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The First Presidency
(See LDS.org Ensign Dec. 2005 - The Quorum of the First Presidency, Additional Info at Wikipedia - First Presidency (LDS Church))
The First Presidency consists of the President of the Church—often referred to more informally as the Prophet of the Church—and counselors, generally two. Historically there have been occasions when there have been more than two counselors, usually when the President of the Church had health issues that would not allow him to function at full administrative capacity.
Upon the death of a counselor, the President will call a replacement—such replacements generally come from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (see below), but any faithful male may be called. If the current President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles is called as a counselor in the First Presidency, then the next most senior Apostle is designated as Acting president of the Quorum while the actual president serves in the First Presidency.
The First Presidency is automatically dissolved upon the death of the President—the counselors have no role or authority apart from him. If counselors were members of the Quorum of the Twelve prior to joining the First Presidency, they resume their previous place in the seniority of that Quorum. If the President of the Quorum had been selected as a counselor then he resumes his duties as President of the Quorum.
The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
The second governing body of the Church is the Quorum of the Twelve. Apostles are chosen by the First Presidency and serve in that capacity for life. There can be more than twelve apostles in the church (for example, the members of the First Presidency are almost always apostles), but the Quorum of the Twelve is limited to twelve members.
The president of the Quorum of the Twelve is that apostle who has been a member of the quorum for the longest period of time (excluding the President of the Church), even if he is serving as a counselor in the First Presidency. If the president of the Quorum of the Twelve is serving as a counselor in the First Presidency, the next-longest serving apostle will be designated the "Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve" and will handle the administrative leadership of the quorum.
This situation actually exists at present—President Thomas S. Monson of the First Presidency is the longest-serving apostle after the current Church president. President Monson is thus "President of the Quorum of the Twelve." The next-longest serving apostle is Boyd K. Packer, designated the "Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve" because of President Monson's assignment in the First Presidency.
When the First Presidency is dissolved upon the death of the President of the Church, the counselors in the First Presidency resume their positions in Quorum of the Twelve and the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles assumes the leadership of the Church.
Succession in the Church
When the First Presidency is dissolved upon the death of the President of the Church, the counselors in the First Presidency resume their positions in Quorum of the Twelve and the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles assumes the leadership of the Church. It is the responsibility of the Quorum of the Twelve to select a new President of the Church. Historically, the president of the Quorum of the Twelve has been chosen by the quorum to replace a deceased president of the Church.
Once the Quorum of the Twelve has designated a new President of the Church, the president chooses two counselors, generally from among the remaining apostles. This leaves the Quorum of the Twelve with eleven apostles, and a replacement apostle is chosen by the First Presidency. The most senior apostle (excluding the President of the Church) becomes the new president of the Quorum of the Twelve, and if he has been asked to serve as a counselor in the First Presidency, the most senior apostle not serving in the First Presidency becomes the Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve.
The Quorums of the Seventy
The Quorums of the Seventy serve throughout the Church under the direction of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve.
Seventies may help supervise large geographic areas, oversee missionary work, and represent the Church leadership around the globe. The Seventy are presided over by seven presidents that together form a quorum called the Presidency of the Seventy. The roles of the Seventy have been frequently adapted and altered to meet the needs of a growing Church.
First Quorum of the Seventy
Members of the First Quorum of the Seventy are called for life and serve full-time. They generally receive inactive "emeritus status" at age 70. They are general authorities of the Church, with world-wide responsibility as assigned by the First Presidency and Twelve.
Second Quorum of the Seventy
Members of the Second Quorum of Seventy serve full-time for a period of five years. After their term of service, they return to regular occupations and pursuits. They are general authorities of the Church, with world-wide responsibility, as assigned by the First Presidency and Twelve.
Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Quorums of the Seventy
Members of these quorums are designated "Area Seventies," and continue their previous occupations. They receive assignments from The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, generally in geographic areas relatively close to their homes. Members of these quorums are considered "general officers," of the Church, but have no authority except as designated by the First President and Twelve. They can, however, be assigned to any duty anywhere in the world.
The specific quorums are assigned on the basis of geography:
- Third Quorum - The Third Quorum includes Area Seventies located in Europe and Africa.
- Fourth Quorum - The members of the Fourth Quorum live in Mexico, Central America, and the northern part of South America.
- Fifth Quorum - The Fifth Quorum members are in the western parts of the United States and Canada,
- Sixth Quorum - The members of the Sixth Quorum live in the central, southern, and eastern parts of the United States and Canada and in the Caribbean.
- Seventh Quorum - The Seventh Quorum members are located in Brazil and the southern areas of South America.
- Eighth Quorum - The Eighth Quorum members are located in Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Pacific islands, and the Philippines.
The Presiding Bishopric
The Presiding Bishopric oversees the work of the Aaronic Priesthood throughout the Church. This includes work related to welfare, building construction and maintenance, and youth programs. The Presiding Bishopric also sits on the "Council for the Distribution of the Tithes," which oversees and manages the Church's financial affairs.
