Handbooks and Callings
5. General and Area Leadership
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“5. General and Area Leadership,” General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (2021).

“5. General and Area Leadership,” General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

5.

General and Area Leadership

5.0

Introduction

Jesus Christ is the “chief corner stone” of His Church (Ephesians 2:20). He holds all priesthood keys. He calls apostles and prophets to assist Him in the work of salvation and exaltation. He confers upon these chosen servants all the keys that presently pertain to the kingdom of God on the earth. (See Doctrine and Covenants 27:12–13; see also 3.4.1 in this handbook.)

Through prophets and apostles, the Lord calls men to the office of Seventy to assist in His work in all the world (see Doctrine and Covenants 107:38). In addition, the Presiding Bishopric, General Officers, and other men and women leaders are given important responsibilities to assist in the work.

This chapter describes the roles of general and area leaders in the Church.

5.1

General Church Leadership

The Church’s general leadership includes all General Authorities and General Officers. The word general indicates that the authority and responsibilities associated with the callings are not limited by geographic boundaries. Those who hold these callings lead, teach, and minister to Church members throughout the world.

This section summarizes the roles of General Authorities, General Officers, and the councils and committees in which they serve.

5.1.1

General Authorities

5.1.1.1

First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

President of the Church. Since ancient days, the Lord has directed His people through prophets (see Amos 3:7; Ephesians 4:11–13). The President of the Church is a prophet, seer, and revelator. He is also the senior Apostle. Under the Lord’s direction, he presides over the Church and is the only person on earth authorized to exercise all priesthood keys (see Matthew 16:16–19; see also 3.4.1.1 in this handbook). He has authority to receive revelation and declare the will of God for the whole Church. (See Doctrine and Covenants 43:2–3; 107:91–92; 128:11.)

First Presidency. Through the President of the Church, the Lord calls counselors to assist in the work. The President and his counselors are “three Presiding High Priests … [who] form a quorum of the Presidency of the Church” (Doctrine and Covenants 107:22). This quorum is called the First Presidency. Members of the First Presidency are Apostles and as such are “special witnesses” of the name of Jesus Christ (Doctrine and Covenants 107:23). The First Presidency presides over and directs all the affairs of the Church.

Peter, James, and John fulfilled this role in the ancient Church. They were with the Savior on several sacred occasions and received the keys of the kingdom. (See Matthew 16:18–19; 17:1–5; Mark 14:32–42; Doctrine and Covenants 27:12–13; 81:1–2.)

When the President of the Church dies, the First Presidency is dissolved. The counselors return to their positions of seniority within the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Under the direction of the senior Apostle, the Quorum of the Twelve leads the Church. As a quorum, they consider when the First Presidency should be reorganized. After unanimous decision, the senior Apostle is ordained as the new President of the Church and calls his counselors.

Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Anciently, Jesus Christ called twelve Apostles to help lead His Church (see Luke 6:12–13; Ephesians 4:11–13; 1 Nephi 13:40). In our day, the Lord calls men through the President of the Church to be ordained as Apostles and to serve in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (see Doctrine and Covenants 18:26–28). This quorum acts under the direction of the First Presidency to build up and regulate the Church in all nations (see Doctrine and Covenants 107:33). Members of the Twelve proclaim the gospel in all the world (see Matthew 28:19–20; Doctrine and Covenants 107:35).

Each Apostle holds all the keys of the kingdom and exercises those keys under the direction of the President of the Church (see Doctrine and Covenants 112:30–32). The Twelve Apostles are “special witnesses” of the name of Jesus Christ (Doctrine and Covenants 107:23; see also 27:12). They witness to all the world of His divinity and the reality of His Resurrection (see Acts 1:8, 22; 4:33; Doctrine and Covenants 76:22–24).

Apostles serve full-time in the Church for the remainder of their lives (see Matthew 4:18–22).

The Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. All members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are prophets, seers, and revelators. Together they form the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Under the direction of the Lord and by unanimous voice, this council has authority to declare and interpret doctrine and establish policy for the Church (see Doctrine and Covenants 1:38; 107:27–31).

