"We are not measured by the trials we meet -- only by those we overcome."
- - Spencer W. Kimball
May 11, 2015
A Study in Paranoia
by Kathryn H. Kidd

A most curious thing has happened in church lately, and I — who normally like curious things — do not like this one at all.

The curious thing is that our stake president has been quietly sitting in our congregation next to our bishop lately — not once this year, but perhaps a half dozen times in the 16 Sundays from January through April.

For those of you who are not Mormons, this is somewhat the equivalent of sitting quietly in your Catholic congregation and seeing a bishop or a cardinal saunter in and sit down next to the parish priest. The first time it happens, you don’t think twice. After all, you think to yourself, “He has to go to church somewhere.”

The second time he appears, your eyebrows go up. The third time you start feeling a little nervous. The fourth time, the hairs on your neck start tingling. The fifth time, that saintly, cherubic face starts taking on vulture-like characteristics. Then he shows up yet again.

Why is he here? He has his own congregation, not twenty minutes away.

I have no ill feelings toward him, mind you. He is a kind and gentle man. He greets Fluffy and me by name every time he sees us. He makes a point to find me whenever he sees me in the temple, and I think he would do so even if I didn’t always have candy to pass out to everyone who shook my hand.

But statistically, for him to spend six out of sixteen weeks in our ward when he presides over twelve congregations makes me think he has his eye on us, and when the stake president has his eye on a ward, I cannot think of many happy outcomes of that attention.

Friends from outside the ward who are also friends of our stake president say he likes to visit wards and look out over the congregation when it is time to choose a new bishop. When he sees the person who is supposed to be the new bishop, he knows.

They have told me, helpfully, that he must be having trouble laying his eyes on the right man in our ward.

There is only one problem with this scenario, and that is that we still have a new bishop. Mark has only been serving for eighteen months or so. He’s still wet behind the ears, but he’s doing a good job. Unless he’s moving and I don’t know about it, that can’t be the issue.

Now, the only other reasons are equivalent to major surgery. When a stake president pays this much attention to a ward, he may be thinking of realigning the boundaries or giving our ward to a different stake altogether.

I’m a realist. I know these things must happen. Mormons move into some areas and out of some areas, leaving some congregations weaker than others. When that happens, realignments must occur, and they do occur. I know of some people who have lived in half a dozen different wards without ever moving from the same house.

Occasionally there has to be a shake-up, with strong wards lending members to weak wards or strong stakes lending whole wards to weak ones. Our ward is the strongest of wards. It is past time for our ward to give some of its strength away.

Oh, doesn’t that sound civilized! And maybe it would be if we went to one of those mega-churches where nobody knows anybody else.

But to cut a Mormon ward in half is like attacking the Sunday dinner table with a chainsaw. Imagine saying, “From now on, Grandpa and Mom and Elizabeth can live here at home, but Grandma will be living over here in the next county and Sally will be living in this town and little Charlie in his spiritual high chair will be sent over to that town and Dad will be living over in that direction. Won’t that be fun?”

You can see how church members act as though a ward division is the end of Life as We Know It.

When we have a ward division, or when our ward gets farmed out to another stake, all we can do is stare at each other and blink. Is this the last time we’ll ever see one another again? And all too often, the answer is yes. Because Mormons are a busy people. If we don’t see one another during our regular ward activities, we tend to form ties with our new family members and let the old ones fall by the wayside.

“Goodbye, little Charlie in your virtual spiritual high chair! We hope someone else feeds you that spiritual food you need! You’re on your own!”

So no, I do not want to see that cherubic face looking benignly out over my congregation on that many early Sunday mornings. I do not want to be a pioneer.

I do not want to see our ward carved in half with surgical precision. I don’t want to see our ward given to the covetous talons of the eager adjacent stake.

These are not just the piteous cries of an old person. Wait. Maybe they are the piteous cries of an old person. They are the piteous cries of a person who has finally gotten a group of comfortable friends who actually seem to care about her, and she would prefer to keep those friends, and not form a bunch of new relationships. Old people don’t like those kinds of changes!

They are the piteous cries of a person whose best friends are on the other end of the ward, and who knows from a previous ward split that when they’re gone, they’re gone.

They are the piteous cries of a person who has been home teaching the same person since 1987, and who needs to continue to be that person’s home teacher, but she lives on the other end of the ward.

Okay. I have gotten it out of my system. I have realized that I have to cling to the words of good old Apostle Paul, who told us in Philippians 4:11, “for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Does “state” equate to “ward” and “stake”? Oh, I hope it does!

Whew. Doesn’t spiritual maturity feel so much better? Everything is going to turn out just fine. No matter what happens, it will all turn out for the best in the end, just the way the Bible says it will. I feel better already, even if I bleed to death.

But that doesn’t mean I have to like it if it’s going to happen.


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About Kathryn H. Kidd

Kathryn H. Kidd has been writing fiction, nonfiction, and "anything for money" longer than most of her readers have even been alive. She has something to say on every topic, and the possibility that her opinions may be dead wrong has never stopped her from expressing them at every opportunity.

A native of New Orleans, Kathy grew up in Mandeville, Louisiana. She attended Brigham Young University as a generic Protestant, having left the Episcopal Church when she was eight because that church didn't believe what she did. She joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a BYU junior, finally overcoming her natural stubbornness because she wanted a patriarchal blessing and couldn't get one unless she was a member of the Church. She was baptized on a Saturday and received her patriarchal blessing two days later.

She married Clark L. Kidd, who appears in her columns as "Fluffy," more than thirty-five years ago. They are the authors of numerous LDS-related books, the most popular of which is A Convert's Guide to Mormon Life.

A former managing editor for Meridian Magazine, Kathy moderated a weekly column ("Circle of Sisters") for Meridian until she was derailed by illness in December of 2012. However, her biggest claim to fame is that she co-authored Lovelock with Orson Scott Card. Lovelock has been translated into Spanish and Polish, which would be a little more gratifying than it actually is if Kathy had been referred to by her real name and not "Kathryn Kerr" on the cover of the Polish version.

Kathy has her own website, www.planetkathy.com, where she hopes to get back to writing a weekday blog once she recovers from being dysfunctional. Her entries recount her adventures and misadventures with Fluffy, who heroically allows himself to be used as fodder for her columns at every possible opportunity.

Kathy spent seven years as a teacher of the Young Women in her ward, until she was recently released. She has not yet gotten used to interacting with the adults, and suspects it may take another seven years. A long-time home teacher with her husband, Clark, they have home taught the same family since 1988. The two of them have been temple workers since 1995, serving in the Washington D.C. Temple.

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