Expanding membership leads LDS to open new stake
Wed., Aug. 10, 2016
In June, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opened the Mount Spokane Stake with five congregations. The new stake is the church’s sixth in the Spokane area.
The Mount Spokane Stake is led by President Jed McKinlay, who is assisted by counselors Darin Christensen and Matthew Borders. It’s located at 5302 E. Greenbluff Road in Colbert.
“When we see growth, which we’ve seen over time in the Spokane area, then there’s an evaluation that’s done to say ‘is it time for this to happen?’ ” Christensen said.
In 1947, the Spokane Stake opened as the first LDS Stake in the Inland Northwest. It initially stretched from the Canadian border to the Columbia River, and from the Idaho/Montana border west almost to Moses Lake. As the LDS population has grown, the Spokane Stake’s borders have shrunk to encompass Spokane’s South Hill, and the Spokane North Stake, Spokane East Stake, Spokane West Stake and Spokane Valley Stake were created to serve the growing LDS community. LDS congregations called wards are geographically delineated, led by a bishop, and organized into stakes. Stakes are generally comprised of five to 10 wards and are overseen by a stake president.
Before the new stake was formed, the Valley Stake had expanded to 11 congregations and was in the midst of transitioning to new stake leadership, Christensen said.
“It was seen that there was this same growth potential elsewhere,” he said. “And so at that time, a proposal was made to the leadership of the church and there is some prayer that’s done, some inspiration is felt and they move forward with saying ‘OK, let’s look at this opportunity.’ ”
According to Homefacts data, the number of LDS members in the Spokane area has grown over the past 30 years. In 1980, LDS members accounted for about 8 percent of all those who regularly attended church in the county; in 2010, they accounted for nearly 14 percent, and made up the second-largest group. The largest denomination is Catholic, falling from 38 percent in 1980 to 35 percent in 2010.
Now, the LDS church has about 26,000 members in the area, with five new congregations forming in the past five years. Mount Spokane is the first stake formed in the Spokane area in 14 years.
“In the LDS Church, we feel that living the Gospel is something we don’t do on Sundays,” Christensen said. “The Gospel is something that is supposed to wrap around the entire life of an individual. Their individual pursuit of a relationship with their savior. Then those lives are blessed. When those lives are blessed, people are happy. And you share that with someone, and they want to be happy. In the simplest way of putting it: We commit ourselves to sharing that message.”
While the LDS church has been growing, the percentage of people attending mainline Protestant churches fell and numbers for nondenominational Christian churches rose.
The Rev. Bill Ellis, deacon of St. John’s Cathedral, said that his best guess for the shift is that the mainline church seems old-fashioned.
“I think the mainline churches have been so central to the American historical narrative for so long that they are, for better or worse, deeply identified with the way life has been,” Ellis said. “Therefore, at least at times, (churches) are seen as part of the problem rather than part of the solution.”
The Mormon church is a relatively young religion, having been founded in the mid-19th century.
“They still have the enthusiasm of youth,” Ellis said. “They still have the sense of being different from the rest of society, in a way that is partially true.”
A version of this story was originally published at SpokaneFAVs.com, which provides non-sectarian coverage of religion, spirituality and ethics in the Inland Northwest.
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