The first releases of General Authorities called under a plan to serve for five years added historical significance to the 159th Semiannual General Conference, held in the Tabernacle on Temple Square, Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 30 and Oct. 1.
Eight General Authorities, called in 1984 and named to the Second Quorum of the Seventy when it was created last April, were released during the sustaining of Church leaders Saturday afternoon.Also of historical significance was the granting of emeritus status to eight additional General Authorities from the First Quorum of the Seventy because of "factors of age and health."
Released from the Second Quorum of the Seventy, after having served as General Authorities for five years, were Elders Russell C. Taylor, Robert B. Harbertson, Devere Harris, Spencer H. Osborn, Philip T. Sonntag, who were called in April 1984; and John Sonnenberg, F. Arthur Kay, and Keith W. Wilcox, called in October 1984.
In the April 1984 general conference, announcement was made of the procedure for calling certain Brethren to serve as General Authorities for a period of time and then be released rather than serving a lifetime. It was announced they would "be released with honor and appreciation." The procedure, it was announced, "will provide a constant infusion of new talent and a much widened opportunity for men of ability and faith to serve in these offices." (Church News, April 14, 1984.)
The emeritus status was instituted at the October 1978 general conference when it was announced the status would be given from "time to time" to designated General Authorities.
Given emeritus status were Elders Theodore M. Burton, Robert L. Simpson, Victor L. Brown, Paul H. Dunn, J. Thomas Fyans, Wm. Grant Bangerter, Royden G. Derrick and Rex C. Reeve, who had a combined 165 years of service. (See biographical information on page 4.)
Because of the release of Elder Bangerter and the assignment of Elder Hugh W. Pinnock as president of the North America Northwest Area, both of whom had been serving in the Presidency of the Seventy, two new members were called to the presidency. They are Elder Rex D. Pinegar, who was serving as president of the North America Southeast Area; and Elder Carlos E. Asay, who was serving as president of the Europe Area. (See page 23 for new assignments of area presidencies.)
Also because of the emeritus status of Elder Simpson, who had been serving as president of the Sunday School, a new Sunday School presidency was sustained. Elder Pinnock was called as Sunday School president, a position he previously held from 1979 to 1986. Sustained as counselors were Elder Derek A. Cuthbert and Elder Ted E. Brewerton. All are members of the First Quorum of the Seventy. Counselors in the previous Sunday School presidency were Elder Harris, who was released as a General Authority; and Elder Cuthbert.
In addition, two new counselors were called to serve with Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone in the presidency of the Young Men. They are Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the First Quorum of the Seventy and Elder Monte J. Brough of the Second Quorum of the Seventy. They succeed Elder Pinegar and Elder Harbertson, who was also released as a General Authority.
In all, 23 General Authorities were released, given emeritus status or received leadership assignment changes during the conference.
President Ezra Taft Benson presided over all sessions of the conference. His counselors, President Gordon B. Hinckley and President Thomas S. Monson, took turns conducting the sessions.
Thirty separate messages of inspiration and instruction were delivered during the conference, which included two sessions each on Saturday, Sept. 30, and Sunday, Oct. 1, and the priesthood session Saturday evening.