The General Authorities consist of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the Presidency of the Seventy, the First and Second Quorums of the Seventy, and the Presiding Bishopric. (View General Authorities for more information on the roles of these leaders.)
The General Auxiliary presidencies consist of the Primary, Relief Society, Sunday School, Young Men, and Young Women General Presidencies.
The Primary organization of the Church has the responsibility to help parents teach children the gospel of Jesus Christ and to prepare boys to receive the Aaronic Priesthood and girls to become righteous young women. Through Sunday meetings and weekday activities, the Primary auxiliary helps children learn and live gospel principles, prepare to make and keep baptismal covenants, and build strong, enduring testimonies.
The general presidency of the Primary consists of a president and two counselors. They travel frequently to meet with and teach local Primary leaders and children throughout the world. When they are not traveling, they counsel with other Church leaders about how to teach and strengthen children and families.
The Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized in Nauvoo, Illinois, on March 17, 1842. On that day, 20 women met with the Prophet Joseph Smith as he began what he later called “a select Society separate from all the evils of the world, choice, virtuous, and holy” (Minutes of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo, Mar. 30, 1842).
Today there are more than five and a half million Relief Society sisters in 170 countries throughout the world. Like those who preceded them, today’s Relief Society sisters are strong and immovable as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. They live and share testimonies of Him and His restored gospel; they uphold, nourish, and protect families; and they provide relief through many forms of Christlike service.
The general presidency of the Relief Society consists of a president and two counselors. They spend much of their time traveling the world to visit, learn from, and teach the women of the Church. When they are not traveling, members of the presidency counsel with other Church leaders about strengthening the women of the Church and their families.
Sunday School is for all Church members and interested friends of other faiths ages 12 and older. Its purposes are to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ and strengthen individuals and families by encouraging them to study the scriptures, obey the commandments, receive essential ordinances, and keep the associated covenants.
The Sunday School general presidency consists of a president and two counselors. They travel frequently to meet with Church leaders and members throughout the world and to help strengthen Sunday instruction, as well as improve overall teaching in the Church.
The Aaronic Priesthood is the basic organization for the young men of the Church ages 12 through 18. The Young Men organization is an auxiliary or help to the priesthood. The Young Men organization promotes the growth and development of each young man through quorum instruction, quorum activities, and combined Young Men–Young Women activities. The Duty to God program is also an integral part of this effort.
At the general level, the First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Presiding Bishopric are responsible for the young men of the Church. The Presiding Bishopric is the presidency of the Aaronic Priesthood of the Church (see D&C 107:15).
The general presidency of the Young Men consists of a president and two counselors. They travel frequently to meet with local Church leaders and members throughout the world and to help strengthen the young men of the Church.
The Young Women organization assists parents and priesthood leaders in preparing each young woman to be worthy to make and keep sacred covenants and receive the ordinances of the temple. The organization promotes the growth and development of each young woman through Sunday instruction, weekday activities (such as Mutual and camp), and the Personal Progress program.
The general presidency of the Young Women consists of a president and two counselors. They travel frequently to meet with local Church leaders and members throughout the world and to help strengthen the young women of the Church.
The worldwide Church is divided into geographic areas. For example, “Europe,” “Asia North,” “Caribbean,” and “Central America” are names given to specific areas of the Church. The First Presidency has assigned the Presidency of the Seventy to preside over areas in the United States and Canada. Elsewhere, the First Presidency assigns Area Presidencies to preside over selected areas under the direction of the Quorum of the Twelve. An Area Presidency consists of a president and two counselors. An Area President is typically a General Authority selected from the First or Second Quorum of the Seventy, while the counselors can be either General Authorities or Area Seventies selected from any Quorum of the Seventy.
Members of the Presidency of the Seventy or Area Presidency travel frequently within the assigned area to teach and encourage local leaders and members of the Church. Area Seventies are also assigned to consult with and instruct stake presidents in their area, under the direction of the Area Presidency or Presidency of the Seventy.
Most areas of the Church are divided into stakes, which usually consist of five to twelve congregations called wards or branches. The term stake was used by the prophet Isaiah. He described the latter-day Church as a tent that would be secured by stakes (see Isaiah 33:20; 54:2).
A stake is led by a stake president and two counselors. The stake president is the presiding high priest in a stake. These leaders oversee the spiritual and temporal welfare of Church members.
The stake presidency calls 12 high priests to form the stake high council. Under the direction of the stake presidency, high councilors help oversee the work of the Church in the stake by fulfilling many advisory and administrative responsibilities.
Similar to the general administration of the Church, a stake has presidencies for the Relief Society, Young Men, Young Women, Primary, and Sunday School organizations. These presidencies advise their respective organizations in each of the wards of the stake.
Stakes also have a patriarch, a man who is ordained to give patriarchal blessings to members of the stake. Patriarchal blessings contain specific, inspired counsel and direction from the Lord to the recipient.
As in the ancient Church, members of the Church today are organized into congregations. Large congregations (approximately 300 or more members) are called wards. Smaller congregations are called branches. A ward is led by a bishop and two counselors, who constitute a bishopric. Branches are led by a branch president and two counselors. The responsibilities of a branch president are similar to those of a bishop, described below.
