The First Quorum of the Seventy: A Conversation with Elder
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.
How Priesthood Quorums Sponsor Overseas Missionaries
“Over the years the seventies of the Church have contributed a great portion of the funds which have supported missionaries outside the United States and Canada. We commend the seventies of the Church for their great contributions that have been given to finance the missions. However, may we suggest now there is a greater need than ever before for the elders, the high priests, and yes, additional contributions from the seventies of the Church, in order to finance this great missionary movement the Lord requires of us.” (President Spencer W. Kimball, at Regional Representatives seminar, April 3, 1975.)
Though priesthood quorums have long supported local youth on missions, these quorums are now encouraged to extend their support to missionaries outside the United States and Canada as well. Missionaries worldwide are aided by contributions to the General Missionary Fund of the Church.
According to Raymond Johanson, supervisor of Mission Accounting Services, quorum contributions may be sent to the General Missionary Fund either in a lump sum or in a series of small donations on a regular basis. If small donations are sent, the initial one should be accompanied by a letter indicating more will be coming to provide continued support for a sponsored missionary. In this way, the Missionary Department can assign a sponsored missionary to one donor with whom he can readily identify and correspond.
Much labor and sacrifice have been required as quorums have responded to the prophet’s call.
Early Saturday morning a group of ten men pull up to a warehouse in Midvale, Utah. Piling out of two cars, they share a good-natured laugh about one fellow’s early morning grumbles and find their way to a railroad freight car. Soon the sun rises higher; sweat begins to appear; and the small talk is hushed as they carry big bags of insulation material to waiting trucks.
These men vary in occupation from carpenter to accountant, but on this particular morning they have something in common: they are all members of the Midvale Fort Union Sixth Quorum of Elders, giving a morning’s work to help finance a native missionary in Spain.
Like that Spanish missionary, youth all over the world are serving their own people on missions with the help of priesthood quorum contributions. As the emphasis on this work continues, many elders and high priests quorums are expanding their missionary roles to help the seventies shoulder their growing responsibility. Sponsored missionaries may be assigned to any quorum that contributes enough funds to assist the missionary throughout the term of his mission.
A typical example is the high priests quorum in the Mesa Arizona Maricopa Stake, which has suggested that each member make a yearly contribution to help support an elder in Scotland. Quorum president J. LaMar Shelley explained that his quorum members feel closer to their sponsored missionary when they can see letters like the one that read: “I have been a member of this church for 1 1/2 years. Since I was baptized I have wanted to help other people obtain the joy I have felt as a member. … Now I have this great opportunity.” Such letters, when read in quorum meetings, really generate interest and lead to contributions, President Shelley believes.
A stake variety show, sponsored by the seventies quorum in Salt Lake Jordan North Stake, is helping another missionary preach the gospel in Scotland. In one of his recent letters he wrote, “I am greatly indebted to all of you for the sacrifice you are making on my behalf. I cannot put into words how delighted I am at your help, so freely given.”
The seventies quorum of Las Vegas Nevada Central Stake received this letter from Central America: “I want you to know that I’m very grateful for the great opportunity that you have given me. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to be a missionary. I remember praying for five years and saying each night, ‘Father, help me so that I can fulfill a mission.’ That’s how I got a testimony that God will give us what we ask if it is just.”
A Japanese sister serving in her native country wrote: “For the remaining time I will work very hard so that you too may receive the blessings. … I send my love and the love of the Japanese.”
According to Donald Layton, senior president of the quorum, these letters inspire members to contribute to the General Missionary Fund because “they have an association with real people instead of a nameless person from another country.”
As donations to the fund are assigned to a particular quorum, the Missionary Department informs the sponsored missionary, through his mission president, that the funds will be sent to help support him. The missionary is also encouraged to write the donor quorum to keep it abreast of his progress in the field. Missionaries receiving donor funds are counseled to sacrifice, with their families, as much as possible to provide their own finances.
Explaining the significance of the missionary calling, the Missionary Handbook reads, “Through dedicated service, your mission experience will bring you closer to the Lord than ever before and will establish a spiritual foundation that will serve you throughout your life.”
Future leaders of the Church in their own countries may receive their foundation from a mission made possible by quorum donations. Perhaps the real value of missionary support was best expressed in a letter from a Japanese sister whose limited knowledge of English distilled her message to the most simple truth: “How are you? I am fine. I finished mission November 4. Thankful for your big helping. My faith became strong. It’s very good. Hereafter I will do mission to my family and many people. Thanks lots.”
Consider String Quartets for Church Music
“String ensembles may be used for special musical selections where such music would be in keeping with the spirit of the meeting.” (Letter of the First Presidency to all stake and district presidents, bishops, and branch presidents, Sept. 6, 1974.)
Latter-day Saints should be interested in improving the quantity and quality of music in the Church. Every ward and branch should have a choir; in addition, at the suggestion of the First Presidency, string ensembles may also be encouraged to perform at meetings where they would be considered appropriate.
The Church Music Department recommends that qualified string players be invited to join with the organ and congregation in worship services. Because string instruments blend well with both organ and voices, any number and combination can be used successfully. In areas of the Church where few good string players are available, even one violin, viola, or cello is sufficient to add beauty and provide an opportunity for service.
From the early days of the restoration of the gospel, music has been encouraged in the Church to edify and uplift the hearts of the Saints. The Prophet Joseph Smith “recommended the Saints to cultivate as high a state of perfection in their musical harmonies as the standard of the faith which he had brought was superior to sectarian religion.” (Joseph Young, History of the Origin of the Seventies, Salt Lake City, 1878, appendix pp. 14–15.)
Musical instruments have been used to enhance and beautify the worship services, and instrumental ensembles have often joined with choirs in worshipping through music. For a number of years the Bonneville Strings, a fine ensemble, has been regularly adding to the beauty of the services in the Salt Lake Bonneville Stake.
Recently the glorious sound of combined voices and instruments was heard at a presentation of Merrill Bradshaw’s oratorio, “The Restoration,” at Brigham Young University, when the entire audience joined the chorus and orchestra in the hymns of Zion. Those present experienced a kind of spiritual elation.
As an important part of the long-range aspect of developing the use of strings in the Church, our children should be encouraged to take music lessons and become proficient on musical instruments. They should also be provided with constant opportunities for hearing the best music beautifully performed, whether on recordings in the home or at live concerts.
With the development of new teaching philosophies and methods, it is now possible for children to learn to play string instruments as early as four and five years of age. Having such early training, our children could begin to experience the joy of service in music, even in Primary, by playing for the simple children’s songs. Then, as they advance in proficiency, they could gain further experience by playing hymns in Sunday School. Finally, with sufficient background, they would be qualified to join with the congregation, choir, and organ in sacrament meetings to inspire, through music, feelings of reverence and worship.