The Organization of the Mormon Church

The Mormon Church is organized according to modern-day revelation. The sixth Article of Faith, one of thirteen which the prophet Joseph Smith wrote soon after the founding of the Church, states,

We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.

Mormons believe Jesus Christ established a church during His ministry in the New Testament times so that all people could receive His gospel and live in peace on earth and in the hereafter. After Jesus Christ ascended to Heaven, His apostles, who were given the priesthood power, continued to receive revelation from Him on how to direct the work of His Church (see Mormon.org). As the fifth Article of Faith describes, this Church of Christ was established and administered by the authority of the priesthood. The Mormon Church follows that same standard today. As the Apostle Peter had prophesied (Acts 3:19–21), Jesus restored His Church before His Second Coming; Mormons believe the priesthood keys of leadership and organization were handed down to Joseph Smith when the Church of Christ was reestablished on the earth in 1830. These priesthood keys remain with the leaders of the Mormon Church today. The priesthood of God is the power under which the Church is governed, with authority originating from Jesus Christ and led by those priesthood bearers in each of the several offices.

mormon chapelThe Mormon Church does not have paid professionals as church leaders. All worthy male members of the Church are ordained to the priesthood and have the authority to officiate. Leaders are called to serve from the general congregation. These 'callings' are important in the Mormon Church, allowing opportunities for service and growth for the individual and providing necessary leadership for the Church. When a member of the Mormon Church is called to serve in a particular position, he or she (women serve in leadership and service capacities outside the priesthood callings) has the opportunity to accept the call. Although a time limit is never prearranged, Mormons understand that someday the individual will be released from his or her position of service and the responsibility and privilege will be offered to someone else.

The Melchizedek Priesthood

The Melchizedek priesthood is the greater priesthood and is named after a great high priest who lived during the time of Abraham. Men in the Mormon Church who hold this priesthood may serve in leadership positions throughout the Church. They have the power and authority to preach the gospel. The offices in the Melchizedek priesthood are elder, high priest, patriarch, seventy, and apostle.

The Aaronic Priesthood

The Aaronic priesthood, an appendage to the Melchizedek priesthood, is named after Aaron, Moses' brother and spokesman. There are four offices in the Aaronic priesthood: deacon, teacher, priest, and bishop. Priests may perform baptisms, bless the sacrament, and ordain priests, teachers, and deacons. Priests and teachers may prepare the sacrament. Priests, teachers, and deacons may pass the sacrament.

The Melchizedek and Aaronic priesthoods are divided into groups called quorums.

The Mormon Church is led by a president and prophet of the Lord. Today the prophet is Gordon B. Hinckley, and Mormons believe he receives revelation from the Lord to guide the members of the Church. Part of being a faithful member of the Mormon Church is believing that the Prophet and other priesthood leaders are called of God and supporting them in their callings.

The President has two counselors, and these three constitute the First Presidency of the Church. The First Presidency is the presiding quorum over the entire Church. Twelve Apostles assist the First Presidency. These Twelve are called as special witnesses of Jesus Christ to the world. Leaders called Seventies assist the Twelve Apostles. Bishops lead local congregations (see Mormon.org, "Organization").

The headquarters of the Mormon Church is in Salt Lake City. This is where official meetings of the Church are often held, including General Conference, a biyearly meeting of all Church members worldwide. The proceedings of this conference are broadcast via radio, television, satellite, and the Internet, and a printed transcript appears subsequently in issues of the Mormon magazines "Ensign" and "Liahona."

The membership of the Mormon Church is divided into geographical areas called stakes. Each stake has a president with two counselors, and twelve high priests making a stake high council. The several congregations that make up a stake are each called a ward or branch, depending on the size and strength of the membership in a given area. Three high priests, who form a bishopric (a bishop and two counselors), preside over a ward.

The Mormon Church also includes organizations, termed auxiliaries, that exist outside of the priesthood but are presided over by it. The Primary Association provides instruction for children up to the age of twelve, at which time the children become a part of the Young Women's or the Young Men's organization from ages twelve to eighteen. The Sunday School organization provides instruction for young adults and adults in the doctrines of the gospel. The Relief Society, the Mormon Church's women's organization, is the largest and oldest women's organization in the world, founded in 1842 by Joseph Smith. Each of these auxiliaries is presided over by a priesthood authority.