LDS Church Presidents and Prophets Lead All Mormons Everywhere

These Men Are Chosen, Enabled and Inspired by Heavenly Father

Thomas S. Monson LDS Church President and Prophet
President Thomas S. Monson speaks at the 2010 First Presidency Christmas devotional. He is the 16th President and Prophet. Photo courtesy of © 2010 Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS/Mormon) is led by a living prophet who is also known as the president of the Church. Below you will find out how he is selected, what he does and who succeeds him when he dies.

He is the Church President and a Prophet

One man holds the title of both President of the Church and a living prophet. These are dual responsibilities.

As President, he is the legal head of the Church and the only one with the power and authority to direct all its operations here on earth.

He is assisted by many other leaders in this responsibility; but he has final say on everything.

Sometimes this is described as holding all the keys of the kingdom or the keys of the priesthood. It means all priesthood authority to others on this earth flows through him.

As the prophet, he is Heavenly Father's mouthpiece on earth. Heavenly Father speaks through him. No one else can speak on His behalf. He has been designated by Heavenly Father to receive inspiration and revelation at this time for the earth and all its inhabitants.

He has the responsibility to convey Heavenly Father's messages and guidance to the members of the Church. All prophets have done this.

A Quick Introduction to Dispensations and Their Prophets

Ancient prophets were no different than modern ones. When wickedness is rampant, sometimes priesthood authority and power is lost. At these times, there is no prophet on the earth.

To restore priesthood authority to earth, Heavenly Father designates a prophet. The gospel and priesthood authority is restored through this prophet.

Each of these time periods where a prophet is designated is a dispensation. There have been seven total. We are living in the seventh dispensation. We are told it is the last dispensation.

This dispensation will end only when Jesus Christ returns to lead his Church on this earth through the Millennium.

How the Modern Prophet is Chosen

Modern prophets have come from a variety of secular backgrounds and experiences. There is no designated path to the presidency, secular or otherwise.

The process for designating a founding prophet for each dispensation is done miraculously. After these initial prophets die or are translated, a new prophet follows through an official line of succession.

For example, Joseph Smith was the first prophet of this last dispensation, often called the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times.

Until the second coming  of Jesus Christ and the Millennium arrive, the most senior apostle in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles will become the prophet when the living prophet dies. As the most senior apostle, Brigham Young followed Joseph Smith.

Succession in the Presidency

The succession in the modern presidency is recent. After Joseph Smith was martyred, a succession crisis occurred at that time. The process for succession is now well established.

As opposed to much of the news coverage you may see on this matter, there is no ambiguity on who succeeds whom. Each apostle currently has a fixed place in the Church hierarchy.

Succession takes place automatically and the new prophet is sustained in the next General Conference session. The Church continues on as normal.

Early in Church history, there were gaps in between prophets. During these gaps, the Church was led by the 12 apostles. This does not occur anymore. Succession now takes place automatically.

Deference to the Prophet

As president and prophet, all members show deference to him. When he speaks on any matter, discussion is closed. Since he speaks for Heavenly Father, his word is final. While he lives, Mormons consider his the final word on any issue.

Theoretically, his successor can overturn any of his guidance or counsel. However, this does not occur, despite how often the secular press speculates this might happen.

Church presidents/prophets are always consistent with scripture and the past.

Heavenly Father tells us we must follow the prophet and all will be right. Others may lead us astray, but he will not. In fact, he cannot.

List of Prophets in This Last Dispensation

There have been sixteen prophets in this last dispensation. The current church president and prophet is Thomas S. Monson.

  1. 1830-1844  Joseph Smith
  2. 1847-1877  Brigham Young
  3. 1880-1887  John Taylor
  4. 1887-1898  Wilford Woodruff
  5. 1898-1901  Lorenzo Snow
  6. 1901-1918  Joseph F. Smith
  7. 1918-1945  Heber J. Grant
  8. 1945-1951  George Albert Smith
  9. 1951-1970  David O. McKay
  10. 1970-1972  Joseph Fielding Smith
  11. 1972-1973  Harold B. Lee
  12. 1973-1985  Spencer W. Kimball
  13. 1985-1994  Ezra Taft Benson
  14. 1994-1995  Howard W. Hunter
  15. 1995-2008  Gordon B. Hinckley
  16. 2008-present Thomas S. Monson