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A typical meetinghouse that serves local ward congregations
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a ward is the larger of two types of local congregations (the smaller being a branch). A ward is presided over by a bishop, the equivalent of a pastor in other religions. As with all church leadership, the bishop is considered lay clergy and as such is not paid. Two counselors serve with the bishop to help with administrative duties of the ward and also preside in the absence of the bishop. A branch is presided over by a branch president who may or may not have one or two counselors, depending on the size of the branch.

Historical Origin

The term ward originally referred to the political subdivision of some of the municipalities in the Mid-western United States where members of the LDS Church resided, and in particular the political organization of Nauvoo, Illinoismarker in the 1840's. Bishops were assigned duties and responsibility over specific ward boundaries in these cities, and over time individual congregations were defined by these boundaries. After the Mormon Exodus to Utah, this same terminology was preserved in the establishment of communities throughout the western USA. Indeed, voting districts of several Utah communities still follow the historical boundaries of their original LDS congregations. Due to the religious connection of this term, traditional Mormon pioneer communities generally do not use the term ward to define voting districts for political purposes.

Wards and branches

Wards

A ward typically consists of 200 to 500 active church members within an area that is within a reasonable travel time of the meetinghouse ("reasonable" will vary between countries and regions). A stake may be organized if there are at least three ward-sized branches in adjacent areas. Once the stake has been organized, the ward-sized branches are organized into wards. If there are not sufficient congregations in an area to form a stake, a district (analogous to but smaller than a stake) is formed to oversee local congregations. In areas where there are greater numbers of active church members (such as Utahmarker), the area of a ward can be as small as one-fourth or one-fifth of a square mile.

When a ward(s) become of a greater size, the ward will divide geographically. Generally, if both geographic divisions are in a reasonable distance of the meetinghouse, then they will meet at the same building, but at different times. Most ward buildings are designed to house up to three or four wards.

Individuals can find out what ward they reside in by either talking to a local LDS leader or by using the meetinghouse locator tool on the church's webpage. This tool will also determine if there are any singles wards (see below) or special language wards that serve the area.

Singles wards
Singles wards are set up in areas with high populations of single adults. There are two varieties of single adult ward: Young Single Adult (YSA) wards are intended for single members ages 18 through 30, and Single Adult (SA) wards are for single members over the age of 30. Despite Mormon teachings of getting married and multiplying and replenishing the earth (having children), divorced members with children, even as non-custodial parents (typically fathers in many parts of the world), are not allowed to attend such wards. These wards provide young LDS singles the opportunity to serve in offices of the church. Members are taught the same principles of the gospel as that of a regular, or "family" ward, while receiving attention particular to their spiritual needs, especially teaching members towards an eternal marriage.

Singles wards are different in that they overlap several other regular wards geographically, even crossing stake boundaries. Single adult members may choose to attend the singles ward or their regular "home" ward; otherwise, the church strongly discourages the regular attendance of, and disallows the transfer of membership records to, regular wards other than the one to which the member's residence is assigned.

Since it is a doctrinal requirement that the bishop of a ward must be married, this man will typically be called from another ward of the host stake of the singles ward. Men to fill the other positions in the bishopric (two counselors, an executive secretary and one or more ward clerks) may also be called from other wards in the stake or may be called from the members in the singles ward.

A primary goal of a Singles ward is provide its members the chance to meet other singles of the opposite sex and eventually to be married. Singles in a certain area can find other singles of similar interests and beliefs, making it easier to find a spouse. Many of the lessons and principles taught are about relationships, preparing for the future, and responsibilities of having a family of their own.

Home Evening groups are groups for young single adults and single adults in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that conduct activities similar to those practiced in Family Home Evening. Although there may be Home Evening groups wherever there are LDS wards]], they are more prominent in LDS singles wards. The groups are usually led by a young man and a young woman, referred to unofficially as the Home Evening group "mom" and "dad".