The Presiding Bishopric consists of a Bishop and two counselors.
A stake is a collection of about eight to twelve local congregations (wards and branches). All stake leadership positions are filled by volunteer labor only. There is no remuneration for serving in these callings, so people who serve also have a regular job outside of their church position.
Stake Presidency and High Council
The presiding authority for a stake is the stake presidency, consisting of a president and two counselors. The stake president is also the president of the high priest quorum in the stake. Stake presidents are chosen by a General Authority or Area Authority. The stake presidency is assisted in its administrative and ministerial responsibilities by the stake high council, which consists of twelve high priests.
The stake leadership includes a number of auxiliary organizations that mirror corresponding organizations found in the wards and branches. There are presidencies (a president, two counselors, and a secretary) for the Relief Society (women over 17 years old), Young Men (12 to 18 year old boys), Young Women (12 to 18 year old girls), Sunday School (Sunday morning classes for all members aged 12 and older), and Primary (children 3 to 11 years old). These presidencies serve as advisers and trainers to the ward level presidencies and provide coordination when multiple wards participate in a project or activity.
Other Stake Positions
Under the direction of the stake presidency, men and women are called to serve the stake in a variety of additional positions as needed. These responsibilities can include activities, athletics, public affairs, employment, family history and genealogy, physical facilities, audio-visual, music, military relations, single members, and many others. The stake presidency also calls members to assist with financial, membership, and other types of record-keeping and clerical tasks associated with administering the stake.
Ward and Branch Leadership
Members of the Church are organized into congregations that meet together frequently for spiritual and social enrichment. An LDS congregation is called a ward (or branch if the congregation is small). Wards and branches comprise a specific geographic area and members attend the ward or branch in which they live. If a ward becomes too large to allow all to participate it will generally be divided. There is no remuneration for serving in ward or branch callings, so people who serve also have a regular job outside of their church position.
The goal of a local congregation is to allow all members to contribute to its function so that all might be given the opportunity to serve. It is through service that members perfect themselves in love for God and their neighbor. Different organizations in the ward or branch contribute to the Lord’s work: high priests group, elders quorum, Relief Society (for women ages 18 years and older), Aaronic Priesthood quorums (for young men ages 12 through 17), Young Women classes (for young women ages 12 through 17), Primary (for children ages 18 months to 11 years), and Sunday School (for all Church members ages 12 and older). Each of these organizations fulfills important roles in teaching the gospel, giving service, and supporting parents in their sacred duty to help their children become converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ. These organizations also work together to help members share the gospel with others.
Bishoprics and Branch Presidencies
The presiding authority in a ward is the bishopric, which consists of the bishop and two counselors. The presiding authority in a branch is the branch presidency, which consists of the branch president and two counselors. Bishops are chosen by the stake president and approved by the First Presidency prior to their call. They serve for an indefinite period of time (often five to seven years). Branch presidents are chosen by the stake president and serve for an indefinite period of time. A branch president performs essentially the same functions as a bishop although he doesn't have to be a high priest and he may be serving under the direction of a mission president instead of a stake president in areas of the world where there are too few congregations to form a stake.
The bishop is both presiding high priest in the ward and president of the Aaronic Priesthood. As presiding high priest he watches over the congregation and ministers to the needs of the saints. As president of the Aaronic Priesthood he has a special duty to watch over the youth (ages 12-18) of the congregation and guide them.
The bishopric leads a committee called the priesthood executive committee (PEC), which consists of the bishopric, the high priest group leader, the elders quorum president, the Young Men president, and the ward mission leader. This committee regulates the functioning of local priesthood units.
The PEC and the ward auxiliary leaders form the ward council. Through this committee, ward efforts are brought together in unity. The bishop also presides over the ward welfare committee that watches over members during sickness, financial distress, and other family emergencies. (See: LDS.org True to the Faith - Welfare)
The woman's organization is called the Relief Society. All women of age 18 or over are members of the Relief Society. It has a president and counselors drawn from its membership. The Relief Society president serves in two important councils of the local congregation. The ward council, where ward efforts are harmonized, and the welfare committee, where physical needs of members of the ward are discussed and efforts are made to relieve sick, impoverished, and otherwise afflicted members.
Melchizedek Priesthood Quorums
Since the LDS Church has a lay ministry, all worthy male members will hold the priesthood. And since one of the goals of the Church is to "make bad men good, and good men better" the quorums will work to help men become worthy to hold the priesthood. Holding the priesthood does not require a man to be perfect, nor does it indicate a large amount of training such as might be expected in other faiths. A priesthood holder simply should have a desire to serve God and his fellow man. All priesthood members are expected to serve as home teachers to one or more families in the ward. The home teaching program encourages fellowship throughout the ward while allowing family needs to be brought back to the bishop. There are two priesthood quorums in the LDS ward, the high priests group and the elders quorum.
