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Moving for a ward boundary?

Posted: 31 Oct 2019, 08:44
by Mrs. SuperChicken
OK long story. I have no one to ask about this and the comments on this blog are often very helpful and inspiring to me.

My family has been attending the wrong ward for two years. My youth aged kids experienced really horrible bullying for a long time by other youth, leaders, and then ward leadership. We had enough, and we started attending the ward in the neighboring town, and put the kids in therapy. The stake president was aware of what we were doing and why. He was very kind and told the new ward to welcome us, but refused to try and move our records. Things were great for a while. There were still things like ward callings, ministering, and the like we couldn’t do, but the ward members were wonderful. We substituted, our kids taught lessons in YW, we helped with service.

Then year and a half ago leadership change in the new ward. The new leadership stopped a lot of the things we were previously allowed to do. No more teaching any lessons, helping with primary, volunteering for service, no attending youth activities with our children, or being in the room with other youth without priesthood supervision. The reason was the youth protection rules. We were told we had to turn down anyone asking if we wanted to help. I think the ward was confused about the change, people thought we were under church discipline, they took it further. People told us and the kids we couldn’t pray in church, they would be upset when we made comments in classes. When my youngest went to girls camp the camp leader didn’t want her there, it was a drama fest with some leaders saying she could be there and others demanding she camp with our "real" ward. I picked her up in the middle of the night and was told she couldn't come back. We talked to the SP but it took months and several meetings between us and talks between him and the bishop of this ward before anything was changed. We were told that we could do anything that did not require being set apart. Nothing has changed.

There are other families who left the other ward and started attending this one because of problems with their kids, they were not given these rules. Both DH and I have callings in the stake, my calling is very time consuming, we have temple recommends. The SP helped us get a YW award for DD, and temple recommends for the kids over the objections of both bishops. I don’t think he really understood what was going on. A few months ago the bishop of the adopted ward met with us and told us he had to protect the church from us, that we were breaking the commandments, and listing all the stuff we couldn’t do ect, even after the SP told him and us we could do things. I stopped attending, though I am still doing my calling until it ends in 6 months. My kids have not been for a while. DH is still attending. The Bishop did send us an email apologizing for the meeting and the extra rules. The SP talked with him again and that he was sorry if we were hurt.

If you made it this far here is the question. We had planned on moving to the new ward when DD graduated High school. This is and already has been a huge sacrifice for our family. It will and has cost us a lot financially. I gave up a job I loved to make this work. The other kid will have to change schools. I am very involved in this community. Going back to the old ward I don’t see as an option, based on things that still happen. The house we have now is almost ready to sell, now is the time to find a new one it will be hard. I think we should just go ahead and move, but I am unlikely to be all in again. My testimony is a mess, I am so very hurt by both the bullying and the response to my family from both wards. DH is worried that if we go through with the move we will resent the church because things are not likely to improve, but how long can we stay in limbo? Has anyone had any experience with this, have you moved just for a ward boundary?

Re: Moving for a ward boundary?

Posted: 31 Oct 2019, 13:59
by Roy
I am very sorry that you are going through this.

I did go with my family to a neighboring ward due to a bullying situation. We told everyone it was due to my work schedule so that we could attend church as a complete family. I felt that describing the bullying would make people feel defensive. After a few months the bishop of our old ward asked us in to speak with him. He told us that he had heard rumors of why we were attending the other ward that consisted of us not being able to wake up early enough or us wanting to visit other Christian churches during the morning hour (Lazy or Sinful seems to be the go to rumor). He encouraged us to attend our home ward and said that the relief society sisters would help to care for our young children in SM (sounds like an unenforceable empty promise to me). He also told us that the SP had said that we couldn't switch wards officially but that we could continue to attend the ward of our preference on the down low if we were determined.
We had been renting at the time and moved to another rental in our preferred ward after 6 months.

I think there might be some underlying resentment from both wards in your situation. Your origin ward might feel miligned and rejected. Your new ward may feel unfairly burdened by your presence.
I think many people feel burdened by church responsibilities. I think we tend to rationalize that service burden by 4 main conceptualizations: 1) We each pull our own weight - I scratch your back and you scratch mine - quid pro quo or reciprocal service. 2) We do what we are told. We go where we are told to go and serve how we are told to serve. 3) We serve investigators and new members with less thought of reciprocation because we are trying to help them join and acclimate into the church 4) We may serve some people in our wards that are not seen as contributors but they do live within the ward boundary and are our responsibility.
You are unable to hold certain callings or contribute in significant ways to the heavy lifting. This means that some may see you as not a full contributor. You are already long time and established members so there is no compassion on that front. You are not doing as you are told. You attending outside of your ward without formal permission may brand you as not sustaining or being supportive of church leadership. Finally, your living outside of the ward make you "not our responsibility" and any problems your presence creates should be "not our problem". For these reasons and probably others, I believe that the ward feeling can begin to turn sour towards individuals that visit long term.

