The Lord's Church
NOTE: The following is a summary. See the
priesthood page on this website
for more, including the cited biblical quotations.
The priesthood is the
power and authority of God. God has delegated this power and
authority to certain men at certain times, and it is the
foundation of the church Christ established.
There was a priesthood
that ministered in bread and wine, performed blessings, and
managed tithing in the time of Abraham. Melchizedek, king of
Salem, was revered by Abraham and called “the priest of the most
high God” (Genesis 14:18-20).
Later the Lord introduced
the Levitical priesthood and called it an “everlasting priesthood”
(Exodus 40:15 and Numbers 25:13).
The Levitical Priesthood,
also known as the Aaronic Priesthood, was in place during the time
of Christ; however, men could not reach their full spiritual
potential through the Levitical Priesthood alone. A greater
priesthood, the Melchizedek Priesthood, was necessary (Hebrews
7:11-12). The early apostles of Christ held the priesthood. Peter
wrote of a royal and holy priesthood during his public ministry (1
Peter 2:9 and 1 Peter 2:5).
Jesus Christ is the great
eternal priest after the order of Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4 and
Hebrews 7:15-17). The Savior is called the “high priest” in the
Melchizedek Priesthood (Hebrews 5:5-10, Hebrews 6:20, and Hebrews
8:1)—the high priest of an “unchangeable priesthood” (Hebrews
7:24-26). Jesus was a “merciful and faithful high priest” like
unto his brethren (Hebrews 2:17). He set the ecclesiastical
example for all men to be ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood
(Hebrews 5:1) to conduct the ministry in the Lord and Savior
To receive the
priesthood, a man must be called of God and set apart, just as
Aaron was set apart by the Lord through his servant Moses (Hebrews
5:4). The ordination and setting apart of a priesthood holder is
accomplished by the laying on of hands by those in authority
Apostles and Prophets
NOTE: The following is a summary. See
the Divine Communication page on
this website for more information on prophets.
Jesus ordained twelve
apostles to be special witnesses of his gospel (Mark 3:14 and Luke
6:13-16) and to lead his church. It was important that there be
twelve, so Matthias was called to replace Judas soon after the
death of Judas (Acts 1:25-26). Paul wrote that the church is
“built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets,” and he
referred to apostles in several of his letters (Ephesians 2:19-22,
Ephesians 4:11, and 1 Corinthians 12:28). The Lord reveals his
mysteries (scriptural interpretation, doctrine, and so forth) to
the apostles through the Holy Ghost (Ephesians 3:5).
Quorums of the Seventy
Jesus appointed a quorum of the seventy to go out among the people
to preach, teach, and administer in the affairs of the church (Luke
10:1, 17). This quorum was subordinate to the quorum of the twelve
apostles and was responsible for the small geographical area where
the Lord conducted his public ministry.
Paul was acutely aware of the importance of bishops in the church,
and he gave Timothy comprehensive requirements for this position (1
The ministers of the Lord from the very earliest biblical times did
not receive specified monetary compensation for their services. The
priests of Levi were given food to support themselves and their
families, but they were not given wages. (Deuteronomy chapter 18).
Jesus counseled his apostles not to take money with them in their
ministry (Luke 9:3), nor a purse for money (Luke 10:4), as he
likened those he sent forth as shepherds that are not hired for
money (John 10:12). Jesus expected his disciples to work without
direct monetary compensation (Matthew 10:8-10).
Paul, a missionary who had more reason than any other apostle to be
paid for his labors, told the Thessalonians that he imparted to them
freely and asked only food to sustain his physical needs (1
Thessalonians 2:8-10 and 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9). Paul did not seek
money for his ministerial services (Acts 20:33-34), and he wrote to
Titus that a bishop should not minister for money (Titus 1:7, 11).
Peter said that ministers should work “willingly, not for filthy
lucre [money]” (1 Peter 5:2).
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the restored
church of Jesus Christ on earth. It is called “restored” because it
is patterned after the church established by Jesus during his public
ministry. After the ascension of Christ and through the centuries
that followed, men changed the ordinances and doctrines established
by the savior, including the organization of the Church.
The restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ included a full
restoration of the organization of the early church, including
restoration of the authority of the priesthood. In 1829 both the
Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods were restored to the earth, and
on April 6, 1830, the restored Church of Jesus Christ was
See the Sword SeriesTM paper on The Restored Gospel for more details
on the restoration
The Restored Church of
The Church was organized with the same offices as it had during the
time of Christ’s public ministry, including “Apostles, prophets,
seventies, evangelists (patriarchs), pastors (presiding officers),
high priests, elders, bishops, priests, teachers, and deacons” (Gospel
Principles [Salt Lake City: Intellectual Reserve, 2009], 97-98).
The commitment of the Church to restoring and maintaining the same
ecclesiastical structure as during the time of Christ on earth is
stated in the 6th Article of Faith:
We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive
Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists,
and so forth” (Pearl of Great Price: Articles of Faith 1:6).