The High Priests Group
There is only one high priests quorum in each stake, and the stake president and his counselors are the high priest quorum presidency. High priests in a ward are organized into a high priests group and one of their members is chosen by the stake president to serve as the high priests group leader. Two additional men are chosen from the high priests group to serve as assistants to the high priests group leader. The high priests generally are older men and recently the management of ward family history consultants was placed under the high priest group leader. The high priests have always had an emphasis on temple work and family history.
The elders quorum includes all men over the age of 18 who are not in high priests quorum. The elders quorum is presided over by a president and two counselors. Besides home teaching, elders typically provide service through service projects in the ward to help reach out to those in need.
The Youth (Aaronic) Priesthood
Also known as the young men program, this organization includes males aged 12 to 17. The young men program consists of two elements:
- the priesthood
- the youth activity arm.
Young men are ordained in the Church's lay priesthood beginning at age twelve. If they meet standards of worthiness and activity, they are generally advanced in the priesthood on their birthday as follows:
- Deacons: age 12–13
- Teachers: age 14–15
- Priests: age 16–17
Each priesthood group has a quorum, which meets together for gospel study, instruction, service projections, and priesthood duties. Each quorum is presided over by a president and two counselors. The ward bishop is president of the priests quorum and with assistants drawn from among the priests.
A parallel activity program for young men is also in place. In the United States and Canada the Scouting program serves as the activity arm for the young men. Some other countries use their own scouting ranks for activities; other regions operate such programs independent of their national scouting body.
The activity arm and many of the teaching duties of the priesthood arm are carried out by a young men president and two counselors. Other assistants, teachers, and scout workers may be called as needed.
The deacons quorum includes all young men ages 12 and 13. This quorum is presided over by a president and two counselors chosen from the quorum. This quorum traditionally provides service by passing the sacrament and collecting fast offerings.
The teachers quorum includes all young men ages 14 and 15. This quorum is presided over by a president and two counselors chosen from the quorum. This quorum traditionally provides service by preparing the sacrament prior to sacrament meetings and disposing what remains after the meeting and cleaning sacramental trays. These young men also begin service as home teachers, serving as junior companions to elders.
The priests quorum includes all young men ages 16 and 17, though it can include 18 year olds who have not finished high school. This quorum is presided over by the bishop with two assistants chosen from the quorum assist the Bishop. Traditionally this group blesses the sacrament during sacrament meetings. They continue to be home teachers, generally serving as junior companions to high priests.
Note: It is very uncommon for active LDS males to remain "priests" once they reach 18–19 years of age—most will be ordained elders (see below). The media often report, for example, that someone charged with a crime was "a Mormon priest." While this may sound like a prominent rank when compared to other religions' use of the term priest, an adult male who is a Mormon priest has almost certainly not been active in the LDS faith for any period of time after his teen years. Essentially all 16-17 year-old Mormons will be priests. Remaining an adult male priest is a marker for disaffection from or inactivity in the LDS Church. Similar remarks could be made about adult deacons and teachers.
The Young Women
(Additional Info at Wikipedia - Young Women)
This group includes all young women ages 12 to 17. The young women are presided over by a president and two counselors, women who watch over and provide counsel to the youth presidencies of the subgroups. At one time this organization was know as the Young Women Mutual Improvement Association or YWMIA. Remnants of this name persist. An example is the name of the 14-15 year old girls, MIA Maids.
This includes all young women ages 12 and 13. They are presided over by a president and two counselors drawn from their group.
This includes all young women ages 14 and 15. They are presided over by a president and two counselors drawn from their group.
This includes all young women ages 16 and 17, although an 18 year old may remain in this group until graduating from high school. They are presided over by a president and two counselors drawn from their group.
Sunday school is presided over by a president and two counselors. Traditionally these are men, called to oversee the function of the Sunday school. All members age 12 or over are listed in the Sunday school rolls and are encouraged to participate in the various Sunday school classes.
Typically classes are divided for youth into 2-year age groups to correspond to the classes of the young men and Young women programs. Continuing adult classes include Gospel Essentials class for new members and investigators and Gospel Doctrine class for the general adult membership. The Gospel Doctrine course will rotate through the scriptures of the Church covering:
- Old Testament
- New Testament
- Book of Mormon
- Doctrine & Covenants and Church History
Occasionally, when the need arises, optional courses on Marriage and Family Relations, Temple Preparation, or Family History can also be taught during Sunday school.
The children's organization is called Primary. It is traditionally presided over by a presidency consisting of a president and two counselors, all women. The primary oversees the teaching of all children ages 3 to 12. A nursery for children 18 months to age 3 is also maintained through the primary organization during the time when parents are in Sunday school and priesthood or Relief Society meetings. Each class is taught by one or more teachers.
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