In 1842 Joseph Smith, the first prophet and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, wrote down 13 of the religion’s fundamental beliefs. Number 6 on the list says this:
“We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.”
You’ll notice the similarities between this Article of Faith and Ephesians 4:11-12. OK, so first of all, we believe Jesus Christ did indeed establish an actual church organization during His life. He didn’t just convey a belief system and say, “every man for himself!” There was organization, there was authoritative leadership with a prophet (Christ) at the head, and 12 apostles below Him in the hierarchy. He also appointed a group of 70 other people. When one Apostle died they replaced him with someone else. Before Christ died, He passed the authority to lead the Church on to Peter.
So we believe there was an organization to the Primitive Church, and we don’t use the word “Primitive” in a derogatory way. We’re simply referring to the fact that this was the early structure of Christ’s Church. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today spans the entire world. As such, through modern prophets, Christ has called additional Quorums of the 70, for example, to meet the needs of a much more expansive membership. The Church is a living, evolving organization, but it’s still founded on the original structure Christ instituted. He may not be here, but the heavens are not closed. Christ is still very much involved in the Church and each of our lives. Miracles have not ceased, which brings us to Article of Faith number 7:
“We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.”
The gifts of the Spirit are real. Revelation is real. We believe the prophet and president of the Church receives revelation through the Holy Ghost for the Church and the world. Parents can receive revelation for their family. You can receive revelation for your life.
We believe in the gift of tongues and interpretation of tongues—not unintelligible babbling, but being able to speak, understand, or interpret foreign languages. Sometimes that happens suddenly and miraculously, but it more often happens with study and practice. Latter-day Saint missionaries experience it all the time. I picked up Spanish in just a few months while in Mexico, and yes, I think the gift of tongues played a role.
God is not a silent observer, He’s alive and busy as ever. So is the Holy Spirit, and all the gifts associated with him. But we believe in a lot more than that, too. I’m not asking you to believe it, but if you’d like to know more about what Latter-day Saints believe, subscribe to the channel, leave a comment, and click this video to jump into Article of Faith number eight.
If you want to see the full leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, all the leaders are presented, with photos and bios, on the Church’s newsroom page. In keeping with Christ’s original church structure, where Christ called three men to head His Church (Peter, James, and John), we have three apostles who form the First Presidency of the Church. These men were called out of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to serve in the First Presidency, with Russell M. Nelson as President and Prophet. When President Nelson dies, the First Presidency will dissolve, and his counselors will return to the Quorum of the Twelve. The Apostle who has served the longest will become the Prophet and he will choose his two counselors. Someone new will be called as an apostle to fill any vacancy. These men serve in their callings for life, giving up their former professions. President Nelson was a pioneering heart surgeon before his call. Many of these men were highly successful in their professions and receive support from the Church as they serve. This support makes no one rich.
Right now, because the Church is global and growing, there are several Councils of Seventies. Some seventies serve until death, while some seventies serve for a period of time and then are released. Women fill the presidencies for the women, young women, and children in the Church. There is also a presiding bishopric and a general presidency for young men. These are all temporary callings. Members who fill temporary callings do so as volunteers, so mainly, the Church has a lay clergy.
Areas of the world are administered by area presidencies. Stake presidencies administer groups of local congregations. Bishoprics administer local congregations, and members are assigned places of worship according to where they live. Programs are developed and followed all over the world in a correlated way.
All of the charismatic gifts are manifest in the Church and are commonplace. “Priesthood” has a different meaning in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints than in other Christian churches. Priesthood is not a profession or vocation. We define priesthood as “the power and authority to act in the name of God.” All worthy boys over 12 and all worthy men can hold some level of priesthood.
We have a gospel principle of “stewardship,” in that spiritual gifts are manifested to help you with the people and responsibilities that you are a steward for. Thus, a bishop can receive revelation for his congregation, a mother for her children, etc. We believe in constant personal revelation for each person through the Gift of the Holy Ghost. We believe that each person has spiritual gifts as explained in the Bible, but we exercise those gifts within our own stewardship. No member will become widely popular because he or she has a gift of healing. Our house is a house of order. Healings are performed by priesthood holders through the laying on of hands within their stewardship or by others through fasting and the prayer of faith. (Latter-day Saints, by the way, do not avoid medical interventions.)
The gift of tongues is easily corrupted by Satan and turns into gibberish. We believe this gift is to increase understanding, and it is manifested daily in the mission field among our Latter-day Saints missionaries learning foreign languages. Experts from far and wide have visited our missionary training centers to see how we do it, but there is no teaching method to attribute it to.
All other spiritual gifts are usual in the Church. The heavens are open, and God’s power is manifested in our lives. We are no strangers to miracles.