Last week two Wards in our Stake got the big “shakedown”. [Mormon jargon code-breaker: “Ward” = Parish / “Stake” = Diocese]. Latter-day Saints, like all humans, are very communal creatures and we thrive on stability. We develop a deep family bond with our congregation members, so the idea of “breaking up the family” can be an emotional experience. But, these things must happen from time to time. The 2nd Ward (mine) has decreased in numbers (children growing and moving away, homes selling to people not of our faith, etc.) and the 3rd Ward had increased exponentially (more children born, new homes being built with more LDS members moving into the boundaries, etc), so it ultimately became necessary to divide, conquer and redistribute membership. I grew up in a rapidly developing part of the Salt Lake Valley – new subdivisions, homes, and people were rapidly moving in, so the Church regularly changed boundaries and created new Wards and even new Stakes nearly every year! Because of that, this process is very familiar to me, and perhaps a little less unsettling than for those who have lived in our neighborhood within the same ward boundaries for the past 25+ years (which is actually a rare exception rather than the rule in our rapidly globally expanding Church).
So, two Sunday’s ago we received notice [a letter read over the pulpit from the First Presidency of the Church] announcing the pending change, and a joint meeting of the 2nd and 3rd ward members which would take place at 5:00 PM the following Sunday. As you can imagine, there was a record turn-out of people last Sunday anxious for the “big reveal”. Would we stay or would we go?, Which of our friends would leave or remain?, Would the lay leadership [bishopric] of the wards be changed, and if so, who would take the reigns?
The mood in the chapel was a mixture of reverent excitement and somberness.
The procedure of a Latter-day Saint boundary change is really quite a remarkable process. All changes are prayerfully considered and then a plan is submitted by the Stake presidency to the Church headquarters. It goes through an extensive review process and must be personally approved by the First Presidency (the prophet & his 2 counselors). The same process holds true for approval of all new bishops, Stake Presidents, and Mission Presidents. Elder Neil L. Andersen, one of our apostles, was in attendance at our meeting. He took a few minutes to share that there are over 100 changes like ours waiting approval on a weekly basis. Our beloved prophet President Monson loves to personally look through all of the pages of changes, and he takes time to read off the names and places. He often asks members of the quorum who are fluent in particular languages to pronounce the foreign names properly. Elder Andersen explained that when we raise our hands to sustain our boundary change, and any changes in leadership, we are getting another opportunity to sustain our prophet.
“After Careful Consideration…”
The special 5 PM meeting was programmed for welcoming the Spirit of the Lord. Each hymn, prayer and talk all helped contribute to a spirit of calm and love.
There were many predictions and conjecturing during the week of what might happen on Sunday. The most popular theory was that the 2nd Ward would have no changes to our existing membership and simply be welcoming some new people from the 3rd Ward. My gut feeling was that changes would have to happen to both wards. Kind of an “equal in suffering” idea.
My theory won out.
Sure enough, although there were more 3rd Ward homes placed in the boundary of the 2nd Ward, but the 3rd Ward also received a couple of streets from the 2nd Ward.
We happened to live on one of the streets annexed into the 3rd Ward.
I wasn’t shocked. I sort of “already knew” deep down inside this was going to happen. The Spirit of the Lord had prepared my heart. But, that didn’t stop me from crying! Especially when I thought of all of the wonderful friends that I was going to miss seeing every week and associating with and serving with regularly in my “2nd Ward Family.”
But then, I suddenly stopped crying and started to chuckle (quietly).
Because it hit me that I wasn’t really going to miss them.
- An LDS Ward meets for a 3-hour block of time each Sunday, consisting of three 1-hour meetings
- 1 hour Sacrament Meeting – our main service where all join together.
- 1 hour Sunday School, divided by age groups
- 1 hour meeting specific for men, women, children & youth groups.
- In our area there are 3 Wards that share one chapel building. So, start times are staggered to accommodate space.
- Time blocks are 9am-12noon, 11am-1PM, and 1-4PM. Each Ward is assigned a block time, and for fairness, rotate up each January.
- This year, the times happen to fall in order of 3rd Ward, 1st Ward, 2nd Ward.
- Meaning: I am now assigned to a 9 am start time.
Here’s the kicker…
Due to my weekly church service as a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, my Sunday mornings are always booked until at least 11 am – and more often 12 noon. So, although once in a while I can attend an 11 am Ward start time, I usually must find a 1 PM Ward start time, and I can never attend a 9 am Ward start time.
Now do you understand why I was chuckling?
Although I’ve been officially made a member of the 3rd Ward / 9 am start time, for the rest of the year, I’ll still be attending the 2nd Ward / 1 PM start. 😀
[Yes, my bishop is aware & understands]
I guess either the Lord figured I needed a “transition period”, or my new ward isn’t ready for my big personality yet. 😉
I actually feel sad that I won’t be getting an opportunity to meet and serve my new 3rd Ward friends. I’m hoping that at least some “activity nights” or women’s socials will not be scheduled on Choir rehearsal nights so I can attend!
Meanwhile, Mr. Mo will be attending alone each week, and introducing himself as the “Tabernacle Choir Widower”.
LORD, I WOULD FOLLOW THEE
Oh, change is hard! Change can be rough. The Lord does not want His church to become root bound and stagnant. Constant revelation through the prophets is needed for the growth of His kingdom.
There is nothing so unchanging, so inevitable as change itself. The things we see, touch, and feel are always changing. There is a constant that allows us to use change for our own good, and that constant is the revealed eternal truths of our Heavenly Father.
– Marvin J. Ashton (1915-1994) Progress Through Change
Change brings blessings. New opportunities to learn, stretch and grow. The Lord is always mindful of His children, and He will always lead and guide us when our paths diverge.
I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that the “new” 2nd and 3rd Wards will not only survive, they will thrive! And, I look forward to watching things unfold for both. – MoSop
HAPPY PRESIDENT’S DAY! HERE’S WHERE I CELEBRATED