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Prince’s Research Excerpts: Priesthood & Mormonism – 1979

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1979:  31 Mar.:  Government through Priesthood Councils.

“President Kimball has asked me to introduce to you an expansion of the procedure for conducting Church affairs at the area and region levels.  With the increased growth and internationalization of the Church and the great responsibility to promote the ecclesiastical and temporal work throughout the world in a more unified fashion, we are introducing an emphasis on the role of councils in Church government.

This action will maintain the orderly management of Church activity at all administrative levels.  President Ezra Taft Benson, of the Council of the Twelve, and Bishop Victor L. Brown, Presiding Bishop of the Church, will explain details and indicate how this modification is to be implemented in the various parts of the Church.

Since its beginning, the Church has been governed by leadership councils.  Priesthood councils are a fundamental order of the Church, as illustrated repeatedly in the Doctrine and Covenants.

Sometimes these councils are advisory in nature, such as with the ward council, where auxiliary leaders advise the bishop and Melchizedek Priesthood leaders in the affairs of the ward.

Sometimes these councils are regulatory bodies, such as with the General Church Coordinating Council which was announced by the First Presidency in 1977.  This council consists of the First Presidency, the Council of the Twelve, and the Presiding Bishopric.  In this council, policies and procedures are agreed upon, and the work of the Church is coordinated and correlated.

The Church Coordinating Council, after due deliberation, has approved the establishment of councils at area and region levels throughout the Church and multiregion councils where necessary.

These councils will make it possible to integrate better all the affairs of the Church.  Region and area leaders will be able to plan, coordinate, and regulate all the affairs of the Church at these levels in a forum that will provide for full expression of needs, concerns, and opportunities.

These councils will also provide a better means for implementing in the field the service functions of the temporal line established under the Presiding Bishopric.

The leadership of a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy in area councils and of a Regional Representative in region councils will ensure coordinated and regulated activities at each level of Church administration.  These councils, properly organized and functioning, assure a unified approach to more forward the ecclesiastical and temporal work of the Church for the blessing of individuals and families.

We are confident that this expansion of priesthood councils will not only increase efficiency and harmony, but raise the spirituality of the Church.  As Paul beautifully states in Ephesians, chapter 4, the Church organization is given 

for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.  (Eph. 4:12-13.)

Now may I give emphasis to two subsequent verses of Paul’s letter which we do not always quote, but which have particular meaning in light of these newly announced priesthood councils:

But speaking the truth in love, may {we} grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.  (Eph. 4:15-16; italics added)

Please note now, brothers and sisters, the whole body is compacted by that which every joint or council supplies.  With this action today, we are completing the linkage of the priesthood chain both ecclesiastically and temporally.  We know that you leaders will give strength to and will benefit from participation in priesthood councils at your several levels.

May the Lord richly bless you in carrying forth this great work of establishing Zion and preparing us for the Lord’s eventual rule on earth.  In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

President Ezra Taft Benson, President of the Council of the Twelve Apostles, will now address us.”  (N. Eldon Tanner, 31 Mar., 1979; CR Apr., 1979, pp. 119-120)

“My beloved brethren and sisters, as President Tanner has announced, we are pleased to announce today some developments affecting area and local Church administration.  May I say at the outset that what you see and hear is the result of months of prayerful study and deliberation.  This presentation about Church councils is not a new program, but it is a reemphasis of a principle based on the scriptures and on traditional Church government procedures.  Some of you who live in the United States will recognize in this presentation nothing more than what is already being done at your interim meetings.

Because this is such an important matter, I will stay with a written text, using visuals as needed.  As I begin, however, I want you to know that this presentation has the whole-hearted endorsement of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve, the First Quorum of the Seventy, and the Presiding Bishopric.  We have no doubt that what we are presenting to you today will greatly facilitate communication and unity at various Church levels and help move the kingdom forward.

Some background may be helpful so you can more completely understand the significance of these developments.

Throughout the history of the Church, it has been a practice that essentially ecclesiastical matters be administered by the Quorum of the Twelve and taht essentially temporal affairs be administered by the Presiding Bishopric.  This practice continues to this day.

You are all, of course, familiar with the traditional administrative channel of authority to the field from the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve, the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy, Area Supervisors, Regional Representatives, stake presidents, and bishops.  This channel of authority remains unchanged.

More recently, because of the need to carefully manage temporal matters in the field, approval was given to have a Presiding Bishopric area supervisor in certain countries of the world.  He has worked in close cooperation with the General Authority Area Supervisor and has reported his responsibilities on temporal matters to the Presiding Bishopric, who in turn report to the First Presidency.

The principle we desire to reemphasize was well expressed by President Stephen L. Richards, first counselor to President David O. McKay, in these words:

As I conceive it, the genius of our Church government is government through councils.  The Council of the Presidency, the Council of the Twelve, the Council of the Stake Presidency . . . the Council of the Bishopric. . . . I have had enough experience to know the value of councils. . . . I see the wisdom, God’s wisdom, in creating councils: to govern his Kingdom.  In the spirit under which we labor, men can get together with seemingly divergent views and far different backgrounds, and under the operation of that spirit, by counseling together, they can arrive at an accord.  (CR Oct., 1953, p. 86.)

The First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve, and the Presiding Bishopric have determined to organize council meetings at the general Church level, the area leve, and the region level.  These councils will be called the Church Coordinating Council (at the general level), area council, multiregion council (only if needed), region council, and the presently existing stake and ward correlation councils.

We have felt that in order to be effective, these councils need to be comprehensive in representing all Church programs so that there will be a correlating, coordinating, planning and resolving body at each of these levels.  These councils, properly organized and functioning, assure a unified approach to the management of ecclesiastical and temporal affairs.

It has also been determined that the General Authority Area Supervisor’s title will be changed to executive administrator, and outside of the United States and Canada, the Presiding Bishopric area supervisor’s title will be changed to director for temporal affairs.  These title changes take effect immediately.  In the United States and Canada the Presiding Bishopric will appoint individuals either from Church headquarters or from the local area to represent and manage temporal activities.

Now may I say a word to all who will participate in the administration of these councils at the area, region, and other local levels.  The Twelve continue to be vitally interested in temporal matters; the Presiding Bishopric continue to be vitally concerned with ecclesiastical matters.  To us it is one great program.  This division of responsibility is intended for administrative convenience.  All things are spiritual to the Lord (see D&C 29:34).

I’ll now speak briefly about each of these councils at the respective levels.

First:  The Church Coordinating Council.

This council is comprised of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve, and the Presiding Bishopric.

The Presidents of the First Quorum of the Seventy will be invited to attend the meetings of this council and will also be invited to the General Welfare Services Committee.

The Church Coordinating Committee will set policy, authorize exceptions to policy, authorize implementation, and resolve any difficulties which remain unresolved at the area council level.

Communications between the Church Coordinating Council and area administrators will proceed through the ecclesiastical and temporal lines.

The Church Coordinating Council will also set priorities (insofar as they desire to do so), so that area and region councils can function within guidelines.  This will help us meet the urgent need to balance the distribution of available resources (both time and money) which are to be given to various Church programs and efforts.  For example, suppose recommendations from the combined area councils of the Church show a need for 800 buildings during a given year, but the Church has only time and money resources for 600 buildings.  The Church Coordinating Council would then determine where resources are needed most.

This council will also review and approve overall plans for ecclesiastical and temporal matters before policies are implemented.

Second:  The Area Council.

The primary council in the field for correlating, coordinating, planning, and resolving problems is the area council.  This council will function under the direction of the executive administrator.  The area council will consider items of local concern and will transmit headquarters-approved programs and activities to all regional and stake officers.  The area council should meet at least quarterly.