5.1.1.2

The Seventy

The office of Seventy in the Melchizedek Priesthood is referenced in both the Old and New Testaments (see Exodus 24:1, 9–10; Numbers 11:16–17, 24–25; Luke 10:1, 17). Today, there are General Authority Seventies and Area Seventies (see 5.2.2). They act under the keys and direction of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. They assist the Twelve in building up and regulating the Church in all nations (see Doctrine and Covenants 107:34–35, 38).

Presidency of the Seventy. Seven members of the Seventy are called as presidents to preside over all members of the Seventy. One of the seven presidents is chosen to preside over the other six. They comprise the Presidency of the Seventy. (See Acts 6:2–6; Doctrine and Covenants 107:93–94; 124:138.)

General Authority Seventies. General Authority Seventies are called by the First Presidency to be special witnesses who bear record of the name of Jesus Christ and teach the gospel in all the world (see Doctrine and Covenants 107:25; 124:139).

General Authority Seventies serve full-time in the Church. They are generally released in the year they turn 70 years old and are granted emeritus status. Although they retain the office of Seventy, they no longer preside in meetings.

Quorums of the Seventy. Members of the Seventy, including Area Seventies, are organized into quorums. The Presidency of the Seventy presides over these quorums. The number of members of the Seventy and quorums of Seventy may increase with the growth of the Church. (See Doctrine and Covenants 107:95–96; 124:138–39).

5.1.1.3

Presiding Bishopric

The Presiding Bishopric consists of the Presiding Bishop and his two counselors. Each member of the Presiding Bishopric is a General Authority and holds the office of bishop. They are called by the First Presidency and work under their direction.

The Presiding Bishopric administers temporal matters, such as welfare, finances, physical facilities, and humanitarian efforts, for the entire Church (see Doctrine and Covenants 107:68). They also teach the gospel and build up the kingdom of God throughout the world.

5.1.2

General Officers

The First Presidency calls women and men to form the General Presidencies of the following Church organizations:

  • Relief Society

  • Young Men

  • Young Women

  • Primary

  • Sunday School

These General Officers serve under the direction of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and assigned General Authority Seventies. They typically serve for five years.

General Officers may have the following responsibilities:

  • Teach and testify of Jesus Christ and His gospel.

  • Serve as members of general Church councils and committees as assigned (see 5.1.3).

  • Fulfill assignments throughout the world to minister to members.

  • Provide guidance for curriculum, programs, and resources for their organizations.

  • Provide guidance to their general organization councils (see the next paragraph).

  • Instruct and support area organization advisers, who serve under the direction of the Area Presidencies (see 5.2.5.1).

Each general Church organization may have a council to assist the Presidency. Members of these councils are called by General Authorities. In the United States and Canada, these council members may help orient new stake organization presidencies (see 6.2.1.6). Outside of the United States and Canada, area organization advisers may help provide this orientation (see 5.2.5.1).

5.1.3

General Church Councils and Committees

General Church councils and committees provide leadership and direction for specific parts of the work of salvation and exaltation. Examples of these councils and committees are listed below:

  • Priesthood and Family Executive Council

  • Welfare and Self-Reliance Executive Committee

  • Missionary Executive Council

  • Temple and Family History Executive Council

Members of these councils and committees are assigned by the First Presidency. They may include:

  • Members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

  • General Authority Seventies.

  • Members of the Presiding Bishopric.

  • Members of the Relief Society, Young Women, or Primary General Presidencies.

5.2

Area Leadership

The Church is organized into geographic areas covering the entire world. This section summarizes the leadership of the Church in these areas.

5.2.1

Area Presidency

In each area, a General Authority Seventy is assigned by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to serve as the Area President. Two counselors, who are General Authority Seventies or Area Seventies, are assigned to assist the president.

The Area Presidency presides over and counsels with stake and mission presidents in the area. They also support temple presidents and matrons. In counsel with members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the Presidency of the Seventy to whom they report, they determine how to apply general Church policy and direction to meet the needs in their area.

Members of the Area Presidency travel within the assigned area to minister to, teach, and encourage local leaders, missionaries, and Church members. They are assigned by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to preside at stake conferences and other meetings.

