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Quorums of the Seventy
The Seventy were originally found in the church set up by Jesus Christ as found in the gospel of Luke chapter 10. They were initially appointed to go two by two into the world to teach the gospel of peace. This initial position of the seventy was restored with the church founded by Joseph Smith, [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints].
Historically, the First Quorum of the Seventy came into being in 1835 when seven men were set apart as the First Seven Presidents of the Seventy. These men held the priestly order of seventy, which then ranked above that of elder and below that of high priest (see Priesthood (Mormonism)). In 1837 the six men other than Joseph Young (1797-1881), older brother of Brigham Young, were released to become High Priests and replaced by others, though as Levi Ward Hancock was not in fact ordained a high priest he returned to his office among the Seven Presidents of the Seventy. Joseph Young remained Presiding President of the First Seven Presidents for the rest of his life.
The First Seven Presidents continued as a body of General Authorities of the Church, and Quorums of the Seventy beneath them grew in number, typically tasked with supervising the church's missionary activities. Though the number of Seventies in the church grew, the number of Presidents remained at seven. In the 1930s the First Seven Presidents were renamed the First Council of the Seventy. While the ordinary Quorums of Seventy grew in numbers, and eventually ceased to bear numbers and instead be identified with the stakes in which they operated, the growth of the church and the number of high priests in it rendered it an anomaly that a body of General Authorities supervising high priests should be required to hold an order of priesthood lower than that of high priest. Accordingly, in 1961 Church President David O. McKay removed this ban and ordained those of the First Council of the Seventy who wished it as high priests. (The then Presiding President Levi Edgar Young (1874-1963), grandson of Joseph Young, did not).
In 1975, as the growth of the Church necessitated more General Authorities, the First Quorum of the Seventy was reconstituted with new members alongside the First Council of the Seventy. And in 1976, the First Council of the Seventy, the First Quorum of the Seventy, and the Assistants to the Twelve (a body of General Authorities created in 1941) were all merged into a new First Quorum of the Seventy under a seven-member Presidency of the Seventy. While members of each body served for life and ranked by seniority, the opportunity was taken to name as members of the Presidency, whose membership rotated, men younger and more active than the senior members of the old Assistants and Council. In 1978, some of the older members were retired as the first Emeritus General Authorities. However, members appointed through 1981 were still granted life tenure.
In 1984, the next step in reforming the Quorums of the Seventy was taken when for the first time members were appointed to the First Quorum of the Seventy who were not to serve for life, but for terms of several years. In 1989, these members were set aside as the Second Quorum of the Seventy (all other Quorums of Seventy having been discontinued in 1986). At the same time, the practice was instituted of retiring all members of the First Quorum at the October General Conference following their 70th birthdays, or earlier in the case of serious health problems.
Since then, the First Quorum, usually serving to age 70, and the Second Quorum, whose members generally serve five and a half years (most often appointed at an April General Conference and retiring at an October General Conference) have continued as General Authorities of the Church. Sometimes members are promoted from the Second Quorum to the First Quorum, and Seventies are the most usual candidates to become members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Some flexibility on the terms of service has emerged in recent years.
In the 1990s, President Gordon B. Hinckley announced the creation of the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Quorums of the Seventy, who would serve as Area Authorities replacing the former Regional representatives of the Quorum of the Twelve who had served as an echelon of leadership above the local stake presidents. The Area Authority Seventies serve in the various Areas in which the Church is governed by Area Presidencies composed of members of the First and Second Quorums of the Seventy. (In exceptional cases, Area Authority Seventies may be called as Counselors to an Area President; by reverse exception, Elders Dallin H. Oaks and Jeffrey R. Holland of the Twelve Apostles have recently personally served as Area Presidents, rather than only supervising Area Presidents;in 2004 they returned to the United States while Apostle L. Tom Perry became Area President for Central Europe). In 2004, the Fifth Quorum of the Seventy was divided to create the Sixth Quorum of the Seventy.
The members of the Presidency of the Seventy serve as heads of important church departments, and lately one is always General President of the Sunday School. They are always members of the First Quorum of the Seventy. Members of the First Quorum are Emeritus General Authorities after their retirement while those in the other Quorums are unconditionally released from being General Authorities when they leave those Quorums.
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