We believe that Jesus Christ, Himself, stands at the head of our Church. He leads, guides, directs and watches over it. But because His second coming has yet to occur, there is a gap between Him in the Heavens and us on Earth. To fill this gap, Jesus Christ has called prophets in modern days, the first of whom was Joseph Smith, Jr.
The man whom Mormons refer to as "the Prophet" changes for our Prophet is also the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Thus, during the time of Joseph Smith, he was "the Prophet;" during the time of Brigham Young, he was "the Prophet," and so it continues with each of their successors. Today, our Prophet’s name is Gordon B. Hinckley.
President Gordon B. Hinckley
The President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the presiding authority of the Church. He holds all the authority and power to lead, guide, and direct the Church as the agent of Jesus Christ. The President of the Church, in addition to being a Prophet is also a Seer, Revelator, and the Senior Apostle upon the Earth. And when the President of the Church passes away, the Apostle who has served in that capacity the longest will become the next president of the Church. The man next in line to become the President of the Church is Thomas S. Monson, who is currently serving as the first counselor to the President of the Church.
Serving with the President of the Church are two, more if needed, counselors, and the three of them constitute the Quorum of the First Presidency, which is the highest counsel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.. The counselors to the President of the Church, generally, are also Apostles, and they are prophets, seers, and revelators, too.
Next in authority to the Quorum of the First Presidency is the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. This is a council of twelve men who serve in the same capacity as Peter, James, John, Paul, Andrew, etc . . . did when they were upon the earth. An Apostle is a Special Witness of the Lord Jesus Christ and are prophets, seers, and revelators, too.
Below the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are the First and Second Quorums of the Seventy. Each Quorum can have up to seventy men. These men are also witnesses of Jesus Christ, but they are not prophets, seers, or revelators.
The First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and the First and Second Quorums of the Seventy are given general authority over the Church throughout the world.
Assisting these Quorums in specific areas of the world are the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Quorums of the Seventy. These Quorums do not have general authority over the Church. Rather, their authority is limited to the geographical regions where they serve.
Our Church has divided the Earth into several Areas. Each area is presided over by an Area President—either a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles or a member of the First or Second Quorums of the Seventy. Assisting each Area President are two counselors selected from one of the Quorums of the Seventy.
Each Area is divided into Stakes and Districts. I will talk about Districts in a moment to avoid confusion. A Stake is presided over by a President who is assisted by two counselors. This Stake Presidency is assisted by a High Council of twelve High Priests.
Each Stake is divided into Wards and Branches. These units are the local unit for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A Bishop presides over a ward while a Branch President presides over a branch. The difference between a Ward and a Branch is that Branches are only established in areas where there are few members of the Church.
Each Area is also divided is also divided into Missions. A Mission President presides over a mission and is assisted by two counselors. A Mission President has two responsibilities: First, preside over regions of the Church where Stakes have not been established and ,second, direct the work of Proselytizing which is carried out by full-time missionaries for the Church. To assist him in directing the work of Proselytizing, a Mission President calls two assistants from the number of full-time missionaries serving under him.
A Mission serves to support the various Stakes and Wards within its boundaries. Missionaries are assigned to serve within each Ward and Branch of the Stakes to assist the members of the Church in spreading the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. Moreover, in areas where there are insufficient members to create a Stake, a Mission establishes Mission Districts and Mission Branches. A Mission District resembles a Stake, and under the direction of the Mission President, a District President serves with two counselors. Assisting the District Presidency is a District Counsel consisting of up to twelve High Priests or Elders. A District is divided into Branches which are organized and run in the same way a Branch within a Stake is run.
Mission Branches are presided over by a Branch President but are not a division of a Stake or a District. Rather, they are merely a division of a Mission.