Regional Representatives will attend the area council meetings and will work closely with the executive administrator.  Regional Representatives will be the line officers to the stake president, with certain exceptions which have been noted to them.  In this system of councils, the Regional Representative is best viewed as an administrator.  He now becomes accountable for administering Church affairs at the region level.

The area council will develop the strategic plan for the area–broad guidelines outlining major activities and objectives.  Personnel on the temporal side will do the detailed planning work for temporal affairs.  Regional Representatives, mission presidents (when invited), and stake presidents (when invited) will do detailed planning for ecclesiastical affairs.  Both the executive administrator and appointed personnel for temporal affairs will present these overall plans to the area council for review and approval before such plans are implemented.

Let us look at the implementation of the area council internationally and then within the United States and Canada.

A.  Area councils outside United States and Canada.  Membership in the area council outside the United States and Canada will include: the executive administrator, the director for temporal affairs, and all Regional Representatives in the area.

Others invited to attend when items relating to their responsibilities are discussed will be the Welfare Services area manager, the Physical Facilities area manager, the Finance area manager, the Materials Management area manager, the Information Systems area manager, the Church Educational System area director, and a Church-service Public Communications area director.  Mission presidents could be invited by the executive administrator, if needed.

The responsibilities of the executive administrator throughout the world will be–

1. To preside over and provide ecclesiastical leadership in the area.

2. To preside in all area council meetings.

3. To set priorities.

4. To control planning.

5. To regulate within policy.

6. To train.

The director for temporal affairs will have the responsibility to–

1. Manage operations to service ecclesiastical needs.

2. Assist in planning.

3. Provide technical services.

4. Assist in training.

While both the executive administrator (General Authority) and the director for temporal affairs (representing the Presiding Bishopric) have independent stewardships, they are to accomplish common ends.  To coordinate all area affairs, an executive committee of the council is authorized outside the United States and Canada, composed of the executive administrator and the director for temporal affairs.  They would mutually determine the council agenda, plan guidelines, and determine which temporal functions need to be represented at each quarterly council meeting.  They will be assisted by a secretary.  through this cooperative effort their separate reporting relationships are respected, but common purposes are achieved.  The executive committee will ordinarily meet weekly or as often as circumstances require.

Now a look at the area council in the United States and Canada.

A.  Area councils within United States and Canada.  Members of the area council will be the executive administrator and all Regional Representatives in the area.  Mission presidents could be invited by the executive administrator if needed.

Others who may be invited to attend when items relating to their responsibilities are discussed are: the Welfare Services area director, a Church-service Public Communications area director, the Church Educational System area director, and others as needed.  Welfare services matters will not be discussed without the presence and participation of the Welfare Services area director.

The implementation of the area council within the United States and Canada will vary from the area council outside the United States and Canada since there are no directors for temporal affairs in the United States or in Canada.  Consequently, headquarters departments, in consultation with the executive administrator, will assign designated individuals for the functions of Welfare Services and Physical Facilities.  These individuals will work closely with the executive administrator and will attend the area council as needed.  The Presiding Bishopric will assign personnel for temporal matters or approve invitations for headquarters staff to attend periodic area council meetings.  These individuals assigned by the Presiding Bishopric will have the responsibility to–

1. Manage operations to service ecclesiastical needs.

2. Assist in planning.

3. Provide technical services.

4. Assist in training.

Third:  The Multiregion and Region Councils.

Welfare services activities require councils at the multiregion level.  Let us now look at the multiregion council.

A.  The Multiregion council.  Multiregion councils are authorized for welfare services activities.  The executive administrator presides at these councils and procedures will parallel those of the area council.  Membership on a multiregion council consists of the executive administrator, the Welfare Services area director (as he deems necessary), the Regional Representatives of the regions involved, and the multiregion Welfare Services director.  A stake bishops’ council chairman and a stake Relief Society president from one of the region councils, designated by the executive administrator, serve as members when welfare services matters are discussed.  Multi-region councils meet on an ‘as needed’ basis.

We shall now look at the composition of a regional council.

B.  The region council.  Membership on a region council consists of the Regional Representative and stake presidents.

Others invited to attend, when items relating to their responsibilities are discussed, are the Welfare Services region agent, the Public Communications region directors, the Church Educational System region coordinator, and other representatives of ecclesiastical and temporal programs as necessary.  A stake bishop’s council chairman and a stake Relief Society president, designated by the Regional Representative, should attend when welfare services matters are discussed.  Mission presidents could be invited with the approval of the executive administrator.

The region council will handle administration and correlation matters of a multiple-stake nature as well as communicate and implement all actions of the general Church, area, or multiregion council.  Region council meetings will be held at least quarterly.  For simplification and to avoid unnecessary travel, interim meetings may continue and could well become a meeting of the region council.

The Regional Representative performs duties paralleling those of the executive administrator in the area council.

In order to facilitate the work of the region council, it will be necessary to have a Church-service Welfare Services region agent who represents welfare services operations at the region level.

Fourth:  Stake Councils.

The composition of the stake correlation and the stake welfare services committee remain the same.

Fifth:  Ward Councils.

The same emphasis on Church councils applies at the ward level.  Membership on the ward correlation council and the ward welfare services committee is not changed.

Again, the complete overview of the system of councils at the various levels will appear as illustrated.

Last:  Family Councils.

I mention family councils because of our persistent emphasis on family unity and family solidarity.  By encouraging parents to hold family councils, we imitate in our homes a heavenly pattern.

Now a word to you, my brethren, the stake presidents.

This is a time of transition.  Many of the duties affecting such activities as welfare services and public communications previously handled by stake presidents will now be handled by Regional Representatives.  We do not want to have ongoing operations interrupted during this time of transition.  Stake presidents  and others presently responsible should go on doing what they are now doing in their region, multiregion or area assignments until they are officially released by the executive administrator.  During the transition it may be necessary for executive administrators to meet with representatives of the Church Educational System, Public Communications, and especially the Welfare Services Department so that all aspects of the work (including the calling and releasing of Church-service personnel) may be carefully considered.

Now a concluding word.

There is a principle cited in the Doctrine and Covenants which, though directed specifically to the leading quorums of the Church, applies to all councils in Church government.  I quote from section 107:

And every decision made by either of these quorums {and for our purposes we could substitute the word council} must be by the unanimous voice of the same; that is, every member in each quorum {council} must be agreed to its decisions. . . .

The decisions of these quorums {or councils} . . . are to be made in all righteousness, in holines, and lowliness of heart, meekness and long suffering, and in faith, and virtue, and knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and charity;

Because the promise is, if these things abound in them they shall not be unfruitful in the knowledge of the Lord.  (D&C 107:27, 30, 31.)

This seems to me to be the pattern by which the Lord would have us operate through priesthood councils at all levels of Church government.  We must be one in all aspects of this work–ecclesiastically and temporally–for all things are spiritual to Him whom we acknowledge as Master.  You can see that this is a great step toward achieving greater unity in managing the affairs of the Church.  We, as priesthood holders, need to act in the manner which the Lord instructs in the revelation just quoted.

