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Lesson 11: The Need for General Authorities

“Lesson 11: The Need for General Authorities,” Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part A (2000), 77–84

“Lesson 11: The Need for General Authorities,” Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part A, 77–84

Lesson 11

The Need for General Authorities

The purpose of this lesson is to help us understand why the Lord calls General Authorities and how we are blessed by sustaining them.


When the Savior lived on the earth, He organized His Church and ordained men to the priesthood. He called twelve Apostles and other men to bear testimony of Him and to help watch over the Church. After His death and Resurrection, He visited the Nephite people in America and organized His Church in the same way. He ordained twelve disciples to serve the Nephites in the same ways that the twelve Apostles served the Church in the Old World.

In these last days, the Lord has once again established the true Church of Jesus Christ through the Prophet Joseph Smith. It was organized by revelation and has twelve Apostles, just as the Church had when the Savior was on the earth. In addition to the Apostles, the Lord has called others to help lead and direct the entire Church. These men are called General Authorities.

  • Show visual 11-a, “The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

    First Presidency and Quorum of 12

    11-a, The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

A General Authority is a Melchizedek Priesthood bearer called by the Lord to serve in one of the following positions:

The First Presidency

The First Presidency consists of the President of the Church and his counselors. The President holds all the keys and authority restored to the Church in the last days. Together with his counselors, the President watches over the whole Church and has power and authority to officiate in all the offices in the priesthood and in the Church.

The President of the Church has the keys of the priesthood to administer in all spiritual and temporal affairs of the Church. He has the right to give to stake presidents, bishops, patriarchs, and others keys pertaining to specific offices in their geographical areas.

President Joseph F. Smith wrote that “every man ordained to any degree of the Priesthood, has this authority delegated to him. But it is necessary that every act performed under this authority shall be done at the proper time and place, in the proper way, and after the proper order. The power of directing these labors constitutes the keys of the priesthood” (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. [1939], 136).

The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

The Twelve Apostles are called by the Lord to be special witnesses of Jesus Christ. They act under the direction of the First Presidency.

The Seventy

“The Seventy are to act in the name of the Lord, under the direction of the Twelve … , in building up the church and regulating all the affairs of the same in all nations” (D&C 107:34).

The Presiding Bishopric

The Presiding Bishopric is the presidency of the Aaronic Priesthood working under the direction of the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency. The Presiding Bishop and his two counselors watch over the physical, or temporal, affairs of the Church.

In addition to the General Authorities, a large number of men are called as Area Authority Seventies. They are not General Authorities, but are called to help build up the Church in specific areas of the world.

Responsibilities of the General Authorities

The General Authorities are representatives of Jesus Christ. The Savior Himself is the head of the Church and directs it by revelation to the prophet and the other General Authorities. Through these men, the Lord reveals His will and teaches us everything that is necessary for our salvation.

General Authorities represent the Savior in many different ways:

  1. They travel throughout the world to help and instruct Church members and local Church leaders.

  2. They keep the Church unified and make sure that correct doctrines are taught.

  3. They ordain local priesthood leaders, such as stake presidents and stake patriarchs.

  4. They prepare and deliver talks at general conference and other meetings. When these men speak under the influence of the Holy Ghost, it is the same as if Christ Himself were speaking. “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken … , whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38). By this means, they teach and inspire both Church members and nonmembers.

  5. The Twelve have a calling to be special witnesses of Jesus Christ to all the world. They bear testimony of the divinity of Christ wherever they go. The other General Authorities also bear their testimonies of the Savior.

  6. They have the responsibility for supervising all the administrative affairs of the Church.

  7. Along with all of these duties, they are also fathers and husbands. Similar to other fathers in the Church, they have the responsibility to lead their own families and guide them to the celestial kingdom.

Our Need for General Authorities

Throughout history Heavenly Father has revealed His will to men on the earth through His prophets. This is true whether we are talking about the time of Noah, Moses, or Joseph Smith. Conditions may change, but the truth does not. Because of our continuing need for God’s direction, He has given us a prophet and apostles and other General Authorities to guide us today.

The following story tells how a group of people were blessed by being obedient to a prophet:

“Finally in July 1959 the plans were completed. Thirty faithful Tahitians had worked, saved, and sacrificed to raise the money necessary to finance a trip to the Hawaii Temple. It had taken much work to bring the Paraita (literally the Big Chief), the mission yacht, into dry dock, to repair it, and to repaint it. Then there had been the problems with the French government. [The skipper, Brother Tapu, finally convinced the harbor master, and the two of them convinced the French governor to allow the Saints on the Paraita to sail for Hawaii.]

“Brother Tapu not only obtained permission from the French officials, but he also wrote to Salt Lake City to get permission from President David O. McKay. That permission had been granted and everything was ready.

“Then a fateful call came from the mission office. Everyone anticipating the voyage was to gather for a meeting at the mission home before departure. …

“That day a special messenger, Ernest C. Rossiter, … had arrived direct from President McKay in Salt Lake City. The news he brought was stunning. The Saints had been asked not to make their long-sought voyage. According to Brother Tapu, President McKay gave no explanation. He merely asked Brother Rossiter to ‘go and stop them. They won’t make it, and if we allow them to come, we’ll be in trouble with the [French] government. We’ll be responsible for them. So you go and stop them.’

