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by Donovan E. Fleming
A high council is a body of twelve high priests who are called and set apart in each stake to assist and advise the stake presidency under whom they serve.
Following the organization of the Church, in 1830, the Prophet Joseph Smith served as the spiritual leader for the growing body of members. However, with the rapid growth in membership and a commitment to lay participation and leadership, it soon became evident that a more extensive governing structure would be required. The First Presidency was organized in 1832.
At a conference held in Kirtland, Ohio, on February 17, 1834, Joseph Smith established a standing stake high council composed of twelve high priests, with himself, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams comprising the First Presidency and also as the presidency of the Kirtland Stake. Later that year, a separate stake presidency and high council were organized in Missouri. They operated independent of the Kirtland council, except for cases that went from Missouri to Kirtland on appeal. These initial standing high councils became the prototype for future stake organizations as the Church continued to grow and expand. Following the organization in 1835 of the "traveling high council," or Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (D&C 107:33-36), stake high councils concerned themselves only with stake matters.
With continued Church growth, additional areas were organized into stakes under the direction of the First Presidency to provide a means of coordinating the spiritual activities of the local wards and branches. In each case, a three-member stake presidency, assisted by a twelve- member high council, was called to preside over the stake. Their authority was limited to the stake in which they functioned.
As in the Quorum (or Council) of the Twelve Apostles, a seniority system exists within a stake high council; as vacancies occur in the council, the stake presidency calls new members, and the oldest in term of service is recognized as the senior member.
Under the direction of the stake presidency, the high council has important executive, legislative, and judicial powers (see D&C 102). Members of the stake high council serve as advisers to the stake presidency on any matter about which the presidency might seek counsel, and they carry out specific assignments. For example, a high councilor may have an assignment to represent the stake presidency, to assist in the training of a new ward bishopric, to attend a ward's priesthood executive committee meetings and ward council meetings, or to train and advise ward Melchizedek Priesthood quorum leaders. He may be asked to report regularly to the stake presidency concerning the status of a particular ward. In addition, he may serve as a member of the stake Melchizedek Priesthood committee, which assists the stake presidency in installing, training, and advising Melchizedek Priesthood leaders. Other assignments that are generally given to a member of a high council include membership on the aaronic priesthood/Boy Scouting Committee; adviser to the stake young women organization; stake mission president; coordinator of stake welfare programs; coordinator for temple service and family history programs; stake emergency preparedness director, or other such administrative roles. A high councilor will usually also be assigned to speak periodically in ward Sacrament meetings under the direction of the stake presidency.
At regular meetings of the stake high council, the presidency presents matters of business to the council for its approval. Such matters may include endorsing an individual's name for an assignment in the stake organization, recommending a person as a potential ward bishop or counselor in a bishopric, or considering an individual for ordination to an office in the Melchizedek Priesthood. The stake president may also ask for discussion of particular issues, and high councilors may be asked to report on the status of their assignments.
As part of its judicial function, the high council serves as a disciplinary council when convened by the stake president to consider cases of serious transgression that affect the standing or fellowship of a Church member. Following the presentation of the facts of the case and due deliberation and prayer, a decision is rendered by the stake president and ratified by the stake high council (see Disciplinary Procedures).
(See Basic Beliefs home page; Church Organization and Priesthood Authority home page; Priesthood Organization home page)
Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 2, High Council
Copyright © 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company
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