Changing Boundaries, Changing Hearts

Today’s post comes from Debbie Haslam, who serves as a member of Segullah’s advertizing team.

For weeks prior to the special Stake meeting rumors were flying rampant in our stake. Everyone had their own idea of where the new boundary lines would be drawn and which ward they would be assigned. I spent a lot of time during those weeks leading up to the meeting speculating myself. How was this change going to affect my children? How would my husband react? How was I going to feel if things changed dramatically for us? Would I lose my calling as Young Women’s President? I even had a luncheon with several other women from my ward the week prior to the announcement. We each had our own thoughts and concerns about the changes. We shared opinions and frustrations over Mexican food and sodas.

On the day of the meeting my family sat in the foyer until some of our friends began to arrive and then we took our seats in the middle of the chapel, quietly waiting until the meeting began.  I sat in the chapel holding my sweetheart’s hand and feeling the trepidation ooze through the pews.  Anxiety came to a climax as our beloved stake president stood and began to describe to us -using a PowerPoint, a map of our city and street names -the new ward that was being added to our stake as well as the boundary changes that would be effective immediately. I saw to the right of me one sister walk out suddenly with tears in her eyes. I watched as others around me mumbled and whispered and cried as well. Even my own daughter had tears welling up in her eyes as she realized that she was the only active young woman from our “old” ward that had been moved into the new ward. My heart sunk as I tried to comfort her, no words worthy of speaking coming to my mind. Although the idea of attending a brand new ward was daunting to say the least, I was also excited about the possibilities, as well as the implications of this new change, but my excitement would not calm the troubled heart of a teenaged girl who felt like she was losing all of her friends.

The next day, I sat across the table from my good friend and discussed the changes. She too was upset about the changes and she said that it was already affecting her family. Her husband was angry and she knew of others in the stake who were also extremely frustrated about the announcement. Once again, I felt powerless and wordless. I couldn’t just comfort her with the silent hug that I had given my daughter the night before so I tried to sooth her by turning to the pioneers.

“Think of the early pioneers,” I said. “They were not just asked to shift ward boundaries around a bit and maybe have to attend church with new faces. They were asked to leave family and home, pack up everything and move across the country. They left businesses and farms. They were told to travel in horrible conditions. It’s a lot easier for us.”

She seemed quite offended by such a comparison. “It’s different.” She said. “Our lives are much different now.”

She was right, our lives are different now. So why is it so difficult for us to adjust to changes like ward boundaries? Is it a matter of faith? Do we need stronger faith? Faith like that of the pioneers as the trekked across the plains? Or that of Nephi who boldly stated, “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded?” (1 Nephi 3:7) Was the Lord asking too much from the members of our stake? The more I talked to others, the more I wondered.

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It’s been almost two months since the announcements were made. I still hear grumblings and rumors every once in a while, but things have seemed to settle down quite a bit. Most everyone has adjusted to their new ward, new callings and new friends. My children have also adjusted and have even gotten used to the extra 10 minutes it now takes to drive to seminary.  My daughter-although the only active Laurel in our new ward- has made friends and seems to enjoy Wednesday night activities.

As I reflect back on that short conversation I had with my friend, I reason that my comparison was probably fairly accurate, as was her response. Maybe the ward boundary changes were a lot like what the pioneers experienced. Maybe, just like us, they were angry, sad, confused and frustrated by the direction they were given. The pioneers probably grumbled, griped and complained to one another about the demands placed upon them. But then they picked up their bootstraps and made sure that what was asked of them was accomplished. That is exactly what I am seeing taking place in my stake as well. The complaining is diminishing and the work of the Lord moves forward. What a blessing it is to be surrounded by faithful Latter-day Saints who know that the church is true and that even when the demands of the church may seem difficult, they are willing to move on, move forward and build up the kingdom of God together.

13 thoughts on “Changing Boundaries, Changing Hearts

  1. I have mixed feelings about the boundary change that happened in my youth. Our ward went from having 22 active Young Women to having 6. The dating pool was 2 Young Men. Meanwhile, the new ward that had been created to ease the crowding was still bursting at the seams. It was the opinion of many that the Stake Presidency had read the numbers wrong; we were by the Naval Academy and with the high rate of turn-over among the military families left the ward roster full of people who hadn’t actually lived there for years. Also the boundaries covered places that were too expensive for young families so we experienced very little growth; people moving to the area didn’t move to OUR area.

    It was very frustrating and disheartening in many ways. On the other hand, I think I did much better in a “small pond,” so to speak, than I would have otherwise. But ward youth activities were pretty anemic.

    And then when the same thing happened to the youth in the Stake President’s ward (including his own kids) then he had the brilliant idea of encouraging the wards to pair up for activities. Of course, by then I’d graduated the Youth program.

  2. Our stake just went through boundary changes and while some people are not happy, everyone in the stake knew it was time. The core boundaries of my ward didn’t change much, but others did. Nearly ten years ago, in another ward in another state, we went through a boundary change, wherein the stake president got up, announced that our ward had dissolved and sent six families to one ward and the rest to another. No callings opened up in the next 18 months, so those from the ward that was dissoved felt no need to attend church where we weren’t wanted or needed. Most continued to attend anyway, but it was a very difficult transition.

    This time, the stake presidency allayed our fears and had each new ward set up “Meet and Greets” where we could get to know each other a little bit better outside of classes.

    It’s only been a week, but already, callings have been extended to those coming in from other wards so it’s not the same people who held all the callings before the boundary change.

    There is no comparison from the first time it happened to this time. Last time almost physically hurt and many tears were shed. This time, I’ve heard grumbles, but everyone went to their new ward.

