Kirby: Changing boundaries a big deal for Mormons
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The word was out. The boundaries of our LDS stake were changing. Emotions ranged from fear to thinly disguised panic. Seventy-two-hour emergency kits appeared. Children were brought indoors.

The change would affect 10 wards, 900 families, half a billion offspring and the block-warden assignments so necessary in the event catastrophes less stressful than a stake boundary change should befall us.

Changing boundaries is a big deal for Mormons. We worship geographically. Any choice about where we attend church ends when we move in. It doesn't have to make sense.

For example, there might be an LDS meetinghouse right across the street from your new place, but that doesn't mean it's your LDS meetinghouse. It could be in another ward or even another stake.

If it is another stake, the people you see going to that ward house on Sunday might just as well be attending church on Mars because you're never going to meet them.

Everything has to be taken into consideration when changing church boundaries, including population density, talent, travel, even politics.

When former state Rep. Carl Wimmer, R(squared)-Herriman was in my ward, the stake president caught wind and divided the ward so I couldn't be Carl's home teacher anymore.

And let's not forget emotions. You never want to redistrict two alpha females into the same ward.

All of this is done — depending on the strength of your belief — by either the Lord himself or a group of really harried guys doing the best they can without the benefit of cursing.

Other faiths don't have to stress about this. If you don't like the way your pastor looks out of his face, you can pick up and go find another church. No questions asked.

Music is awful? Priest is boring? Youth pastor a little TOO friendly? Boom — you're gone. There's even a good chance no one will come looking for you.

It's a bigger deal for Mormons. We're required to worship where our membership records are located. Only the Nazis, the IRS and the grocery store industry have done a better job keeping tabs on people.

My LDS Church membership number is 2-9781Z89-01-65-9.

The first number indicates my permissible church leadership level (on a scale of 1-700). The second set is my ward designation and seat assignment. The third set represents the number of women to whom I'm currently sealed.

The fourth group is the number of church callings I've had. The last number is my obedience rating. Nine looks high but that's actually a minus sign in front of it.

Compare my membership number to that of my bishop's: 559-9781A01-01-147-91. There are approximately 400 of these numbers in my ward alone.

It used to be a lot tougher to change stake boundaries. In the old days they relied on study and prayer to determine such a thing but that ended in too many fights. Now they use computers.

All the membership numbers get crunched at church headquarters and new stake boundaries are sent out.

It's a little scary while we wait for it. Will we still be in the same ward as our next-door neighbors? Will we have to say goodbye to the people across the street?

After a lot of fasting, prayer and fretting, the new boundaries were announced in church. We lost 13 families, a pasture, six horses and a barn. But we gained a convenience store.

I'm not very good with numbers. I'm glad someone else had to figure that out.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.