“First Quorum of Seventy Made a Governing Quorum of the Church,” Ensign, Nov. 1976, 134–36
The historic action of the October 1976 conference, the setting in place of the First Quorum of Seventy, now gives the Church its third governing priesthood quorum, organized, as President Spencer W. Kimball said, as “defined by the revelations.” That reorganization created a quorum that is “equal in authority to that of the Twelve special witnesses or Apostles,” but one that is “to act … under the direction of the Twelve.” (D&C 107:26, 34.)
The action was brought about by calling the twenty-one Assistants to the Council of the Twelve to join the fourteen previously called members of the First Quorum of Seventy, and by calling four new members to the quorum, bringing its total membership to thirty-nine, “thus providing a majority for the transaction of quorum business,” said President Kimball. (See pages 9–10 for the announcement by President Kimball and the sustaining of officers by President N. Eldon Tanner.)
The presidency of the newly formed First Quorum of Seventy was also restructured, requiring the release of the previously called First Council of the Seventy with, said President N. Eldon Tanner, “sincere appreciation” for their “excellent services.”
The new First Council of the Seventy presiding over the First Quorum of Seventy includes: (1) Elder Franklin D. Richards—an Assistant to the Council of the Twelve since 1960; (2) Elder James E. Faust—an Assistant since 1972, and residing in São Paulo, Brazil, as area supervisor for eastern South America; (3) Elder J. Thomas Fyans—an Assistant since 1974, and residing in Mexico City as area supervisor for Mexico and Central America; (4) Elder A. Theodore Tuttle—a member of the previous First Council of the Seventy since 1958, and residing in Quito, Ecuador, as area supervisor for western South America; (5) Elder Neal A. Maxwell—an Assistant since 1974; (6) Elder Marion D. Hanks—a former member of the First Council of the Seventy from 1953 to 1968, when he was called as an Assistant; (7) Elder Paul H. Dunn—a member of the previous First Council of the Seventy since 1964.
The additional members of the First Quorum of Seventy are: (8) Elder Alma Sonne—an Assistant since 1941, and one of the original five Assistants to the Council of the Twelve called at that time; (9) Elder Sterling W. Sill—an Assistant since 1954; (10) Elder Henry D. Taylor—an Assistant since 1958; (11) Elder Alvin R. Dyer—an Assistant since 1958, ordained an apostle in 1967 (but not as a member of the Council of the Twelve), sustained as counselor in the First Presidency in 1968, resumed calling as Assistant in 1970; (12) Elder Theodore M. Burton—an Assistant since 1960; (13) Elder Bernard P. Brockbank—an Assistant since 1962, and presently residing in London, England, as area supervisor for the United Kingdom and Ireland; (14) Elder James A. Cullimore—an Assistant since 1966; (15) Elder Joseph Anderson—an Assistant since 1970; (16) Elder William H. Bennett—an Assistant since 1970; (17) Elder John H. Vandenberg—Presiding Bishop of the Church from 1961 to 1972, when called as an Assistant; (18) Elder Robert L. Simpson—first counselor in the Presiding Bishopric from 1961 to 1972, when called as an Assistant, and residing in Auckland, New Zealand, as area supervisor for New Zealand and Australia; (19) Elder O. Leslie Stone—an Assistant since 1972; (20) Elder W. Grant Bangerter—an Assistant since 1975; (21) Elder Robert D. Hales—an Assistant since 1975; (22) Elder Adney Y. Komatsu—an Assistant since 1975, and presently residing in Tokyo, Japan, as area supervisor for Japan and Korea; (23) Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin—an Assistant since 1975, and presently residing in Frankfurt, Germany, as area supervisor for northern Europe; (24) Elder S. Dilworth Young—a member of the previous First Council of the Seventy since 1945; (25) Elder Hartman Rector, Jr.—a member of the previous First Council of the Seventy since 1968; (26) Elder Loren C. Dunn—a member of the previous First Council since 1968 and now president of the Australia Sydney Mission; (27) Elder Rex D. Pinegar—a member of the previous First Council since 1972; (28) Elder Gene R. Cook—a member of the previous First Council since 1975 and now president of the Uruguay Montevideo Mission; (29) Elder Charles A. Didier—First Quorum member since 1975, and presently residing in Brussels, Belgium, as area supervisor for central and southern Europe; (30) Elder William R. Bradford—First Quorum member since 1975, and president of the Chile Santiago Mission; (31) Elder George P. Lee—First Quorum member since 1975, and president of the Arizona Holbrook Mission; (32) Elder Carlos E. Asay—First Quorum member since April 1976; (33) Elder M. Russell Ballard, Jr.—First Quorum member since April 1976, and president of the Canada Toronto Mission; (34) Elder John H. Groberg—First Quorum member since April 1976, and residing in Honolulu, Hawaii, as area supervisor for the South Pacific: (35) Elder Jacob de Jager—First Quorum member since April 1976, and residing in Hong Kong as area supervisor for Southeast Asia; (36) Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone—formerly second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric since 1972 and newly called as president of the Texas San Antonio Mission; (37) Elder Dean L. Larsen—newly called at this conference (see following article); (38) Elder Royden G. Derrick—newly called and president of the Ireland Dublin Mission (see following article); (39) Elder Robert E. Wells—newly called (see following article).
