How did Jesus organize His Church?
Jesus Christ first established His Church by giving power and authority, also called the priesthood, to chosen people while He lived on earth. This Church was composed of priesthood offices with advocates like the Apostles, Seventies, high priests, elders, bishops, priests, teachers, and deacons. Unfortunately, this Church that Jesus Christ built suffered from exploitation and corruption when His Apostles died, leading to the loss of priesthood authority on earth.
In the year 1830, Jesus Christ used the Prophet Joseph Smith as an instrument in rebuilding and restoring His true Church. Today, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the living manifestation of the early Church of Jesus Christ having the same organization and assembly of men.
What is a prophet?
Prophets are people appointed by God to do a variety of works on His behalf such as serving people, speaking for Him, preaching His words and teaching His children. They basically represent and embody God in reaching out to His people. Throughout the course of history, the Bible has mentioned a great number of prophets who have dutifully served, like Noah, Abraham and Moses. God has granted prophets the authority and power to act in His name, also known in religious terms as the priesthood. Prophets receive God’s messages through feelings, thoughts and impressions from the Holy Spirit, referred to as revelation. Sometimes they are gifted with visions and perceptions so they may effectively fulfill their mission of conveying God’s words.
Who leads the Church today?
Jesus Christ is the head of His Church, and thus acts as its leader. Under His leadership, there are 15 Apostles, with the most senior Apostle functioning as the prophet and President of the Church. Among the 14 other Apostles, he would choose two who will be counselors. Together, the president and his two counselors are known as the First Presidency. The prophet is looked upon as an inspirational leader who directly receives God’s orders through revelation. He is honored, but not worshipped, because as true Christians, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints only bow to and worship Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.
The organizational leadership of Jesus Christ’s Church places Him at the top, followed by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, which is actually the remaining 12 Apostles. The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, through Jesus Christ’s guidance, spearheads the mission of the Church. They are in charge of the leadership among Church members around the world, and their foremost duty as leaders is to teach and testify of Jesus Christ.
The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are based at the Church headquarters located in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. To effectively lead the growing Church, additional priesthood leaders called Seventies are called to service. They help in managing the presence and ministerial work of the Church in all areas globally.
Here in the Philippines, an Area Presidency made up of three Seventies oversees all the ecclesiastical affairs of the Church under the direction of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. They serve for a number of years before they are called upon to serve elsewhere.
How is the Church organized at the local level?
The Church is properly organized with its structural order in place. At the local level, the Church is divided into geographical areas similar to the Catholic Church diocese. These geographical units are called stakes.
The word “stakes” has a biblical origin. In (Isaiah 33:20, 54:2), the prophet Isaiah gave a description of the Church being a large tent supported by stakes. Under a stake, there are assembled groups of people or congregations. Around 5 to 12 of these smaller congregations can be seen under a single stake, and they are known as wards or branches. Church members of each ward come to fulfill their basic Christian duties by giving worship and praise to God in their usual Sunday gathering.
Local Church members supervise the stakes, wards and branches in their activities. Being a Church leader or occupying any position in the leadership of the Church entails hard work and a lot of sacrifice, considering that all efforts are purely voluntary. Church leaders don’t receive any compensation, and offer themselves for a few years of service until another leader is called in.
How can I learn more?
A general conference is held twice a year where the First Presidency, the Apostles, and other Church leaders speak to the entire Church. You can read or watch their messages here. To learn more about how the Church is run, or to find out how to attend a Latter-day Saint worship service in your area, visit ComeuntoChrist.org.