Instructions to Priesthood Leaders

Organization and Priesthood Leader Responsibilities


Introduction

The Church program consists of (1) Church orientation for members who enter military service, (2) support from stakes and wards regardless of where military members are stationed throughout the world, (3) the organization of service member groups when members in military service are unable to attend local wards or branches, and (4) endorsement of qualified individuals who desire to become military chaplains in the various branches of service. This site is designed to help priesthood leaders understand their responsibilities and to provide resources to help strengthen and support Church members in the military.

The Serving Your Country video emphasizes the importance of remaining strong in the gospel while serving your country. The Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled video is especially helpful to those who have served or will serve their country during periods of war and armed conflicts. It helps military members and their families find comfort and peace through the testimonies of those who have been through similar experiences.

 

 

 

 

As with most Church programs, priesthood leaders at both the ward and stake level have certain responsibilities relating to members serving in the military.

Organizational Diagram

Stake Presidency

A member of the stake presidency is responsible for military relations within the stake and has the following duties:

Oversees pre-military service Church orientation in the stake.

  • Offers the Church orientation course—before basic training—to all members who are entering military service.
  • Orders available resource materials (such as Serving Your Country DVD, Serving Your Country brochure, military scripture set, and LDS identification tag) from the distribution center and makes them available to orientation instructors (see Guidelines for Pre-Military Service Church Orientation).
  • Calls a person with recent military experience to conduct the orientation. Each ward could have orientation instructors if the situation warrants it.

Calls a military relations committee chairman and others as needed.

  • If there is a military installation within the stake boundaries, calls a military relations committee chairman and others as needed to serve as advisers on military matters.
  • Where possible, calls a senior officer or Latter-day Saint chaplain to serve as the chairman.
  • A military member serving on the stake high council could also serve as the chairman.

Together with the military relations committee chairman, develops a working relationship with the senior chaplain at each military installation in the stake.

  • Gives the chaplain the names and telephone numbers of stake and ward leaders so he can provide this information to newly arriving Church members and use it if there is an emergency, such as illness or death of a member at the installation.

Organizes and oversees service member groups for Church members restricted to base.

  • If military members are restricted to the base because of training requirements and cannot attend the local ward, the stake presidency should organize and oversee service member groups at the military installations in the stake (see Guidelines for Calling Service Member Group Leaders). In organizing and overseeing such groups, the stake presidency should:
    • Call, set apart, and instruct group leaders and their assistants (see Service Member Group Leader Responsibilities).
    • Give each group leader a certificate of appointment and a letter that outlines his responsibilities and authorizes him to preside over the group and conduct meetings.

Note: The stake president may align the service member group under the ward that has responsibility for the members of the Church living on the military installation.

Establishes branches as needed.

  • If there will be a long-term requirement to hold Church services on base for members who are restricted to base, such as new recruits attending basic or advanced training, then stake presidencies should consider forming a branch.

Establishes a Church orientation program for members attending basic training.

  • If basic training is conducted at a military installation, the stake presidency will establish a Church orientation program for new trainees. This is especially important for those who did not receive the pre-military service Church orientation in their home stake.
  • The orientation instructor can use the same resource materials (Serving Your Country DVD, Serving Your Country brochure, military scripture set, and LDS identification tag) that are available for the pre-military service Church orientation.
  • The instructor should have recent military experience and be familiar with the current military training environment, and the orientation class can be held in conjunction with the Sunday Church services for the trainees.

Calls service member group leaders for deploying military members.

Interviews Latter-day Saint chaplains annually.

  • A member of the stake presidency conducts an annual interview with Latter-day Saint chaplains and spouses who reside in their stake, even if the military installation where the chaplain is assigned is in another stake.

Letter of Appointment from Stake President

The stake presidency should give each newly set apart group leader a certificate of appointment and a letter that outlines his responsibilities and authorizes him to preside over the group and conduct meetings. The letter should be similar to the following sample letter.

(Print on stake letterhead)

(Date)

To Whom It May Concern:

This is to certify that (name of group leader) is an ordained elder and appointed to be the denomination lay-leader for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints assigned to (name of military unit or deployed location). He is authorized to work with the command and unit chaplains in meeting the religious needs of service members.

As a representative of the Church, he is encouraged to seek out Church members and invite them to scheduled Sunday services, group meetings, and activities. He is to perform responsibilities associated with being an ecclesiastical leader: providing religious services and instruction to those in attendance, supervising preparation and administration of the sacrament (communion), and counseling members.

We are grateful for and appreciate the command’s support in meeting the spiritual and religious needs of our armed service members. If you have any questions, please contact me at (phone number and email address).

