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The local congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints saw record attendance at last Sunday’s worship service as members all met together for the last time while witnessing a historic day for the church in Los Alamos — a splitting of the ward.
Membership had grown to 603 members, including 110 in the children’s organization, and with approval of church leaders in Salt Lake City, Utah, it was time for a change. Starting this week, two separate congregations will meet in the same building at different times.
“We grow by dividing,” Stake President Michael Zollinger said, who presides over about a dozen LDS congregations in Northern New Mexico. “Today is a testimony of what it means to be a member of the church.”
Membership of each congregation is based on geographic location of residence. Zollinger revealed the boundaries for the two new congregations, the Los Alamos Ward and Pajarito Ward, to members for the first time Sunday morning with lines on a projected map during the service.
The Los Alamos Ward divided once before in 1978 to form the Los Alamos and White Rock wards. Including the White Rock congregation, countywide membership today is about 1,000.
Also announced in Sunday’s service was the release of the current Ward Bishop (ordained, unpaid minister over a congregation) Ian Alexander, who is moving with his family to Albuquerque. Alexander served as bishop for four years and said it had been a great privilege to work with so many wonderful people, hold the power to direct in God’s name and witness miracles.
“We’ve been blessed to have him,” Zollinger said, “He has helped a lot of people. For that we will always be grateful.”
Zollinger spoke of the heavy burden placed on a bishop of a ward the size of Los Alamos and the critical support from family that comes along with the calling. Bishops usually serve for a few years.
“We are a church of called people,” said Zollinger. “And we serve because we have testimonies. We all serve and work knowing someday we will be released.”
The release of Alexander and the division of the Los Alamos Ward requires calling two new bishoprics to lead and organize the new congregations. A bishopric consists of a bishop and two counselors. They are called to oversee the membership of a ward and administer the temporal affairs and spiritual and social enrichment of the group.
Guy Baker has accepted a calling to serve as bishop of the Los Alamos Ward with Roger Cardon and Matt Nelson as counselors. Josh Miller has accepted a calling to serve as bishop of the new Pajarito Ward with Bob Judd and Roy Epperson as counselors.
“It is humbling to be asked to fill such a calling,” Baker said. “I have thought about trying to fill the shoes of Bishop Alexander. He has been an excellent bishop. Luckily, President Zollinger only asked me to fill one of his shoes. Bishop Miller gets the other one.”
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve,” said Miller. “I have seen the long hours bishops put in, but I take great comfort knowing this calling came from the Lord.”