Thomas S. Monson is the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are sometimes casually referred to as Mormons. While Jesus Christ is at the head of the Church, President Monson leads the church as Christ’s earthly representative. In this role, he also serves as prophet, seer, and revelator. Assisting him in his work are two counselors. His first counselor is President Henry B. Eyring and his second counselor is President Dieter F. Uchtdorf. Together, they carry out the administration of the church, relying on revelation and inspiration to guide them.
“The supreme governing power of the Church is vested in the President with his counselors. The First Presidency preside over all councils, all quorums, and all organizations of the Church, with supreme appointing power and power of nomination. [See D&C 107:9] These powers of appointment, nomination, and presiding may be delegated by the First Presidency to others whom they may choose and whom the people sustain to represent the presidency in the government of the Church.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, “The First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve,” Improvement Era, Nov. 1966, pp. 977-78.)
The president of the church is not elected. Succession is done in an orderly fashion, with the most senior apostle becoming the new president and prophet. He then selects his own counselors, usually two, although some presidents have had more than two. They are collectively known as the First Presidency. The new president and his counselors are sustained in a special General Conference (held for the entire church twice a year and broadcast on television and the Internet). Although members of the church are asked to raise their hands, they are not voting. They are simply affirming their willingness to support the new leaders. Because Mormons understand the new leader is chosen by God, a member with a testimony will always choose to accept the new leader.
The church is a large and complex world-wide organization. The president of the church oversees all parts of the church, but specific aspects of the church are overseen by others under his direction. For instance, there is a women’s auxiliary called the Relief Society. The Relief Society has a large portion of the responsibility for the charitable needs of members, as well as the spiritual and temporal well-being of the women. They operate a literacy program, a week-night program of educational, service, and spiritual training, and religious education on Sundays. The world-wide Relief Society is overseen by a presidency consisting only of women. Local branches of this auxiliary are overseen by presidencies of their own.
The President of the Church has oversight for an extensive number of programs and concerns, as does any leader of a large organization. He delegates authority, but is ultimately responsible for the complete program. While it’s somewhat similar to running a large corporation, the job comes with far greater responsibility than that of running a for-profit corporation. He is using the Lord’s money and running the Lord’s church, and this comes with eternal consequences. In both his role as president, and his role as prophet, he is always aware of the need to follow God’s teachings and honor the name of the Savior.
The authority to operate as a presidency is given through priesthood keys. These are not physical keys, but represent authority. The president of the church holds all the keys and can delegate them out as needed. This authority has been handed down from the church that existed when the Savior was on the earth, as well as when the apostles ran the church after his death. After Jesus Christ was crucified, Peter became the president of the church, and James and John were his counselors. After their deaths, priesthood authority and prophecy were taken from the earth because so few honored it. This time of apostasy continued until Joseph Smith was called by God to become the first president and prophet of the restored church. During the restoration process, Peter, James, and John returned to earth as angels to bestow on Joseph the priesthood and the keys necessary to administer God’s church. When Joseph was murdered, the keys transferred to Brigham Young and have continued to be handed down from president to president. They are currently held by Thomas S. Monson.
The role of the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints operates hand-in-hand with that of the prophet. One man holds both positions and functions in both under the direct guidance of Jesus Christ.