Under the Law of Moses, the presiding officer of the Aaronic Priesthood was called the high priest. The office was hereditary and came through the firstborn among the family of Aaron, Aaron himself being the first high priest of the Aaronic order.
Ordination to the office of high priest generally occurs when a man is called to serve in a position that requires him to be a high priest. For instance, he may be called as a bishop, stake president, counselor to these men, as a member of the stake high council, or when determined by a stake president. It is the stake president who determines when a man should be ordained a high priest; he serves as president of the high priests quorum (each stake has one such quorum), with his counselors serve as counselors in the high priests quorum presidency.
Each stake has one high priests quorum, consisting of only those high priests currently serving in the stake presidency, in bishoprics, on the high council, and as functioning patriarchs. The stake presidency is the presidency of that quorum.
Until 2018, wards within the stake had a high priests group from whom a leader was called by the stake president. That group leader then selected two assistants, along with a secretary, who assisted him in managing the affairs of the group. During the Priesthood Session of the April 2018 General Conference, President Russell M. Nelson announced:
- Tonight we announce a significant restructuring of our Melchizedek Priesthood quorums to accomplish the work of the Lord more effectively. In each ward, the high priests and the elders will now be combined into one elders quorum. This adjustment will greatly enhance the capacity and the ability of men who bear the priesthood to serve others. Prospective elders will be welcomed in and fellowshipped by that quorum. In each stake, the stake presidency will continue to preside over the stake high priests quorum. . . .
- These modifications have been under study for many months. We have felt a pressing need to improve the way we care for our members and report our contacts with them. To do that better, we need to strengthen our priesthood quorums to give greater direction to the ministering of love and support that the Lord intends for His Saints.
- These adjustments are inspired of the Lord. As we implement them, we will be even more effective than we have ever been previously.