This page will be updated regularly to explain some of the jargon or terms members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) use in communicating with each other. Sometimes the terms get used when we’re talking with people who aren’t members of the church and you may not know what we mean by it. Hopefully, these explanations will help. If you have a question, feel free to ask us and we’ll send you a reply.
Church Organization – General Authorities
Like the church of the New Testament, the LDS faith believes in an organization that is “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;” (Eph. 2:20).
The First Presidency is the top-most leadership of the church. The president of the church is the senior apostle. He then extends calls to two of the other apostles in the Quorum of the Twelve apostles who serve as counselors to him and these three men constitute the First Presidency.
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Next in authority in the church are the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. These twelve men, plus the three serving in the First Presidency, are sustained by church members as “prophets, seers, and revelators.” They are special witnesses of Jesus Christ to the world.
The Seventy (Luke 10:1, 17)
The Seventies are other general authorities of the church who labor in the vineyard with specific assignments under the direction of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
The presiding Bishop calls two counselors and these three men constitute the Presiding Bishopric. The responsibility of the Presiding Bishopric covers the temporal needs of the members of the church, and in a larger sense, the world. They are responsible for humanitarian efforts and the operation of church canneries and storage facilities. They also have responsibility over the Aaronic Priesthood of the church.
General Relief Society Presidency (for adult women), Primary Presidency (for children), Young Men’s and Young Women’s Presidencies (for teens)
These presidencies are the auxiliary presidencies of the church. Their specific duties and assignments relate to the organizations they oversee and serve.
Twice a year in April and October, the church holds a “general conference” of the membership of the church. The conference is a 12 hour proceeding where church authorities are sustained, statistical information about the growth of the church and an audit report are briefly presented, but the bulk of the conference are doctrinal talks by the general authorities of the church. Each of 6 sessions last two hours. One of the six is devoted to only the women of the church, and another to only the men. The other four sessions are for everyone. Within a few days of the conference, talks are made available online at LDS.org to watch, listen, and read, to allow members to ponder what we consider living scripture for us today. (2 Timothy 3:16)
The Primary is the organization that deals with teaching the children from age 18 months to 11 years old. Children who are 18 months to 3 years old attend a nursery which will have toys to play with but also time for singing and a brief lesson. Those from 3 to 11 will have a singing/sharing time, and then a time for being with your age group in a class to have a gospel lesson. For the very young, this may include coloring pictures (like Jesus or their family), sometimes a treat, and always principles of the gospel being discussed at their level. Starting at age 8, the primary will also oversee a cub scouts program for the boys and Achievement Days for the girls, to help them develop their talents and skills.
Young Men / Young Women
When youth reach age 12, they are advanced into the next level of youth programs. At this age (12), young men typically receive the priesthood and are ordained as Deacons in the church. When they reach 14 they are ordained as Teachers, and 16 as Priests. Young Women do not receive an ordination to the priesthood but have similar age breakdowns for their groups (Beehives, Miamaids, and Laurels). The purpose of these programs is to continue to build faith in Christ through wholesome activities. The young men participate in Boy Scouts and work toward the attainment of Eagle Scout, and the Young Women have a challenging Personal Progress program that helps them develop.
In the LDS faith, we use several books of scripture just like the ancient people who didn’t have a single compilation of scripture called the Bible. They had individual scrolls from different writings of the prophets. In our day we use different books of scripture that have been inspired of God from his chosen prophets.
The Old and New Testament are the record of God’s prophets dealing with the creation of man, through the life of Christ and prophetic insight into the last days. It is from the Middle East region of the world.
Book of Mormon
The Book of Mormon is a record of scripture from ancient prophets on the American continent who traveled from the old world to this new continent by God’s direction.
Doctrine & Covenants
This book contains the prophetic writings of modern day prophets, mainly by Joseph Smith.
Pearl of Great Price
This short book contains an inspired account of the first several chapters of Genesis known as the Book of Moses, and then an inspired translation of some documents that came into Joseph Smith’s possession called the Book of Abraham. It also contains an account of the Joseph Smith story, an inspired translation of Matthew 24, and what we call the Articles of Faith (13 basic statements about LDS beliefs).
A Branch is the smallest unit of the church. Where there are only a few members in a sizable geographic area, they gather together in a “Branch.” Branches are led by a local member who is called to be the “Branch President.”
A Ward is the standard congregation. Wards can vary in size but typically have a few hundred to several hundred members. Wards are led by a local member called to be the “Bishop.” A Branch is like a ward but with fewer members.
A Stake is a geographic collection of the Branches and Wards. It may contain as many as a dozen Branches and Wards and members of a Stake get together annually for a Stake Conference. A Stake is led by a member of the Stake from one of the Wards or Branches and is called to be the “Stake President.” Sometimes members refer to the “Stake Center,” or the building where the Stake is hosted from, but don’t mistake that for a “steak center.” There’s only spiritual food being offered at the “Stake center.”
Above the Stake level, the General Authorities of the church are the next level of leadership to support the Stakes. The General Authorities of the church are comprised of Seventies, Apostles, and the senior Apostle is the Prophet. Apostles and Prophets are lifelong callings. All other callings in the church are for a period of time and then a person is released and someone else is called to perform that calling. All callings are done without pay. They are purely voluntary as members serve in the church.