What to do about it. That is difficult. I would not recommend moving. the financial sacrifices you have made up to this point are sunk costs and throwing more money in an attempt to redeem those costs is rarely a winning strategy. Unfortunately both wards may be poisoned against you to some extent. I would probably go quietly inactive or even slowly decrease your participation until you are inactive. (I do not pay tithing and do not hold a TR so giving up temple attendance would be a nonissue for me.) The goal is to not make any waves. After a few months of laying low I might try visiting some other Christian churches. I have generally found these Christian churches to be much more cool with you visiting for years if necessary as lapsed Mormons. As long as you do not take the step of joining another church you should be ok church discipline wise. My goal would be finding a church community to help support your family raise well rounded children into adulthood.

Eventually, the situation will change. Your kids might move out of the house and you may find that you have different church needs as empty nesters and can go back to one of the wards you mentioned. You may move to a different city and state and use that as an opportunity to start over with a new ward and a fresh start.

I am not suggesting that this is right for you. I can only describe how I might try to handle being in a similar situation.

Re: Moving for a ward boundary?

Posted: 31 Oct 2019, 15:11
by nibbler
That's rough. I too am sorry you're going through this.

Lots of people "ward shop" when they're looking to buy a house. They'll attend a ward a Sunday or two, decide which ward(s) they like best, and then start looking for a house in those ward boundaries... provided there are enough wards in your area to facilitate ward shopping.

For me, the ward you're currently attending would earn a failing grade while ward shopping. It appears that the side ward you are attending has a culture where they place more value on obedience to the handbook than the value they place on compassion, grace, love, etc. I get the feeling that mindset would permeate all aspects of that particular ward's culture, not just disputes over boundary rules. Want a little more room to breathe in some other aspect of the church experience to go along with how you nuance things? In that ward I'd expect people to brand you as an outsider for anything you do that goes against the mountain of cultural expectations.

I'd also worry that people in the ward have already formed their first impressions of your family, and from your comments it sounds like their first impression of your family is not favorable. A question I ask myself from time to time... why would I want to be a part of a community that only sees me as some disobedient, lazy outsider? What's the upside?

Hopefully there's a third ward you can window shop?

Re: Moving for a ward boundary?

Posted: 01 Nov 2019, 05:02
by DarkJedi
I, too, am sorry you and your children have had to endure this trauma. It's so interesting to me sometimes how much policy can outweigh anything else, including basic Christian principles like love your neighbor.

I have not moved to specifically be in one ward but when we were younger and looking for our first house we did look at houses only in the ward we were living in already. Where I live wards are hundreds of square miles instead of a few blocks, so there's quite a bit more to choose from in the housing market and there are 6 different school districts that are either wholly are partly in my ward.

The question I have is moving to the ward going to solve all your problems? Yes, officially living in the ward and having your records there will qualify you for a calling and a TR if desired but there's also a history there which does not appear to be based totally on positive relationships. Then there are the considerations of changing schools, etc. for the kids - that can be hard on teens unless they're looking for a change and even then it can be tough. If you're going to move anyway, what about other wards that you don't necessarily know? You seem to have the opportunity to leave both wards behind. Maybe a little ward shopping? You have to watch out with that because while there are perpetually "good" and perpetually "bad" wards, some wards do change with leadership roulette.

I hope you find the peace you seek.

Re: Moving for a ward boundary?

Posted: 01 Nov 2019, 05:24
by Gerald
You have to watch out with that because while there are perpetually "good" and perpetually "bad" wards, some wards do change with leadership roulette.
I agree. The policy on ward attendance is pretty black and white. Execution of the policy...not so much.

Many years ago, our ward went through some boundary changes which resulted a small number of our ward members having to attend not just different wards but different stakes. These family were at the intersection of the boundaries of three stakes. I discovered later that these boundaries had been adjusted for some time and bishops and stake presidencies had looked the other way. I think someone higher up the scale than the stake president said that something had to be done. The stake presidency of both the old and new stakes as well as old and new bishoprics (quite a delegation) met with each family individually to discuss the need to move their records to the new wards. One elderly couple flatly told their visitors "We aren't moving!" and their membership stayed in our ward until they both passed away. I remember one lone elderly widow ended up all by herself in a new ward and stake. I was appalled that this gentle woman had to be torn away from a ward she had spent the bulk of her life in. But she went willingly and when I ran into her some time later she said that her new ward had been very good to her and had gone the extra mile to make her feel welcome.

