From The Encyclopedia of Mormonism
Author: Tingey, Sherman N.
All bearers of any given priesthood office in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are organized into priesthood quorums. A male member is ordained to a specific priesthood office when he receives the priesthood and may subsequently be ordained to other offices as he grows older and receives new Church callings.
STRUCTURE AND PURPOSE. In wards and branches where there are sufficient Aaronic Priesthood bearers, the young men twelve to eighteen are organized into three quorums: deacons (ages twelve to fourteen), teachers (ages fourteen to sixteen), and priests (ages sixteen to eighteen). All Melchizedek Priesthood bearers residing in a ward or branch who hold the office of elder are organized into an elders quorum. The maximum number of members for each of these quorums is set by revelation: twelve deacons, twenty-four teachers, forty-eight priests, and ninety-six elders (D&C 107:85-89). All Melchizedek Priesthood bearers living within a stake who hold the office of high priest are members of the high priests' quorum of that stake, which is presided over by the stake presidency. The high priests' quorum is divided into high priests' groups at the ward level. In most parts of the world, priesthood quorums and groups meet every Sunday.
The bishop is president of the Aaronic Priesthood in his ward. He also is president of the priests' quorum; two priests serve as assistants and one as a secretary. The bishop's first and second counselors in the bishopric oversee the activities of the teachers and deacons quorums, respectively. Each of these quorums has a president, two counselors, and a secretary, who are members of the quorum. Adult men, called to serve as quorum advisers, guide and help the Aaronic Priesthood quorum presidencies and members. Advisers do not preside over the quorums; they assist the presidencies in building a properly functioning priesthood quorum. In addition, advisers are expected to watch over and teach quorum members, build quorum leadership, and fellowship young men of quorum age.
Melchizedek Priesthood quorums and groups are responsible to assist quorum members, their families, and single women members in their temporal and spiritual needs. The purposes of priesthood quorum and group meetings at the local level are to conduct priesthood business, teach members their duties, study the gospel, and encourage members to use their priesthood to serve and bless others. They also provide opportunities for personal growth and leadership experiences; most members are called to serve in quorum or group leadership positions from time to time. Quorum presidencies are responsible for planning and conducting quorum meetings and activities, teaching quorum members their duties, and extending fellowship and support to each quorum member (see Lay Participation and Leadership).
Three other priesthood quorums preside over the entire Church. The highest is the Quorum of the First Presidency, composed of the president of the church and his counselors. The second is the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, composed of twelve apostles, or special witnesses, who form a quorum "equal in authority and power" to the Presidency (D&C 107:23-24); however, that power is exercised fully only with the dissolution of the First Presidency, which occurs upon the death of the President. The third quorum of priesthood bearers who have Churchwide responsibilities and authority is the seventy. Seventies are organized into quorums that do not exceed seventy members each.
ORIGINS OF QUORUM ORGANIZATION. Shortly after being chosen and ordained, the Twelve Apostles gathered in Kirtland, Ohio, on March 28, 1835, before departing to the eastern states on missions. They asked the Prophet Joseph Smith to inquire of the Lord concerning their duties. In response, the Lord gave an important revelation on the priesthood and the relationship of the respective quorums to each other and to the Church (see Doctrine and Covenants: Section 107).
As years passed and circumstances changed, the need arose for a reorganization of the priesthood. In 1877, Brigham Young effected such a reorganization (Hartley, 1979). Some of the main results of this historic action included (1) moving members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles out of stake presidencies into full-time service as General Authorities; (2) making stakes independent of one another and placing them under their own locally supervised priesthood quorums; (3) modifying the role of then-existing seventies quorums; (4) filling up elders quorums; and (5) filling Aaronic Priesthood quorums with youth. Later (1908-1922), under the direction of presidents Joseph F. Smith and Heber J. Grant, a specially appointed General Priesthood Committee instituted Churchwide priesthood changes and reorganization that eventually led to the present system (Hartley, 1973).