How to Use Appropriate Titles in the LDS Church

Referring to Men as Brother and Women as Sister Solves Most Dilemmas

Bishop Sullivan in ward cultural hall
Jermaine Sullivan is an academic counselor and bishop in Atlanta, Georgia, and is featured in the filme, Meet the Mormons. This image pictures him interacting with the youth of his ward. While serving in this position, he would be referred to as Bishop Sullivan. Photo courtesy of © 2014 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS/Mormon) have a specific way in which they address one another. We call each other by the title of brother or sister, respectively, as well as other titles for those who have a specific calling. Leadership callings, such as that of bishop or stake president, give additional ways in which we refer to each other.

Admittedly, the titles can be confusing for outsiders.

However, referring to any man as brother and his last name or referring to women as sister and her last name is always acceptable. This comes from the belief that we are all spirit sons and daughters of God, who is our Heavenly Father. We consider everyone to be our brother or sister. For example: If I see Wendy Smith, I would address her as Sister Smith.

Titles are only used when a person is currently occupying the position that grants them the title. This acknowledges and identifies their current authority. Authority is specific to each title. Knowing the title enables you to know what authority and power they currently possess.

For example, in a ward, there is only one current bishop. However, there could be dozens of men attending the ward who have formerly been bishops in that ward or elsewhere.

Local Titles: Titles at the Ward and Branch Level

Men in the Church are much more likely to have titles than the women.

The only title at the local level that is crucial to know is either the ward bishop or the branch president.

Local congregations are called either wards or branches. Branches are generally smaller than wards. Also, branches are the organizational unit that usually makes up districts. Wards are the organizational unit that usually makes up stakes.

The only real difference this will make to a visitor or even members is that the leader of the branch is called a branch president and the leader of the ward is called the bishop. The bishop of a local ward should be addressed with the title of bishop and his last name. For Example, A local ward's bishop, Ted Johnson, would be called Bishop Johnson by members of the Church.

At this level, there will be callings that suggest a title such as Relief Society President and Sunday School President. However, they are still referred to as brother or sister and their last name.

Local Titles: The Stake and District Level

Stakes are overseen by stake presidents and their two counselors. Members who currently hold callings as a stake presidency are addressed as President and their last name, even if they are one of the two counselors.

Other stake leaders preside over a specific area or organization. Continuing to address a leader as president when they no longer hold such a calling is not necessary or recommended. All lay leadership positions at the stake, district, ward or branch level are temporary. The titles that come with these positions are also temporary.

Missions

Mission presidents and their wives generally serve for three years.

During this time, the mission president should be addressed as President and the last name, such as Smith. President Smith can also be called Elder Smith. His wife is called, Sister Smith.

Men who serve missions are called by the title, Elder, during the time of their service. When they are no longer full-time missionaries they are generally not referred to as Elder, although it is still acceptable.

Full-time male young adult missionaries should be referred to as elder. Full-time female young adult missionaries should be referred to as sister and their last name. Senior missionaries go by brother or sister. If male, any senior missionary can be referred to as Elder.

Worldwide Leadership Positions and Other Titles

LDS Church leaders who serve as Prophet or counselors in the First Presidency are all addressed as President and their last name.

However, addressing them as Elder is also acceptable.

Members of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, Seventies, and Area Presidencies are also addressed by the title of Elder. Men cycle in and out of these positions; it is only appropriate to call them President and their last name if they are currently serving in a leadership position in these various entities. Those serving in the Presiding Bishopric over the Church are all referred to as bishop and their last name.

Women in worldwide leadership positions are generally referred to as Sister and their last name. This holds for women serving as the President of the General Relief Society, Young Women or Primary organizations.