Teachings of Gordon B Hinckley – Chapter 19: Priesthood Leadership in the Church of Jesus Christ

From the Life of Gordon B. Hinckley

From the manual:

“I do not know why in His grand scheme one such as I would find a place. But having this mantle come upon me, I now rededicate whatever I have of strength or time or talent or life to the work of my Master in the service of my brethren and sisters. Again, I thank you … for your actions this day. The burden of my prayer is that I will be worthy. I hope that I may be remembered in your prayers.”

How can we best support and sustain the Lord’s Prophet and President of the Church?

1. The Lord calls each President of the Church after testing, refining, and polishing him.

Image result for When a President of the Church dies, the senior Apostle becomes the next President.

From the manual:

I have worked with the Presidents of the Church from President Heber J. Grant onward. … I have known the counselors of all of these men, and I have known the Council of the Twelve during the years of the administrations of these Presidents. All of these men have been human. They have had human traits and perhaps some human weaknesses. But over and above all of that, there has been in the life of every one of them an overpowering manifestation of the inspiration of God. Those who have been Presidents have been prophets in a very real way. I have intimately witnessed the spirit of revelation upon them. Each man came to the Presidency after many years of experience as a member of the Council of the Twelve and in other capacities. The Lord refined and polished each one, let him know discouragement and failure, let him experience illness and in some cases deep sorrow. All of this became part of a great refining process, and the effect of that process became beautifully evident in their lives.

What impresses you about the Lord’s “refining process” for preparing and calling a President of the Church?

‘Very few priesthood holders ever become prophets, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t all require the same refining experiences to make us better servants and better stewards over the Lord’s affairs in mortality.’ (Kelly Merrill, LDSLiving.com)

Read: First Presidency Message: Prophets to Guide Us

2. When a President of the Church dies, the senior Apostle becomes the next President.

When a President of the Church dies, the First Presidency is dissolved. Counselors in the First Presidency return to their places in the Quorum of the Twelve (if they were members of the quorum). The Quorum of the Twelve becomes the presiding quorum in the Church. The President of the Twelve becomes the presiding authority in the Church. Members of the Twelve assemble in the temple in a spirit of fasting and prayer. Guided by revelation, they come to a unanimous decision regarding the reorganization of the First Presidency. In accordance with this decision, they sustain the senior member of the Twelve as the President of the Church. They then lay their hands on his head and ordain him and set him apart as President of the Church.The new President chooses two men (usually members of the Quorum of the Twelve) to be his counselors. Vacancies in the Quorum of the Twelve caused by the reorganization of the Presidency are filled.

Watch: Succession in the Presidency Elder Haight teaches about succession in the Presidency (D&C 107:21-38). (1:07)

“There is no mystery about the choosing of the successor to the President of the Church. The Lord settled this a long time ago, and the senior apostle automatically becomes the presiding officer of the Church, and he is so sustained by the Council of the Twelve which becomes the presiding body of the Church when there is no First Presidency. The president is not elected, but he has to be sustained both by his brethren of the Council and by the members of the Church” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 3:156).

From the manual:

Transition of authority [to a new President of the Church], in which I have participated a number of times, is beautiful in its simplicity. It is indicative of the way the Lord does things. Under His procedure a man is selected by the prophet to become a member of the Council of the Twelve Apostles. He does not choose this as a career. He is called, as were the Apostles in Jesus’ time, to whom the Lord said, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you.” (John 15:16.) The years pass. He is schooled and disciplined in the duties of his office. He travels over the earth in fulfilling his apostolic calling. It is a long course of preparation, in which he comes to know the Latter-day Saints wherever they may be, and they come to know him. The Lord tests his heart and his substance. In the natural course of events, vacancies occur in that council and new appointments are made. Under this process a particular man becomes the senior Apostle. Residing latent in him, and in his associate Brethren, given to each at the time of ordination, are all of the keys of the priesthood. But authority to exercise those keys is restricted to the President of the Church. At [the prophet’s] passing, that authority becomes operative in the senior Apostle, who is then named, set apart, and ordained a prophet and President by his associates of the Council of the Twelve.

