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The LDS Restorationist movement,
including the Mormon churches

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints: Its holy texts & organization structure


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Mormon religious texts:

The LDS Church, and most other LDS Restorationist sects and denominations, recognize four source texts as divinely inspired and authoritative scripture. These are called the "Standard Works":

  • The Hebrew and Christian scriptures (a.k.a. Old and New Testaments) as the authors originally wrote them, in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. These are referred to as the autograph version.
     
  • The Book of Mormon, as Mormons believe was translated from the original golden plates given to Joseph Smith by an angel and published in 1830. It was translated into Danish in 1851. Currently, the full book has been translated into 72 languages; parts of it have been printed in an additional 32 languages. 1 About 129 million copies have been published. About 4.6 million copies were distributed in 2005. 2


  • Doctrine and Covenants is composed of:
    • A group of 138 revelations from God. 135 were recorded by Joseph Smith, one was added by each of: John Taylor, Brigham Young, and Joseph F. Smith -- church leaders who followed Joseph Smith.
    • Two "official declarations" which are more recent revelations. One was added in 1890 and suspend polygyny at least temporarily. The other was added in 1978 granting equal rights to individuals with black ancestry in the Church.

  • The Pearl of Great Price, which is composed of:
    • Two lost books of the Bible: the Book of Moses and the Book of Abraham
    • A translation of the Gospel of Matthew
    • Joseph Smith's history
    • The Mormon 13 Articles of Faith. 3

However, the church recognizes that errors have crept into the copying of the Bible in ancient times, and that additional errors have been caused by faulty translation of the Bible into English from the original three languages. In cases of conflict between the Bible and the remaining inspired texts, the latter are judged to be authoritative. 

In addition, the following books are considered to contain material of great historical and spiritual significance. They are not canonized as scripture:

  • History of the Church: Seven volumes mostly written at the time of Joseph Smith. They document the early history of the church.
  • Journal of Discourses: Twenty six volumes from past General Authorities, who were close associates of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.
  • Lectures on Faith: Seven lectures prepared by Joseph Smith and delivered in the 'School of the Prophets.' They discuss theology, the nature of God and the principles of faith.
  • The Inspired Translation of the Bible: a revision of the King James Version of the Bible by Joseph Smith.
  • Other writings, such as conference reports, collected writings of modern prophets, etc.

Like most non-Catholic Christian denominations, the LDS does not consider the Apocrypha to be important religious texts.


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LDS Organizational structure:

The church has an hierarchical organization:

  • The "family" level is composed of a husband, wife and children; the husband is considered the head of the family; the wife is intended to be the primary care giver; both share authority over the children.
  • Next are the "wards" or "branches" which correspond to parishes in Roman Catholicism and the Anglican Communion. Each is each headed by a male bishop (equivalent of a pastor or priest). Within the Ward there are:
    • The Aaronic Priesthood. This is attained by most Mormon males; women are excluded. This order is composed of deacons who pass the Sacrament, teachers who prepare the sacrament and priests who administer the blessing of the Sacrament. They must adhere to certain ordinances directed by the Melchizedek Priesthood and Bishop and through the Authorities of the Church.
    • The Melchizedek Priesthood. This is a second order of priesthood, attained by some members of the Aaronic Priesthood.
    • The Relief Society, consisting of females only.
    • Church groups for children.

    Over the past three decades, there has been an enormous growth in new LDS wards worldwide, In the late 1970s, over 1,600 new wards were creating. Between that year and the end of the 20th century, there were about 400 or more new wards organized each year. Recently, this has dropped considerably -- only 59 during 2002 and 94 during 2003. There are currently on the order of 26,000 wards and branches within the LDS. 4.5

  • Next are the "stakes" which correspond to Catholic and Anglican dioceses, Each is headed by a male president, and has control over several wards. A Stake President presides over each stake. The number of new stakes has followed the same trend as the creation of new wards. In 2002, there was even a reduction in the number of stakes. There are currently about 2,600 stakes in the LDS.
  • Next are Area Authorities, each responsible for a group of stakes.
  • Then there are the 1st and 2nd Quorum of Seventies, called General Authorities. They are responsible for Missions, Temples and church programs etc.
  • Then the Quorum of the Twelve: the Apostles.
  • Finally, there is the First Presidency which consists of the President (Prophet) and two counselors. Gordon B Hinckley had been the Prophet for over 12 years until his death in late 2008-JAN. Following the long-standing Mormon tradition, the longest serving apostle, Thomas S. Monson, became the new president.

Women have, so far, not been included in this chain of command. They control the Relief Society, which is a hierarchical organization - a mirror of the Priesthood governing body, from the ward right to the General level. They are also active in other auxiliary organizations, such as the Primary, Sunday School or Young Women. Men are not allowed to teach in Young Women, the primary (under 12 years of age) religion classes and the Relief Society. Women can teach anywhere except in the priesthood and the Young Men organization.

New members are often nominated to vacant positions. Sometimes they are nominated to an occupied position where they might be a better fit for the task. The church membership confirms their selection at ward meetings, stake conferences, or general conferences without public debate.


References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "The Ensign," the official magazine of the LDS Church, 2004-SEP, Page 75.
  2. "Key Facts and Figures," LDS, at: http://www.lds.org/
  3. The text of The Pearl of Great Price is online at http://scriptures.lds.org/pgp/contents
  4. "Trends in LDS Church Growth," The Cumorah Project, at: http://www.cumorah.con/trends.doc
  5. Rachel Woods, "LDS FAQs," About.com at: http://lds.about.com/

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Copyright 1995 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update and review: 2008-NOV-09
Author: B.A. Robinson

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