In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Seventy is an office in the Melchizedek Priesthood. Members of the Quorums of the Seventy serve in one of the quorums. As of April 2021, there are 99 General Authority Seventies and 10 quorums of Area Seventies. They assist the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the administration of the Church worldwide, to go "whithersoever the Twelve Apostles shall call them" (History of the Church 2:201–202). As especial witnesses of Jesus Christ in all the world, they are called to proclaim the gospel and build up the Church. The restored gospel of Jesus Christ teaches that the office of seventy was anciently conferred upon the seventy disciples mentioned in Luke 10:1-2.
On February 28, 1835 in Kirtland, Ohio, seven men were called as members of the Presidency of the Seventy. The First Council of the Seventy as they were then designated, was organized by Joseph Smith. According to Doctrine and Covenants 107:93–98, other seventies could be called as needed and the seven presidents would preside over them. They were General Authorities to the Church.
As a whole, the quorums of seventy were presided over by seven men who constituted the First Council of the Seventy. These men were sustained as General Authorities next to the Quorum of the Twelve in authority. In 1907, Joseph F. Smith taught that the First Council of the Seventy functioned as “assistants to the Twelve Apostles” and were, in one sense, “apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ” sent to preach the gospel throughout the world.
In the early days of the restored church, General Authorities were called to be Seventies who had no leadership experience in bishoprics, high councils, or stake presidencies, since high priests had to fill those offices. Some were mission presidents and district presidents, which are callings that can be held by elders. Seventies who never were high priests could not ordain stake presidents or other high priests. Brigham Young was aware of this problem and tried to change it before he died. There is evidence John Taylor did also.
Seventies in the early days of the restored church primarily functioned locally and presided over stake seventies quorums, which were in turn guided by stake seventy quorum presidents. They also accompanied Apostles to stake conferences and trained and taught gospel principles.
In 1960 David O. McKay announced that members of the seventies quorum would be high priests. Someone asked if it were contrary to the order of the heaven for seventies to be high priests. Harold B. Lee said what was contrary to the order in heaven in 1840 may not be contrary in 1960. President McKay directed that members of the First Council of Seventy be ordained to the office of high priest and given the authority necessary to “set in order all things pertaining to the stake and the wards, under the direction of the Twelve Apostles,” in other words, they could now ordain stake leaders and high priests.
Still, only men from stake seventies quorums were called to the Seventy and occasionally elders were. In October 1975 President Spencer W. Kimball announced the creation of the First Quorum of the Seventy with four additional members. The First Council of Seventy also joined the quorum. Since 1941, Assistants to the Twelve, who aided the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, were high priests. In October 1976 President Kimball said Assistants to the Twelve would be members of the First Quorum of the Seventy, since their duties were very similar and they were then sustained as members of the First Quorum of the Seventy. He explained,
- In 1941, five high priests were called to assist the Twelve Apostles in their heavy workload, and to fill a role similar to that envisioned by the revelations for the First Quorum of the Seventy. The scope and demands of the work at that time did not justify the reconstitution of the First Quorum of the Seventy. In the intervening years, additional Assistants to the Twelve have been added and today we have twenty-one.
- Commencing a year ago, brethren other than the First Council of the Seventy were called into the First Quorum of the Seventy, and at present there are fourteen in that quorum, including the First Council.
- Since the functions and responsibilities of the Assistants to the Twelve and the Seventy are similar, and since the accelerated, worldwide growth of the Church requires a consolidation of its administrative functions at the general level, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, with the concurrence of the Assistants to the Twelve and the First Quorum of the Seventy, have felt inspired to call all of the Assistants to the Twelve into the First Quorum of the Seventy, to call four new members into that quorum, and to restructure the First Council of the Seventy.
In 1984 several members of the Quorum of the Seventy were called for a period of years—usually 3 to 5—rather than for life. In 1989 a Second Quorum of the Seventy was created of those called for a period of years. They are presided over now by the Presidency of the Seventy whose membership rotates, as it is not a lifelong calling. In fact, many return to serve in the First Quorum of the Seventy.
For many years Regional Representatives assisted General Authorities in training and conducting stake meetings. In 1995 they were released and replaced with Area Seventies. Two years later, President Hinckley named them "area authority seventies" and installed them in quorums based on geography. They still keep their employment, live at home, and serve for a period of up to five years. Area Seventy is the current term.
The stake Seventy's office between elder and high priest was discontinued by President Ezra Taft Benson in 1986. Members of the stake Seventy were either ordained high priests or joined the elders quorum.
Members of the First and Second Quorums of the Seventy are designated as General Authority Seventies, meaning that they have the authority to serve anywhere in the world. Members of the Third through Twelfth Quorums of the Seventy are designated as Area Seventies, meaning that their authority is limited to the area where they serve. Collectively, all members of the quorums are referred to simply as “Seventies.” Their work is directed by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the Presidency of the Seventy. Some are assigned to administrative duties at Church headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah, but a majority live within a specific geographic region of the Church. Like the Apostles, they often travel to different locations throughout the Church to visit and teach congregations.
The number of Quorums of Seventy can expand as needed, easing the work of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Increasing the numbers of quorums of seventy has created a seamless way to manage a quickly burgeoning church membership.
On May 19, 2020, the church announced the creation of the Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Quorums of the Seventy, to enhance Quorum functionality, improve geographic alignment, and enhance cultural and language similarities among quorum members. The announcement also noted the adjustments would assist members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Presidency of the Seventy in providing more time and greater convenience in interactions with area seventies around the world. Additionally, the church announced changes in the geographical makeup of each quorum, with the composition of each of the now-ten quorums of area seventies being alphabetical by church area. These changes took effect on June 1, 2020.
- The international nature of the members of the Seventy aid the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve in guiding a church with a presence in over 200 nations and territories with more than 16.6 million members.
- “Many of the Seventy now come from all over the world,” Elder Marlin K. Jensen said, “so there’s a resource there that I think is a tremendous strength to the church and to the Twelve to have the seven presidents to turn to and to know that not only are they capable, but they have vast experience, they have knowledge of areas that sometimes they haven’t been to and don’t have.”
Length of Service
Members of the First Quorum of the Seventy are called to serve until the age of 70. At the age of 70, they are given emeritus status, which is similar to being released from full-time assignments. However, there has been some flexibility, and many serve for a few years after their 70th birthdays. Many emeritus seventies also become temple presidents.
Members of the Second Quorum of the Seventy typically serve for three to five years and then they are released. They may, however, serve longer or be called into the First Quorum of the Seventy.
Members of the Third through Twelfth Quorums generally serve for three to five years and are released. They may also be called to serve in the First Quorum of the Seventy.
- Quorums of the Seventy
- Church History, "Quorums of the Seventy"
- The Unfolding Role of the Seventy, by Elder Earl Tingey
- Encyclopedia of Mormonism, "Seventy"
- Deseret News, "What members of the Presidency of the Seventy do"
- Church News, "What is the difference between a General Authority Seventy, Area Seventy and general officer?" by Sydney Walker