Brethren and sisters, we want you to know that our whole interest has been to do what is best for the kingdom.  Today we are taking a step which is for the good of the kingdom.  May the Lord bless us in our efforts as we implement this system of priesthood councils so that we, under the operation of the Spirit, may have greater unity, accord, and effectiveness in building the Lord’s kingdom, which I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”

(Ezra Taft Benson, 31 Mar., 1979; CR Apr., 1979, pp. 120-125)

“My dear brothers and sisters, I hope you have been able to grasp at least a small part of the significance associated with President Benson’s presentation.  It is a most significant step forward in Church government–one which will aid the priesthood to prepare for even greater Church growth than ever before.  It will introduce a more effective level of planning and decision making than ever before.  I stand in awe as I witness the hand of the Lord direct his servants in this, his kingdom.  The introduction of councils at the region, multiregion, and area levels is a most important move.  The Presiding Bishopric expresses its enthusiastic, whole-hearted support of all that has been said.  As you are aware, the Presiding Bishopric, under the direction of the First Presidency, has the responsibility for administering many of the temporal affairs of the Church.  These include physical facilities, finance, welfare services, materials management, and information systems.

We administer this network of temporal functions to support and service priesthood needs and Church activities throughout the world.  They are managed in the United States and Canada through our headquarters department managing directors and their management teams.  A limited number of these departments are decentralized, such as Operations and Maintenance.  Outside the United States and Canada these functions are all decentralized and are managed in each area of the world by directors for temporal affairs.  Each area office is responsible for all the activities listed above.

I would like to add further dimension to the four major accountabilities our personnel have in performing their service functions.  Since some of these responsibilities, particularly in Welfare Services, have been carried out to this point by stake presidents, local committees and others, I hope you will take special note of them. . . .”

(Victor L. Brown, 31 Mar., 1979; CR Apr., 1979, pp. 125-126)

1 Apr.:  We are ready to move forward.

“Beloved brethren and sisters, this has been a glorious conference.  We are grateful to all who have taken part in any way.  My heart has rejoiced, and my thoughts have been inspired to turn to many things, as what has been said and sung has deeply touched me.

Now, my brothers and sisters, it seems clear to me, indeed, this impression weighs upon me–that the Church is at a point in its growth and maturity when we are at last ready to move forward in a major way.  Some decisions have been made and others pending, which will clear the way, organizationally.  But the basic decisions needed for us to move forward, as a people, must be made by the individual members of the Church.  The major strides which must be made by the Church will follow upon the major strides to be made by us as individuals.

We have paused on some plateaus long enough.  Let us resume our journey forward and upward.  Let us quietly put an end to our reluctance to reach out to others–whether in our own families, wards, or neighborhoods.  We have been diverted, at times, from fundamentals on which we must now focus in order to move forward as a person or as a people.

Seemingly small efforts in the life of each member could do so much to move the Church forward as never before.  Think, brothers and sisters, what would happen if each active family were to bring another family or individual into the Church before next April conference: We would be joined by several hundred thousand new members of the Church.  Imagine, if only one additional mature couple were to be called on a full-time mission from each ward–our missionary force would go from 27,500 to over 40,000!  Contemplate the results if each family were to assist–between now and next April conference–an inactive family or individual into full activity.  How we would revel in the association of those tens of thousands!

Think of the blessings here and on the other side of the veil if each holder of a temple recommend were to do just one more endowment this next year!  And how would our non-member neighbors and friends feel if we were each to do just one more quiet act of Christian service for them before October conference–regardless of whether or not they are interested in the Church!

Imagine how much richer our family life would be if our spouses and children were to receive a few more minutes of individual attention each month!

Are we ready, brothers and sisters, to do these seemingly small things out of which great blessings will proceed?  I think we are.  I believe the Lord’s church is on the verge of an upsurge in spirituality.  Our individual spiritual growth is the key to major numerical growth in the kingdom.  The Church is ready to accomplish these things now which it could not have done just a few years ago.  So also we are ready as members.  If you will accept my counsel, you will come to feel that there is a readiness in our people which must be put to work.

Let us not shrink from the next steps in our spiritual growth, brothers and sisters, by holding back, or side-stepping our fresh opportunities for service to our families and our fellowmen.

Let us trust the Lord and take the next steps in our individual lives.  He has promised us that he will be our tender tutor, measuring what we are ready for.

And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along.  (D&C 78:18.)

He will not ask us to bear more than we can bear nor thrust upon us that for which we are not yet ready.  But likewise, we must not tarry too long when we are ready to move on.

It seems to be that basically there are two major causes for the holding back which we see in the Church: First, sin which results in disinterest or immobilization and guilt; and second, the reluctance of good members of the Church to stretch just a little bit more in the service, instead of being too slow to see the power of their example or too shy about letting their light shine.  It is time for us all to take those seemingly small steps forward which will, when compounded, mean major progress for the Church!

The monumental challenge we face is to provide trained leadership for our fast-growing membership and to help that membership to keep clean from the world in which we must live.

The encroachment of the world into our lives is threatening.  How hard it seems to many people to live in the world but not of the world.

Our constant prayer and our major efforts are to see that the members are sanctified through their righteousness.  We urge our people to ‘stand in holy places.'”  (Spencer W. Kimball, 1 Apr., 1979; CR Apr., 1979, pp. 114-115.)

6 Oct.:  1st Quorum of 70 to preside over YMMIA, SS.

“Inasmuch as this session is broadcast more widely than any other, we wish to announce at this time with the rapid growth of the Church and the expanded role of the First Quorum of the Seventy in administrative affairs, it has been felt desirable to appoint members of the First Quorum of the Seventy to head the Sunday School and Young Men organizations.”  (N. Eldon Tanner, 6 Oct., 1979; CR Oct., 1979, p. 3)

6 Oct.:  Tanner talk on Church Government.

“I would like to tell you something about the way the Church operates from headquarters.  We often hear the Church referred to as a democracy, when in reality, instead of being a church where the body is governed by officers elected by the members, the Church is a theocracy, where God directs his church through representatives chosen by him.

Our fifth article of faith states,

We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands, by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.

Now, this is the way in which Joseph Smith was chosen by the Lord as President of his Church and set apart by those authorized by the Lord to do so.

It has always been a testimony to me, as I read section 107 of the Doctrine and Covenants, to see how all offices of the priesthood were listed and the duties of each given to Joseph Smith.  We read:

Of the Melchizedek Priesthood, three Presiding High Priests, chosen by the body, appointed and ordained to that office, and upheld by the confidence, faith, and prayer of the church, form a quorum of the Presidency of the Church. . . .

And again, the duty of the President of the office of the High Priesthood is to preside over the whole church, and to be like unto Moses–

. . . yea, to be a seer, a revelator, a translator, and a prophet, having all the gifts of God which he bestows upon the head of the church.  (D&C 107:22, 91-92.)

And again:

The twelve traveling councilors are called to be the Twelve Apostles, or special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world. . . .

And they form a quorum {this is important}, equal in authority and power to the three presidents.  (D&C 107:23-24.)

The following is recorded in Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith:

President Smith next proceeded to explain the duty of the Twelve, and their authority, which is next to the present Presidency. . . . Also the Twelve are not subject to any other than the First Presidency, . . . ‘and where I am not {meaning the President of the Church}, there is no First Presidency over the Twelve.’  (pp. 105-106.)

At the death of Joseph Smith, the Twelve became the presiding authority of the Church, with Brigham Young as president of the Twelve, and administered the affairs of the Church for three and a half years.  Then Brigham Young was chosen as President of the Church, and he chose and ordained and set apart his counselors.  Then there were three years and two months between his death and the installation of John Taylor as President of the Church.  Following John Taylor’s death it was one year and none months before Wilford Woodruff was chosen, set apart, and ordained as President of the Church.  Since then, just a few days have passed between the death of the President and the setting apart of the next President–and the Twelve continues to preside at the death of each President until the new First Presidency is organized.

