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In Mormon terminology, a stake is an ecclesiastical organization that consists of several geographically contiguous wards and may include smaller units called branches. It is roughly analogous to a diocese in the Roman Catholic church. The leader who presides over the stake is called a stake president.
A stake president is selected by the General Authority assigned by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to preside at a semi-annual gathering of Church members who live within the boundaries of the stake known as stake conference. He typically interviews many Melchizedek Priesthood leaders in the stake before the stake conference and then seeks inspiration from God to determine whom to call. The General Authority calls the stake president and instructs him to nominate two counselors who are then interviewed and called. They are then sustained at the general session of the stake conference. These three men (the president and the two counselors) constitute the stake presidency. As with all officers in the Church, members of the stake presidency must be sustained by the vote of the members over whom they preside.
The stake president and his counselors are lay leaders, serving voluntarily without pay from the Church. Each stake president holds the proper priesthood authority to act as the Lord's agent in behalf of the members in his stake. He supervises and is responsible for the progress of the Church in his stake, including all Church activities, callings, ordinances performed, and programs.
What the stake president performs and authorizes within the scope of his calling is recognized as official and binding by the Church. For example, the stake president authorizes ordinations of worthy men to offices in the Melchizedek Priesthood, such as elder and high priest. He submits to the First Presidency for their approval the names of men to be called as bishops. (Bishops preside over wards within the stake.) When the approval is granted, the stake president issues the call and ordains the man a bishop, after he has been sustained by his ward. The stake president calls the presidents of the women's organizations of the stake. He sets them apart after they have been sustained by vote of the stake. Full-time missionaries are set apart by him just prior to leaving, and later upon their return from their missions are released by their stake president.
In performing his duties, a stake president is to draw upon the Scriptures and seek inspiration from the Lord. The stake president is the one ultimately responsible for decisions made, but the stake presidency is to act as a unified quorum when decisions are made and actions taken. The stake presidency is accountable to members of the General Authorities of the Church for the administration of their stake.
The stake president serves until he is released, typically for a period of about ten years. A stake president may also be released if he moves out of the boundaries of his stake or if he is otherwise unable to serve due to such things as serious health concerns.