The church is separated into congregations called wards. Each of the wards are made up of so many members within a designated area. If there are fewer members in a city, the ward boundaries (or the area that makes up the ward) is much bigger. If there are more members in a city, then the ward boundaries tend to be smaller. My current ward is made up of about 10 or so blocks.
So wards are basic congregations. Stakes are groups of wards within an area. To quote from the answer to this on Mormon.org:
A group of wards forms a stake, and the leader of a stake is a stake president. “Stake” is not a term found in the New Testament, but is taken from Old Testament tent imagery in which the “tent,” or church, is held up by supporting stakes (see Isaiah 54:2).
Yesterday's meeting was incredible! The Spirit was so strong, and as the stake president got up to speak, I could tell that he had a message that he was very sincere about.
He started off by telling us that he had known what he was supposed to talk about for the last few months. He was a little scared to talk about it, and he pleaded with us to not take offense at anything he had to say.
Whenever someone starts their talk that way, you know they're going to ask you to repent in some way.
He then went on to talk to us about not being casual with our religion. He told us that in this day and age, it is easy to say things like, "It's not on the outside that matters, but what's on the inside." If you adhere to this philosophy, then it doesn't matter what you wear to church as long as you are living the gospel internally.
He disagreed with this and told us that what you do on the outside tends to make its way to the interior.
As he spoke to us about ways that we could take the gospel more seriously, some words from a scripture came to my mind. It was from 2 Nephi 28:21, and it said:
And others will [the devil] pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.I thought about how we begin to think that we're doing just fine and we stop moving forward. I began to think about ways that I had become casual in my religion. He talked to us about the importance of reading and pondering the scriptures, saying deeper prayers, and giving more time to the Lord.
I used to use an analogy on my mission. I would tell people that this life is a fast-moving river and we are always being dragged downstream. If we want to reach our Father in Heaven, we have to be continually paddling upstream with the tools that he has given us. If we ever stop paddling, we begin to get dragged back downstream. If we are not moving toward Heavenly Father, we are moving away. It is impossible to stay in one spot.
Often times, instead of deeply pondering the scriptures, I simply skim or do a casual read. I've tried to read them every day, and just recently, I've been trying to read for half an hour first thing in the morning. However, that doesn't mean that my scripture study can't be greatly improved.
He asked, "What would our church service be like if we each gave just two hours a night over to the Lord?" He stated that we could use that time in any assortment of ways, like serving our neighbors, doing family history, and preparing lessons. He then posed the question of how that time given to the Lord would change the way we fulfilled our callings.
You see, the LDS church does not have a paid clergy. It is ran by the members doing all of the jobs because they are called of God and want to serve Him. Even the stake president was simply a good man doing his best to fulfill his calling.
I am currently in the primary presidency, which means that I help take care of the children in our ward. I wondered how much more effective I would be if I was able to give two hours a night to my calling. I felt that the spiritual promptings that I could receive would be greatly amplified.
I feel that the stake president wasn't necessarily asking us to put aside two hours a night for our church. Instead, I feel that he was asking us to consider our lives and try to discover where we could increase the time that we give to the Lord. Out of a twelve hour day, we can probably find a couple hours to give service to our neighbors, ponder on the scriptures, or prepare lessons.
I agree with the stake president. Sometimes I take the gospel way too casually. Sometimes I don't maintain an eternal perspective of events and I allow little things to distract me from doing what is right.
I want to work on taking my Savior and my Heavenly Father much more seriously and listening more intently for their instructions. A lot of times, I don't listen long enough, I only ask for things when I'm praying. If I don't stop to listen, how will I know if I've received an answer?
I know that He does answer prayers. He has answered a multitude of them for me. Sometimes it takes a while for the answer to come, and sometimes it isn't the answer that we want. However, if we sincerely pray, and have real intent to accept and do the answer no matter what it is, then we will be given the answer that will bring us the greatest peace and draw us nearer to our Heavenly Father.
I know this is true. Sometimes the answer you don't want is the one that brings you the greatest happiness. I know that the stake president is called of God, and as I follow his council that I will be blessed both temporally and spiritually,
I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.