Handbooks and Callings
6. Ward Leadership

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“6. Ward Leadership,” General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (2020).

“6. Ward Leadership,” General Handbook.


Ward Leadership



Wards are the basic congregations of the Church. In wards, Church members worship together, partake of the sacrament, learn the gospel, and serve and strengthen each other.

The bishop holds the priesthood keys to direct the work of the Church within the ward. He and his counselors form a bishopric, which works under the direction of the stake presidency. They care for ward members with love and concern, helping them become true followers of Jesus Christ.

The bishop has five principal responsibilities in presiding over a ward:

  1. He is the presiding high priest.

  2. He is president of the Aaronic Priesthood.

  3. He is a common judge.

  4. He oversees welfare matters.

  5. He oversees records, finances, and the use and security of the meetinghouse.

Because the bishop holds priesthood keys, he has some responsibilities that are his alone. To enable him to concentrate on these duties, he delegates many other assignments to his counselors, the ward clerk, the ward executive secretary, assistant ward clerks, and quorum and organization leaders.

If the bishop is absent, ill, or otherwise unable to perform his duties, a counselor may act in his place temporarily except as noted in this handbook. The counselor is to consult with the stake president if he has any questions about acting for the bishop.

The ward clerk and ward executive secretary work closely with the bishopric, but they are not members of the bishopric and do not need to be released when the bishopric is reorganized. Responsibilities of the ward clerk and executive secretary are outlined in 33.4.2 and 33.4.4.


Presiding High Priest

This section outlines the bishop’s responsibilities as the presiding high priest in the ward.



Ward members look to their bishop as the primary spiritual leader in the ward. He sets the spiritual tone for the ward by doing the Lord’s work “with holiness of heart” (Mosiah 18:12). He teaches and uplifts members after the example of the Savior.

A bishop is a faithful disciple and witness of Jesus Christ. He is true to his covenants. He is loyal to his wife and considerate of her. He sets an example of righteousness for his children, the ward, and the community. His counselors are men of the same character.

The bishop provides guidance and counsel to other leaders in the ward. He instructs them in their duties and encourages them.

The bishop helps members increase their spiritual strength. He teaches them to pray, study the scriptures, and receive the saving ordinances.

In addition to strengthening individuals, the bishop strengthens families. He teaches that the family is the most important organization in time and eternity. He encourages them to participate in regular prayer and gospel instruction, including scripture study and home evening. He also encourages families to be considerate of one another. He ensures that Church callings do not unduly infringe on family responsibilities. He also ensures that Church activities support parents’ efforts to raise righteous children.

The bishop emphasizes the importance of members having and accessing the scriptures and the Church magazines in their homes.


The Work of Salvation and Exaltation

The bishop directs the work of salvation and exaltation in the ward (see chapter 1). Responsibilities for this work are outlined in chapters 17, 23, and 25.



The bishop and his counselors direct the work of the elders quorum president in watching over quorum members and their families, building strength in the quorum, and ensuring that the work of the priesthood is accomplished. Under the bishop’s direction, the elders quorum president may be assigned to oversee member missionary work and temple and family history work in the ward.

The bishop also directs the elders quorum and Relief Society presidents in overseeing ministering. He meets with both presidents together at least quarterly to address the needs of individuals and families (see 21.4).

The bishop’s Aaronic Priesthood responsibilities are outlined in 6.2.


Ordinances and Blessings

The bishop directs the administration of the following ordinances and blessings in the ward: the sacrament, naming and blessing of children, baptism and confirmation of 8-year-old children of record, and conferral of the Aaronic Priesthood and ordination to the offices of deacon, teacher, and priest.

For information about ordinances and blessings, see chapter 18.


Councils, Committees, and Meetings

Councils and Committees

The bishop presides over the ward council and the ward youth council. If a ward young single adult committee is organized, the bishop assigns a counselor to preside over it.

The bishop uses the ward council and the ward youth council as resources for counseling together. He also uses these councils to delegate elements of the Lord’s work to organizations and officers in the ward. (See chapter 7.)


The bishopric plans sacrament meetings and other ward meetings listed in chapter 29. The bishop presides at ward meetings unless a member of the stake presidency, an Area Seventy, or a General Authority attends. The bishop’s counselors may conduct these meetings and may preside if the bishop is absent.


Callings and Releases

The bishop’s responsibilities for callings and releases are outlined in chapter 30. He may assign his counselors to extend callings and releases as outlined in the Chart of Callings (30.7).


Ward Organizations and Programs

The bishop has responsibility for the ward Relief Society, Aaronic Priesthood quorums, and Young Women. He assigns his counselors responsibility for the work of the Sunday School and Primary presidencies and other ward programs. (See 9.3.1, 10.3, 11.3.1, 12.3.1, and 13.2.1.)


President of the Aaronic Priesthood

“The bishopric is the presidency of [the Aaronic] priesthood, and holds the keys or authority of the same” (Doctrine and Covenants 107:15). The bishop has the following responsibilities as the president of the Aaronic Priesthood in the ward. His counselors assist him.

  • Members of the bishopric support parents in watching over and nurturing children and youth in the ward. They help children and youth serve faithfully, make and keep sacred covenants, and receive the ordinances of the temple. They help all youth live the standards in For the Strength of Youth. They also help young men progress in the priesthood.

  • The bishopric has responsibility for Aaronic Priesthood quorums and Young Women classes. The bishop is president of the priests quorum (see Doctrine and Covenants 107:87–88). His first counselor has responsibility for the teachers quorum; his second counselor has responsibility for the deacons quorum.

  • The bishop has responsibility to counsel with the ward Young Women president. He does not give this assignment to a counselor.


Common Judge

The bishop has the following responsibilities as the “common judge” in the ward (see Doctrine and Covenants 107:72–74):

  • Conduct worthiness interviews as outlined in 31.1.5. He may also authorize his counselors to conduct interviews as outlined in 31.1.6. For guidelines on worthiness interviews, see 31.1.1.

  • Counsel ward members who seek spiritual guidance, who have weighty personal problems, or who have committed serious transgressions. For guidelines on counseling, see 31.2.

  • Provide personal counseling and hold membership councils when members have committed serious sins (see chapter 32).



The purposes of welfare are to help members become self-reliant, care for the poor and needy, and give service. The bishop has the following responsibilities for welfare in the ward:

  • Provide welfare leadership by teaching the doctrine and principles relating to welfare, instructing leaders in their welfare responsibilities, and directing the welfare work of the ward council.

  • Seek out the poor and provide assistance to those in need.

  • Direct the ward’s efforts to prepare for and respond to emergencies.

For information about welfare responsibilities and principles, see chapter 22.


Records, Finances, and the Meetinghouse

The bishop oversees records, reports, finances, and the meetinghouse. He may assign much of the work with records, reports, and finances to his counselors and clerks. He may assign one of his counselors to serve as the ward building representative, or he may call another member to do so.

For information about records and reports, see chapter 33. For information about finances, see chapter 34. For information about meetinghouses, see chapter 35.