Sincerely,

(Signature)

(Name of Stake President)

 

Cc: Military Relations Division
50 East North Temple, Room 2050
Salt Lake City, UT 84150


Military Relations Committee Chairman

Serves as liaison with senior chaplain and commanders.

  • Develops a working relationship with the senior chaplain and military commanders.
  • Gives the chaplain the names and telephone numbers of stake and ward leaders so he can provide this information to newly arriving Church members and use it if there is an emergency, such as illness or death of a member at the installation.

As assigned, oversees pre-military service Church orientation.

  • If assigned by the stake presidency, the committee chairman oversees the pre-military service Church orientation program for the stake. Working with the stake executive secretary, he identifies to the instructor those members in the stake who have joined the military and need to attend the orientation.

Advises the stake presidency on military matters.

  • The committee chairman reports to the stake presidency and high council on military matters affecting Church members.
  • If it is likely that Church members will deploy overseas for military operations or extended training exercises where they will be unable to attend the local ward, the committee chairman makes recommendations to the stake president on worthy priesthood holders who could serve as service member group leaders and ensures that group leaders are called, set apart, and trained before they deploy.
  • Coordinates with the stake clerk to order group leader kits and Church materials for the newly called group leaders.

Pre-Military Service Church Orientation Instructor

The instructor conducts pre-military service Church orientation for each member of the stake who has joined the military. The orientation should be held before the individual departs for basic training. Under the direction of the bishop, ward executive secretaries should notify the stake executive secretary to schedule the orientation for members in their ward. If the situation warrants, an orientation instructor for each ward may be called.

Stake Executive Secretary

The executive secretary advises the stake presidency of members who are entering military service. He also coordinates, under the direction of the stake presidency, pre-military service Church orientation in the stake.

Mission President

If the military installation is in a mission rather than a stake, the mission president fulfills the responsibilities that are outlined for stake presidencies. As needed, he may delegate these responsibilities to his counselors or to district presidents.

Bishopric

Bishoprics are responsible for Church members who are assigned to military installations within the boundaries of their ward. A member of the bishopric should fulfill the following responsibilities:

Interviews ward members before they leave for military service.

  • Counsels them to obey the commandments of God and participate actively in the Church wherever they are stationed.
  • Gives them a military scripture set and an LDS identification tag.
  • If appropriate, invites them to speak in sacrament meeting.

Encourages worthy members to receive their patriarchal blessing before reporting for active duty. If this is not possible, see Handbook 1: Stake Presidents and Bishops (2010), section 16.12.3, for further guidance.

Coordinates pre-military service Church orientation with the stake.

  • Encourages each member who is entering military service to attend a pre-military service Church orientation meeting. This can be coordinated through the stake executive secretary and the orientation instructor. If a ward has its own instructor, the instructor will need to coordinate with the stake to obtain the resource materials for use in the orientation.

Helps military members identify the Church unit nearest to their duty station.

  • When a member enters the military or is transferred to a new location, a member of the bishopric helps him or her identify the Church unit nearest the new duty station. The Church's Directory of General Authorities and Officers lists the Church unit that is responsible for members at United States military installations throughout the world.

Assists with correspondence, Church publications, and membership records.

  • Corresponds frequently with each ward member who is attending basic and advanced training and asks the family's home teachers to do the same.
  • Encourages families to ensure that their family members in the military receive the Ensign or Liahona and the Church News.
  • Once military members complete their training and are assigned to a permanent base, their membership records should be forwarded to their new ward.

Provides the chaplain information about the ward meeting schedule.

  • Because each bishop is responsible for Church members who are assigned to military installations within the boundaries of his ward, a member of the bishopric should notify the senior chaplain of the ward's meeting schedule, meeting locations, and contact person so the chaplain can give this information to Church members at the installation.

Oversees service member groups meeting on military installations.

  • If a service member group has been established within the ward boundary for those restricted to base, the stake president may assign the bishop to oversee the service member group leader, ensuring that Church services are provided for all trainees.

Ward Executive Secretary

Informs the stake executive secretary when members plan to enter the military and coordinates pre-military service Church orientation.


Guidelines for Pre-Military Service Church Orientation

orientation

The value of holding pre-military service Church orientation for young men or women who join the military cannot be overemphasized. These guidelines help answer three important questions: (1) Why conduct pre-military service Church orientation? (2) Who should conduct it? and (3) What should be accomplished?

Why Pre-Military Service Church Orientation?

Church members who join the military are often unsure what to expect as they enter basic training. Many have heard stories that no longer reflect conditions in the military but still raise concerns for military members and their parents and spouses. Most people are not familiar with what the Church has done to ensure that the blessings of Church membership are afforded those who serve in the military, regardless of where they are stationed throughout the world. This orientation will help answer many questions regarding military service and explain what the member can expect regarding Church services and activities during basic and advanced military training.