What are your impressions as you review President Hinckley’s description of the way a new President of the Church is chosen? 

3. The Lord has provided principles and procedures for governing His Church if the President is not able to function fully.

Watch: God is at the Helm (President Hinckley, General Conference April 1994)

“Despite any health challenges that may come to us, despite any weakness in body or mind, we serve to the best of our ability. I assure you that the Church is in good hands. The system set up for the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve [Apostles] assures [us] that it will always be in good hands and that, come what may, there is no need to worry or to fear. Our Savior, Jesus Christ, whom we follow, whom we worship, and whom we serve, is ever at the helm.” (Thomas S Monson, Church News, February 2013)

From the manual:

The Counselors in the First Presidency carry on with the regular work of this office. But any major questions of policy, procedures, programs, or doctrine are considered deliberately and prayerfully by the First Presidency and the Twelve together. These two quorums, the Quorum of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, meeting together, with every man having total freedom to express himself, consider every major question.

What principles and procedures has the Lord established for governing the Church if the President is not able to function fully in all his duties?

4. Apostles are special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world.

‘All men who are ordained Apostles and sustained as members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have all priesthood keys conferred upon them.’ (Boyd K Packer, What Every Elder Should Know – and Every Sister As Well)

Image result for Apostles are special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world.

‘The role of an Apostle today is the same as it was anciently (see Acts 1:22; 4:33). Our commission is to go into all the world and proclaim “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (see Mark 16:15, 1 Corinthians 2:2). An Apostle is a missionary and a special witness of the name of Christ. The “name of Christ” refers to the totality of the Savior’s mission, death, and resurrection—His authority, His doctrine, and His unique qualifications as the Son of God to be our Redeemer and our Savior. As special witnesses of the name of Christ, we bear testimony of the reality, divinity, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, His infinite and eternal Atonement, and His gospel.’ (David A Bednar, Religious Educator 12 No 2 2011)

From the manual:

As with all of us, they are men who are human. They have their strengths and their weaknesses. But henceforth, for the remainder of their lives, as long as they remain faithful, their one chief concern must be the advancement of the work of God on the earth. They must be concerned with the welfare of our Father’s children, both those within the Church and those out of the Church. They must do all that they can to give comfort to those who mourn, to give strength to those who are weak, to give encouragement to those who falter, to befriend the friendless, to nurture the destitute, to bless the sick, to bear witness, not out of belief but out of a certain knowledge of the Son of God, their Friend and Master, whose servants they are.

How have you benefited from the teachings of living prophets and apostles?

5. The First Presidency and the Twelve seek revelation and total harmony before they reach decisions.

Image result for The First Presidency and the Twelve seek revelation and total harmony before they reach decisions.

‘In trying all matters of doctrine, to make a decision valid, it is necessary to obtain a unanimous voice, faith and decision. In the capacity of a Quorum, the three First Presidents must be one in their voice; the Twelve Apostles must be unanimous in their voice, to obtain a righteous decision upon any matter that may come before them…. Whenever you see these Quorums unanimous in their declaration, you may set it down as true’. (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 9:91-92)

From the manual:

No decision emanates from the deliberations of the First Presidency and the Twelve without total unanimity among all concerned. At the outset in considering matters, there may be differences of opinion. These are to be expected. These men come from different backgrounds. They are men who think for themselves. But before a final decision is reached, there comes a unanimity of mind and voice.

How can we apply these principles in our families and in the Church?

6. A stake president is called by inspiration to serve as an adviser to bishops and a leader for the people.

Read or watch: The Stake President (Gordon B Hinckley, General Conference, April 2000)

‘The Church officer who presides over several wards (congregations) that comprise a stake is the stake president. A stake president is selected by the General Authority assigned by the Quorum of Twelve Apostles to preside at that stake’s conference. He typically interviews many Melchizedek Priesthood leaders in the stake and then seeks inspiration from God to determine whom to call. The General Authority calls the stake president and instructs him to nominate two counselors who are interviewed and called. These three men constitute the stake presidency. They serve voluntarily, receiving no financial remuneration from the Church. Counselors to the stake president advise and assist him in his responsibilities and counsel with him in decision making. As with all officers in the Church, members of the stake presidency must be sustained by the vote of the members over whom they preside (D&C 20:65; see Common Consent). Each stake president supervises and is responsible for the progress of the Church in his stake, including all Church activities, callings, ordinances performed, and programs.

