,” and they seem to be much less hung up on “oh, but this ward has existed since 1923″ kinds of issues. My parents’ house is in such a place. It has been in three or four wards in 30 years (the last change renamed their ward but I don’t know what it did to the boundaries). The church grows, the boundaries change, and people get through it.

  53. Mel on August 12, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    If the church was more concerned with building Zion and less concerned with building themselves, they’d have less trouble when splitting wards (or any other time).

    Zion is not the church. Not the same thing at all.