When organizing a branch, the mission president or the district president with the approval of the mission president, by inspiration from the Lord, calls and sets apart a worthy man who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood to be the president of the branch. The mission or district president confers the keys of presidency on the branch president. If no worthy man who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood is available, a worthy priest may be called and set apart as branch president.
Until at least two members in the branch hold the Melchizedek Priesthood, the branch president watches over and strengthens the members, visits their homes often as a home teacher, conducts sacrament meetings, directs branch activities, and completes reports. As more men in the branch receive the priesthood, the mission president may, under the guidance of the Spirit of the Lord, call two counselors to the branch president and a clerk to help with branch records. The president and his two counselors are the branch presidency.
The branch president is the shepherd of a branch, presiding in love and kindness over all branch members. He sets an example in offering as a sacrifice unto the Lord a “broken heart and a contrite spirit” (3 Nephi 9:20) and testifies of the divinity of the Lord, Jesus Christ. Within the branch, the branch president:
Is the presiding priesthood leader.
Is the common judge.
Directs the care for the poor and needy.
Takes care of the branch finances and records.
Members of the branch presidency watch over and strengthen branch members, conduct the opening exercises of priesthood meetings, preside over the Aaronic Priesthood, and conduct sacrament meetings.
Presiding Priesthood Leader
As the presiding priesthood leader, the branch president has been given the keys of presidency to administer the Lord’s work in the branch. He presides, watches over, and strengthens all branch members, and teaches them to be accountable in their callings. As the branch grows in membership, counselors in the branch presidency, priesthood quorum leaders, and home teachers assist him. He encourages the elders quorum president to ensure that home teachers are assigned and that each home is visited regularly. Periodic home teaching reports from the elders quorum president help the branch president be aware of members’ needs.
The branch president oversees the quorums, auxiliaries, and activities in the branch, with emphasis on Aaronic Priesthood young men and on young women of the same age. He is president of the Aaronic Priesthood in the branch. In watching over the young men and young women 12 through 18 years of age in the branch, he interviews them regularly to help them learn and live by gospel precepts and prepare for their future lives. He emphasizes mission preparation and full-time missions for young men and interested young women. He calls young men to lead Aaronic Priesthood quorums. He also calls members to lead branch auxiliaries (Relief Society, Young Men, Young Women, Primary, and Sunday School). (See Priesthood and Auxiliary Leaders’ Guidebook for further details on auxiliaries.) Assisted by his counselors, he calls members to teach classes and serve in other branch positions. He interviews quorum and auxiliary leaders regularly to receive reports on their callings and to counsel with them.
The branch president presides at sacrament meetings, priesthood meetings, and other branch meetings he attends, unless a member of the district or mission presidency, an Area Authority Seventy, or a General Authority is present. The branch president invites these visiting, presiding authorities to sit on the stand. He makes an earnest effort to ensure that all meetings and activities help members come unto Christ.
The branch president directs the performance of most ordinances (see the Family Guidebook). He ensures that each person who performs an ordinance has the necessary priesthood authority, is worthy, and follows the proper procedure. He approves ordinations to and advancements in the Aaronic Priesthood. After conferring with the district or mission president, he recommends brethren to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and be ordained to the office of elder. With the mission president’s approval, the district president, branch president, or other worthy men who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood may confer the Melchizedek Priesthood and ordain elders.
The branch president is the common judge of branch members. He interviews them to judge their worthiness for temple recommends, ordinations, ordinances, callings, and patriarchal blessings. He may counsel his branch members who seek spiritual guidance.
To help the branch president in his responsibilities as common judge, the Lord promises him the gift of discernment. As he is worthy to receive it, this gift helps him know what is in a person’s heart. It helps him know what to say and do to help a person.
When Church members transgress, the branch president can encourage them and help them repent as they confess their sins to him and to the Lord.
If a member commits a serious sin, formal Church discipline, including official probation, disfellowshipment, or excommunication, may be necessary. The branch president reviews the matter with the mission president, who decides whether a disciplinary council is necessary. Under the mission president’s direction, a district president or a branch president who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood may preside over a disciplinary council. These councils are conducted in a spirit of love. They are intended to help a transgressor repent and once again enjoy the full blessings of the gospel.
If the branch president is a priest, he is not authorized to be a common judge. In this situation, the mission president is the common judge of branch members.
Caring for the Poor and Needy
The branch president teaches members to be self-reliant and to contribute fast offerings to help provide for those in need. He has the sacred responsibility of seeking out the worthy poor and needy in the branch and using fast offerings to help care for them. The elders quorum president and the Relief Society president may assist him.
Following Church policies, the branch president determines how fast offerings are used to help care for the poor and needy.
Overseeing Finances and Records
The branch president receives and accounts for tithes and offerings from branch members. He directs the use and disposition of all branch funds, completes the annual tithing settlement, and makes sure branch records and reports are accurate and current in accordance with Church polices as directed by the district or mission president. Under no condition may any leader ever use local Church funds for personal benefit.
He makes sure the branch gathers monthly fast offerings in an orderly way. When members fast, they should go without food or drink for two consecutive meals and give a fast offering that is at least equal to the value of the food and drink they would have consumed.
Where the branch president is a priest, the mission president oversees the donations and expenditures of the branch.
As soon as practical, the branch president should call and train a clerk who holds the priesthood, pays a full tithe, has a strong testimony of the gospel, and demonstrates a willingness to obey the Lord’s commandments. The branch president ensures that the clerk follows Church policy on handling Church funds.