See also Leadership in the Church
Leadership within the Mormon Church is drawn from among the general membership. The Church has no formal clergy; there is no formal program of education or accreditation of clergy. In general, Mormons use a lay clergy, meaning that leadership is provided voluntarily by those called to service within the Church. The opportunity to serve in leadership positions is extensive, both in the number of people involved and the amount of service rendered.
Within the Church, assignments to serve are referred to as callings. Callings are issued by those in authority, and then the authority to serve in the calling is delegated to and conferred on the member. This type of lay leadership provides a broad base of support for Church programs and helps to quickly build the kingdom of God on earth.
The goal of many Church leaders is to make sure that each member has an opportunity to serve in a calling, reflecting the belief that personal growth comes through service. Millions of people serve in the Church, and that service represents a significant time commitment. In one study, researchers found that on average a bishop (the leader of a local congregation) spends approximately twenty-seven hours weekly in his duties. Others in leadership positions spend other amounts of time, and each does so voluntarily while still struggling with the regular hustle and bustle of life.
The Bible indicates that to serve in a priesthood office, a man must be called of God, as was Aaron (Hebrews 5:4). In the Mormon Church men and women are called in like manner, by prophecy and by the laying on of hands, to serve one another. No Church calling requires extensive formal training. For instance, the Lord outlined the requirements of service when speaking about missionary work: "Faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify [members] for the work" (Doctrine and Covenants 4:5).
Though leadership training is not provided in formal schools, there is training made available, and normally from a young age. Members are often given early and repeated opportunities to serve, which provides experience and training by working with others called to leadership positions. Beginning at age twelve, young men and women can serve as teachers for children or as members of class presidencies or of youth activities committees. In addition, teacher development courses are provided under the direction of the Sunday School organization. Manuals and handbooks have also been developed to outline the responsibilities of individuals serving in different organizations.
Lay participation in leadership positions helps benefit Church members in several ways. Mormons understand that part of the mission of the Church is to perfect the Saints, or to help members become as much like Christ as possible. As members have opportunities to serve, they have the opportunity to develop Christ-like attributes that are often necessary when dealing with others in their sphere of influence. In addition, members can develop a "sense of ownership" in doing the work of the Lord, rather than leaving such work to a professional clergy. Members who faithfully serve in leadership positions generally maintain a high level of commitment to the Church, in part because of their awareness that they are responsible for making a contribution. Serving in callings helps Church members develop or magnify their talents. Often, members are called to positions they consider beyond their abilities to fulfill. By serving anyway, they find they become more and more capable, often surprisingly so.
- "That which we persist in doing becomes easy to do, not that the nature of the task has changed, but that our capacity to do has increased." (Heber J. Grant, Improvement Era, 1936)
Latter-day scriptures encourage widespread participation, declaring that men and women "should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, [doing] many things of their own free will" (Doctrine and Covenants 58:27). King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon taught that "when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God" (Mosiah 2:17). The great Master, Jesus Christ, likewise stressed his role as servant, setting an example for others to follow. Mormons emphasize service, often through leadership positions, as a mode of worship and see it as a requirement for becoming like Christ. Successfully serving in leadership positions, freely available to all, helps develop the unity that distinguishes the people of God.