“The First Quorum of the Seventy: A Conversation with Elder S. Dilworth Young,” Ensign, Dec. 1975, 58–59
Ensign: What is the importance of what took place in the opening session of October general conference concerning the First Quorum of the Seventy?
Elder Young: That date will go down in history as the day when President Spencer W. Kimball announced the formation of the First Quorum of the Seventy. This is the first time since the beginning years of the Church that the First Quorum of the Seventy has been organized. The original quorum of the seventy was formed in 1835. By the time the Prophet Joseph Smith was martyred, he had organized 3 1/2 quorums of seventy. By 1845, the Brethren had organized ten quorums, which included the First Quorum of the Seventy. The seventies from the First Quorum became the seven presidents for the other nine quorums. That is, there were nine quorums, each presided over by seven men from the First Quorum. This took sixty-three men, leaving the seven presidents to serve as the First Council of the Seventy. I’m told that if anyone ever thought there was need for a meeting of the First Quorum of the Seventy, the presidents of the nine quorums and the First Council of the Seventy would meet and call it a meeting of the First Quorum of the Seventy. In those days all there was for a quorum to do, anyway, was to go out and personally do missionary work—they didn’t need to meet often. So young men were ordained and immediately called on missions, and other quorums of seventy were also formed.
In those early days, the quorums of seventy were not assigned to any geographical area, so that even if a man moved hundreds of miles away, his name was still carried in the quorum he had originally entered. But as the Church moved West and the Saints settled up and down the Rockies, establishing hundreds of communities, it became almost impossible for the men of those quorums to hold quorum meetings very often because the men were scattered.
So in 1883 President John Taylor localized the quorums. The men of the then existing, widely scattered quorums were instructed each to go to his own stake and join the quorum of seventy in that stake. This allowed men to change from quorum to quorum as they moved from stake to stake.
At that time, President Taylor ruled that if there were need, the senior presidents of the first sixty-three quorums of seventy could meet and constitute the membership of that First Quorum of the Seventy. This never was implemented. That’s the way it remained until President Kimball reorganized the First Quorum of the Seventy in October conference.
Ensign: In the early days, were all the members of the First Quorum of the Seventy regarded as General Authorities?
Elder Young: The seven presidents of the First Quorum of the Seventy have always been regarded as General Authorities, but the other members of the quorum have not.
Under the direction of the First Presidency, Elder Gene R. Cook recently was sustained as the seventh president and as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, filling the vacancy created by the death of Elder Milton R. Hunter; three other brethren were also added to the First Quorum of the Seventy and set apart as General Authorities. At the moment, two of them, Elder William R. Bradford and Elder George P. Lee, are mission presidents. Elder Charles A. Didier has been appointed to serve as the supervisor of the Europe West Area. What specifically the First Presidency has in mind for the members of the First Quorum of the Seventy to do as its membership increases has not been stated. I imagine that as the work of the First Quorum of the Seventy expands, so will its membership. We can see that under the inspiration of the Lord, the First Presidency is beginning to complete the First Quorum of the Seventy to meet the needs of an expanding Church.
Ensign: Will members of the First Quorum of the Seventy oversee or direct the labors of high priests?
Elder Young: As General Authorities of the Church, seventies of the First Quorum of the Seventy can do anything they are directed to do by the First Presidency—no matter to whom they are sent, how they are sent, or on what basis they are sent.
Ensign: Some persons in the Church may have had the idea that the seventy could not do some things that high priests could do.
Elder Young: I think the best answer to that question is to be found in the 34th verse of the 107th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants, which reads as follows:
“The Seventy are to act in the name of the Lord, under the direction of the Twelve or the traveling high council, 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.” [D&C 107:34]
Ensign: Will the members of the First Quorum of the Seventy live in Salt Lake City?
Elder Young: We understand from President Kimball that the First Quorum of the Seventy will be headquartered in Salt Lake City. Three of the new brethren of the First Quorum are presently assigned outside of Salt Lake City. Perhaps this will be the general pattern. Time, needs, and circumstances will suggest to the First Presidency the wise course.
Ensign: Are quorums of seventy within the stakes general Church quorums or stake quorums?
President Young: The rule and policy is in the Melchizedek Priesthood Handbook. Actually, quorums of seventy throughout the Church are Church quorums—not general in their stewardship, but still Church quorums. But even so, they are stationed in stakes, and because they are in stakes, they work under the direction of the stake president. But because they are Church quorums, the stake president clears their seven presidents and their membership with the First Council of the Seventy.
Ensign: Is membership in the First Quorum of the Seventy necessarily a lifetime appointment?
Elder Young: In appointing these recent men, President Kimball stated to them that their appointments were lifelong appointments. That is all I know.
Ensign: Is there any special ranking or seniority in the First Quorum of the Seventy?
Elder Young: There is no seniority in the First Quorum of the Seventy other than as to the seven presidents of the quorum.
Ensign: In your mind, what is the significance of this announcement?
Elder Young: It means that the Church has grown now to the extent that at the present moment there is a need to organize the First Quorum of the Seventy to assist in the great work to be done.