LDS Growth Encyclopedia on Missionary Work and Church Growth (Missiology)

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District President

Author: Matt Martinich

Posted: November 8th, 2013

A district president presides over a district; an administrative unit comprised of small congregations (branches) within a specific geographical area.  District presidents live within the boundaries of their districts, frequently serve as branch presidents prior to serving as a district president, and sometimes served as counselors in previous district presidencies.  Mission and area presidents interview potential candidates before extending a formal call.  Only Melchizedek Priesthood holders can serve as a district president.  The administrative jurisdiction for district presidents depends by district but is limited to branches and groups within his district.  Unlike mission presidents, the wives of district presidents do not have special responsibilities for administering the Church in the district but are involved in the process of their husband accepting the calling of district president and providing support to him and their family as he undertakes this calling.  The length of service for district presidents varies considerably by district with some district presidents serving for only a year and some serving for as long as a decade. 

There are no set qualifications for a Melchizedek Priesthood holder to serve as a district president other than meeting basic worthiness standards and possessing some training and experience in local church administration.  The age of district presidents significantly varies from as young as members in their 20s to elderly members in their 60s or older but generally ranges from 30 to 50 years old.  Unlike stake presidencies, the LDS Church News does not publish information on the personal background of reorganized and newly organized district presidencies.  The Church does not publish any information on the names and personal background of district presidents.

A district presidency consists of a district president and his two counselors who also reside within the geographical boundaries of the district.  District presidents select their counselors after accepting their calling.  District presidents and their counselors may attend to some administrative duties for members within their jurisdiction such as organizing and reorganizing branches, conferring the Melchizedek Priesthood and ordaining elders, participating in disciplinary councils for members who have make serious violations of church teachings,[1] interviewing and calling local members into other district leadership positions, mentoring and supervising branch presidencies, and holding branch conferences. 

Mission presidents fulfill many administrative duties for members that reside in districts in a similar capacity as a stake president.  Tasks appointed to mission presidents for members in districts include conducting interviews for temple recommends and full-time missionary service, approving the advancement of worthy male members to the Melchizedek Priesthood, and completing interviews for individuals desiring to receive a Patriarchal Blessing if a travelling patriarch is available.  Mission presidents can delegate some of these responsibilities to district presidents at the discretion of the mission president.[2]

Senior missionary couples have served as district presidents at times due to a lack of local priesthood holders qualified to hold district leadership positions.  Many districts with senior missionaries serving in the district presidency have been recently organized, have few members, and are located in locations distant from other stakes and districts.  For example, a senior missionary served as the first district president for the Honiara Solomon Islands District for approximately one year until there were sufficiently trained local members to fill an entire district presidency.  At the time, there were fewer than 500 members nationwide and no other districts or stakes operating in the country.  In Ghana, a senior missionary served as the first district president for the Sunyani Ghana District for less than a year until a local member replaced him.  The first LDS proselytism efforts begun and congregations were organized only two years prior to the creation of the first district in Sunyani and no nearby cities or towns had LDS congregations. 

Church employees have frequently served in district presidencies.  A lack of qualified and trained Melchizedek Priesthood holders in some districts has prompted the calling of church employees to serve as district presidents.  There are no official statistics of how frequently church employees serve as district presidents.  Returned missionaries have observed that church employees act somewhat like an unofficial paid clergy for the Church where the Church experiences self-sufficiency problems.  At times this dual relationship can be problematic for growth.  Some members and missionaries report that there can be a disconnect between church employees serving in lay leadership and members and leaders who are not employed by the Church, resulting in challenges establishing LDS community and some members leaving the church because they become offended by church leaders who are also paid employees.  However, the appointment of church employees to district president is frequently the most appropriate action for ensuring stable leadership that has sufficient knowledge and experience in church administration for locations with a tiny church presence and few seasoned members.

[1]  "Branch Presidency," Branch Guidebook, retrieved 26 January 2013.

[2]  "Branch Presidency," Branch Guidebook, retrieved 26 January 2013.