I would like to explain to you exactly what took place following the unexpected death of President Harold B. Lee on 26 December 1973.  I was in Phoenix, Arizona, to spend Christmas with my daughter and her family, when a call came to me from Arthur Haycock, secretary to President Lee.  He said that President lee was seriously ill, and he thought that I should plan to return home as soon as possible.  A half-hour later he called and said: ‘The Lord has spoken.  President Lee has been called home.’

President Romney, Second Counselor, in my absence was directing the affairs of the Church, and was at the hospital with Spencer W. Kimball, President of the Council of the Twelve.  Immediately upon the death of President Lee, President Romney turned to President Kimball and said, ‘You are in charge.’  Remember, the Prophet Joseph Smith had said that without the President there was no First Presidency over the Twelve.

Not one minute passed between the time President Lee died and the Twelve took over as the presiding authority of the Church.

Following President Lee’s funeral, President Kimball called a meeting of all of the Apostles for Sunday, December 30, at 3 P.M. in the Salt Lake Temple Council Room.  President Romney and I had taken our respective places of seniority in the council, so there were fourteen of us present.

Following a song, and prayer by President Romney, President Kimball, in deep humility, expressed his feelings to us.  He said that he had spent Friday in the temple talking to the Lord, and had shed many tears as he prayed for guidance in assuming his new responsibilities in choosing his counselors.

Dressed in the robes of the holy priesthood, we held a prayer circle; President Kimball asked me to conduct it and Elder Thomas S. Monson to offer the prayer.  Following this, President Kimball explained the purpose of the meeting and called on each member of the quorum in order of seniority, starting with Elder Ezra Taft Benson, to express his feelings as to whether the First Presidency should be organized that day or whether we should carry on as the Council of the Twelve.  Each said, ‘We should organize now,’ and many complimentary things were spoken about President Kimball and his work with the Twelve.

Then Elder Ezra Taft Benson nominated Spencer W. Kimball to be the President of the Church.  This was seconded by Elder Mark E. Petersen and unanimously approved.  President Kimball then nominated N. Eldon Tanner as First Counselor and Marion G. Romney as Second Counselor, each of whom expressed a willingness to accept the position and devote his whole time and energy in serving in that capacity.

They were unanimously approved.  Then Elder Mark E. Petersen, second in seniority in the Twelve, nominated Ezra Taft Benson, the senior member of the Twelve, as President of the Quorum of the Twelve.  This was unanimously approved.

At this point all the members present laid their hands upon the head of Spencer W. Kimball, and President Ezra Taft Benson was voice in blessing, ordaining, and setting apart Spencer W. Kimball as the twelfth President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Then, with President Kimball as voice, N. Eldon Tanner was set apart as First Counselor and Marion G. Romney as Second Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church.  Following the same procedure, he pronounced the blessing and setting apart of Ezra Taft Benson as President of the Quorum of the Twelve.

There were then eleven members of the Twelve, and this would necessitate calling a new man to fill the vacancy in the quorum.  You may be interested to learn how the General Authorities are called.

They are chosen by the President through inspiration and revelation as he considers the names of those who, at his invitation, have been recommended by members of the Twelve, together with those whom he might be considering himself.

Because of the inspiration and revelation involved, a General Authority is actually divinely appointed and is approved by the Council of the Twelve before being called and set apart, and later sustained by the general conference.

To give you an example of how this works, let me share with you an experience of President Heber J. Grant.  While he was a member of the Council of the Twelve, when asked by the President of the Church to submit names, he repeatedly submitted that of a very good friend of his for consideration to fill existing vacancies among the Twelve.

The man was never chosen, and President Grant is reported to have said at one time that if he ever became President of the Church, and there was a vacancy to fill, he would call that man, because he was so qualified.

After he became President and it was necessary to fill a vacancy, he told the Lord that he knew whom he wanted, but that he wanted to select the man that the Lord wanted.  The name of Melvin J. Ballard, whom President Grant knew slightly, but not too well, came into his mind and kept recurring to let him know that he was the man who should be called.  He was nominated by President Grant and approved by the Twelve.  He was ordained and set apart by the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve and at the following general conference was presented to those in attendance for their sustaining vote.

Let me give you my own experience.  While serving as president of the Calgary Stake in Alberta, Canada, I was attending the general conference in Salt Lake City in October, 1960.  On Friday evening I received a call at the Hotel Utah, where I was staying, advising me that President McKay wanted to see me Saturday morning–the next morning.  Naturally, not knowing what he wanted, I slept very little that night.  I met him in his office at the appointed hour.  As I sat in a chair facing him, he looked me in the eye, put his hand on my knee, and said, ‘President Tanner, the Lord would like you to accept a call as a General Authority, as an Assistant to the Twelve.’  Then he asked how I felt about it.

I do not know exactly what I said.  I tried to assure him that I felt highly honored and very inadequate, but ready and willing to accept a call and to give my whole time and effort in the service of the Lord.

That morning my name was read, along with the names of Elders Franklin D. Richards and Theodore M. Burton, to be sustained as Assistants to the Twelve, with the other general officers of the Church.  We were approved by the conference.  Officers throughout the Church are selected in much the same way at their particular level.

At this point I might answer the question of how we deal with a dissenting vote.  We had one at the October 1977 conference.  Some of you heard the proceedings and will remember that the dissenter wanted his vote recorded.  This is the way we deal with a dissenting vote: all the people other than this one voted to sustain those who were presented, so I asked him to see a member of the Twelve.  The purpose of asking him to see somebody is so that he can report why he was not prepared to support the slate of officers.  That gives him an opportunity, if he knows some good reason why a person should not be or is not qualified to be sustained, to tell the person assigned to see him; this person can then advise the First Presidency.

I should like to tell you of an experience I had when I was called to go to New Zealand to reorganize a stake.  I had never met anybody living in New Zealand, other than the president of the stake at that time.  I asked for a list of the bishops and high council in that New Zealand stake, and as I read over the list I saw one name that just seemed to stand out.  The name was Campbell.  Each time I read the list I noticed it.  Bishop Vandenberg was with me, and we interviewed all these people, after having prayed that we might be guided.

After all the interviews I said to Brother Vandenberg, ‘Let us call upon the Lord for direction.’  We did, and as we stood up I asked, ‘If you had the responsibility, whom would you choose as president of this stake?’

He said, ‘Bill Campbell.’  I had never mentioned his name to Bishop Vandenberg.  This was another evidence that the Lord does direct these appointments.

All matters pertaining to the administration of the Church come under the direction of the First Presidency, and the affairs are generally divided into three categories:

First, those administered directly by the First Presidency; second, ecclesiastical matters administered by the Twelve under the direction of the First Presidency; and third, temporal affairs administered by the Presiding Bishopric, as assigned to them by the First Presidency.

Let me list some of the things administered directly by the First Presidency: area conferences; solemn assemblies; budgeting, educational, historical, and personnel departments; temples; auditing; the Coordinating Council; and the welfare services.

Now let me outline briefly some of the responsibilities of the Twelve.  Under the direction of the First Presidency, the Council of the Twelve is responsible for all the ecclesiastical matters of the Church and for the administration of the ecclesiastical affairs of the Church carried on by members of the First Quorum of the Seventy.

It has the responsibility of scheduling stake conferences throughout the Church and making assignments of the General Authorities to attend these conferences, which are held weekly throughout the year except in July.

All of the General Authorities strive diligently to prepare themselves and to use the programs provided for the Saturday evening meeting as well as the general session on Sunday so as to motivate the people throughout the Church to better living.  They meet with the stake presidencies and the stake officers and discuss with them the progress they have made and ways and means of doing better.  General Authorities are required to leave their families for at least two and sometimes three or four days to two weeks in order to fill conference assignments, tour missions, and so forth.

