An explanation of the titles and callings of General Authorities and general officers
This article was written by Sydney Walker of the Church News, and appeared in the May 31, 2020 edition
• The Savior Jesus Christ is at the head of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints. Under His direction, General Authorities, general officers, and local leaders are called to minister to and teach the members of the Church.
• The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles acts under the direction of the First Presidency “to build up the church and regulate all the affairs of the same in all nations… 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.” (Doctrine and Covenants 107:33-34)
• ‘General Authority’ is a term for any senior leader of the Church. The First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, General Authority Seventies, and the Presiding Bishopric are all known as General Authorities.
• General Authority Seventies: General Authority Seventies are ordained to the Office of Seventy in the Melchizedek Priesthood. They are called full-time to serve as special witnesses of Christ, proclaim the gospel and build up the Church throughout the world. Under the direction of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, they travel frequently to meet with, minister to and teach local Church leaders, members and missionaries. General Authority Seventies have authority to serve anywhere in the world. Some General Authority Seventies may be called to serve in area presidencies and in other headquarters administrative functions, such as an executive director of a Church department. These General Authorities usually serve full-time until they are 70 years old and are granted emeritus status the following October General Conference. Similar to other offices in the priesthood, General Authority Seventies and Area Seventies are organized in quorums. The Prophet Joseph Smith called the first seventies in this dispensation in 1834. President Spencer W. Kimball reconstituted the First Quorum of the Seventy in 1975. The Seventies quorums in stakes worldwide were discontinued in 1986, and the Second Quorum of the Seventy was organized in 1989. Today, the First and Second Quorums of the Seventy are composed of General Authority Seventies, The remaining quorums are composed of Area Seventies. New quorums are created or re-aligned when a quorum’s number exceeds 70.
• Presidency of the Seventy: The Presidency of the Seventy consists of seven General Authority Seventies who are called by the First Presidency and preside over all the quorums of the Seventy. They are based in Salt Lake City at Church headquarters. Though most presidencies in the Church have a president and two counselors, the Presidency of the Seventy has all presidents and no counselors. This is in accordance with Doctrine and Covenants 107:93-94: “And it is according to the vision showing the order of the Seventy, that they should have seven presidents to preside over them, chosen out of the number of the seventy; and the seventh president of this presidents is to preside over the six.”
• Area presidency: The administration of the Church is facilitated in geographic areas. The Church presently has 22 areas throughout the world. Each area is overseen by an area presidency, which includes a president and two counselors. These positions are usually filled by General Authority Seventies. In some instances, an Area Seventy may be called to serve in an area presidency. The area presidency provides spiritual and administrative direction to the leaders and members of the Church in its specific geographic area. Typically, the area presidencies reside within their respective areas, but there are exceptions.
• Area Seventy: Area Seventies are local area authorities called in each of the Church’s geographic areas throughout the world. Like General Authority Seventies, Area Seventies are ordained to the office of Seventy in the Melchizedek Priesthood. However, Area Seventies are not considered General Authorities and their authority is generally limited to the area where they serve. Area Seventies live at home and serve on a church-service basis for a designated number of years, similar to a bishop or stake president. They maintain their non-religious vocations. Under the direction of the area presidency or Presidency of the Seventy, Area Seventies are assigned to consult with and instruct stake presidents in their area. President Gordon B. Hinckley announced the creation of the Area Authority position in April 1995 general conference. In 1997, Area Authorities were renamed Area Authority Seventies and were ordained to the priesthood office of Seventy. The name of the position was later shortened to Area Seventy.
• General officer: The general officers of the Church consist of the Relief Society, Young Men, Young Women, Primary, and Sunday School general presidencies. Each presidency consists of a president and two counselors, and together they oversee the administration of their organization all over the world. They travel frequently to meet with and teach local leaders and members. General officers reside in Salt Lake City and serve at Church headquarters. The organization presidencies generally serve for five years. General officers are not considered general authorities.