A bishop has many duties. In addition to watching over all ward members, he has special responsibility to guide the ward’s young men and young women. He oversees teaching, missionary work, and spiritual growth in the ward. He is responsible to conduct worthiness interviews, counsel Church members, and administer Church discipline. He is responsible to care for the poor and needy, and he oversees finances, records, and the use and security of the meetinghouse.
In these responsibilities and others, the bishop is assisted by two counselors, an executive secretary, clerks, and the leaders of other organizations in the ward. Leadership meetings are held regularly to allow the bishop and those who help him to counsel together about the well-being of ward members.
Worthy adult men in the Church receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, which is authority from God to perform sacred ordinances and to lead in the Church. Men who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood can perform ordinances such as bestowing the gift of the Holy Ghost and giving blessings to the sick by the laying on of hands. Within a ward, the men who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood belong to either the elders quorum or the high priests group.
The elders quorum is led by a president and two counselors. The elders quorum meets each Sunday to study the gospel and be instructed in their duties. The duties of elders include teaching and watching over the members of the ward (see D&C 20:42). Home teaching is one way they accomplish this duty. In home teaching two priesthood holders are responsible to visit members in their homes to teach, watch over, and provide service to them. The elders quorum may also be assigned by the bishop or stake president to carry out specific service projects.
Within a ward, the high priests group is led by a group leader and two assistants (the high priests quorum consists of all the high priests in the stake and is presided over by the stake president). The high priests group meets each Sunday to study the gospel and be instructed in their duties. High priests have the same duties as elders (including home teaching). They can also officiate, or preside, in the ward and administer spiritual things (see D&C 107:10, 12). The high priests group can also be given specific assignments by the bishop or stake president.
All women in the ward ages 18 and older, as well as women younger than 18 who are married or are single mothers, belong to the Relief Society organization. Relief Society helps prepare women for the blessings of eternal life as they increase faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and His Atonement; strengthen individuals, families, and homes through ordinances and covenants; and work in unity to help those in need. Relief Society accomplishes these purposes through Sunday gospel instruction, other Relief Society meetings, visiting teaching, and welfare and compassionate service.
The bishop calls women in the ward to serve as the Relief Society presidency, which typically consists of a president and two counselors, supported by a secretary. Additional instructors and coordinators may also be called. The Relief Society meets on Sundays for gospel instruction and has additional meetings outside of Sunday as determined by the Relief Society president and the bishop.
The Relief Society organization also provides an individualized support network that gives women the opportunity to care for, strengthen, and teach one another. In this program, called visiting teaching, each woman is assigned two other women who visit her home each month to give a religious message and offer help as needed.
Worthy young men are ordained as deacons in the Aaronic Priesthood at the age of 12. They advance to the office of a teacher at age 14 and to the office of priest at age 16. In these priesthood offices, they have the authority to provide the sacrament to the congregation and, in the case of priests, to baptize. The bishop of the ward is the president of the Aaronic Priesthood, and he calls adult men to serve as the presidency and as advisers in the Young Men organization.
The purpose of the Young Men organization is to help young men learn and fulfill their Aaronic Priesthood duties and to prepare them for future responsibilities as missionaries, husbands, fathers, and leaders in the Church. The young men meet on Sundays for priesthood instruction and during the week for social, service, or cultural activities. During these meeting times—and in their personal time—young men also participate in a program called Duty to God, which helps them strengthen their testimonies and their relationship with God, learn and fulfill their priesthood duties, and live gospel standards.
Young women ages 12 to 17 belong to the ward’s Young Women organization. The purpose of this organization is to help young women build their testimonies of Christ and prepare to receive the blessings of the temple. The Young Women organization also prepares them for their future roles as women in the Church and as contributing members of society.
The bishop calls adult women in the ward to serve as the presidency and advisers in the Young Women organization. The young women meet on Sundays for gospel instruction and during the week for social, service, or cultural activities. During these meeting times—and in their personal time—young women also participate in a program called Personal Progress by setting and achieving goals in eight value areas.
Sunday School classes are held for approximately one hour each Sunday. Sunday School provides age-specific gospel instruction for ward members ages 12 and older (younger members attend Primary). The ward Sunday School presidency typically consists of a president and two counselors, who are supported by a secretary and by teachers called to instruct various age-groups.
Children ages 18 months to 11 years belong to the Primary organization. Its purpose is to help children learn and understand the gospel of Jesus Christ and prepare to make and keep sacred covenants. Children attend Primary classes for two hours each Sunday while their parents participate in other Church meetings. Children also participate in regularly held activity days, which provide them with opportunities to interact with each other; have wholesome fun in physical, creative, cultural, and service activities; and participate in a program called Faith in God, which helps them live gospel principles and develop testimonies.
Each ward has a Primary presidency, which consists of a president and two counselors. These three women are assisted by a secretary, teachers for different age-groups, a music director, an accompanist, and activity day leaders.