The First Presidency is the name given to the highest governing body of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This governing body is made up of three apostles. And so one must ask what an apostle is. The dictionary's definition of 'apostle' is "any of the early followers of Jesus who carried the Christian message into the world." But how does Mormonism define an apostle? LDS.org defines it as follows:
"An 'apostle' is an ordained leader in the Melchizedek Priesthood in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Apostles are chosen through inspiration by the President of the Church, sustained by the general membership of the Church, and ordained by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles by the laying on of hands. In addition to serving as witnesses of Jesus Christ to all the world, as Jesus' apostles did, members of the current Quorum of the Twelve Apostles hold the keys of the priesthood - that is, the rights of presidency."When Christ lived on earth he chose twelve of his followers to be apostles. These twelve helped watch over the disciples and teach them the gospel. When the Lord visited those in the Western Hemisphere after his resurrection he did the same thing, choosing twelve to be apostles to watch over the church with the prophet. And again, in the 19th century, when Christ was restoring his church on the earth he chose those to lead it.
In this dispensation fifteen apostles are chosen to watch over the church. The senior apostle, the one who has served the longest in the calling of apostle, is also prophet of the church. Of the remaining apostles that prophet chooses two counselors. These three make the First Presidency. The twelve remaining apostles make up what is called the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
During the year 2008 the previous prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley, passed away and the next senior apostle took his place as prophet. That apostle was Thomas S. Monson, having served as apostle since 1963. His counselors are Henry B. Eyring and Dieter F. Uchtdorf.
Here is a video with pictures of the First Presidencies, past and present, from Joseph Smith through Thomas S. Monson. The video, titled "Mormonism: The First Presidency," plays the song "We Thank Thee, O God, For A Prophet," as played by Spencer Mangum. Music is used with permission.
For a little additional fun, I have created a couple quizzes on these first presidencies. When you have watched the video enough and think you know who all the prophets are, follow the link below and take the prophet quizzes.
Name That Prophet!
The second Mormonism quiz on the presidency I created is much tougher. This set of quizzes asks about the counselors to the prophets. If you think you know the counselors over the years then follow the link below and see how much you know.
Mormonism Pop Quiz - The First Presidency