Who Should Conduct the Orientation?
  • Pre-service orientation is under the direction of the stake president.
  • An instructor who is either on active duty or who has recently completed active military service should be called to conduct the orientation.
  • The instructor should have extensive military and Church experience and a strong testimony of the gospel.
What Should Be Accomplished in the Orientation?

The following things should be accomplished:

Add 2 video images here...

  • Show the Serving Your Country video and review the Serving Your Country brochure.
  • If time permits, also show Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled.
  • If not previously provided by the bishop, present the military scripture set and LDS identification tag to the member, and review the contents.
  • Discuss the physical and mental challenges of basic training. This information must be current. The military environment has changed significantly over the years, and it would be counterproductive to discuss basic training during an earlier period, such as the Vietnam War era.
  • Discuss living the gospel amid peer pressure to do otherwise.
  • Discuss how to find the Church no matter where members are stationed. Stress the importance of attending church, praying, studying the scriptures, avoiding temptations, and establishing wholesome friendships with other Church members.
  • Review the importance of setting a good example and looking for missionary opportunities.
  • Emphasize the importance of writing uplifting letters to parents and loved ones.
  • If some of the individuals receiving the orientation are married, consider having the instructor's spouse participate in the discussion to provide her perspective on the opportunities and blessings of military service.
For More Information

For additional resources, contact the Military Relations Division at 1-800-453-3860, extension 2-2286, or 801-240-2286, or email PST-Military@LDSChurch.org.


Service Member Group Leaders

group leaders

In today’s complex world, there are an ever-increasing number of Latter-day Saint service members who are deployed around the world. Many times they are aboard ship or in locations where they are unable to attend the local ward or branch. In such cases, service member group leaders should be called to look after the welfare of the Church members. This section covers guidelines for calling service member group leaders and the duties and responsibilities of the group leader.

Guidelines for Calling Service Member Group Leaders

These guidelines help answer three important questions: (1) What is a service member group leader? (2) Who calls a service member group leader? and (3) When should a service member group leader be called?

What Is a Service Member Group Leader?

Church members in the military often serve aboard ships or are deployed to locations where there are no wards or branches. To help meet the spiritual needs of these members, service member groups are organized with a Melchizedek Priesthood holder selected as the group leader from among the military members. Sometimes military members are restricted to the military installation because of training requirements and are not allowed to leave the base to attend Church meetings at the local ward. If only a small number are affected by this restriction or if it is a short-term situation, then a service member group should be formed to meet the spiritual needs of the group. However, if the situation will be a long-standing restriction, such as recruits attending basic training, then consideration should be given to establishing a branch. 

Who Calls a Service Member Group Leader?

Presidents of stakes or missions that encompass a military base are responsible to call and train service member group leaders. The stake or mission president should also provide the group leader with a letter of appointment that outlines his responsibilities and authorizes him to preside over the group and conduct meetings. With the approval of the stake or mission president, the Military Relations Division can prepare a letter of appointment for the group leader.

When Should a Service Member Group Leader Be Called?

  • When service members are assigned to ships that deploy for extended sea duty. In these instances, group leaders should be called and trained before the scheduled deployment. 
  • When members are assigned to Reserve and National Guard units. In these units, group leaders should be called to hold Church services during the drill weekend, during the two-week annual training, and in case they deploy on contingency operations. If there are functioning service member groups at the deployed locations, then members would attend those group meetings.
  • When there is no established ward or branch that meets on the military installation and military members are restricted to the base. In such instances, a group leader should be called to oversee the Church programs. It may be prudent to establish a branch instead of a group at training bases where there will be a long-term need to hold Church services for members attending basic and advanced training. If a branch is established, the branch presidency, clerk, elders quorum president, and Relief Society president should be called from the local wards near the military installation to staff the branch.
  • When a military base has units with a wartime mission that could require personnel to deploy on short notice. In such instances, group leaders should be called and trained before they deploy. It may be necessary to call more than one group leader since it is unlikely that an entire base would deploy to the same site. Before deploying, it is important that the group leader contact Military Relations (see below for contact information) to determine if there is a functioning group leader at the deployed site and who the ecclesiastical leader is for the deployed location.

Service Member Group Leader Responsibilities

This section covers (1) duties and responsibilities, (2) reporting procedures, (3) group leader's kit and other Church materials, (4) convert baptisms and priesthood ordinations, (5) calling a new group leader in a war zone before returning home, (6) what to do if there is more than one group leader at the deployed site, and (7) things a group leader is not authorized to do.

