First Presidency 

Summary

The presiding body of the church. From the day of the church’s organization on 6 April 1830, JS and Oliver Cowdery led the church in their capacity as elders.1 An 11 November 1831 revelation directed that “the duty of the president of the office of the high priesthood is to preside over the whole church.”2 JS was ordained to that office on 25 January 1832.3 A presidency of the church was first organized 8 March 1832 when JS ordained Jesse Gause and Sidney Rigdon as his counselors in the presidency of the high priesthood.4 Gause served only briefly, and by March 1833 Frederick G. Williams was appointed his successor.5 The term “first presidency of the church,” used first in 1835, did not become standard until 1838.6 The presidency consisted of a president (JS) and two or more counselors or assistant presidents. After standing high councils were organized in 1834 and the quorums of the Twelve Apostles and the Seventy were organized in February 1835, revelation indicated that those bodies were each nominally equal in authority to the presidency of the church, but the Seventy were to officiate under the direction of the Twelve and the Twelve under direction of the presidency.7 The presidency’s jurisdiction included the entire church, and they were to “preside in counsel and set in order all the affairs of this church,” whereas the jurisdiction of the Twelve and the Seventy was primarily outside Zion and its stakes, and the high councils were responsible for Zion and the stakes, respectively.8 For several months in 1835 and 1836 when Missouri church officers were visiting Kirtland, Ohio, while preparing for the solemn assembly in the House of the Lord, the Missouri church presidency were incorporated into the general church presidency in what was sometimes called a council, or quorum, of presidents.9 After the Missouri presidency’s departure from Kirtland, a 3 September 1837 conference sustained JS, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams as “the three first presidnts of the Church” and Oliver Cowdery, Joseph Smith Sr., Hyrum Smith, and John Smith as “assistant Councillors.” The minutes of the meeting explained, “These last four are allso, together with the first three to be concidered the heads of the Church.” By 7 November 1838 only the three members of the First Presidency were mentioned in official records as the presidency of the church.10

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