The Church's Area Authority Seventies have been called an eclectic group a faithful collection of men gleaned from virtually every land and professional background.
Yet since the 1997 inception of this priesthood calling, Area Authority Seventies have helped unify an ever-growing Church via service and devotion. Their success is emblematic of the Church's global development and growth, said Elder L. Aldin Porter, senior member of the Presidency of the Seventy.
"It's a mark of maturity," Elder Porter added. "All over the world we have strong priesthood holders and families."
President Hinckley introduced the calling of Area Authority Seventy during the opening address of the April 1997 general conference. The prophet said the "faithful cadre of Brethren" serving at the time as Area Authorities would be ordained Seventies and placed in quorums presided over by the Presidents of the Seventy. They would voluntarily serve in the areas where they reside, continue with their present employment and live in their own homes.
In 1997, those residing in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and the Pacific became members of the Third Quorum of the Seventy. Area Authority Seventies from Mexico and Central and South America were assigned to the Fourth Quorum, while their counterparts residing in the United States and Canada became members of the Fifth Quorum.
"As Seventies they are called to preach the gospel and to be especial witnesses of the Lord Jesus Christ as set forth in the revelations," President Hinckley said at the time.
The newly called Area Authority Seventies were given administrative authority to organize and establish the expanding Church in their respective lands. When assigned, they have presided at stake conferences and trained stake presidencies, created or reorganized stakes and set apart stake presidencies, served as counselors in Area Presidencies, toured missions and trained mission presidents and fulfilled other assigned duties.
"The outline that we were given [from President Hinckley] has become our marching orders," Elder Porter said.
While General Authorities continue to perform the majority of stake organizations and reorganizations, Area Authority Seventies are assuming a "substantial" share of the load, Elder Porter said.
Beginning in August, the Central America and newly formed Idaho area presidencies will consist entirely of Area Authority Seventies.
Elder C. Scott Grow is an Area Authority Seventy who was recently called to preside over the new Idaho Area. The position has given him a first-hand glimpse of the faith's stability throughout the world.
"I am thoroughly impressed with the depth and quality of the leadership throughout the Church," said Elder Grow, who has also served in the North America Northwest Area presidency.
The Idaho native said he and other Area Authority Seventies have been tutored, mentored and shepherded by the First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve and other General Authorities. A spot among the Seventies, he added, has offered comforting support and fellowship.
Elder Porter has enjoyed watching the development of the Third, Fourth and Fifth Quorums of the Seventy and their respective members.
"It's interesting to see how people rise to the challenge. . . . I think they have done a remarkable job," he said.