I'm sure this is of little comfort to you but these things can be handled SO much better. Even if the answer had to be "you can't move your membership" it might have been more palatable if the leaders had made an effort to be diplomatic. But in the end...what's the big deal?? As long as you're not "ward hopping" all over the place, why not let someone go where they feel more comfortable and welcomed? Particularly if there is major bullying or snubbing going on.

I'm just sorry that you have had to go through such unnecessary upheaval.

Re: Moving for a ward boundary?

Posted: 01 Nov 2019, 08:46
by Mrs. SuperChicken
I think there might be some underlying resentment from both wards in your situation. Your origin ward might feel miligned and rejected. Your new ward may feel unfairly burdened by your presence.
Yes I do see this happening. We were in the last ward for 10 years we had leadership callings in the past. Some people don’t know why we left. We have stayed pretty quiet about the specifics, but there are a lot of people that know because they watched it happen. At the end unknown to me at the time, there were lots of people that went to the leadership to say what was happening was not ok. That just made the bishop double-down harder.
We were worried about not pulling our weight in the adopted ward, we tried very hard when we got there to help anywhere we could, clean the building, substitute, bring meals, put away chairs, bring refreshments to things, clean up after activities. The members were so great at the beginning, we are not the only family to come there from the other ward. They welcomed us and included our family in really everything. Then the leadership asked us to stop and we had to tell everyone asking us no. We serve in the church a lot, it is just not where the ward members can see very often. The stake and regional leadership encouraged us to serve in other places since we couldn’t in the wards.

Fading into inactivity is exactly what I want to do, I love my calling but it will end in a few months. DH is not on board with that, I want him to have a ward he can belong to.

The kids and I have joined other community groups and organizations over the last few years as church has become a painful and lonely place, DH has not joined us. The church is relatively small here, the only reason there are any ward options is because we are close to a large city.
Hopefully there's a third ward you can window shop?
This could be the best option. There are two other wards that are close enough, those areas are just even more expensive, or have really rough schools. When we started attending this ward two years ago it was with the intention we would move there.

I would say this is one of those stories where some family gives up everything to stay active, and everything is magically perfect, but I don’t believe most of the stories anymore. Thank you for the kindness and encouragement.

Re: Moving for a ward boundary?

Posted: 01 Nov 2019, 14:24
by Roy
This subject reminds me of the old seminary video "The (Mormon) Book - How Rare a Possession". In the video an Italian minister finds a BoM with the cover and first few pages ripped off. He begins using select BoM verses in his sermons and people flock to hear him. This begins to cause jealousy among the other ministers with dwindling attendance numbers.
This video strikes me as funny because the problem is created when parishioners are allowed to choose the services of the young and charismatic minister. This would never happen in our church because members are forbidden to attend other LDS congregations no matter how bad their home ward may be. See there, We fixed the problem for you! :mrgreen:

Re: Moving for a ward boundary?

Posted: 02 Nov 2019, 11:42
by Curt Sunshine
I am so sorry for what you experienced and are facing now. I know it is small comfort to say it was completely outside the bounds of acceptable behavior, but it was.

I have no "one true answer" for you. All I can say is to do what you feel is best for you and your relationship with God. I believe firmly that, if there is a God, they will understand and accept your decision. No guilt; take care of yourselves; find ways to serve others: be an example of what others should have been with you.

Re: Moving for a ward boundary?

Posted: 03 Nov 2019, 05:58
by Heavy_Laden
As someone else that doesn’t care for my assigned Ward, I can really sympathize. I am hoping that one day, this obsolete and unnecessary micro managing of members will be a thing of the past. At the very least, leaders should be good shepherds and do whatever it takes to keep people active and happy. Red tape and demands never grow faith, it grows resentment and possibly hate.

Would they rather lose an active, believing family over policy and tradition?

Re: Moving for a ward boundary?

Posted: 04 Nov 2019, 12:18
by Mrs. SuperChicken
Would they rather lose an active, believing family over policy and tradition?
Unfortunately, this seems to be true, though I am sure some of the leadership doesn't see it this way. They seem to see it as a lack of loyalty to the church and their divine leadership. So many good changes are happening in church policy and administration. Change is hard for some people, but I can hope that it continues.
All I can say is to do what you feel is best for you and your relationship with God. I believe firmly that, if there is a God, they will understand and accept your decision. No guilt; take care of yourselves; find ways to serve others: be an example of what others should have been with you.
Thanks Curt, this is great. I am heartbroken at the thought of stepping away from the church, but I can keep reminding myself I don't have to step away from God too. Right now my relationship with God is better without the church, when I am there and hurt it is difficult to separate the two.