"For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light..."

First Council of the Seventy

by Richard C. Roberts

The First Council of the Seventy, comprised of the first seven presidents of the First Quorum of Seventy, was organized on February 28, 1835, at Kirtland, Ohio, by Joseph Smith in response to revelation regarding the organization of priesthood offices. Later, when it was determined that five high priests had been ordained seventies, the First Council was reorganized in April 1837, using only priesthood members who were seventies (HC 2:476).

As outlined in Doctrine and Covenants 107:93-98, the Seventy "should have seven presidents to preside over them, chosen out of the number of the seventy." Other seventies could be called as needed, but the first seven presidents (First Council of the Seventy) were to preside over all the additional seventies as well as the First Quorum.

Through the years the role of the First Council of the Seventy and their specific function as General Authorities have been modified in such areas as the seventy's missionary role, their ability to preside and ordain, and their position as "especial witnesses" (Madsen, pp. 299-300).

By 1936 the various seventies quorums scattered throughout the Church were placed under stake supervision. In 1961 members of the First Council of Seventy were ordained high priests with their primary calling being missionaries, but they also had the authority to act as administrators and direct the affairs of the Church in various parts of the world, under the direction of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. On October 3, 1975, the First Quorum of the Seventy was reconstituted as an entity, and on October 1, 1976, the members of the First Council of the Seventy and the Assistants to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles were released and added to the First Quorum of the Seventy. A new presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy was sustained. Additional men were selected to be members of the First Quorum and to act as General Authorities to assist in the expanded functions of Church leadership (Ensign 6 [Nov. 1976]:9-10). In 1984 Gordon B. Hinckley, counselor in the First Presidency, announced that in order to infuse "new talent and a much widened opportunity for men of ability and faith to serve" as General Authorities, new members of the First Quorum were to be called to act for a period of three to five years (CR, Apr. 1984, p. 4). This policy was redefined on April 1, 1989, when the Second Quorum of Seventy was organized, comprised of men who would be called to serve for a period of five years (CR, Apr. 1989, p. 22). President Hinckley later indicated that members of the First Quorum would serve until "factors of age and health" made them candidates for emeritus status (Ensign 20 [Jan. 1990]:10). The leaders of the Seventy were identified as the "Presidency of the Seventy."


Cowan, Richard O. The Church in the Twentieth Century. Salt Lake City, 1985.

Madsen, Truman G. Defender of the Faith: The B. H. Roberts Story. Salt Lake City, 1980.

Roberts, B. H. The Seventy's Course in Theology. Salt Lake City, 1931.

Quorums of Seventy

by Dean L. Larsen

The quorums of Seventy consist of general Church officers, ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood office of seventy, who, under the direction of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, carry major responsibility for administering the affairs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints throughout the world. The First Quorum of Seventy constitutes a third presiding quorum over the Church after the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (D&C 107:24; see also Organization: Contemporary). A presidency of seven, all seventies and members of the First Quorum, presides over the quorums of Seventy, conducts quorum meetings, and instructs the members in their specific duties.

Members of the Seventy are called from the membership of the Church by the First Presidency. Generally they are high priests of considerable experience in Church leadership within their own wards and stakes who have distinguished themselves in their service. Like all LDS leaders, they are not professional clergy but come from many vocations and professions (see Lay Participation and Leadership). Each one is presented to the general membership of the Church for a sustaining vote at a general conference. Then he is ordained a seventy and set apart by the First Presidency of the Church, receiving the authority and powers that pertain to his calling as a general authority. The Seventy have all of the authority necessary to officiate in any capacity assigned to them by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: "The Seventy are to act in the name of the Lord, under the direction of the Twelve…in building up the church and regulating all the affairs of the same in all nations" (D&C 107:34).

Some members of the quorums of Seventy are assigned to serve in groups of three as area presidencies and preside over large geographical subdivisions of the Church. In this capacity, they supervise missions, stakes, districts, wards, and branches and are responsible for the effective implementation of Church policies and programs in their areas.

For example, as of 1990, the continent of South America included three such areas, continental Europe was designated as another, and the United States and Canada were divided into nine areas. The seventies who preside over these areas administer all the affairs of the Church within their jurisdictions, including missionary work and all functions designed to enhance the spiritual and temporal Welfare of Church members. These seventies make regular visits to missions and stakes within their area to train local leaders in their duties and to counsel and instruct Church members in conference meetings. They also administer the financial affairs of the Church and supervise the construction and maintenance of Church buildings. Those assigned outside North America live within their area and travel to Church headquarters for the general conferences in April and October of each year. Seventies assigned to an area within the United States and Canada generally reside in or near Salt Lake City, close to Church headquarters, and travel at regular intervals to their area. These seventies also administer headquarters departments of the Church, such as operations related to Church history, curriculum, priesthood and auxiliary organizations, temples, family history, missionary work, and correlation. These assignments, as well as those that pertain to area supervision, are made under the direction of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, with recommendations from the presidency of the quorums. All these assignments of the Seventy are rotated periodically. The members of the presidency of the First Quorum of Seventy serve as executive directors of Church headquarters departments.

Members of the quorums of Seventy who are located at Church headquarters meet weekly under the direction of the presidency of the First Quorum of Seventy. These meetings provide instruction for quorum members in Church doctrine and procedure. Seventies who are assigned to international areas meet together regularly as area presidencies within their own assigned territories. Twice a year, during the annual and semiannual general conferences, all the General Authorities meet in Salt Lake City for about two weeks for an intensive review of, and instruction in, Church policies and programs. They report on Church progress and growth in all parts of the world and assess Church programs as they apply to various nationalities and cultures. All who assemble receive spiritual instruction and are given renewed vision and direction by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

In accordance with the revelation that mandates that the Seventy are to act under the direction of the Twelve, the seven presidents of the First Quorum of Seventy meet regularly with the Twelve to receive instruction and to coordinate the work assigned to them. Such coordination is essential to comply with one of the provisions in the revelation: "And every decision made by either of these quorums must be by the unanimous voice of the same; that is, every member in each quorum must be agreed to its decisions, in order to make their decisions of the same power or validity one with the other" (D&C 107:27).

Because the function of the Seventy in the administrative affairs of the Church remains flexible, future adjustments to accommodate changing situations may be expected.

(See Following the Prophets; Basic Beliefs home page; Church Organization and Priesthood Authority home page; Priesthood Organization home page; Melchizedek Priesthood home page)


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