For many years, northern Bavaria had a duplicate Church geography, with a stake for American servicemen sharing the boundaries of a German district. But after the first phase of American military disengagement in the early 1990s, the German district and the dwindling American stake were combined to form a single stake. The remaining American military bases provide the basis for a handful of majority-American wards, while the third and fourth generation of German members provide the foundation in another set of wards, leaving a third group of congregations composed in roughly equal numbers of Germans and Americans.
The Nuremberg Stake still faces challenges faced by servicemen’s stakes everywhere–a population with near-complete turnover every three years, and long-term absence of adult male members during times of crisis (in other words: nearly without interruption since 1990). On top of that, there are the unique challenges of making a bilingual stake function. At Stake Conference last Sunday, the speaker and the translator stood at the podium together and alternated sentences. The primary children’s choir sung two prelude numbers, with one verse in English and the next in German, or the other way around; the chorister had to give all instructions twice, once in each language. All stake auxiliary presidencies need at least one counselor for each language, and they have to be able to communicate with each other as well. You’ll hear an occasional question about when the Americans will finally learn German, but for the most part it all proceeds harmoniously. Sometimes it’s overwhelming to see so many people going to such lengths to accommodate each other. Half the members have left behind home and family to come here, and often the other half has sacrificed just as much to join the Church: strangers in a strange land, and strangers in their own land.
As the shifting tides of a worldwide labor market sweep members of the Church away from areas of high concentration in North America to places of far lower density outside it, American Mormons will not always come to rest as evenly-spaced deposits in foreign congregations, where their minority status would obligate them to adapt to their hosts, nor will they always live in convenient proximity to a nominally polyglot but functionally English-speaking international ward in a major urban area. Immigration, to the US or from it, tends to be lumpy. At least one way the future might work out in many places is like the Nuremberg Stake: not like the UN, with everyone in the minority, nor like the US, with Americans predominant and everyone else on the margins, but with Americans and members of one other nation depending on each other to make the Church work.