Ralph W. Hardy Jr., the new leader of more than 3,100 members of the Washington stake of the Mormon Church, says he intends to increase membership and purchase a new church.

Hardy, a lawyer, was named to his new post in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints before 1,500 people at the stake's semiannual conference Sunday in Kensington. The appointment was announced by Boyd K. Packer, a member of the Council of Twelve Apostles, the most senior body of the Mormon Church. Hardy succeeds J.W. Marriott Jr.

Presidents of the stakes, the districts into which the church is divided, are appointed and released by one of the church's 12 apostles. This year, 260 presidencies were reorganized worldwide.

"Ralph Hardy will be an effective leader," said longtime associate and Potomac regional representative Richard Wirthlin. "He is ideally suited to understand how the church can help the community and can draw support from the community."

Hardy, 49, served eight years as the first counselor in a three-person governing body of the stake.

"I am highly honored, it is a great privilege to serve," Hardy said. "I will try to do as well as my predecessor," whom Hardy described as an exceptional and capable leader who "gave unstintingly of his time."

Increasing the church's Hispanic and inner-city membership is just one of the goals Hardy said he will work toward. Another major goal is to buy a church so that District of Columbia members, who meet at the National Press Building, will have a place to worship.

Hardy said he intends to work closely with youth to increase their opportunites in the church. He also said he intends to participate in the Boy Scouts of America and hold a yearly youth retreat.

Because there is no full-time clergy in the Mormon Church, each member has an ecclesiastical or service-oriented role.

This summer, the Washington stake celebrated its 50th anniversary as the first Mormon outpost in the mid-Atlantic region. There are 14 stakes and 43,000 members in the Washington area.

Serving as counselors to Hardy are Jerry H. Houck, of Rockville, and Clayton F. Foulger, a local businessman. Counselors provide advice to the stake president and assist with the auditing and finance of the stake.

The stake president and counselors are unpaid, and provide spiritual guidance to members and direct the affairs of the stake.

The first stake in the mid-Atlantic region was organized on June 30, 1940, with Ezra Taft Benson serving as its president.

Benson now is president of the 7 million-member worldwide Mormon Church.