Ask a Mormon Woman: Why Do Mormons Have Assigned Congregations?
Answer by: Janelle**
While visiting with my old neighbor Kathy, she asked me some questions regarding where I would attend church after moving to a nearby town.
Kathy: “So I hear you’re moving.”
Kathy: “That’s too bad.”
Me: “Yeah, I know. I really loved living here.”
Kathy: “Mrs. P (our daughters’ kindergarden teacher, who happens to be LDS) said that when you move you’ll be attending church at her building instead of the Mormon church down the street.”
Me: “That’s right. There is another LDS meetinghouse closer to our new house so we’ll be going to church there from now on.”
Kathy: “But I heard your Dad is the bishop of the ward that meets at the building nearest us. Won’t that be hard to attend church in a new place without your family?”
Me: “Sure, I’ve grown up my entire life in this same ward. I love these people, my entire congregation, like they are family members.”
Kathy: “So why would you do that? Why can’t you just go to whatever church you want to?”
Me: “Well, there are a couple of reasons. First, in our church, the same doctrine is taught all over the world. So changing ward houses does not change what is taught in Sacrament meeting, Sunday School or Relief Society. My children will have the exact same lessons as well. Second, my Dad will not be the bishop forever. In our area, bishops only serve for 5 years or so and then another worthy man will be called to serve in his place.”
Kathy: “But if you love all the people in your congregation, why not just keep attending the ward with the people you grew up with regardless of where you live?”
Me: “Well, if everybody did that, there would be huge numbers of people attending the same congregation because it’s ‘fun’ or ‘comfortable’ there. By following the guide to attend our assigned ward we get to ‘lift where we stand‘ and learn to serve the people who live around us. I’m sure we’ll grow to love these new people as much as the old congregation. And if everyone follows this guide, then the entire church will be blessed for their faithfulness with the opportunity for service.”
I’ve lived in the same ward all of my life, so I had a tough transition moving out of my “home” ward. For six months I attended my old ward while living outside of the ward boundaries, but my husband and I never felt good about it. We finally decided to make the move spiritually as well as physically. Last week was our first week in our new ward. And guess what? We loved it.
After making that good decision, my husband read this Ensign article about a woman who was only going to live in a ward for three months and how she made the best of the three short months she was there. This article made him wish that we had made the decision to change wards even sooner. One thing we LDS people always say after attending church while traveling is “The church is true no matter where you go.” I guess that saying now rings true for me here, there and everywhere. Even when everywhere is just down the road.
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