Lifestyle

Growth in congregations allows Mormons to create separate stakes for Arlington, Marysville

Ron Southworth, president of the newly created Arlington stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, invites community members to join him at the Smokey Point chapel. - Kirk Boxleitner
Ron Southworth, president of the newly created Arlington stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, invites community members to join him at the Smokey Point chapel.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

SMOKEY POINT — For Ron Southworth the most important value championed by his church is that of hope.

Southworth is the president of the newly created Arlington stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and he recalled a recent dinner he’d conducted with the mayors of Arlington and Marysville, as well as with officials from various area school districts, to discuss problems facing their communities.

“One of the superintendents said that the biggest problem his students were facing was that they had no hope,” Southworth said. “Their folks have lost their jobs and are losing their homes. Dropouts have gone up because they’ve lost hope in the process. Kids that come from families with a faith-centered culture are often more resilient. Faith can provide them with strength and hope.”

Southworth sees his church’s message of hope, and its works to promote the same, as one reason why the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints created a new stake for Arlington to accommodate its increased membership — the first new stake created in the area in 25 years. He’d previously served as president of what was deemed the church’s Marysville stake, which included approximately 5,000 members in 13 units in both Marysville and Arlington, but a geographic redistricting of the congregations’ borders has created separate stakes for the Marysville and Arlington communities, each of which now has approximately 3,000 members in eight units.

The Arlington stake’s units cover not only Arlington itself, but also Stanwood, Camano Island and the area of the Lakewood School District. The Marysville Stake’s units likewise cover not only Marysville, but also Lake Stevens and Granite Falls. The new “Armar” branch, short for “Arlington/Marysville,” serves members from ages 18-30 in both stakes.

“Younger people do better associating with larger numbers,” Southworth said. “It’s no fun if you have a dance or a party and only 10 people show up,” he laughed.

Southworth takes seriously what he sees as the church’s commitment to families, not only by supporting community organizations that serve young people and women, but also through church programs such as the employment center at the Smokey Point chapel, located at 17222 43rd Ave. Peggy and Dewey Brignone drive from Sedro-Woolley to staff the office Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., helping area residents find jobs, whether they’re church members or not.

“If you’re just looking at the want ads, you’re missing all the listings that are handled electronically,” Southworth said. “We’re connected with major employers like Microsoft, and we can search for openings that match your skills and interests. These employment opportunities are often gone before analog job searchers ever knew they existed.”

The employment center also trains its clients how to interview for positions and write resumes, all at no cost.

“None of our clergy are paid for what they do,” Southworth said. “We don’t charge for our events or activities. We’re not doing this for the money. We all take time off from our jobs to be here, because we’re a service-oriented church.”

Before Marysville and Arlington had their own stakes, members of the Marysville stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints took an active role in the National Day of Service and Remembrance Sept. 11, not only by weeding around the Arlington Library and planting trees along Centennial Trail, but also by joining members of the Marysville Rotary Club and Marysville Free Methodist Church in renovating Jennings Nature Park.

“Marysville city officials estimated that we saved them about $1,500,” Southworth said of the single-day work project, which earned the participating organizations the Marysville mayor’s first-ever Volunteer of the Month Award. “I don’t want to boast, but we were also able to fill our gym with clothing donations for Arlington’s Kids’ Kloset,” he said of the full-court gymnasium at the Smokey Point chapel, which also includes a theatrical stage.

During what he deemed current times of uncertainty, Southworth invited area residents to share in the stability that he feels his church offers.

“We’re in this to strengthen families,” Southworth said. “Faith in Jesus Christ triggers hope and a belief in the future, and the church affords a sense of identity and belonging.”

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