Duties and Responsibilities of the Service Member Group Leader

  • Represent the Latter-day Saint service members at your location and establish a liaison with local military authorities.
  • Contact the unit commander and the senior chaplain at your deployed location to receive permission and guidance concerning holding Latter-day Saint services and to arrange meeting times and a meeting location for the group.
  • Provide a copy of your letter of appointment to the unit chaplain. This authorizes you to function as the lay leader for the group.
  • Identify and contact Church members in your unit and at the same deployed location. The chaplain may be able to assist in providing a list of those who have identified themselves as Latter-day Saint on the Alpha roster.
  • Plan and preside over group meetings and activities.
  • Conduct a weekly sacrament service to give members of the group the opportunity to partake of the sacrament. Members should be asked to prepare and give talks on a gospel topic. Ensure that the dignity of this worship service is maintained in both word and deed.
  • If time and conditions permit, hold Sunday School, priesthood, and Relief Society meetings.
  • When feasible, organize home teaching to ensure that all members of the group are contacted and strengthened often (daily, if needed) throughout the deployment period.  

Reporting Procedures

  • Report meeting attendance and activities to the stake, mission, or area president, depending on where the group is located and the local Church organization.
  • In addition, report names of group leaders to the Church Military Relations Division (pst-military@ldschurch.org) so they can maintain a current roster of group leaders and contact information. They can also assist in forwarding reports to the appropriate priesthood leaders.  

Group Leader's Kit and Other Church Materials

  • Obtain a group leader's kit and supplies needed by the group from the stake or mission president. Military Relations will provide additional Church materials as needed during the deployment period. 
  • If deployed to locations where stakes or missions are not organized, contact the Church Military Relations Division. They can assist in providing names of priesthood leaders and coordinating required support and resources.
  • The unit's chaplain may be able to supply sacrament cups and other materials as well, even if he is not a Latter-day Saint chaplain.

Convert Baptisms and Aaronic Priesthood Ordinations within the Group

  • With permission from the stake, mission, or area president, interview candidates for baptism and advancement in the Aaronic Priesthood and make recommendations to the priesthood leader.
  • If approved by the priesthood leader, oversee the baptismal service and priesthood ordination as directed.
  • Complete the Baptismal Record (form 35919), Confirmation Record and Baptism and Confirmation Certificate (form 35920), and Aaronic Priesthood Record and Certificate (form 35857) as appropriate, and forward a copy to the area office responsible for the service member group to create a permanent membership record. The record should be transferred to the ward where the service member lives when not deployed.

Calling a New Group Leader in a War Zone before Returning Home

Recommend to the stake, mission, or area president names of worthy priesthood members to serve as a group leader after your departure. If you are deployed to locations where it is not feasible for the stake, mission, or area president to call and set apart a new group leader (for example, war zones), these presiding priesthood leaders may authorize a Latter-day Saint chaplain (if one is assigned to the deployed location) or the departing group leader to act in their behalf.

What If There Is More Than One Group Leader at the Deployed Site?

When more than one military unit with an organized service member group is deployed to the same location, one of the group leaders will be chosen to preside over the combined group. The stake, mission, or area president will make the selection, unless he authorizes a Latter-day Saint chaplain to act in his behalf. If the group leaders are unable to contact the appropriate priesthood leader, the group leader holding the highest priesthood office and the highest military rank should assume responsibility for the combined group, and the other group leaders should serve as his assistants until contact with priesthood leaders can be made.

Things a Group Leader Is Not Authorized to Do

  • Collect tithing or other Church donations. These donations should be made to each member's home ward. They can also be sent directly to Church headquarters.
  • Baptize individuals or ordain members to offices in the Aaronic Priesthood, unless the group leader has been authorized to do so by the stake, mission, or area president.
  • Interview members for or ordain them to the Melchizedek Priesthood. Latter-day Saint chaplains may interview a person for advancement to the Melchizedek Priesthood if authorized by the stake, mission, or area president.
  • Serve as a judge in Israel with regard to unresolved serious transgressions by a member of the group. The group leader can assist in helping a member through the repentance process but does not have the keys to resolve transgressions that would normally fall under the responsibilities of a bishop or stake president. Therefore, the group leader should seek guidance from the stake, mission, or area president in these matters. Generally, these cases would be referred back to the individual's home bishop or stake president.

For More Information

For information about group leaders, see Handbook 1: Stake Presidents and Bishops (2010), section 10, and Principles of the Gospel (military scripture set), pages 4–8. For answers to questions about group leaders or resources, contact Military Relations at 1-800-453-3860, extension 2-2286, or email PST-Military@LDSChurch.org

Service Member Group Locations

Groups or branches are in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, Djibouti, Diego Garcia, Kosovo, and ships at sea. There are also branches in Korea, Okinawa, and Japan. Because of military security concerns, we are unable to post more specific information online, but please contact our office for more information.