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by W. John Walsh

The term Clergy generally refers to “the group or body of ordained persons in a religion, as distinguished from the laity.”[1]  Since Latter-day Saints have lay or non-professional priesthood leadership, they do not use this term.  (See Lay Leadership and Participation)


Instead, all worthy male members of the Church starting at the age of twelve are ordained to the priesthood.[2]  (See Priesthood Organization home page)  The presiding member of an LDS congregation is designated as either a Bishop or a Branch President.  Bishops typically preside over congregations with approximately 300 members called Wards.  Branch Presidents typically preside over congregations with less than approximately 300 members called Branches.  Bishops and Branch Presidents usually serve for several years in their callings, while maintaining their normal employment, and are then released and replaced by another member of the congregation. 


Latter-day Saints have historically had negative feelings about professional clergy of other religions because of their sponsorship of religious persecution against the Church.  The mob that murdered Joseph and Hyrum Smith was led by a Protestant minister.[3]  Likewise, many of the other atrocities committed against Latter-day Saints have historically been inspired by the clergy of other religions and denominations. 


Even today, clergy of other religions continue to sponsor religious persecution against Latter-day Saints.  This persecution usually takes a wide variety of forms.  A few examples include:  Clergy of various faiths have tried to prevent the building of LDS chapels and temples in an attempt to stop Latter-day Saints from having a place to worship in their communities.[4]  They have tried to bar LDS missionaries from countries denominated by their respective faiths in an attempt to curtail the religious freedom of people living in those countries.[5]  Similar to the Nazi propaganda efforts against the Jews, clergy frequently print and distribute false and salacious material about the Church. [6]  While violence was not as common in the 20th century as it was in the 19th century, Latter-day Saints chapels are sometimes targets of arson and vandalism and Latter-day Saints are still occasionally beaten or killed for their religious beliefs.[7] 


Despite this religious persecution and their exclusionary view of religious authority, Latter-day Saints have always tried to work with other religious groups for the uplifting and betterment of society. (See Tolerance)

(See Daily Living home page; Interfaith Relations home page)

[1] Random House Webster’s College Dictionary, McGraw-Hill Edition, 1991.


[2] Widtsoe, J., Priesthood and Church Government, Salt Lake City, Utah:  Deseret Book Co., 1939, p. 329.


[3] Roberts, B., New Witnesses for God, Vol.1, p. 217.


[4] For example, Fundamentalist Protestant groups often show up at zoning hearings to voice opposition to new LDS buildings in their community.


[5] For example, LDS missionaries are barred from entering Muslim dominated countries or Israel, due to laws inspired by Muslim and Orthodox Jewish clerics.


[6] For example, busloads of Protestants always travel to every LDS public religious event and pass out pamphlets to any passersby containing gross misrepresentations of our beliefs.  The Watchman Fellowship, one of the many Fundamentalist Protestant groups performing this activity, reports on their activities as follows:  Over the years, Watchman missionaries have traveled to the openings of several LDS Temples. These would include Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago, Denver and as recent as last December, the Las Vegas, Nevada Temple.  At these Temple openings the Mormon Church allows the curious to tour the new Temple. Hundreds of thousands tour these Temples and receive literature from the Mormon Church explaining why the "Mormon Church is Christian" and why you, too, should join.  It is the objective of Watchman Fellowship to give the alternative view. Watchman missionaries stand outside the gates of the newly opened LDS Temple, distributing Christian tracts that explain the unChristian doctrines of the Mormon Church and the many false prophecies of the LDS Prophets.  To the new Christian, the uneducated Christian or the unchurched, this is sometimes (according to letters Watchman Fellowship has received from those who have gone through the Temple) the only thing that kept them from joining the LDS Church.  Because the temples are only open an average of three weeks prior to their dedication, and because this is the only time non-LDS and over 90 percent of the Mormons can gain entrance to the temples, Watchman missionaries always pray for terrible weather!  If the weather is awful, the crowds will stay home and fewer will be effected by the Mormon Church. While this is bad for the Christians who stand outside the Temple gates in a driving rain storm, it is a fair trade. We will take a case of the "sniffles" any day to keep a few more people out of the LDS Church….[Days of 47 Parade] This parade is held yearly in commemoration of the Mormon pioneers who arrived in Utah in 1847. The streets of Salt Lake City are jammed with LDS youth who spend the night before on the streets "staking-out" a prime spot for the rest of the family to watch the parade the next day.  The teen-agers cannot move from their posts unless they want to take a chance on losing their chosen vantage point. Thus for the evening we have a "captive audience" while we spend the night talking to them and giving them Christian literature. The next day, during the hours before the parade, the streets are crowded with spectators. They have nothing to do, so Watchman missionaries provide them with some Christian reading material.  Thousands of Special Watchman Expositors have been distributed in this manner. [Nauvoo's: City Of Joseph Pageant] The Mormons are simply more active in promoting their church by way of public gatherings than are most other cults. Every year, many of the Watchman missionaries travel to Nauvoo, Illinois to distribute tracts to the thousands of pageant goers each night. The material discusses specific historical events that the Mormons "inadvertently" fail to mention in their program. This helps the innocent onlooker to better understand the deceptive nature of this large and powerful cult. Because Nauvoo is so important in Mormon history, and because of its yearly City of Joseph pageant, Watchman Fellowship's Colleen Ralson directs the Nauvoo Christian Visitor's Center on a year-round basis. This provides a constant outreach in this strategic area…. (Taken from


[7]For example, Paul Goble of Radio Free Europe reported:  “On August 20th [2000], a Mormon 
congregation and a Jehovah's Witness  congregation were driven from their meeting places
[in Russia] in separate attacks, and two LDS missionaries from the US were threatened by the
attackers.”  These attacks were sponsored by the Russian Orthodox Church who has tried to 
outlaw other  Churches, including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in Russia.
 (Taken from

Copyright 2001 by All About Mormons

All About Mormons