Under the Twelve there are at present four departments.  Each department is administered by three or four Seventies (with their staff), under the direction of the Twelve.

They are, namely: the Priesthood, Missionary, Genealogical, and Curriculum departments.  I shall endeavor to deal very briefly later with only two or three of the departments.

The Council of the Twelve is also responsible for the planning of seminars for new mission presidents, and two each year for the Regional Representatives.

We are all aware that the Twelve would not be able to carry out these heavy assignments alone and that provision has been made for the necessary assistance.  You know that some years ago some men were appointed as Assistants to the Twelve, and that more recently, due to the rapid growth of the Church, and in keeping with the teachings of Joseph Smith, these men and others were appointed to become members of the First Quorum of the Seventy.  This was the beginning of increasing this quorum from only the seven presidents, who presided over other quorums of seventy throughout the Church.

Regarding the Seventy we read:

The Seventy are to act in the name of the Lord, under the direction of the Twelve or the traveling high council, in building up the church and regulating all the affairs of the same in all nations.  (D&C 107:34.)

Members of the First Quorum of the Seventy administer, under the direction of the Twelve, the four departments to which I referred earlier.  The Priesthood Department recommends policies and procedures for the Melchizedek Priesthood, the Aaronic Priesthood, and the auxiliaries; and supervises activity programs.  The Curriculum Department provides training materials, manuals, and nonadministrative handbooks, is responsible for Church magazines, and coordinates the production of all Church publications.

The Correlation staff checks all materials for study courses and magazines as to doctrine, coding, and so forth, and reports to the Correlation Committee, made up of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy, together with the Presiding Bishop and the Commissioner of Education.  Here all teaching and training materials are correlated with the idea of preparing the individual member for temple work, missionary work, and responsibilities in different organizations of the Church, and preparing him for eternal life.  This is the whole purpose of the Church: to prepare the individual for eternal life.

The Missionary Department provides missionary proselyting materials for preparing prospective missionaries and for use in the field.  It assists with missionary assignments, and oversees the operation of visitors’ centers and other matters pertaining to the missionary program.

You may be interested in knowing how a missionary is called.  A bishop should interview the prospective missionary before he talks to the parents about it so that he can determine the attitude and worthiness of the individual before anyone knows he or she is being considered.  If he finds the person worthy and desirous of filling a mission, he discusses it with the parents; and then, if everything is in order, the bishop recommends him or her to the stake president, who also interviews the individual as to worthiness and attitude.  If found worthy and willing, he or she is recommended to the First Presidency.

In determining where he or she should be called to fill a mission, several factors are taken into consideration, such as the person’s aptitudes as shown on the recommendation form and the missions which need missionaries at that time.  Then, through inspiration, the person is called to the mission where he or she can best serve the lord.  He or she then receives a call from the President of the Church, and on receipt of the call each missionary is required to send a letter of response to the President.

I am reminded of a story about a missionary call which you may find of interest and which shows how the inspiration of the Lord directs his work.  I could give you a dozen.  But on one occasion, after the letters of call had been sent to a group of missionaries, the executive secretary of the Missionary Department received a telephone call from the mother of a boy who had received an assignment to a mission in the eastern part of the United States.  The mother said that she and the father of the boy were extremely disappointed because the boy’s father and grandfather had served missions in Germany, and they had expressed their desires that the boy also be called to a German mission.

The secretary asked the mother how the boy felt about it, and she replied that he was at school and the she had opened the letter in his absence.  He did not yet know where he was to be called.  The secretary expressed his surprise that the mother would open the only letter the boy might ever receive from the President of the Church and suggested that she call him back after the boy had read the letter.

The following day the mother called back most apologetically and said that the boy’s reaction was one of complete satisfaction with the call.  He had secretly been praying that he would not be called to a foreign mission.

Now, let me deal wtih the administration of the Presiding Bishopric.  They are responsible for the administration of all the temporal affairs assigned to them by the First Presidency.  This includes physical facilities, where they act as a service department to acquire land and to build and maintain buildings as required by the ecclesiastical division.  They also supervise matters pertaining to finance, membership records, fast offerings, tithing, central purchasing, translation, and distribution.  Then they have the heavy responsibility of administering the Welfare Services Department, whose vital program and policies are determined by the Welfare Services Committee, which is composed of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve, the Presiding Bishopric, and the Relief Society Presidency.  Included in the Welfare Services program are the Deseret Industries operations throughout the world; stake, ward, and mission welfare programs; bishops’ storehouses; and so on.

The great growth and expansion of the Church throughout the world has necessitated decentralization of administration, especially for the organizing and training of the members of the Church in the developing areas, where there are many new branches, districts, wards, and stakes comprised mostly of members who have had little, if any, experience in the administration of Church affairs.

For example, in Caracas, Venezuela, which I visited in about 1976, the mission president called a meeting of the members.  There were three or four hundred in attendance, none of whom had been in the Church longer than five years.  A year later we organized a stake in Caracas, with the oldest member being in the Church only seven years.  I am sure it is evident to everyone that much training and assistance must be given to this kind of organization in these developing areas.

For the administration of ecclesiastical affairs, the world has been divided into areas presided over by Executive Administrators.  Twelve of these areas are outside of the United States and Canada.  All Executive Administrators are members of the First Quorum of the Seventy, and outside of the United States and Canada are assigned to live within their area.

To assist them in their administration, we have Regional Representatives, who are experienced, qualified men chosen from or living as near to the region as possible.  Each Regional Representative works with several stakes and missions.  This makes it possible for the leaders in the stakes and missions to be in close contact regularly with the Executive Administrators through the Regional Representatives, rather than to have to deal directly with headquarters in Salt Lake City, which would take much more time.

In order to administer temporal affairs outside the United States and Canada, there are directors for temporal affairs, who, under the direction of the Presiding Bishopric, supervise these matters in the areas where they are assigned to live.  Again, this makes it possible for the local people to get immediate attention for their problems, and provides proper training in all areas of administration.  The Executive Administrators and the directors for temporal affairs carefully cooperate and correlate their activities through meeting regularly.

In general, all these matters are under the direction of the First Presidency.  Specifically, in regularly scheduled meetings, the First Presidency meet every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday at 8 a.m. with a secretary who makes a complete record of all procedures.  These discussions include the correspondence which has been addressed to the First Presidency–which contains almost everything from questions about pierced ears to appeals from decisions of excommunication by the stake presidency and high council.  There are questions about dress and grooming standards, hypnotism, Sabbath observance, scripture interpretation, sensitivity training, sealing, complaints against the local officers, reincarnation, donation of body parts to science or to others, cremation, transplants, legal matters, ad infinitum.

Their decisions also involve the selection of new temple presidencies, when and where new temples should be built, and other matters to be discussed when meeting with the Council of the Twelve Apostles and with the Presiding Bishopric.  They also plan solemn assemblies and area conferences held throughout the world.

Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. they meet with the Expenditures Committee, which is made up of the First Presidency, four members of the Twelve, and the Presiding Bishopric.  This is where heads of different departments present their expenditure requirements for consideration, and allocations are made.  Examples include requests by the Physical Facilities Department for acquisition of lands and of buildings such as stake or ward houses, mission homes, visitors centers, and so on, and discussions of the costs of maintenance.  Also, the Presiding Bishopric presents requests for expenditures involving welfare projects.

Wednesday First Presidency meetings are used for hearing reports from heads of different departments that come directly under the First Presidency, such as the Historical, Personnel, and Public Communications departments.  Appointments for important visitors are also scheduled for Wednesday mornings where possible.  I am always impressed by the influence the President of the Church has on these visitors as we receive direct and indirect feedback through correspondence or verbal reports.

