05 August 2005

Separate or Assimilated?

Wilfried has an interesting post at Times and Seasons about wards being organized for speakers of various languages. While I've enjoyed the discussion, most of my thoughts about this don't relate to Wilfried's specific point, so I didn't want to comment there.

I have some concerns about separating languages into different wards. One is that it can divide families when the native languages of each parent are different. I've known families that have had each spouse attending different wards for 20 years. It never is easy to do that. I also think that the members in a ward with a dominant culture are greatly benefited by interacting with people of other cultures, and that is lost with separate wards.

Also, is this simply a linguistic issue, or is it cultural and racial too? Would the racially diverse members in Trenton have been more willing to attend church if they had had their own ward in Trenton that was almost exclusively made up of minorities? I think so. How far do we go in separating people?

Are separate wards simply a linguistic and cultural necessity (and despite my concerns, I think they are necessary), or are they are a reflection of our inability to accept and accommodate those with significantly different backgrounds?

Finally, what about countries with more than one dominant language? The branch in Kazakhstan is conducted in Russian, and it's almost certain that if one can be established in Kyrgyzstan, it would also be in Russian. But Kyrgyz is the national language of Kyrgyzstan and Russia. If we went into Uzbekistan, this problem would only be exacerbated because of the greater tension between Uzbeks and Russians. What would a native Kyrgyz speaker think of attending a Russian ward? How does this play out in countries like Latvia where the Russians are hated? There are political and cultural dimensions behind these linguistic decisions in many places.

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