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The Lord's Church

Biblical Framework

Priesthood Foundation
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 (Hebrews 3:1).

  • 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 (Numbers 27:18-19).

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 Timothy 3:1-7).

Unpaid Clergy
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).

Mormon Doctrinal Clarification

The Restoration
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 established.

See the Sword SeriesTM paper on The Restored Gospel for more details on the restoration

The Restored Church of Jesus Christ
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 Latter-day Saints.

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 bishopric.

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 Church.

Unpaid Clergy
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 their livelihoods.

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 Christian denominations.

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 to insignificance.

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:

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