Once a month on Wednesdays the First Presidency meets with the Combined Church Board or Education and Board of Trustees to deal with all matters affecting universities and colleges, institutes and seminaries, and other Church schools.  Also, on one Wednesday each month they meet with the Coordinating Council, which is composed of the First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve, and Presiding Bishopric.  Here they discuss and decide on policies, procedures, and questions of administration to see that all divisions of responsibility are properly clarified and coordinated.  Following this, they meet with the Welfare Services Committee, as mentioned previously.

On Thursday mornings at 10 a.m. they join with the Council of the Twelve in the upper room of the Temple, where the Twelve have been convened since 8 a.m.  It is in this room that the leadership of the Church has been directed by the Lord since the temple was completed.  Here one experiences a special spiritual feeling, and at times senses the presence of some of these great leaders who have gone on before.  Portraits of the twelve Presidents of the Church, and also of Hyrum, the Patriarch, hang on the walls.  There are also paintings of the Savior at the Sea of Galilee where he called some of his apostles, and others portraying his crucifixion and his ascension.  Here we are reminded of the many great leaders who have sat in this council room, and under the direction of the Lord great decisions were made.

As the First Presidency enters this room at ten o’clock on Thursday mornings, we shake hands with all members of the Twelve, then change to our temple robes.  We sing, kneel in prayer, and then join in a prayer circle at the altar, after which we change to our street clothes.

After discussing the minutes of the previous meeting, we consider such matters as the following: approval of changes in bishoprics as recommended by stake presidents–previously discussed in the meeting of the Twelve (you might be interested in knowing that during 1977 we approved an average of twenty-five to thirty new bishops every week); changes in stake, ward, mission, and temple organizations throughout the Church, including boundaries and officers; officers and administration of auxiliary organizations; matters brought in by the heads of different departments; and our reports of stake conferences and other activities during the week, such as funerals, speaking engagements, and so forth.  It is in this body that any change in administration or policy is considered and approved, and it then becomes the official policy of the church.  Let me relate an experience regarding these discussions.

I remember so well when a matter was being discussed where different members of the Twelve had differing views and expressed them freely.  When President McKay summed up the discussion and said, ‘This is what I think we should do,’ I turned to the brother next to me and said:

Isn’t it wonderful to see how he always comes up with the right answer, and we all seem to feel that it is the right answer?

My colleague turned to me and said,

You are listening to a prophet of God.

This is how we know that any decision that is made becomes the unanimous decision of the group, regardless of the feeling of any member prior to the decision.

On the first Thursday of every month the First Presidency meets with all the General Authorities–the members of the Twelve, the Seventy, and the Presiding Bishopric.  In this meeting all are advised of any changes in programs or procedures and instructed in their duties or responsibilities.  The President calls on members to bear their testimonies, after which we all dress in our temple clothes, partake of the sacrament, and have a prayer circle with all members present participating.  At the conclusion of the prayer all, other than the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, are dismissed, and those remaining change to their street clothes and carry on with the regular business of the Thursday meetings.  A recording secretary makes a report of all that is said and done.

Following each Thursday meeting the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve have lunch in a room assigned for that purpose.  In this room we have a lovely picture of the Last Supper.  This is a period of relaxation, and in conversation we exchange experiences and discuss matters of common interest.  I could tell you some interesting discussions if I had time.  Friday at 9 a.m. the Presiding Bishopric meets with the First Presidency to give reports and discuss matters affecting the administration.

As you know, the Church has business corporations–such as Bonneville International Corporation, Beneficial Life Insurance Company, Hotel Utah, Zions Securities Corporation, Deseret News, and Deseret Mutual Benefit Association–operating in the interests of the Church and giving service to the public.  And there are some extensive farm and ranch holdings.

Some people have the erroneous idea that the Church pays no taxes.  I would like to correct that impression and say that all Church-owned corporations pay taxes at the same rate as any other comparable business corporation.

We hope and pray always–every day–that the Church is being properly administered by those who are placed in these responsible positions–the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve, the First Quorum of the Seventy, and the Presiding Bishopric–and that the local officers may also be so blessed and directed.  I bear testimony that the Church is directed by the Lord himself through a prophet of God, and pray humbly that we may all appreciate that, appreciate our membership in the Church, and strive diligently to prepare ourselves for eternal life.  In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”  (N. Eldon Tanner, 6 Oct., 1979; CR Oct., 1979, pp. 61-70)

Nov.:  Revision of Church Courts section.

The name of the section was changed from “Church Courts” to “The Church Judicial System.”  (General Handbook of Instructions, 1976, #21, Supplement, “The Church Judicial System,” Nov., 1979; p. 1)

Nov.:  Some sins require court action for repentance.

“Certain transgressions of Church members are serious enough that repentance can be brought about only by proper Church discipline carried out under the inspiration of the Lord through an established judicial system administered by the priesthood.”  (General Handbook of Instructions, 1976, #21, Supplement, “The Church Judicial System,” Nov., 1979; p. 1)

Nov.:  Bishops cannot ignore serious transgressions.

“Bishops and stake presidents are judges of members’ worthiness for all Church privileges.  The purpose of everything a bishop or stake president does should be to strengthen individuals in their quests for exaltation.  Thus, no bishop or stake president can ignore serious transgressions or which he has knowledge or evidence.  He has the solemn duty not only to keep the Church unspotted from the sins of the world, but also to help individuals to repent.”  (General Handbook of Instructions, 1976, #21, Supplement, “The Church Judicial System,” Nov., 1979; p. 1)

Nov.:  “Probation.”

“When certain transgressions are confessed, the bishop or stake president may choose to restrict the member’s privileges temporarily.  Such a temporary restriction may be part of a private, but official probation.  Probation without a Church court is a form of official Church discipline that can help a member repent.”  (General Handbook of Instructions, 1976, #21, Supplement, “The Church Judicial System,” Nov., 1979; p. 1)

Nov.:  Causes for convening church courts.

“Church courts may be convened to consider–

1. Open opposition to and deliberate violation of the rules and regulations of the Church (including associating with apostate cults or advocating their doctrines).

2. Un-Christianlike conduct.

3. Serious transgressions, including adultery, fornication, abortion, homosexuality, lesbianism, incest, child-molesting, cruelty to spouse or children, theft, misuse or embezzlement of Church funds, misuse of other people’s funds, and any other serious infraction of the moral code.

Church courts must be convened with a serious transgression has been committed and one of the following circumstances exists:

1. At the time of the transgression the transgressor held a prominent position of responsibility in the Church:  Regional Representative, mission president, temple president, patriarch, stake president, stake president’s counselor, high councilor, bishop, bishop’s counselor, or full-time missionary.

2. The transgressor is guilty of murder.

3. The transgression is widely known.

4. The transgressor poses a serious threat to other Church members.

5. The transgression is part of a pattern of repeated serious wrongdoing, especially if prior sins have already been confessed to priesthood authorities.

6. The Spirit so directs.

Church courts should not be convened merely because a member is totally inactive unless he (1) is influencing others toward apostasy or (2) makes a written request (not a form letter) at his own initiative for excommunication and patient efforts to dissuade him are unsuccessful.  A request that representatives of the Church not visit the member is not a reason for excommunication.

A court should not be convened for a Church member who attends another church unless he has joined another church, or an apostate cult is involved.  However, if a Church member joins another church, he should be cited and brought to a Church court to be tried for his membership.  [New ruling.]  The spouse of a nonmember or an inactive member should not be brought before a Church court simply because the nonmenber or inactive spouse refuses to permit Church activity.

