Written by: Stephen Taysom
Mormonism is a hierarchical Church led by a group of full-time "General Authorities" who oversee the Church at the highest levels, but most Church leaders are lay members of the congregation who receive no payment for their services. The Church is presided over by a President, who is assisted by two counselors. Together, this group is called the First Presidency. These three men are responsible for everything that the Church does, and are the final authority in matters of Church doctrine and Church discipline.
The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles forms the next level of hierarchy. These twelve men are also full-time Church employees and are called as "special witnesses of Jesus Christ." Each of these men oversees certain areas of Church work, such as the missionary program or the Church's temple work.
Below the Quorum of the Twelve are the First and Second Quorums of the Seventy. The Quorums of the Seventy are presided over by a presidency of seven men. Again, these bodies consist of men who work full time for the Church. These groups are split up into area presidencies—groups of three members of the Seventy that oversee the Church's work in a certain geographical area, such as the Utah South Area, or the Africa West Area.
Six other Quorums of the Seventy also exist, but the members of these groups are not considered "General Authorities" of the Church and they serve in the areas in which they reside. In addition to the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and the First and Second Quorums of Seventy, a final group of General Authorities is the Presiding Bishopric. The Presiding Bishop of the Church, with the assistance of his two counselors, oversees and administers temporal affairs, finance, real estate, construction, and welfare services.
Locally, Church units are organized into stakes. Stakes are presided over by a three-man stake presidency. The stake president and his counselors are men who live locally and who work in occupations separate and apart from their Church callings. Assisting the stake presidency in each stake is a High Council. This body consists of twelve lay members of the Church.
Stake presidencies oversee a number of smaller units called wards. Wards are the basic local unit of the Church and they consist of between 250-600 persons. Wards are presided over by a bishop and his two counselors, all of whom are chosen from the local membership of the Church. Bishops are responsible to staff their wards and to select individuals to give sermons in the weekly sacrament services. Bishops also collect tithes and offerings and distribute welfare in the form of money and/or goods to needy members of the ward.
Bishops and stake presidents also serve as "common judges" in the Church. They periodically interview members of their congregations to ensure that their congregants are adhering to Church principles. These leaders also hear confessions and, when necessary, impose discipline on Mormons who have committed serious violations of Church standards. All Church leaders at or below the stake level serve without pay and must continue to work at full-time jobs outside of the Church.
Within wards, other members of the congregation fill leadership roles. Most Mormon men hold the Melchizedek priesthood and are members of either the Elder's or High Priest's quorums in the ward. These quorums are led at the local level by presidencies made up of ward members. Women do not hold the priesthood, and are thus ineligible for many leadership positions. They do manage the Relief society, which is the Church's auxiliary for women. Each ward has a Relief Society president who, along with her two counselors, oversees the teaching and service components for adult female Mormons. The women likewise run the children's organization, known as Primary, and the Young Women's organization, known as Mutual.
1. Describe the hierarchy of leadership within the Mormon church.
2. How are local churches organized?
3. What role can women take in leadership?