How the Church is structured may seem like a boring, day-to-day detail. But it impacts how we serve, what we do each week, and gives us a framework for how to worship God with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
What’s the first word that pops into your mind when someone says “the Mormons?” For many outside our Church, that first word is “family.” That’s what we’re all about. As Harold B Lee taught, “The most important of the Lord’s work you will ever do will be within the walls of your own homes.” The very reason for the Church’s existence is to help families. “The [purpose] of all activity in the Church is to see that a man and a woman with their children are happy at home” (Boyd K Packer). The family is “the fundamental unit of society” and the fundamental unit of the Church.
Families and individuals worship for Sunday services in congregations called “wards” or sometimes “branches.” They are formed geographically and meet in chapels or rented halls. Congregations are led by a pastor and others who assist him. In wards, the pastor is called a “Bishop”; in branches, he is a “branch president.”
Our pastors are not career pastors. They are normal people with normal jobs. They are asked to volunteer nights and weekends completely without pay for about 5 years. Because it’s not a job, they pray and ask members to volunteer to lead the organizations within the congregation (young men/ women groups, Sunday Schools, finances, music, etc). All members of a congregation have at least one job (“calling”) to fulfill. More on how a congregation works in a future episode
Each geographical congregation is part of a larger geographic unit called a “stake” (not to be confused with “steak”). In growing areas, it’s called a “district.” Each stake or district general contains about 6-10 congregations. Each is led by a stake or district president and others who assist him. Like Bishops (and all positions in the Church), stake leaders are assigned to their unpaid volunteer positions.
Each stake is part of a larger geographical unit called an area, led by an area president and others who assist him. Again, by assignment and unpaid. The world is currently divided up into 25 areas.
Sure we have many thousands of meetinghouses across the globe. But we are all only one church: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It’s a global organization. The general leaders of the Church “general authorities.” They are all led by our top levels of Church leadership: the Twelve Apostles, the First Presidency, and the Presiden of the Church.