I wrote this a few years ago to answer a friend's question.
Here is a quick overview of how The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is organized.
We believe that the same gospel and church organization which the Lord established in his mortal ministry has been restored again to the earth. This is why the name of our church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (to distinguish us from the former or early saints, though many people simply call us “Mormons”).
We believe that the Lord guides his people today just as he always has, through a prophet and twelve apostles. These men have a few assistants to help them provide leadership to a large area of the world. Since these men devote their entire time to furthering the work of the Lord, they are paid a modest maintenance salary. These are the only paid clergy in the church.
Priesthood authority is delegated from the apostles to worthy men who have responsibility to provide leadership and service to the families in the church. This is done by dividing the Areas into Stakes of about eight wards (about 2,000 members), then wards of about 200 to 400 members . A ward is a local geographic area which is presided over by a lay Bishop. He is assisted by other Priesthood holders and by the auxiliary leaders: The Relief Society President (women), The Primary President (children), and the Young Women President (girls 12 to 18) (woman fill these leadership positions and also help in scouts especially Cubs and teach many of the classes in Sunday School). and the Sunday School President and Young Men President (boys 12 to 18) which are both led by men.
This is where I come in. A year ago I was asked if I would be willing to serve as the Visiting Teaching Coordinator. Since my training and interests lie in teaching children, I’ve always loved serving in the Primary organization (like Sunday School for children), so I’ve spent most of my time with the children and not the women.
The men are asked to be Home Teachers. They have an assigned partner and visit a couple families in the ward each month where they deliver a short inspirational message to the family and provide any help they need. For example, my husband has helped one of the families he visits put in the cement footings on a home expansion project. If more help is needed, then the resources of the entire ward is called upon.
The women also help watch over the people in our ward in a similar way. (We also try to help anyone in our ward area even if they aren’t members of the church if they want it). We call this Visiting Teaching. It is my calling to see that each woman in our ward has other sisters to visit her (people move in and out etc.), help solve problems (one sister was allergic to cats and some can only be visited in the evening etc.), and help with communication between all the women. The visiting teachers let me know if there are any problems and I let the Relief Society President know if more help is needed. For example: a woman had serious surgery and her family needed meals taken in for a few weeks. This required more assistance than her two visiting teachers were be able to give, so other sisters are asked to help.
Anyway, I’ve been amazed at all the support the women give to each other. I’ve also been grateful for all the help I’ve been given over the years from ward sisters. With my poor health and no family living near us, it has really been a comfort to me. This is why I decided to write these little thoughts and send them to the 120 visiting teachers in our ward. It is my hope that these messages will help them realize what an important work they are doing.
This has gotten rather long. I hope I haven’t tried to explain far more than you ever wanted to know!