Ah, the trauma of splitting Mormon wards

Saturday , August 09, 2014 - 12:00 AM

Splitting the ward.

It’s the second-most traumatic event that can happen in a Mormon’s life, right behind getting called to work in the nursery. (And we ain’t talking trees here, people. Herding 2-year-olds for two hours each Sunday is the closest Mormons come to the kind of holy suffering depicted among many of the early Catholic saints.)

Individual Mormon congregations, called wards, are determined by geographic boundaries. Unlike your typical religion, in which everybody is basically a free agent in this great sports league of church attendance, in Mormonism you don’t get to choose which congregation you worship with. You’re assigned one. And every once in a while, that assignment changes.

Occasionally — and usually because of new houses going up in a neighborhood and thus more Mormons moving into a ward’s boundaries — congregations are split. Suddenly, people who for years have spent three hours together each Sunday (not to mention countless others during the week) find themselves in separate wards.

For those of you of other faiths, imagine suddenly being told you can’t worship with the congregation you’ve been associating with for years. Or, for you atheists, think of it as being told you’ve been assigned a new social media site and can no longer post condescending remarks to Facebook.

I know, right?

Well, all this is about to happen in our Farmington LDS ward.

Last Sunday, from the pulpit, it was announced that all of the ward boundaries in our stake would be realigned. (Sports analogy: Think of a ward as the Washington R-words, while a stake is the NFL division the R-words and a handful of other teams play in.) Needless to say, this news has caused quite the buzz throughout the NFC East.

Some of the wards in our stake might even lose their bishop — the congregation’s spiritual leader — to this boundary realignment.

It’s all very traumatic … in a First World kind of way, of course.

In anticipation of these boundary changes, I’ve been playing a little drinking game this past week. Every time somebody just happens to casually mention that all ward realignments are approved by the church’s ruling First Presidency, I take another swig. Of course, my drinking game involves Big Gulps, because otherwise I’d be knee-walking drunk by now.

This oft-repeated “approved-by-the-First-Presidency” remark is code for reminding Mormons that, lest they complain too vociferously, these changes are coming straight from the boys in corporate. And by “boys in corporate,” we Mormons mean: The Man Upstairs. End o’ discussion.

This is the reason LDS church-boundary changes go so much more smoothly than the dreaded school-boundary changes — because questioning why your children are suddenly no longer going to the same school as their friends isn’t considered just this side of ordaining women to the priesthood. Indeed, my guess is that if public schools started running their boundary changes through 50 E. North Temple, they’d have fewer parents threatening armed insurrection over who stays at the old school and who goes to the new one.

Now, in fairness, it should be noted that for the vast majority of Mormons, such boundary changes are taken in stride. Like most, our family has survived a number of ward splits over the years; we’ll get through this one. I just hope whatever ward we find ourselves in, they’re already fully stocked with nursery workers.

And so, at 7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 10, in the LDS Bountiful Regional Center, the Farmington North Stake will hold a special meeting to tell its members who they’ll be hanging out with from now on. My guess is that many of my brethren and sisteren will be bringing Kleenex.

Me? I’ll be the guy holding a Big Gulp.

Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, or msaal@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SEMarkSaal.

Sign up for e-mail news updates.