When parents request in writing that the names of their baptized minor children be removed from Church records, the bishop should refer the matter to the Office of the First Presidency with a letter stating the circumstances, including the feelings of the children.  The bihsop should take no action until he receives direction from the First Presidency.  The age of majority is determined by local laws.

A bishop may grant the request of parents that the names of their unbaptized minor children be removed from Church records if the request is initiated by the parents and patient efforts to dissuade them are unsuccessful.  If action is taken, the membership records are marked ‘Cancelled’ and sent to the Office of the First Presidency.

Civil disputes among Church members usually do not require Church court proceedings.  Members should settle their disputes peacefully.  If Church leaders are asked to help, they should act as unofficial, private advisers and should not involve the Church.  If a dispute involves an accusation that a member has committed acts that would justify action against his membership, the case should be treated as any other accusation of transgression.  When members have disagreements, Church leaders must never allow anyone to use the threat of a Church court as a form of harassment.

When members of the Church are tried in civil or criminal courts of the land for serious transgressions, no action against such members need be taken in Church courts until a final judgment has been rendered in the criminal action.

Conviction of a member by a criminal court does not automatically require action by a Church court.  However, the bishop or stake president should weigh the matter carefully and base his decision on the seriousness of the offense.  For example, a member of the Church found guilty of murder should be excommunicated.  The term murder as used in the Church refers to the deliberate and unnecessary taking of human life.  If the circumstances show that the death was caused by carelessness, self-defense, defense of others, or other mitigating factors, it may not necessarily be classed as murder and should be dealt with as the facts dictate.  This is particularly so in time of war.

Incest is an extremely serious transgression because it violates the sacred family relationship.  The term incest refers to sexual relations between a parent and a natural, adopted, or foster child.  A parent who commits this sin must be handled in a Church court.  The penalty for incest is mandatory excommunication.  If local priesthood leaders are confronted with unusual circumstances concerning incest, they may write to the Office of the First Presidency for further counsel.

Abortion is a most serious transgression, but it is not necessarily considered to be murder.  Priesthood leaders should carefully review the circumstances of members involved in abortions to determine whether or not to bring them before a Church court.  Except in those cases where the life or health of the mother is at stake, or where the pregnancy has resulted from forcible rape, those who engage in abortions should be brought before a Church court where the facts can be weighed.  Questions on difficult cases can be forwarded by local priesthood leaders to the Office of the First Presidency.

Church leaders should deal carefully with young, unmarried Church members who have been involved in moral transgressions, but who manifest a sincere spirit of repentance and forsake their sins.  Too severe action may not promote their eternal welfare, nor the good of the Church.  Church leaders shouild always consider the maturity of these young people, their future lives, and the effect on them of undesirable publicity.  Since consistency is important in Church discipline, it is appropriate, where a transgression involves young people of different wards or stakes, for the priesthood leaders to consult with each other.

Members who are attracted by apostate teachings, especially those of persons or groups advocating plural marriage, should receive immediate attention.  Those who openly oppose the Church or persist in teaching false doctrine may be called before a Church court.

When a member voluntarily confesses a serious transgression committed in the past and his conduct in the intervening years demonstrates full repentance, a Church court need not be convened in most instances.  Repentance and reformation of life are the primary objectives of Church courts.

If a recent sin is serious enough to warrant court action, the member must be told that confession is part of repentance, but that the confession may not remove the need for a court.

Before deciding whether to convene a Church court, the bishop or stake president should privately interview the member who is suspected of serious transgression.  If apprached properly, the member may acknowledge the truth of the accusation and ask for help.  If the member admits the accusation, the bishop or stake president may or may not need to convene a court, depending upon the seriousness of the transgression and the repentnt attitude of the member.  An admission of guilt after being accused may indicate a less repentant attitude than a voluntary confession.  Nonetheless, a person who admits guilt shows greater repentance than one who tries to deceive the bishop and later admits guilt only when confronted with evidence.

If a member denies an accusation, but the bishop or stake president has reliable evidence supporting the accusation, the bishop or stake president should conduct an investigation to obtain further evidence.  Two reliable Melchizedek Priesthood holders may be asked to investigate the matter.  They should be instructed not to use questionable methods.  For example, electronic surveillance devices, hidden cameras or tape recorders, or telephone ‘buggings’ must not be used; nor is it appropriate for Church leaders to hide around members’ homes.  Such methods could subject the Church and local priesthood leaders to legal action in civil courts.

If a bishop or stake president becomes aware of individuals outside his ward of stake who are involved in transgressions, he should confidentiallyi inform the Church leaders of those implicated.

When a bishop is investigating serious transgressions, he should consult with his stake president before convening a bishop’s court.  The stake president may choose to take original jurisdiction in some matters and convene a high council court.”  (General Handbook of Instructions, 1976, #21, Supplement, “The Church Judicial System,” Nov., 1979; pp. 1-2)

Nov.:  When to defer to a High Council court.

“A bishop’s court may disfellowship any member over whom it has jurisdiction and may excommunicate any member in its jurisdiction except a bearer of the Melchizedek Priesthood.  If excommunication of a Melchizedek Priesthood holder appears likely, the matter generally should be referred to the stake president for a high council court.”  (General Handbook of Instructions, 1976, #21, Supplement, “The Church Judicial System,” Nov., 1979; p. 3)

Nov.:  Branch courts/Elders’ courts.

“Other Church courts that can be convened to take official disciplinary action are branch president’s courts in stakes and elders’ courts in missions.

The president of an independent branch in a stake may conduct a court if the stake president so directs.  These courts follow the same procedures and are subject to the same limitations that govern a bishop’s court.

In a mission the mission president determines whether to convene a court for a member of the mission.  The mission president normally presides over such a court and is assisted by two holders of the Melchizedek Priesthood.  When time and distances prevent the mission president from presiding, he may create a special elders’ court for a specific case.  An elders’ court consists of three brethren who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood.  A branch president may be appointed as the presiding officer or as a member of such a court, or he and his counselors may constitute the court, acting as bishoprics do in such cases.  The court is conducted according to the procedures governing a bishop’s court.  However, an elders’ court in a mission does have the authority to excommunicate any member in its jurisdiction.

A full-time missionary guilty of immoral conduct while in the mission field should be dealt with as directed by the Missionary Department.  If the Missionary Department directs the mission president to try such a missionary, the mission president and two Melchizedek Priesthood bearers should conduct the trial according to the procedures governing a bishop’s court, with the additional authority to excommunicate.

If a serious transgression committed by a full-time missionary does not become known until after he has returned home, his stake president should assume jurisdiction.  Careful consideration must be given to such matters, and appropriate action should be taken consistent with the policies of the Church.”  (General Handbook of Instructions, 1976, #21, Supplement, “The Church Judicial System,” Nov., 1979; p. 3)

Nov.:  Disqualifying oneself from serving on court.

“If any court member cannot be objective about the accused, the presiding officer should invite him to withdraw and should appoint a qualified high priest as a substitute.  If a bishop is unable to act impartially, he should inform the stake president so that the high council court can assume original jurisdiction.

Since a stake president must always preside over a high council court, if the stake president feels that he cannot be impartial and should withdraw from a court proceeding, he should contact the Office of the First Presidency for instructions.”  (General Handbook of Instructions, 1976, #21, Supplement, “The Church Judicial System,” Nov., 1979; p. 5)

Nov.:  Bishop’s decision needn’t be sustained unanimously.

