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Quorum of the Seventyby Alan K. Parrish
Seventy is a priesthood office in the Melchizedek Priesthood reserved since 1986 for General Authorities called to assist the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the administration of the Church worldwide. The organization and assignments of seventies have undergone numerous changes as the Church organization has developed.
On February 28, 1835, at Kirtland, Ohio, the organization of the Seventy commenced with individuals selected from among the participants in Zion's Camp. The Prophet Joseph Smith recorded that they were "ordained and blessed at that time, to begin the organization of the first quorum of Seventies, according to the visions and revelations which I have received. The Seventies are to constitute traveling quorums, to go into all the earth, whithersoever the Twelve Apostles shall call them" (HC 2:201-202). In a March 1835 revelation the role of the Seventy was further clarified: "The Seventy are also called to preach the gospel, and to be especial witnesses unto the Gentiles and in all the worldthus differing from other officers in the church in the duties of their calling" (D&C 107:25). Further, they are to act in the name of the Lord and under the direction of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles "in building up the church and regulating all the affairs of the same in all nations, first unto the Gentiles and then to the Jews" (verse 34). Finally, the Seventy are to be "traveling ministers" to Gentiles and Jews (verse 97).
God instructed Moses to take seventy of the elders of Israel up onto the holy mount, where "they saw God, and did eat and drink" (Ex. 24:1, 9-11). On another occasion, Moses was told to gather seventy men of the elders of Israel to the tabernacle of the congregation. There the Lord put his spirit upon them, empowering them to assist Moses in bearing the burdens of the people (Num. 11:16-17, 24-25). Many Jewish writers have read this as an account of the divine origin of their Sanhedrin, a body of seventy-one or seventy-two elders that regulated many of their affairs, particularly at the time of Jesus Christ.
Luke recorded the Lord's appointment of the seventy whom he sent "two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come" (Luke 10:1). Of their return he wrote, "And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name" (Luke 10:17). Some regard Luke's statement that "the Lord appointed other seventy also" to be an indication that more than one group of seventies served the Lord during his ministry (Luke 10:1). Latter-day Saints see these seventy as an important part of the organization of the church in New Testament times.
In the Modern Church
The first quorums of the Seventy in the restoration were organized in 1835-1836 in Kirtland, Ohio. Their members participated in the momentous events surrounding the dedication of the Kirtland Temple in 1836. On occasions, most notably in the temple dedicatory services, the Prophet referred to members of the Seventy broadly as apostles and special witnesses to the nations in assisting the Twelve (HC 2:418). In 1838 the First Quorum of the Seventy organized and led the Kirtland Camp, consisting of 529 people, in their March from Kirtland to Far West and Adam-ondi-Ahman in Missouri.
In Nauvoo the number of seventies rapidly expanded, in part because of a decision that all elders under the age of thirty-five become seventies. To provide leadership for the newly established quorums, the sixty-three members of the First Quorum who were not in its presidency were divided into nine presidencies of seven and assigned to preside over the next nine quorums. The seven presidents who remained in the First Quorum presided over all seventies. These men were designated the First Council of the Seventy and were sustained as General Authorities of the Church. In December 1844 the Seventies' Hall was dedicated in Nauvoo in imposing ceremonies that continued for a week. A famous LDS hymn, "The Seer," written in honor of the recently martyred Prophet, was prepared for these services. The quorums of the Seventy then numbered fifteen. By the time of the exodus from Nauvoo, the number of seventies quorums had increased to thirty-five. These quorums were independent of geographical wards. When one was made a member of a quorum, it was presumed to be for life.
When the Saints arrived in Utah and began to spread throughout the territory, members of a quorum were dispersed geographically, making it impossible for them to meet together as a quorum. Disarray and confusion persisted into the 1880s. Efforts were made to identify and motivate seventies throughout the Church. In 1882 a revelation came to President John Taylor calling on the Twelve to assist the seventies and increase service among the Lamanites (American Indians). This revelation appeared to be a response to the organizational woes of the seventies quorums, but little success resulted from the change. In 1883 the First Presidency prepared instructions on the organization of the Seventy, and President Taylor received a revelation affirming that what they had written "is [God's] will, and is acceptable unto [him]" (Hartley, p. 70). The instructions established the First Quorum of the Seventy, consisting of its seven presidents (the First Council of Seventy) and the senior presidents of the sixty-four oldest quorums. While this action answered the appeal of many to reorganize the First Quorum, this new quorum never met or functioned as a bodyperhaps because of the increasing pressures from federal antipolygamy legislation.
