“We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.”
The Mormon Church is organized after the same manner of the church established by Christ during His ministry. As described by the fifth Article of Faith, the Church of Jesus Christ must be administered by the authority of the priesthood. It is through the priesthood that the Mormon Church is organized. The priesthood of God is the power under which the church is governed, with authority originating from Jesus Christ and led by prophets, and priesthood bearers in each of the several offices. The Mormon Church does not have paid professionals as church leaders. It is a lay clergy. 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 membership. A person never gives up his priesthood unless by transgression. However, in all but the highest offices of leadership, the position of leadership in which one serves is for a definite period of time. A time limit is never prearranged, but it is understood that someday that one will be released from his position of service and it will be offered to someone else.
The Aaronic Priesthood
There are two orders of priesthood. The lesser order is called the Aaronic priesthood, named after Aaron, who acted as a mouthpiece for Moses. In the Aaronic priesthood are four offices, that of a deacon, a teacher, a priest, and a bishop. This priesthood holds the keys to the ministering of angels, the gospel of repentance, and baptism for the remission of sins. In the Mormon Church, young men are interviewed at age twelve, and, if found worthy, given the Aaronic priesthood and ordained to the office of a deacon. A deacon’s duty is to care for houses of worship, comfort the worshippers, and minister to the members of the church as the bishop may direct. Deacons have also been given the duty of passing the sacrament to the congregation during Sunday worship services. At fourteen years old, a priesthood holder is again interviewed, then ordained to the office of a teacher. The duty of a teacher is to watch over and strengthen the church, see that there is no iniquity, and help members do their duty (Doctrine and Covenants 20:53-55). Teachers also customarily prepare the sacrament for the priests, and are given Home Teaching assignments. At age sixteen, one is ordained a priest, if found worthy. The priest’s duties are to preach, teach, and expound the scriptures, baptize, and administer the sacrament. A priest must offer the sacramental prayer, and then the deacons distribute the sacrament under the direction of the priests. A priest also has the authority to ordain other deacons, teachers, and priests in the Aaronic priesthood. There is one bishop for each congregation, and he presides over the Aaronic priesthood in that congregation. However, the bishop is always called from among the high priests so that his authority allows him to preside over the entire congregation.
The Melchizedek Priesthood
The higher priesthood is the Melchizedek priesthood, named after the great high priest mentioned in Genesis 14:18. The higher priesthood actually is named for the Son of God, but is called the Melchizedek Priesthood to avoid using the Lord’s name too often. Holding this priesthood, one may officiate in any capacity of the Mormon Church if called to do so. One is first ordained to the office of an elder, usually at age eighteen or nineteen. An elder may officiate in any of the Aaronic priesthood duties. In addition, elders may ordain other elders, give the Holy Ghost to those baptized and confirm them members of the Mormon Church. A Seventy is an office which icludes traveling throughout the earth, spreading the gospel. The office of high priest gives one the power to officiate in all the ordinances and blessings of the Church. High Priests are to preside in the church and provide service. There is no general age at which one is ordained to offices higher than that of elder. Rather, this is at the discretion and inspiration of the presiding priesthood leaders. The duty of the office of patriarch, or evangelist, in the Mormon (LDS) Church is to bless the members. A member is able to receive a “patriarchal blessing” from the patriarch presiding over the congregations of the church where they live. This blessing identifies one’s lineage in the house of Israel and gives words of prophesy and counsel concerning the member’s life, in much the same way that Jacob blessed Ephraim and Manasseh (Genesis 48:9-22). An apostle is called as a special witness of Christ. The duty of apostles is to proclaim this witness to the world. They hold the authority to perform any and all of the ordinances of the gospel at any time. They organize the branches of the Mormon Church, and travel among the membership, providing training and instruction and ordaining others to the offices of the priesthood. When someone is called to be an apostle, he serves in that office for the rest of his life.
Presidency and Quorum Organizations
Both the higher and lower orders of the priesthood are organized into quorums. The meaning of quorum in the Mormon religion is not the usual–the majority necessary to function–but refers to the group as a whole. In addition to priesthood quorums, there are other presiding bodies in the organization of the Mormon Church, but all fall under the authority of a priesthood organization.The First Presidency is the presiding quorum over the entire Mormon Church. Its three members are the president–who is the only person on earth to hold all the keys of the priesthood and is a prophet, seer, and revelator–and his two counselors. The First Presidency is the mouthpiece of the Lord, and the ultimate authority of the Mormon Church on earth. The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles acts under the direction of the First Presidency, traveling throughout the world to preach the gospel and build up the church. Their authority is equally binding to that of the First Presidency, and they hold all the keys of the priesthood of the Lord, which they confer upon each new president of the Mormon Church. The Quorums of Seventy are traveling ministers and act under the direction of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The first and second quorums are comprised of general authorities and have authority throughout the Church. Quorums of seventy are organized in the Mormon Church as needed, and there are now eight quorums of seventy. Quorums three through eight are area authorities and have jurisdiction over the area of the world to which they are assigned. Seven members of the First Quorum of Seventy constitute the Presidency of the Seventy and preside over all the quorums. The Presiding Bishopric is comprised of the Presiding Bishop and two counselors. It has authority over all other Bishoprics and organizations of the Aaronic priesthood. It also administers the temporal affairs of the Mormon Church, such as welfare or building management. 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 up a “stake high council,” patterned after the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Patriarchs are also called to officiate over an entire stake. The several congregations that make up a stake are each called a ward. A ward is presided over by three high priests who form a bishopric–a bishop and two counselors. Church auxiliaries are organizations of the Mormon Church outside of the priesthood, but presided over by it. The Primary Association provides instruction for children up to the age of twelve. There is both a Young Men’s and Young Women’s organization for youth ages twelve to eighteen, and a Sunday school organization instructs adults and youth in the doctrines of the gospel. The Relief Society is the Mormon Church’s women’s organization, and is the oldest women’s organization in the United States. It was founded in 1842 by Joseph Smith. Each of these auxiliaries is under the authority of a presidency–a president and two counselors–at the ward, stake, and general church levels. (The Relief Society, Young Women’s, and Primary presidencies are made up of women.) In turn, each of these presidencies is under the priesthood authority of the bishopric, stake presidency, and First Presidency.