5.2.2

Area Seventies

Area Seventies are called by the First Presidency to be special witnesses who bear record of the name of Jesus Christ and teach the gospel in their assigned areas (see Doctrine and Covenants 107:25; 124:139). Working under the direction of the Area Presidency, they assist the Twelve in building up and regulating the Church in their area.

Area Seventies are not called to full-time service. They typically serve for five years. They are usually assigned to serve in the geographical area where they live (see Doctrine and Covenants 107:38, 98). Area Seventies are sustained in general conference.

Each Area Seventy belongs to a quorum of the Seventy. These quorums are organized by geography. As members of these quorums, Area Seventies are presided over by the Presidency of the Seventy.

Area Seventies work and counsel together with local Church leaders to help them fulfill their responsibilities. Area Seventies may be assigned to:

  • Serve on the area council (see 5.2.3).

  • Preside at coordinating council meetings (see 5.2.4).

  • Preside at stake conferences and instruct stake leaders.

  • Create or reorganize stakes, set apart new stake presidencies, and confer keys on the stake president.

  • Coordinate area-wide responsibilities, including activities (see 20.3.3), JustServe (where available), disaster recovery, or other assignments.

  • Tour missions and instruct mission leaders and missionaries.

  • Serve as a counselor in the Area Presidency.

Area Seventies preside at all Church meetings they attend within their area unless a General Authority is present. However, they do not preside over the day-to-day work of temple, mission, or stake presidents. These presidents serve under the direction of the Area Presidency.

5.2.3

Area Council

In each area, an area council meets as needed (usually quarterly) to coordinate the work of salvation and exaltation in their area. The Area Presidency presides over the area council. This council consists of the Area Presidency and Area Seventies serving in the area. Others may attend part or all of the council’s meetings when needed and when invited by the Area Presidency.

The purposes of area council meetings include:

  • Reviewing and counseling about how best to implement direction from Church leaders according to the needs and circumstances of the area.

  • Counseling about the progress of the work of salvation and exaltation in the area.

  • Assessing the progress of area-specific initiatives.

  • Attending to other area matters.

5.2.4

Coordinating Council

The Area Presidency establishes coordinating councils. Each council includes specified stakes and missions in an area. The Area Presidency assigns an Area Seventy to lead each council.

Stake and mission presidents attend coordinating council meetings. Temple presidents whose temple districts are within the boundaries of the coordinating council are invited to attend when practical.

Others may attend part or all of the meetings when needed and when invited by the Area Seventy. Area Seventies consider distance, family circumstances, and travel when making these invitations.

The purpose of coordinating council meetings is to help stake, mission, and temple presidents exercise priesthood keys in unity. Together they counsel about and coordinate efforts to help members in their responsibilities for the work of salvation and exaltation.

The Area Seventy convenes a coordinating council meeting soon after each quarterly area council meeting. Additional meetings may be held when needed.

The Area Seventy directs the meetings and facilitates the discussion. All who attend counsel together as equal participants.

In these meetings, participants:

  • Seek revelation about how best to implement the teachings and direction of the First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Area Presidency.

  • Coordinate the work of salvation and exaltation.

  • Counsel together about the temporal and spiritual welfare of members and how to help them become true followers of Jesus Christ.

  • Instruct and edify one another.

  • Coordinate multistake matters. These matters may include activities (see 20.3.3), efforts to build self-reliance and give community service (see 22.10.1), emergency response efforts (see 22.9.1.3), and finances and audits (see 34.9).

5.2.5

Area Callings

The Area Presidency may call members to serve in area callings to assist the Area Presidency in their responsibilities. Those serving in these positions are called and set apart by a member of the Area Presidency or an assigned Area Seventy. They are not sustained.

Examples of area callings may include area executive secretary, area auditor, area communications director, and area organization adviser.

5.2.5.1

Area Organization Advisers

Outside of the United States and Canada, Area Presidencies may call women to serve as area organization advisers. These advisers may help orient and instruct new stake Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary presidencies, under the direction of these leaders’ stake presidencies (see 6.2.1.6). A member of the stake presidency or an assigned high councilor participates in this orientation.

Area advisers serve under the direction of their Area Presidency. They also receive regular instruction from general organization presidencies. They typically serve for three to five years.