  3. We experienced this 4 years ago when our ward split and we became members of the new branch. It was hard to adjust from being members of a bustling ward to a small branch. Our family moved 1 1/2 years after the split to a new state but the spiritual growth we gained in that short time was worth the struggle and grief. When we traveled back home this summer and attended the branch it was good to see the small branch still thriving. We gained so many eternal friendships in such a short time putting our shoulders to the wheel together.

  4. We’ve had a few ward divisions, but it’s never mattered to us because we have always just moved in or were just moving out of the ward when it happened. I think there have also been at least three wards where we moved in within months of a realignment and the ward was still adjusting. It’s unquestionably hard and it’s not at all unreasonable for people to feel that way.

    I actually think ward realignments can be very beneficial. It’s hard for me as a very mobile Mormon to feel part of the ward I’m in- I still have connections with wards in many other places and it always feels limiting to me to be expected to only worship with people who are geographically near me. It’s especially difficult in wards where the membership doesn’t change much. Changing the boundaries can make a huge difference in our religious horizons.

  5. We went through a stake boundary change and from my vantage point it was good. I know there were others that were hurt and upset, I wish I could have given them a window into my interactions as a leader so they would see the great good that would come from the changes. Another reason the blow was softened for me is a calling in the stake YWs presidency shortly after. I still regularly interacted with those I loved while also watching their little branch flourish under the changes.

    What a difficult job our stake leaders have, to make such big decisions based on what little information they can garner, praying that it will benefit the most people possible. There are always people that it is not easy for, but I hope they can see their role as one of leadership and sacrifice – their extra 10 minute drive or smaller dating pool can be another person’s saving grace.

    It’s human nature to be upset by changes, like you say, what matters is that we put off the natural man until we can see the benefits of the change.

  6. I think your comparison to the pioneers was spot on. We may not have the physical trials that these people faced, but we still have the challenges that come up with a change like this. Our lives ARE different now, but surely enduring the redrawing of boundaries can’t compare to leaving our loved ones to never see them in mortality again.
    Our ward was split when I was eight months pregnant with my fourth kid. Our new ward didn’t even take up half of the chapel. Even though we had a small ward they did not extend a calling to me for several month after my son was born. I was in the midst of a hard battle with ppd and felt pretty worthless going to church on Sunday. I felt forgotten, and that seemed pretty pathetic, especially since there were sisters with two or three callings, even one who had her sixth baby two weeks before me. I had been RS president in our previous ward so i knew that my name had come up for callings. We managed to stay active and involved but it was a hard fought battle to learn to love the ward.
    Fast forward two years later and our ward has blossomed into a beautiful large congregation. I finally got a calling that gave me a chance to get to know the sisters and serve in a capacity where I feel like I am able to build the Lord’s kingdom with my talents.

  7. Thank you for all of the comments. I think that ward boundary changes are something that we all face at some time or other in our time as members of the Church. It can be difficult, especially when you are placed in a small ward that will take time to build. We are slowly adjusting to the new ward and getting to know a few new faces. It is something that we “go and do” even if we don’t always understand why at the time. I know that the growth of the ward will take time and developing new relationships take time as well. As long as we can hold tight to the knowledge that the Church is true, we will be okay.

  8. We’re staring down the barrel of a Stake split and consequent ward boundary realignments–the gossip/rumor mill says it will happen in the next few months. We’ve been expecting it for YEARS but I’m still dreading it.

    Five years ago our ward boundaries were realigned. The three years prior to that, I had no close friends in my ward–nice people, but just no ladies that shared my interests that I “clicked” with. When the ward realigned we got a huge influx of new people and I now have many close, dear friends. However, based up on where they live and where I live, I think it’s pretty likely that after this upcoming split, we’ll be in different wards.

    While it’s not impossible to remain friends with somebody in a different ward, I think we can all agree that it’s easier when you see each other weekly, serve together, teach each others’ children, etc. I greatly fear that I’m going to be back to being friendless again. :(

  9. Maybe it’s because I’ve been through several of these or because I’m never particularly attached to my ward/stake, but I like change. With all the growth in Texas, splitting and boundary changes happen every couple of years. It’s exciting.

  10. I, too, remember the powerpoint presentation at stake conference. Ours was over a year ago and although I still refer to it as the time we got “kicked out” of our ward, it’s kind of cool to have really good friends in two different wards. We were invited to dinner and our children were invited to play and birthday parties of children in our new ward. I’m happy to report that although I am still going to insist on a change of venue in the calling department (after 5 years in primary, I’ve asked to be released), it’s not the worst thing in the world to get to know a new congregation of people.

  11. My parents ward was dissolved due to declining numbers of young families. That might not have been bad, except that many of the older members had helped to build the chapel they met in back when ward members were asked to donate money/labor to build chapels. Not only was the ward dissolved, but they could no longer meet in the chapel they built. They were moved to a chapel further away, and then THAT chapel was declared unsafe and the Church has decided to tear it down but has not decided on where a new chapel will be built. So as of now, my parents’ new ward is homeless, going to a chapel in another stake until the Church authorities find them a permanent home – and this is in a predominantly Mormon community. Ironically, my in-laws live in the ward adjacent to my parents’ old ward and they are looking at getting dissolved as well. It makes a lot of people wonder why the two wards couldn’t have been combined and allowed the older folks who built that chapel to stay in it.

  12. Just wanted to say BTH, 5 years?!?! That’s nothing! I’ve been in primary going on 9. Serve where you’re needed. :)

  13. Thanks for a great post, Debbie.

    We may be whiny at times, but I know of no other religion on earth where people quietly change boundaries and leaders without argument. My relatives from other faiths regularly ‘shop around’ for leaders and congregations they like. If they don’t like the new pastor or are offended by someone in their congregation, they just find a new one. Nothing really wrong with that, but I think learning to love and live with people we don’t necessarily choose is a Godly quality.

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