Despite a history stretching back nearly two hundred years, most people are unfamiliar with the LDS church. Popular culture stresses past doctrines such as polygamous marriage by depicting these practices in current television shows such as Sister Wives and Big Love. The real cultural, governmental and doctrinal beliefs and practices remain largely unknown to most people in the world despite a massive missionary effort that boasts over 50,000 fulltime volunteers. The LDS church has a hierarchical structure of governance. At the head of the church is an individual referred to as the President. This person is considered to be a prophet, seer and revelator. The current President of the LDS church is Thomas S. Monson. Assisting in church governance are the President’s two counselors and a group of twelve apostles. These men oversee various divisions of the church. Other bodies of church governance include quorums of the Seventy. These sis groups offer regional leadership. All of these individuals, from the Seventy, Apostles and First Presidency are considered General Authorities of the LDS Church. They are engaged in church governance as a full time occupation. Many are retired from successful careers, while the LDS church for their whole working lives has employed others. Below the general authorities are local leaders such as Stake Presidents and Bishops. These leaders are volunteers that receive no remuneration for their service. Hierarchical structures as a whole are on the wane in many large religions. Congregationalism is the term used to explain the decentralizing of a religion in an effort to keep it viable. The LDS church has resisted this trend in most aspects, but congregationalism is beginning to be a force in areas far from the central headquarters and traditional population center in the western United States (Phillips, 2008) Gender roles in the LDS church are rigidly defined. Women are expected to be the primary nurturers of children and are expected to support their husbands in their careers. Women working outside the home is a matter of contentious debate in some LDS communities. Past council has been given by General Authorities suggesting that women should be in the home raising children or volunteering in the community unless there is a dire financial need for their income in the family. Despite this council, many LDS women choose to have careers in a variety of professional capacities. The cohesion of the family unit is of primary importance in the LDS church. Recent studies suggest that LDS men view women working outside of the home as a threat to the family while LDS women were less likely to hold these views (Pedersen, 2005). Another striking difference in gender participation in the LDS church centers on church governance. All male members of the church that meet certain standards of worthiness as determined by their local leaders are considered members of the Priesthood. As a result, all leadership at the local level is held by laymen that have no formal training in theology or counseling. Priesthood membership is necessary to participate in church government or the holding of leadership positions that place a woman in a dominant position over a man. The absence of female Priesthood members means that church governance in the LDS church is completely dominated by male members of the church. Women do sit on local councils, and instructions have been given to male leaders to listen
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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is a Christian religious group that is more commonly referred to as the Mormon Church or the Latter-Day Saints (LDS). It is among the fastest growing churches in the world, with over 14 million members and congregations on every inhabited continent…
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