With the organization of the Second Quorum of the Seventy at the 159th Annual General Conference of the Church on April 1, a major new chapter has opened in the history of this priesthood office.
It was on Feb. 8, 1835, when Joseph Smith announced to Brigham Young and his brother Joseph that the time had come for the organization of the quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the First Quorum of Seventy. On Feb. 28, 1835, the first Seven Presidents of the Seventy were called and ordained, along with other quorum members to a total of 45.In a revelation concerning the priesthood quorums of the Church, the Lord said with regard for the Seventy:
"The Seventy are also called to preach the gospel, and to be especial witnesses unto the Gentiles in all the world – thus differing from other officers in the church in the duties of their calling.
"And they form a quorum, equal in authority to that of the Twelve special witnesses or Apostles just named." (D&C 107:25-26.)
In describing the responsibility of the Seventy, the Lord said:
"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. . . ." (D&C 107:34.)
As the Seventy have moved toward the fulfillment of this revealed role, they have had an interesting and diversified history in this dispensation. Some of the more significant developments in this history are as follows:
- Feb. 8, 1835 – Joseph Smith announces his intention of organizing the Seventy.
- Feb. 28, 1835 – 45 Seventies are called and ordained, including the First Seven Presidents.
- March 28, 1835 – The revelation showing the "order of the Seventy" is announced. (D&C 107.)
- Feb. 7, 1836 – A second quorum of Seventy is begun in Kirtland, Ohio.
- Dec. 20, 1836 – A third quorum of Seventy is begun.
- Sept. 24, 1844 – The members of the First Quorum of the Seventy are organized into the presidencies of other quorums of Seventy with the First Seven Presidents presiding over all quorums.
- Oct. 8, 1844 – As a result of an action taken in the October General Conference in Nauvoo, the quorums of Seventy are increased to 12.
- Jan. 19, 1846 – The number of Seventies quorums has increased to 33.
- 1850-1883 – As the Church settles in the West, members of the various quorums of Seventy are scattered, making it difficult for them to function as quorums.
- April 13, 1883 – The First Presidency (President John Taylor) issues authorization to reorganize Seventies quorums on a geographical basis.
- April 14, 1883 – Revelation to Pres. John Taylor pertaining to the organization of the Seventies in the future. "Fear me and observe my laws and I will reveal unto you, from time to time, through the channels that I have appointed, everything that shall be necessary for the future development and perfection of my Church, for the adjustment and rolling forth of my kingdom, and for the building up and the establishment of my Zion. For ye are my Priesthood and I am your God. Even so. Amen."
- Oct. 6, 1904 – The number of Seventies quorums has expanded to 146.
- May 1955 – Units of Seventies are organized in each stake where there are less than 36 Seventies.
- October 1957 – The number of Seventies quorums reaches 490.
- June 11, 1961 – Four members of the First Council of the Seventy are ordained high priests. Members of the First Council are authorized to organize and reorganize stake presidencies on assignment from the Twelve.
- June 12, 1964 – The First Council of the Seventy are given the sealing power.
- March 29, 1974 – The First Presidency authorizes stake presidents to ordainseventies who have been approved by the First Council of the Seventy.
- Oct. 3, 1974 – The First Presidency announces that Seventies units will be discontinued and each stake should organize a quorum of Seventy. All quorums are to have the name of the stake in which they are organized. The presidencies of the stake quorums of Seventy are to serve as the stake mission presidency.
- Oct. 3, 1975 – Seventies are called as General Authorities in addition to the First Council of the Seventy, constituting the First Quorum of the Seventy.
- Oct. 1, 1976 – The First Quorum of the Seventy is expanded by the addition of all the Assistants to the Twelve. All members of the First Quorum are ordained to the office of High Priest as well as to the office of Seventy. The Seventy are given area supervisory assignments for the field operations of the Church.
- February 1980 – The Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy is reorganized and the presidents are made executive directors of headquarters departments of the Church.
- Feb. 27, 1981 – The First Quorum of the Seventy and stake presidents are authorized to ordain patriarchs as directed by the Twelve.
- April 7, 1984 – Six members are called to the First Quorum of the Seventy to serve for a period of five years, thus establishing a new precedent for tenureas General authorities.
- July 1, 1984 – Members of the First Quorum of the Seventy are called as Area Presidencies to administer the work of the Church under the direction of the Twelve.
- Oct. 4, 1986 – All stake quorums of Seventy are disorganized. Stake seventies become members of elders quorums or are ordained high priests. The office of Seventy is reserved for General Authorities of the Church.
- April 1, 1989 – The Second Quorum of the Seventy is organized, comprised of 36 members who are called for a period of five years. The First Quorum of the Seventy is comprised of those members serving for longer than five years as General Authorities. The Presidency of the First Quorum are to preside over both quorums. No distinction is made in the authority of members in these two quorums.
As the growth of the Church continues, further developments in the role of the Seventy may be anticipated. It is apparent that the pattern for the world-wide administration of the Church has been set by revelation, and that it can accommodate almost unlimited growth. Under the direction of the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve, the quorums of Seventy can be expanded by the calling of additional members "until seven times seventy, if the labor in the vineyard of necessity requires it. " (D&C 107:96.)