The calling of Bishop Vaughn J. Featherstone to serve in the First Quorum of Seventy created a vacancy in the Presiding Bishopric, which was filled by the calling of J. Richard Clarke of Boise, Idaho, to serve as second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric. Bishop Clarke has been serving as a Regional Representative of the Twelve since 1974 (see following article). The calling of Elders Dean L. Larsen, Royden G. Derrick, and Robert E. Wells brings the total number of General Authorities to fifty-eight.
The establishment of the First Quorum of Seventy as one of “the three governing quorums of the Church defined by the revelations” is a great milestone in priesthood government at the general Church level and, said President Kimball “will make it possible to handle efficiently the present heavy workload and to prepare for the increasing expansion and acceleration of the work, anticipating the day when the Lord will return to take direct charge of His Church and Kingdom.”
The action indeed makes it possible to give all the general Church supervision needed because the number of General Authorities can be greatly increased in the manner “defined by the revelations” if it seems necessary. Section 107 of the Doctrine and Covenants, given to the Prophet in 1835, answers a number of questions that commonly come to mind regarding the significant action of this conference.
Concerning authority: “The Seventy are also called to preach the gospel, and to be especial witnesses unto the Gentiles and in all the world—thus differing from other officers in the church in the duties of their callings.
“And they form a quorum, equal in authority to that of the Twelve special witnesses or Apostles just named.
“And every decision made by either of these quorums must be by the unanimous voice of the same; that is, every member in each quorum must be agreed to its decisions, in order to make their decisions of the same power or validity one with the other—
“A majority may form a quorum when circumstances render it impossible to be otherwise.” (D&C 107:25–28.)
Concerning accountability: “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.)
Concerning the potential number of General Authority Seventies as the kingdom soars in size: “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 these presidents is to preside over the six;
“And these seven presidents are to choose other seventy besides the first seventy to whom they belong, and are to preside over them;
“And also other seventy, until seven times seventy, if the labor in the vineyard of necessity requires it.
“And these seventy are to be traveling ministers, unto the Gentiles first and also unto the Jews?” (D&C 107:93–97.)
Thus, the action of this conference closes an interesting era in Church history in which the Church grew large enough to require the third “governing quorum,” and now puts aside the interim position known as Assistant to the Council of the Twelve. The first Assistants were called thirty-five years ago, in 1941, and since that time a total of thirty-eight have been called. Of the first Assistants called, two presently still serve as General Authorities: President Marion G. Romney, second counselor in the First Presidency, and Elder Alma Sonne, now of the First Quorum of Seventy. It is also of interest to note that from the group of Assistants called since 1941 have come five counselors in the First Presidency (including both present counselors in the First Presidency) and ten members of the Council of the Twelve (including four members of the present Council of the Twelve).
Also, although the First Quorum of Seventy is the new quorum among the “governing quorums,” it is filled with leaders of great and varied experience, men whose total service as General Authorities represents 305 years of General Authority experience; and, as a part of the quorum, the new members of the First Council of the Seventy represent 77 years of General Authority service. The quorum is in experienced hands.
In reflecting upon the nature of the quorum’s labors, it is also noted that three members of the First Council of the Seventy and seven members of the Quorum are now residing in areas throughout the world as area supervisors, giving leadership and direction to the Saints under their jurisdiction, and six members of the Quorum are now serving as mission presidents. (For more information on the First Quorum of Seventy, see Ensign, Dec. 1975, p. 58, and July 1976, p. 14.)