“In the mission diary, President Christiansen [the mission president] wrote expressing his anxiety about telling the Saints who were ready to embark:

“‘I was much concerned and felt I needed the Lord’s help to assist me in giving an explanation to these humble, faithful members, who had such high hopes of receiving their endowments in His Holy House. I fasted and prayed about it. I called a meeting of the priesthood members for July 15, 1959, at 8:00 o’clock, and also asked six of the faithful brethren to come to my room at 7:30, and with the help of President Rossiter we told them of the decision that had come from the First Presidency, and told them that we desired their faith and prayers in presenting the message to the members of the priesthood who would assemble at 8:00 o’clock. After President Rossiter and I had finished talking to these men, they in turn spoke briefly their thoughts, and as I listened a great joy swelled inside me as they told their desire to obey the counsel of our prophet here upon the earth.

“‘We went to the meeting with the priesthood members. After hearing the message from the First Presidency, [they] expressed their convictions that if this word had come from the leaders of the Church then it must have come through the inspiration of the Lord, and the only way to show their love and appreciation for the blessings He had given them was to be obedient to the counsel given. I then called for a vote, and all hands were raised accepting the decision of the First Presidency.’

“So the voyage was cancelled, and neither President Rossiter, nor President Christiansen, nor the faithful Tahitian Saints really knew why the prophet of God had told them not to go. They cancelled the voyage because they had faith in the prophet.

“Later, Brother Tapu, the skipper, returned to his boat where a mechanic told him that a small gear was damaged and would only provide 100 to 150 more hours of service. This fact notwithstanding, the boat was launched and anchored. …

“‘Well [reported Brother Tapu, the skipper of the boat], a couple of days later I got a call. I was over here at the mission office working on our local Church magazine. The call was from the harbor master. He said, “Hey, your boat’s sinking.” And I said, “What, I just got it out from dry dock!” He still said, “Your boat is sinking. Hurry!” So I rushed to the harbor and the boat was halfway down. My first mate was underneath the boat checking what was going on. He found that the exhaust pipe from the kitchen was rotten. The repairmen had painted over some very rotten wood and rusty pipe. It had broken and the water went in.

“‘So what would you say if we were two or three hundred miles away on a lifeboat? If we had sailed according to schedule, we would have been that far on our way when the rotten pipe and wood gave out.’

“At the time when the Saints in Tahiti had accepted the counsel of the prophet, they could not understand President McKay’s reason for concern. But now they understood the ways of God. Brother Tapu expressed this knowledge when he said, ‘That’s why I always had a testimony of President McKay, a true prophet of the Lord’” (R. Lanier and JoAnn M. Britsch, “A Prophet’s Warning,” New Era, Mar. 1976, 12, 14).

The General Authorities speak for Christ. The Lord has said that “whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation” (D&C 68:4).

Because these men are the Savior’s representatives on the earth, it is important that we know what they say and follow their teachings. General Authorities have emphasized many important teachings from the Lord in our time: They have counseled us to hold family home evening. They have asked us to help build temples and do our family history work. They have taught us about personal and family preparedness (including food storage). They have expressed the need for every member to do missionary work.

  • Ask class members to think about how the world has changed in the last 10 or 20 years. How does listening to the prophets help us meet the challenges we face today?

Sustaining the General Authorities

The Lord will not force any of us to obey His servants. We can either accept or reject them. It is a great blessing, however, to be able to accept and sustain the General Authorities and our other leaders. This we do formally at certain meetings in which we are asked to give our sustaining vote for the leadership of the Church. We show our willingness to sustain them by raising our right hand. But to sustain the General Authorities requires more than simply raising our right hand. We truly sustain the General Authorities by accepting their teachings and following their counsel and leadership.

These men are the representatives of Jesus Christ and receive continuing revelation from Him. We honor the Savior by honoring His representatives. We honor and respect our living prophets by obeying their teachings, praying for them, and praying for the strength to follow them. (See Hebrews 13:17–18 and D&C 107:22.) We also sustain them when we sustain our bishop or branch president, for he acts under their direction.

Great blessings come to those who sustain the General Authorities. The Lord has said that those who believe in the teachings of the prophets and endure in faith to the end will receive all that God has (see D&C 84:36–38). The Book of Mormon tells of a great man named Amulek who received a prophet of God. An angel visited Amulek and told him that the prophet Alma was going to visit him. The angel said: “Thou shalt receive him into thy house and feed him, and he shall bless thee and thy house; and the blessing of the Lord shall rest upon thee and thy house” (Alma 10:7). Amulek received Alma into his home and later bore his testimony of the great blessings that came to him and his family because he received the prophet.

  • Read Alma 10:10–11. How can we receive the blessings described by Amulek?

We may never have a General Authority visit our home, but we can receive similar blessings if we accept the General Authorities by following their inspired counsel in our homes.

  • Ask class members to share any experiences they have had when listening to a General Authority speak or reading his words. Why is it important to follow the counsel of the General Authorities?


The General Authorities are representatives of the Savior. They hold the priesthood and the keys to direct the work of the Lord’s Church. As we follow their counsel and sustain them with our faith, obedience, and prayers, we will receive great blessings.

President Harold B. Lee taught: “Someone has said … and I believe it to be absolutely true: ‘[A] person is not truly converted until he sees the power of God resting upon the leaders of this church, and until it goes down into his heart like fire.’ Until the members of this church have that conviction that they are being led in the right way, and they have a conviction that these men of God are men who are inspired and have been properly appointed by the hand of God, they are not truly converted” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1972, 118; or Ensign, July 1972, 103).

Conclude by having class members sing “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet” (Hymns, no. 19; or Gospel Principles, 344).


In your family prayers and personal prayers, ask the Lord to bless the General Authorities.

Pray for a testimony and the strength to follow the prophet and the other General Authorities.

Additional Scriptures

Teacher Preparation

Before presenting this lesson, assign class members to present any stories, scriptures, or quotations you wish.