Jesus set up a hierarchical organization to avoid confusion and
maintain doctrinal integrity. Today the prophet and first
presidency, the apostles, and the quorums of the seventy are the
presiding officers of the worldwide Church of Jesus Christ of
At the local level the Church is organized into stakes and wards (a
stake is a group of wards), with priesthood leadership presiding
over each. Each stake high council, consisting of twelve priesthood
leaders answering to the stake president, provides a structure at
the local level that echoes that of the Church as a whole, with its
twelve apostles answering to the Prophet.
Each ward is led by a bishop. The bishop is called to this position
by the stake president, approved by the First Presidency, and
sustained by the ward membership. The bishop selects two counselors
to serve with him; together, these three form the bishopric of the
ward. All ward priesthood and auxiliary organizations serve under
The ward priesthood organization is divided into a high priest group
and quorums of elders, priests, teachers, and deacons. The elders
quorum is led by a president and his two counselors; the high priest
group is presided over by a group leader and his two counselors. The
elders quorum president and the high priest group leader report
directly to the stake president; however, both serve under the
leadership of the bishop, the presiding high priest of the ward.
All adult men 18 and older belong to either the elders quorum or
high priest group and are assigned as home teachers. Women are
organized into the Relief Society, which is led by a woman who is as
called as president and her two counselors. Similar organizations
exist for youth and young children, and these are similarly led.
There are also several functional organizations at the ward level.
Adaptations to Growth
The Church has grown from six members in 1830 to over 13 million
members worldwide in 2008. The Church has adapted to this growth
while maintaining essentially the same organizational structure as
the early church. Such adaptation took place even in biblical times.
For example, when the first Apostles took up the matter of caring
for widows, they directed that seven others be organized to carry
out this particular duty so that the Apostles could continue to
focus on teaching, leading, and spreading the faith:
Wherefore, brethren, look
ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost
and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business (Acts 6:3).
Such adaptation will continue in the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints, but it will be done with great care and restraint
to remain consistent with the forms established by Christ.
Names and Labels
On April 26, 1838, eight years after formal establishment of the
Church, the Lord declared: “Thus shall my church be called in the
last days, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”
(D&C 115:4). The Church is named for its founder, Jesus Christ.
The terms “Mormon” and “Mormonism” were first coined as pejoratives.
Soon, however, these terms came into neutral and even friendly usage
for the sake of brevity. The latter usages are common today.
The Church is often
referred to as “The Mormon Church” or “the LDS (Latter-day Saint)
Church.” Both of these references are understandable: The proper
name of the Church is lengthy. However, Church members are counseled
to use the full name of the Church as much as possible to avoid
confusion with other sects and to convey the fact that the Church is
Christ-centered. “Latter-day Saint” is likewise formally preferred,
but “Mormon” is commonly used today, even among members of the
Christ and his apostles did not accept financial compensation for
their ministry, and neither did their followers. This practice is
carried forward in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
at the stake and ward levels and for missionaries worldwide. The
grassroots ministry is unpaid.
The absence of financial compensation for anyone at the local level
is considered an essential element of Church organization: It
stimulates full participation of all Church members in all
activities of the Church. Church members lead, teach, and assist one
another—taking turns in various roles while seeking elsewhere for
As of December 31, 2008, the Church consisted of 13,508,509 members
in 2,818 stakes and 28,109 wards and branches. These stakes, wards,
and branches were led by 30,927 lay ministers, all of whom were
unpaid. These ministers perform ecclesiastical duties nearly
identical to those of priests, pastors, and ministers in other
At the same time, there were 52,494 full-time missionaries, all
unpaid, serving across the globe. Missionaries who cannot afford to
fund their own missions may receive funds donated by individual
Church members—the Church does not pay the living expenses of these
missionaries out of tithes donated to the Church.
The global leadership of the Church consists of the three members of
the first presidency, the twelve apostles, and members of the eight
quorums of seventy—a total of 575 ministers. All qualify for a
modest stipend for living expenses. Many decline this stipend
because they have independent means. The 575 men who qualify for
this stipend constitute 1.8 percent of the total ministry of the
Church, excluding missionaries. If full-time missionaries are
included in the above equation, the percentage of Church leaders who
qualify for a stipend drops to 0.7. If the hundreds of thousands of
other men and women who serve without pay in auxiliary roles are
added in, the percentage of leaders qualifying for a stipend shrinks
The Church employs and provides monetary compensation to a number of
people in non-ecclesiastical roles such as non-ecclesiastical
administration, building construction and maintenance, specialized
teaching outside stakes and wards, and so forth. Even in these
cases, however, unpaid service missionaries usually can be found
working side-by-side with or under the direction of these employees.
Source: 2008 Statistical
Report, Ensign, May 2009, 30.
See chapter14 in The Biblical Roots of
Mormonism for a more comprehensive explanation, scriptural
references and commentary on Church Organization
See the following Sword
SeriesTM papers for summaries: