Hey guys, so if you don’t know anything about the Catholic Church, for example, terms like “archbishop, diocese, and cardinal” might be confusing to you. Similarly, there are terms and titles within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that may sound foreign at first. So in this episode we’re going to review the organization and structure of our church and introduce you to some terms and titles you’re bound to run into as you learn more about us. It won’t be an exhaustive list, but it’ll be enough to get you by.
Alright, so your local congregation of Latter-day Saints is called a “ward.” Depending on where you live, you might belong to the Sandstone Ward, or the Jackson Ward, or the Provo 932nd Ward, etc. If there aren’t enough members in your area to create an official ward, instead, there may be a smaller version of a ward called a branch. Each ward is led by a bishopric, which includes the bishop and his two counselors.
Within each ward are many different organizations which are each led by a presidency of three people. There’s the Elder’s Quorum for adult men who hold the priesthood office of “Elder;” the Relief Society for adult women; Sunday School for men and women, the Primary for children; and the Young Women’s and Young Men’s organizations for youth. The Young Men’s organization is divided into the Deacons, Teachers, and Priests quorums, which are offices of the priesthood that young men advance through as they get older. In addition to the leaders of these organizations, there are also dozens of other positions within each ward to be filled. There might be a choir director, a librarian, a self-reliance specialist, etc.
As the leader of the ward, the bishop counsels with others and seeks inspiration on who to invite among the ward members to fill these positions. Your responsibility in the ward is called your “calling.” Callings are temporary, and service is the goal — not advancement to leadership positions. In the various wards I’ve been a part of, I’ve been a teacher in different organizations, I’ve been in Sunday School presidencies, heck, I’ve even been a nursery leader. There are over 31,000 Latter-day Saint wards and branches throughout the world.
A group of several wards or branches makes up the next organizational unit called a stake. This is not a food reference. “The word stake is taken from Old Testament tent imagery in which the ‘tent,’ or church, is held up by supporting stakes (see Isaiah 54:2).”
Stake leaders preside over the several wards within the stake. The stake is led by a stake presidency. Supporting that presidency in leading the stake is the stake high council. There are also stake-level presidencies for the Sunday School, Relief Society, Primary, Young Men’s and Young Women’s programs, while the Stake presidency also serves as the presidency over the Elder’s Quorum.
Within each stake, one man also holds the calling of stake patriarch. His responsibility is to give what we call patriarchal blessings, and you can learn more about that calling in this episode. There are over 3,400 Latter-day Saint stakes around the world. Nobody who holds a calling at the ward and stake level is paid for their work, including bishops and stake presidents.
The next level of leadership is the Quorums of the Seventy. This office of the priesthood is reminiscent of Luke 10, when Christ “appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come.” Today, to meet the needs of a growing, worldwide Church, there are currently twelve Quorums of the Seventy, led by seven men who compose the presidency of the Seventy.
Presidencies composed of 3 Seventies preside over groups of stakes of the Church in 22 different areas around the world. Presiding over the Quorums of the Seventy is the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, which is the second-highest governing body in the Church.
The highest governing body of the Church is the First Presidency, composed of the president or prophet of the Church and two counselors chosen from the Quorum of the Twelve. When the president dies, the apostle who has been in the Quorum for the longest takes his place and chooses his counselors.
And finally, who presides over the First Presidency? [Movie clip]. General worldwide leaders in the Church are known as either General Authorities or General Officers of the Church. These include the First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the first two Quorums of the Seventy, as well as presidencies on a church-wide level over the Sunday School, Relief Society, Primary, Young Men’s and Young Women’s organizations. There is also a Presiding Bishopric. “The Presiding Bishop and his two counselors … serve under the direction of the First Presidency to administer the temporal affairs of the Church.”
This structure can change and evolve to fit the needs of the Church, as needed. One of the things I love about the structure of the Church is that our scriptures teach that in order to have God’s help in your leadership position, you’ve got to be selfless and sincere. These scriptures are specifically in reference to priesthood holders, but I think the principles apply to all leaders:
“…when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man … No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge…— Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved…”
Being a leader in our faith should never be about power or dominion over others. It should be about service, as our great leader, Jesus Christ, exemplified. If you want to learn more about some of the different things we’ve talked about today, check out the resources in the YouTube description, and have a great day!
- Find a Latter-day Saint meetinghouse near you: https://bit.ly/3xbSdnt
- “Organizational Structure of the Church,” Church’s newsroom: https://bit.ly/3v6Kyoy
- “2020 Statistical Report for the April 2021 Conference,” Church’s website: https://bit.ly/3ekASAp
- More on the First Presidency from the Church’s website: https://bit.ly/2P23V2S
- More on the Quorums of the Seventy from the Church’s website: https://bit.ly/3v3idQi
- Difference between a General Authority Seventy and an Area Seventy: https://bit.ly/32sW7dx
- More on the Presidency of the Seventy: https://bit.ly/3sAsMIK
- List of the 22 “Areas” of the Church: https://bit.ly/3v2HPN1
- More on the Stake High Council: https://bit.ly/3aoUhyO
- More on the Presiding Bishopric: https://bit.ly/3dypt0A
- More on Stakes: https://bit.ly/2RMq0n3
- “Church Councils,” Church’s website: https://bit.ly/3dzw9eQ
If you’d like to learn more about the responsibilities of ward and stake leadership positions (and other callings as well), here’s a link to the Church’s general handbook: https://bit.ly/32qUnRZ