Handbooks and Callings
    36. Creating, Changing, and Naming New Units
    Footnotes
    Theme

    “36. Creating, Changing, and Naming New Units,” General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (2020).

    “36. Creating, Changing, and Naming New Units,” General Handbook.

    36.

    Creating, Changing, and Naming New Units

    36.0

    Introduction

    Church members belong to congregations based on where they live (see Mosiah 25:17–24). These congregations are necessary for organizing and doing the work of the Church under the proper priesthood authority. Leaders of congregations are given priesthood keys to authorize the performance of priesthood ordinances. Congregations also help members strengthen each other’s faith as they worship God, learn the teachings of Jesus Christ, and serve.

    Church congregations (also called units) include stakes, districts, wards, and branches. They are created, changed, or discontinued only as needed.

    Leaders work to increase the spiritual strength of members before proposing to create a new unit or change a unit’s boundary. New units should be created only when the existing units are sufficiently strong.

    For support in the United States and Canada, call 1-801-240-1007. Outside the United States and Canada, call the area office.

    36.1

    Creating or Changing Stakes and Districts

    Stakes are created from districts or by dividing existing stakes. A stake or mission president may propose creating a new stake. He first ensures that it will meet the minimum requirements shown in the following table.

    Minimum Requirements to Create a Stake

    U.S. and Canada

    All other countries

    Number of members (active and less active)

    U.S. and Canada

    3,000

    All other countries

    1,900

    Number of active, full-tithe-paying Melchizedek Priesthood holders capable of serving in leadership positions

    U.S. and Canada

    180

    All other countries

    120

    Number of wards

    U.S. and Canada

    5

    All other countries

    5

    Districts are created from branches in a mission or an existing stake. There is not a minimum number of members or branches needed to create a district.

    A district must have the level of strength needed for a stake for at least six months before a mission president can propose making it a stake.

    Boundaries of a stake or district follow the boundaries of the units that are within it. To propose changing stake or district boundaries or transferring a unit to a neighboring stake or district, the stake or mission presidents involved plan and coordinate the recommendation.

    A stake or mission president starts a new proposal at “Boundary and Leadership Proposals.” If he cannot use the online system, he can download paper forms by clicking on the link.

    Approval of proposed stake changes comes from the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. Generally, they make a decision within six weeks of receiving a completed proposal.

    36.2

    Creating or Changing Wards and Branches in Stakes

    Wards and branches in stakes are created from existing units. A stake president may propose creating a new ward or branch in the stake. He first ensures that the new unit will meet the minimum requirements shown in the following tables.

    Minimum Requirements to Create a Ward

    U.S. and Canada

    All other countries

    Number of members (active and less active)

    U.S. and Canada

    300

    All other countries

    150

    Number of active, full-tithe-paying Melchizedek Priesthood holders capable of serving in leadership positions

    U.S. and Canada

    1 for every 20 members (active and less active). There must be a minimum of 20.

    All other countries

    1 for every 20 members (active and less active). There must be a minimum of 15.

    Minimum Requirements to Create a Branch in a Stake

    Number of members (active and less active)

    20

    Number of active, full-tithe-paying Melchizedek Priesthood holders capable of serving in leadership positions

    4

    A stake president may propose changing a branch into a ward when the unit meets the minimum requirements and he has identified a candidate who could serve as bishop.

    A stake president may propose realigning or discontinuing wards and branches when there is a clear need.

    A stake president starts a new proposal at “Boundary and Leadership Proposals.” If he cannot use the online system, he can download paper forms by clicking on the link.

    Only the First Presidency can approve the proposal. Generally, they make a decision within four weeks of receiving a completed proposal.

    36.3

    Creating or Changing Branches in Missions

    A mission president may propose creating new branches in a mission. There is not a minimum number of members needed to create a branch in a mission. However, new branches generally should have at least four priesthood holders. At least one should be an active, full-tithe-paying Melchizedek Priesthood holder.

    A mission president starts a new proposal at “Boundary and Leadership Proposals.” If he cannot use the online system, he can download paper forms by clicking on the link.

    The Area Presidency may give final approval or denial of a mission president’s proposal to:

    • Create and name a new branch in a mission.

    • Discontinue a branch in a mission.

    • Change branch boundaries in a mission if the change does not affect a stake, a district, or another mission.

    The Area Presidency must submit the approved proposal to Church headquarters for processing before the branch can be created or changed in the Church’s systems.

    The Area Presidency may endorse but not give final approval of a mission president’s proposal to:

    • Transfer a branch to another stake, district, or mission.

