Major pastoral changes made in the local Mormon congregations

July 9, 2014 

Big pastoral changes have occurred in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at Gig Harbor in recent months. These changes are hardly noticed outside the Church, in part because LDS leadership transitions are almost seamless. They take place in a matter of minutes, rather than weeks, months or a year. One leader is released with a vote of thanks, and another is presented and sustained by common consent of the membership.

We have a new stake presidency—the three-man body that presides over the seven wards or congregations of the Church in the Gig Harbor area. Also, a new bishop was sustained in the Wollochet Ward to replace the bishop who became the new stake president.

Darrin J. Kasteler was sustained as the new president of the Gig Harbor Stake in a conference held on Feb. 16 and attended by two general authorities of the Church and over 1,200 members in the greater Gig Harbor area. Kasteler succeeds President Karl J. Fields, who has served in the leadership position over the six area congregations since 2004.

Presiding at the conference was Elder Steven E. Snow of the Seventy, a General Authority of the Church from Salt Lake City, accompanied by Elder Brad K. Risenmay, an Area Seventy from Eastern Washington.

Fields’ counselors, Larry W. Johns and Wayne R. Washer were also extended honorable releases. Thomas M. Abplanalp of Belfair and Cory D. Hall of Gig Harbor will serve as counselors in the new stake presidency.

President Kasteler, 44, originally from Ferndale, has resided in Gig Harbor for 16 years and has served as bishop of the Wollochet Ward for the last five years. An Eagle Scout and former missionary in Japan, he is a graduate of LDS Seminary and received a BA in International Relations and Japanese from Brigham Young University. He married his high school sweetheart, Jennie Agnew, and they are the parents of four children, ages 12 to 19. Kasteler is chief investment officer of a regional investment firm.

In remarks to the assembled members during the conference he expressed his love for the people he will serve here and testified, “Our Savior reached out with open arms. He has nail prints in his hands, as evidence of his great love for us.”

President Abplanalp, 42, formerly served as bishop of the Belfair Ward and more recently on the stake high council. He served a full-time mission in Toronto, Canada, and later met his wife, Paije Palmer, when they both attended Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho. They are the parents of four daughters. He is a senior vice president and project manager with Stan Palmer Construction.

President Hall, 48, relocated to Gig Harbor in 2012 from Gilbert, Arizona, as a vice president in human relations with Milgard Windows where he has been employed for 19 years. He served a full-time mission in Dallas, Texas, and married his high school sweetheart Amy Reid. They are the parents of four children, ages 14 to 25. He is an Eagle Scout and graduate of LDS Seminary and has a BA in Business Management from the University of Phoenix. Hall has previously served in three bishoprics and most recently on the Gig Harbor stake high council and with his wife as a gospel class instructor.

In a reception held the week following the stake conference, area members expressed their great love and appreciation for the outgoing presidency, which, in the last 10 years, presided over a significant growth in Church membership, the organization of two new wards, and construction of the Church’s new 26,000-square-foot meetinghouse on Peacock Hill Avenue.

A “stake” is a geographical area of the Church, usually including some six to ten “wards” or congregations which are each presided over by a bishop. In accordance with an article of the LDS faith, church leaders are “called of God by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.” Stake presidents typically serve for about nine years before returning to other callings in their local congregations.

In April, Bishop Doug Bird, an oral-maxillary surgeon, was sustained as bishop in the Wollochet Ward, with Jared Elliott and Marsden Stewart as counselors in that bishopric.

All of these leaders serve selflessly and without any financial remuneration. I am a personal witness to the inspired manner in which they have assumed the sacred responsibilities attendant to their callings, and the love they show for the people they serve.

On Faith columnist Alfred Gunn, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at Gig harbor, can be reached by e-mail at alf.gunn@gmail.com. For more information, visit www.mormon.org.

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