Editor’s note: This article was originally published on LDSLiving.com in May 2021 and has been updated for clarity.
Over nearly two decades of service as a General Authority Seventy, Elder Craig C. Christensen has served in a variety of roles, including as South America South Area President, President of the Mexico South Area, and a member of the Presidency of the Seventy. On a 2021 episode of the Church News podcast, Elder Christensen, who was serving as the Utah Area President at the time, shared five things you might not know about the 23 Church areas and the work of Area Presidencies.
1. Church areas are formed for administrative purposes.
Church areas were first formed during the tenure of President Gordon B. Hinckley in 1984.
“They’re not formed for any scriptural or ecclesiastical reason,” Elder Christensen said on the podcast. “It’s a way that we’ve managed, in a kind of a decentralized way, areas around the world. The Church is operating in countries throughout the world, and area presidencies have been formed to supervise, in a local way, the work of the Church, as well as interacting with mission presidents and their companions, mission leaders, stake presidents, and others.”
2. There are 23 areas of the Church, and the Utah Area includes the most members.
At the time of Elder Christensen’s podcast interview, the Church had 22 areas, 16 are international areas, and six spanning the United States and Canada. In April 2022 however, the Church realigned its Europe areas, creating new Europe North and Europe Central Areas.
Elder Christensen also said that the Utah Area is the largest in the Church, which, as of 2021, had 628 stakes and over 2 million members. Elder Christensen said Utah membership accounted for 13% of the total membership of the Church and about 25% of the active Church.
3. Area Presidency assignments are like missionary assignments.
How is it determined which General Authority Seventy will serve where? Well, to explain that Elder Christensen gave a relatable analogy.
“We have missionaries throughout the world, and some of them are assigned to be zone leaders or district leaders or sister training leaders. Those are assignments. They’re still missionaries,” Elder Christensen said. “Well, we have General Authorities and Area Seventies throughout the world, and that’s our calling, but we’re assigned, at times, to serve in Area Presidencies. So once a year, they make an assignment change.”
Elder Christensen noted that even though the assignment changes happen every year, the tenure of an Area Presidency member could last longer than a year. They could last two, three, or four years. The assignments happen in April and in August the Area Presidencies have their “transfers.”
4. Two Area Seventies currently serve in Area Presidencies.
The majority of Area Presidency members are General Authority Seventies. At the time of Elder Christensen’s podcast interview, there were two Area Seventy exceptions: Elder Kyrylo Pokhylko, a Russian citizen who serves in the Europe East Area Presidency, and Elder Jeffrey H. Singer who serves in the Middle East / Africa North Area Presidency.
“We call Area Seventies who have quite a bit of familiarity with that part of the world,” Elder Christensen said. “Sometimes they live there. Sometimes it’s just because of their knowledge base. So, they’re unique situations.”
5. At least once a year, every area reports to the Area Committee.
Every area reports at least once a year, sometimes more frequently, to the Area Committee, which consists of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the Presidency of the Seventy, and the Presiding Bishopric. Reports are done via technology or in-person.
And typically, once a year, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve and a member of the Presidency of the Seventy or the Presiding Bishopric, visits the area.
“They spend one or two days with us, and it’s really our chance to get counsel and direction, to give a stewardship report of what we’ve been working on, to make sure we’re all aligned in what the vision for the area is,” Elder Christensen said. “So that’s how we keep senior leadership informed, is through that process of Area Committee reports and area reviews.”
Find out more about what Elder Christensen shared on the Church News podcast at Church News.