YSA wards come in two varieties: college/university wards and others. College/university wards are for young single adults that attend the college/university for which they are set up. Other YSA wards are for those young single adults in a stake or multi-stake area. Young single adults in an area served by a YSA ward who are attending college/university are encouraged to attend the YSA ward rather than the college/university ward, but they have the option of attending either or their "home" ward. Young men are encouraged to serve a mission or be 21 years old before joining a YSA ward. Singles and YSA wards have distinct cultures all their own. A YSA ward is portrayed in a 2002 movie titled The Singles Ward.

College/university wards
At colleges and universities with large LDS populations, wards are organized to serve the needs of students in attending these schools. Even outside of Utah, at large colleges or universities, there are often enough LDS students to form student wards. In and around Utah, there are often enough student wards formed that one or more stakes consisting of only student wards may be formed. When one or more wards are formed for the students of a college or university, separate wards are usually formed for single and married students. In such university wards and stakes, the ward bishops and the members of the stake presidency are usually filled by men called from adjacent stakes.

Language wards
Much like singles wards, special foreign-language wards are set up in areas with a high population of immigrants or other members whose native language is different from the local language (such as adjacent to U.S. military bases). There are even "foreign language" wards for hearing impaired members. Services are conducted entirely in the target foreign language. Such a ward may be called a "Spanish ward" or "Chinese ward", for example. Nowadays, the designations refer solely to the language spoken, and not the race or ethnicity of the members welcome (e.g., there are no "Mexican wards"). However, in practice, different wards are sometimes made for different ethnic backgrounds or national origins, even though there is no difference in the language used. There used to be wards or missions that were designated based on race, such as Indian wards or Indian missions for native Americans.

Branch

A meetinghouse for a branch in West Memphis, AR


A congregation that is in a district or that is too small to be a ward may be organized as a Branch of the Church. Branches may be organized in stakes, but wards may not be organized in districts. Branches in a district fall under the jurisdiction of the mission president.

Branches may also be formed for single adults, young single adults (YSA), foreign-language or jail/prison/half-way house inmates where there is a need for such special interests but there are too few individuals to form a ward. As in the ward, the branch president in a single adult, YSA, or prison branch will be called from the stake or district in which the branch is organized. Because of the nature of prison branches, all positions of authority will be called from outside of the branch.

Some branches are set up in nursing homes with meetings held on-site for people who cannot travel to a meetinghouse. In these branches, leaders are also called from the local stake.

Organization

The main organizations (called auxiliaries) of a ward that are overseen directly by the Bishop are the Relief Society (the LDS Women's organization), the Young Men and Young Women organizations, the Primary (the children's organization) and the Sunday School. In branches, these organizations are filled as there are sufficient active members to fill these positions.

Those men ordained to the priesthood are organized into quorums by priesthood office. The offices of the lesser or Aaronic Priesthood (typically males 12 to 18 years of age) are organized and overseen by the bishop of the ward (or branch president in a branch). Usually, there are separate quorums for deacons (12 and 13 year olds), teachers (14 and 15 year olds) and priests (16 years old and older). Offices of the higher or Melchizedek Priesthood (Elders and High Priests) within individual wards and branches are advised by the Bishop but overseen by the Stake President. Within districts, offices of the Melchizedek Priesthood within individual branches are advised by the Branch President but overseen by the District President under the direction of the Mission President. Within a branch, priesthood quorums may be formed or all priesthood holders may meet together, as numbers permit.

The priesthood is central to, and directs the church and its auxiliaries. All auxiliaries are considered appendages to the priesthood.

The bishopric, the elders quorum president, the high priest group leader, and the ward mission leader meet as the Priesthood Executive Committee.

See also



References

  1. Maps.lds.org
  2. 1 Timothy 3
  3. Bradford, David C., "Priesthood Executive Committee, Stake and Ward", in Ludlow, Daniel H., ed., Priesthood and Church Organization: Selections from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, p. 290



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