Members of the stake presidency hold the office of high priest, and they serve as the presidency of the high priest quorum and supervise all Melchizedek Priesthood quorums. This means they hold the proper priesthood authority to act as the Lord’s agent in behalf of the members (see Keys of the Priesthood).

What the stake president performs and authorizes within the scope of his calling is recognized as official and binding by the Church. For example, the stake president authorizes ordinations of worthy men to offices in the Melchizedek Priesthood, such as elder and high priest. He submits to the First Presidency for their approval the names of men to be called as bishops. When the approval is granted, the stake president issues the call and ordains the man a bishop, after he has been sustained by his ward. The stake president calls the presidents of the women’s organizations of the stake. He sets them apart after they have been sustained by vote of the stake. Both stake and full-time missionaries are set apart and later released by stake presidents. With a few exceptions, stake presidents may delegate to their counselors, or to high councilors, the authority to perform ordinances, issue calls to serve, ordain others to priesthood offices, and give spiritual blessings. Stake presidencies are to draw upon the scriptures and are to seek inspiration through prayer. The stake president is the one ultimately responsible for decisions made, but the stake presidency is to act as a unified quorum when decisions are made and actions taken. The stake presidency is accountable to members of the General Authorities of the Church for the administration of their stake.

During semi-annual stake conferences, members of the stake gather to hear instruction and inspirational messages from the stake presidency and other leaders. Stake presidents provide additional spiritual direction through counseling individuals and families and by visiting members’ homes.

The stake president also presides over certain council meetings in which the spiritual Welfare of Church members is the focus, such as meetings to address the needs of the poor or to prepare for emergencies, or councils that conduct disciplinary procedures for Church members who have transgressed fundamental standards of the gospel. Through personal interviews, stake presidencies certify the worthiness of members to enter temples and to be ordained to Melchizedek Priesthood offices, after they have been recommended to the stake president by their bishop. Bishops are to report their stewardship and the Welfare of their congregations to their stake president.

Stake presidents are charged with fiscal responsibility for the stake. Clerks are called to help with record keeping and payments, but the expenditures of all wards, priesthood quorums, and auxiliary organizations within the stake are the responsibility of the stake president. Financial assistance provided to needy individuals is administered by ward bishops, supervised by the stake president. In addition, since most wards meet in Church-owned buildings, the maintenance and operation of all physical facilities in the stake fall under the auspices of the stake president.

The stake president serves until he is released. As is the case with all callings in the Church, he neither campaigns for the position nor chooses the time of his release.’ (Stake President: The Encyclopaedia of Mormonism)

From the manual:

He carries the very heavy responsibility of seeing that the doctrine taught in the stake is kept pure and unsullied. It is his duty to see that there is no false doctrine that is taught nor false practice that occurs. If there be any Melchizedek Priesthood holder out of line, or any other person for that matter, under some circumstances, he is to counsel with them, and if the individual persists in his or her practice, then the president is obliged to take action. He will summon the offender to appear before a disciplinary council, where action may be taken to assign a probationary period or to disfellowship or excommunicate him or her from the Church.

How can we better support and sustain the Stake President?

7. Bishops are shepherds of the flock.

Read or watch: The Shepherds of the Flock Gordon B Hinckley, General Conference, April 1999

Image result for Bishops are shepherds of the flock.

Read or watch: The Shepherds of Israel Gordon B Hinckley, General Conference, October 2003

From the manual:

The bishops of the Church … are in a very real sense the shepherds of Israel. Everyone [in the Church] is accountable to a bishop or a branch president. Tremendous are the burdens which they carry, and I invite every member of the Church to do all that he or she can to lift the burden under which our bishops and branch presidents labor.

How can we better support and sustain the Bishop?

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