The headquarters and records of the numbered quorums were then redistributed throughout the wards and stakes of the Church, under the direction of the First Council of Seventy, as the numbers residing in each locality justified. Counsel was given for all seventies in good standing to join the quorum located in their district. Quorum presidents were released if they did not live in the boundary of their quorum and, where possible, were sustained in new quorums where they were residing. Some found it difficult to give up the membership and seniority they enjoyed in their original quorums. Nevertheless, by April 1884 there were 76 quorums; by 1888 there were 101.
By October 1904, the number of quorums had reached 146 with some 10,000 members. President Joseph F. Smith said that their special duty was "to respond to the call of the Apostles to preach the Gospel, without purse or scrip, to all the nations of the earth. They are minute men" (CR, Oct. 6, 1904, p. 3). Their chief function was to serve as missionaries for the Church. But, since the quorums were now geographical, stake and ward officers gradually utilized seventies in the common duties of the Church. For several years the Seventy had their own course of study, but in 1909 they began to use the study manuals followed by other Melchizedek Priesthood quorums. In 1912, in Salt Lake City's Granite Stake, the program of stake missions was initiated with the seventies as the major participants. This program expanded with occasional adjustments into the 1980s. Every stake had its "stake mission," largely under supervision of the seventies.
As the Church expanded, the demands upon its General Authorities determined much of the future role the seventies would be given. The presiding offices of the Church established by the revelations consisted only of the quorums of the First Presidency, the Twelve, and the Seventy. In every revelation, the Seventy are subordinate to, and under the direction of, the other two. Over time, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have introduced many changes affecting the seventies that have proven to be appropriate responses to expanding needs of the Church. Decisions affecting the Seventy in the last three decades have been especially substantial and rapid.
In 1961 the members of the First Council of the Seventy were ordained high priests by the First Presidency. President David O. McKay stated, "The members of the First Council of the Seventy are now given the authority of high priests to set in order all things pertaining to the stake and the wards, under the direction of the Twelve Apostles" (IE 65 [Jan. 1962]:42). On January 12, 1964, the seven members of the First Council of Seventy were given the sealing authority. On March 29, 1974, the First Presidency authorized stake presidents to ordain seventies approved by the First Council. On October 3, 1974, all previous seventies units were replaced by quorums in each stake and were designated with the name of the stake, rather than a number.
President Spencer W. Kimball organized the First Quorum of the Seventy on October 3, 1975, and called three new General Authorities as members of that quorum, in addition to the seven presidents. Unlike the stake quorums, members of this quorum would be General Authorities. On October 1, 1976, twenty men previously sustained as assistants to the Twelve were added to the First Quorum of the Seventy and the titles First Council of the Seventy and Assistant to the Twelve were dropped. The First Presidency also announced that the seven presidents would not be determined by tenure of service and would be rotated periodically. In the October 1978 general conference, emeritus status was announced for several designated members of the First Quorum of the Seventy whose age and health prevented their full participation. In the April 1984 general conference, six new members of the Seventy were sustained for a period of three to five yearsrather than for life, as before. In the general conference held on October 4, 1986, all stake quorums of seventy were discontinued, and all seventies in those quorums were directed to affiliate with the elders quorums in their wards.
In the April 1989 general conference, the Second Quorum of the Seventy was organized, with General Authorities called to temporary service. As additional General Authorities are required to administer the growing worldwide organization, it is assumed that additional quorums of seventy will be formed "until seven times seventy, if the labor in the vineyard of necessity requires it" (D&C 107:95-96). The First Quorum of Seventy consists of members called for lifetime service or until granted emeritus status. The Presidency of the First Quorum of Seventy presides over both quorums of seventies, as their assignments are not distinguished by quorum.
Additional six quorums of the seventy are organized with members called to serve in specific geographic locations. For this reason members of the third through eighth quorum are not considered general authorities. The following list shows the corresponding geographic location for each of the quorums of the seventy.
Brown, S. Kent. "The Seventy in Scripture." In By Study and by Faith, ed. J. Lundquist and S. Ricks, Vol. 1, pp. 25-45. Salt Lake City, 1990.
Hartley, William G. "The Seventies in the 1880s: Revelations and Reorganizing." Dialogue 16 (Spring 1983):62-88.
Ivins, Antoine R. "The Seventy and the First Council." IE 59 (Nov. 1956):792-93.
Roberts, B. H. The Seventy's Course in Theology: Outline History of the Seventy and a Survey of the Books of Holy Scripture, 2nd ed., pp. 3-31. Salt Lake City, 1944.
"Stake Seventies Quorums Discontinued." Ensign 16 (Nov. 1986):97-98.
Tuttle, A. Theodore. "The Calling of the Seventy." IE 73 (Dec. 1970):84, 86.
Young, Levi Edgar. "The Divine Call of the Seventies." IE 56 (Dec. 1953):952, 954.
Young, S. Dilworth. "The Seventies, A Historical Perspective." Ensign 6 (July 1976):14-21.
Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 3, Seventy
Copyright © 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company