    • Change the name of an existing branch in a mission.

    • Change branch boundaries in a mission if the change would affect a stake, a district, or another mission.

    • Create or change a mission branch for young single adults or single adults; members who do not speak the local native language; members who are in care centers, treatment programs, or prisons; or members in the military.

    In these situations, the Area Presidency reviews the proposal, and if they endorse it, they submit it for approval. Only the First Presidency can give final approval. Generally, they make a decision within four weeks of receiving a completed proposal.

    36.4

    Naming Church Units

    The name of a unit should help identify it to those who live in the area. Generally, the names of existing units should not be changed.

    If a stake or mission president desires only to change a unit name, he does not need to use the online system. He submits the proposal by calling 1-801-240-1007. Outside the United States and Canada, he calls the area office.

    If a unit name needs to be changed because of a boundary realignment, the stake or mission president starts a new proposal by using the online system at Boundary and Leadership Proposals. If he cannot use the online system, he can download paper forms by clicking on the link.

    Only the First Presidency can approve these proposals.

    Area Presidencies may approve proposals to create and name new branches in missions (see 36.3).

    36.4.1

    Naming Stakes and Districts

    The first word in the stake or district name is one of the following:

    • The city in which the stake or district headquarters is located

    • Another city in the stake or district that is well known to the members

    • A geographic feature within the stake or district boundaries

    In the United States and Canada, the second word is the state or province in which the stake or district is located. In other countries, the second word is the name of the country.

    When more than one stake or district is in the same city, the third word is an identifying characteristic within the unit boundaries. Some allowable identifying characteristics for stake and district names are shown below:

    • Compass directions (north, south, east, or west)

    • Community or neighborhood

    • Geographic feature

    Some identifying characteristics that are not allowed for stake and district names are shown below:

    • Other directional terms (for example, southwest)

    • Names of people

    When the name of a city is the same as the state, province, or country, it is not repeated in the name. For example:

    • Idaho Falls Taylor Mountain Stake, not Idaho Falls Idaho Taylor Mountain Stake

    • México City Azteca Stake, not México City México Azteca Stake

    36.4.2

    Naming Wards and Branches

    A ward or branch is named after an identifying characteristic within its boundaries. Some allowable identifying characteristics for ward and branch names are shown below:

    • City

    • Community or neighborhood

    • Street

    • Park

    • School

    • Geographic feature

    Some identifying characteristics that are not allowed for ward and branch names are shown below:

    • Compass directions (for example, east or northwest)

    • Names of people

    • Names based only on a view (for example, Temple View, Mountain View, or River View)

    • Combining two names to create a new name

    The name of only one identifying characteristic is used in the ward or branch name. If there is more than one ward or branch with the same name, a number is added as part of the name, such as Preston 1st Ward and Preston 2nd Ward.

    The name of the ward or branch should be in the language of the area. If the language does not use the Roman alphabet, a translation using Roman characters should be included in the application.

    36.5

    Implementing Proposed Changes

    36.5.1

    Stake and District Changes

    The approval letter for creating or discontinuing a stake or district generally indicates the date the changes will be made. This date should not be announced until the assigned General Authority discusses the details with the stake or mission president. The actual changes are not announced until the stake or district conference.

    Stake or mission presidents notify Church headquarters or their area office after the changes have been made.

    36.5.2

    Ward and Branch Changes

    After a stake or mission president receives approval for ward or branch changes, he generally has 90 days to present the changes to the members for their sustaining vote. If he needs to delay longer than 90 days, he requests permission from the Office of the First Presidency.

    Stake or mission presidents notify Church headquarters or their area office after the changes have been made. Maps and units are not updated until they are recorded by Church headquarters.

    36.6

    Basic Unit Program

    The Church has developed the Basic Unit Program for use by some small branches or small authorized gatherings of members, known as groups (see 37.7 for more information on groups). An Area Presidency may authorize the use of the Basic Unit Program in small branches or groups where any of the following conditions apply:

    • The Church is in its beginning stages.

    • Members are scattered geographically.

    • The number of members is small, and leadership is just beginning to develop.

    • Members have special language needs or are in care centers, treatment programs, or prisons.

    An Area Presidency may also authorize the use of the Basic Unit Program in missions or stakes where these conditions exist.

    Guidelines for this program are provided in the Basic Unit Program Guidebook. Other information is provided in the Branch Guidebook, Priesthood and Auxiliary Leaders’ Guidebook, Family Guidebook, and Teaching Guidebook.