“Members of the [bishop’s] court should consider all evidence presented in the case, and the bishop should analyze and summarize the case.  If further time is needed for consideration, the court may be adjourned until a specified later date.  Otherwise the bishop should obtain the counsel of the other court members, and together they should seek the inspiration of the Lord through prayer.  The bishop, who has familiarized himself with the possible decisions, should announce his decision to the court and ask for a sustaining vote.  The decision should be sustained by the court members unless they feel that the decision creates a serious injustice.  A decision need not be sustained unanimously to be valid.  The bishop is the judge.  Any differences of opinion should be resolved, if possible, and must be kept confidential.”  (General Handbook of Instructions, 1976, #21, Supplement, “The Church Judicial System,” Nov., 1979; p. 5)

Nov.:  Bishop should outline terms of reentry.

“If the accused has been disfellowshipped or excommunicated, the bishop should outline how readmission may be obtained.  In a spirit of love, the bishop should urge the individual to strive for full repentance and seek readmission to the Church.  If appropriate, the bishop may arrange subsequent meetings to help the person repent and be readmitted.”  (General Handbook of Instructions, 1976, #21, Supplement, “The Church Judicial System,” Nov., 1979; p. 6)

Nov.:  High Council court should seek unanimous consent.

“The stake presidency should withdraw from the courtroom and confer in private.  After consultation and prayer, the stake president makes a decision and asks his counselors to sustain it.  The stake presidency returns to the courtroom, and announces the decision to the high council.  The high councilors are called upon as a group to sustain the decision of the stake president.  The decision is binding even if it is not sustained unanimously.  However, if one or more high councilors object to the decision, the stake president should make every effort to obtain a unanimous vote.  If necessary, the evidence may again be reviewed by the council, but not in the presence of the accused.  Witnesses may be recalled for further questioning if necessary.  The high council does not, however, have the power to veto the decision of the stake president.”  (General Handbook of Instructions, 1976, #21, Supplement, “The Church Judicial System,” Nov., 1979; p. 6)

Nov.:  Stake president should give terms of readmission.

“When the high council has sustained the decision to the satisfaction of the stake president, the accused member is brought back to the courtroom, and the decision is announced.  The stake president should speak with love and concern, and in the case of disfellowshipment or excommunication he should emphasize the terms of readmission.  The right of appeal should also be explained.”  (General Handbook of Instructions, 1976, #21, Supplement, “The Church Judicial System,” Nov., 1979; p. 6)

Nov.:  Decisions that can be reached by Church Courts.

“When a Church court has been convened, the following decisions are possible:  exoneration, probation, disfellowshipment, or excommunication.


A court may conclude that no action should be taken, even if a transgression has been committed.


As stated in the section entitled ‘Nature and Purpose of the Church Judicial System,’ probation without a Church court is a form of discipline which bishops or stake presidents can impose in order to help a member repent.  However, those who are placed on probation should understand that if they fail to repent during the probationary period the matter can still be brought before a Church court.

Also, there may be an occasional proceding where the presiding officer feels that the evidence presented does not seem to justify disfellowshipment, but it also does not warrant exoneration.  In such cases probation may be considered.  Probation is not an appropriate decision if the court suspects guilt but sufficient evidence is not available.  In such cases the court should be adjourned temporarily so that either more evidence can be obtained or the accused can be exonerated.

If a person who is on probation moves from the ward or stake where the penalty was imposed, his membership record should be handled in the same manner as for those who have been disfellowshipped.


Disfellowshipment is a less severe form of discipline than excommunication.

A person who is disfellowshipped is not entitled to speak or offer a public prayer in any meeting of the Church or otherwise take part.  He is, however, entitled to attend Church meetings other than priesthood meetings.  He may not attend any meeting of Church officers and is not allowed to participate when names of such officers are presented for a sustaining vote.  He may not partake of the sacrament, hold a temple recommend, hold any Church position, or exercise the priesthood in any way.

While disfellowshipped, the member is encouraged to attend public meetings of the Church, to pay tithes and offerings, to continue to wear temple garments (if endowed) and to seek for a return to fellowship in the Church through sincere repentance and righteous living.

Disfellowshipment is usually a temporary, but not always a brief, term during which the member is expected to fulfill all requirements imposed on him by the court.  If he repents and satisfies the conditions imposed by the court, he is brought back into full fellowship.  If he does not repent, he may be considered for excommunication.


A person who is excommunicated is no longer a member of the Church.  As long as he is out of the Church, all privileges of membership are denied, including the wearing of temple garments and the payment of tithing and other contributions.  However, excommunicated individuals may deposit such funds privately for payment when they are again baptized, if they so desire.

In general, an excommunicated person is treated as any other nonmember.  He is not entitled to speak or offer a public prayer, partake of the sacrament, sustain or vote against Church officers, attend priesthood meetings, hold a temple recommend, hold any office in the Church, or attend any meeting of Church officers.  Excommunicated persons may, however, attend sacrament meetings, auxiliary meetings, and public conference sessions, if their conduct is orderly, but they may not take any active part in such meetings.

An excommunicated person should be encouraged to repent and live the gospel standards to prepare himself for baptism. In cases of murder, however, no readmission to the Church is possible.”  (General Handbook of Instructions, 1976, #21, Supplement, “The Church Judicial System,” Nov., 1979; pp. 6-7)

Nov.:  Modifications in announcement of penalties.

“If the excommunication was in response to the individual’s request, the announcement should indicate that fact to avoid the implication of any moral transgression.

In unusual cases an announcement of exoneration by a Church court may be necessary to dispel rumors.”  (General Handbook of Instructions, 1976, #21, Supplement, “The Church Judicial System,” Nov., 1979; p. 7)

Nov.:  Reinstatement of disfellowshipped members.

“Reinstatement of a disfellowshipped member depends upon evidence of sincere repentance, full compliance with the conditions imposed by the court, and the passage of enough time to demonstrate worthiness.  There is no specified period of time for a disfellowshipped person to prove his repentance, but it would be exceptional to consider this in less than a year since too short a time may not accomplish the desired repentance.

. . . .

If the disfellowshipped member has moved from the geographical area of the court that imposed the penalty, or if the ward or stake has been divided, his current presiding officer should refer the matter back to the court of original jurisdiction.”  (General Handbook of Instructions, 1976, #21, Supplement, “The Church Judicial System,” Nov., 1979; pp. 8-9)

Rebaptisms requiring 1st Presidency approval.

“If the court recommends [re]baptism, the applicant may be baptized unless he was excommunicated sfor one of the following reasons:

1. Advocating or teaching the doctrines of apostate sects that practice plural marriage, or affiliating with such groups.

2. Commission of a serious transgression while serving in a prominent Church position such as Regional Representative, mission president, temple president, patriarch, stake president, stake president’s counselor, high counselor, bishop, bishop’s counselor, or full-time missionary.

3. Incest.

4. Misuse of Church funds.

In these instances, the recommendation must be forwarded to the Office of the First Presidency.  Approval for baptism will be given only after a Genearl Authority authorized to act by the President of the Church has interviewed the applicant.  A baptism performed without receiving approval is invalid.”  (General Handbook of Instructions, 1976, #21, Supplement, “The Church Judicial System,” Nov., 1979; p. 9)

Nov.:  Restoration of blessings now by any GA.

“Excommunicated persons who have been baptized and who were previously endowed can only receive their priesthood and temple blessings through the ordinance of restoration of blessings performed by a General Authority who has been authorized to act by the President of the Church.”  [GHI-1976 said it had to be 1st Presidency or 12.]  (General Handbook of Instructions, 1976, #21, Supplement, “The Church Judicial System,” Nov., 1979; p. 10)