The words ward and stake refer to the geographical boundaries of those who belong to the LDS Church. A certain number of members are assigned to a certain building.
First off there is a chain of command. Perhaps it might be easier to an individual to compare the chain of authority (but not the religion itself) to a business or military leadership, let’s say.
The CEO or President does not show up in every store, in every franchise, in every company that she or he has built. They hire staff who they hopefully communicate to. They in turn hold meetings at their assigned areas and let their people know what the CEO expects.
The corporate moves from states to cities – with even more employees representing the different locations within the surrounding areas. This is how the chain of command operates. This is how the CEO communicates to his fellow worker.
In the LDS Church there is a Prophet who is referred as President of the Church. He in turn has counselors. They preside over what is known as the twelve apostles who in turn preside over the Quorum of 70’s.
Each member of the 70 is assigned to preside over certain regions. A region is a geographical boundary which includes several stakes. Each stake is divided into wards and branches (a branch includes a much smaller membership than does a ward) who in turn each have a bishop (or branch president) and counselors. And the chain of command goes through each region, each stake, each ward, etc. The boundaries are included in the Church organization.
Recently, when we had visited with Roland’s family, I was trying to explain this to one of my sisters-in-law. Our youngest son, Randy, was also having a similar conversation with another family member.
In the past I had typed up the address of where we were staying to find the address of a nearby Church – and usually had a choice of locations (as the site brought up at least three surrounding in the area) but this year it gave only one. I did not question it until we were driving there. I don’t remember it having been such a long drive the last time we were there. We had gone to another building in the years prior. But after the meeting started, I realized that it was a meeting where we needed to be.
The first speaker warned the congregation that even though LDS language is familiar to its members, for many outside of the Church some of our words are a bit foreign (just as most military terms are to me; Tony can use initials and military terms when speaking to Roland and he will understand them, but I will not)
We refer to the youth Sunday school as “Primary”. Primary means first in sequence, most important, basic, original and relating to early education. All of these definitions fit what primary is in the LDS Church. Our youth are important. They learn the basics of the gospel. They have activities in primary. They sing songs. It’s an introduction designed for children. It is inviting to most children, really.
The teenage group is referred to as Young Men/Young Women. Back in my day it was referred to as MIA: Mutual Improvement Association. (though there is the joke of many youth who seem to be missing in action) It is a program designed to help the youth to stay on course and create goals and achieve them.
The programs purpose is to help build self-esteem and awareness and offers guidelines on how to conduct one’s self and how to face daily living. There are youth activities during the week in addition to the lessons given on Sundays.
The Relief Society: the oldest and largest women’s organization in this or any other dispensation. It teaches strength and gives counsel on rearing one’s family, on loving ourselves, on loving one another, on teaching, on learning, and just on rejoicing in being a daughter of God.
Within the Relief Society is the visiting teaching program. This program was designed to strengthen the welfare of each sister. Several sisters will be assigned to visit a certain amount of sisters and/or families in the ward once a month – just to see how they are doing, to report back any concerns, to stay in touch with those who may not be coming to Church for whatever reason.
There is a lot more to mormonology. This post doesn’t even begin to touch the surface. But perhaps I’ve accomplished a few things with a few readers. Hopefully anyway.