Most members of the Church can grasp the concept of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles—the Church President and two appointed counselors (also Apostles) lead and preside over the other members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
But when it comes to the network of other general Church leaders, titles, callings, and responsibilities can feel a little more complex. Every six months as general conference speakers approach the podium or new callings are announced, I personally find myself wondering about the differences between a General Authority Seventy and an Area Seventy, who is considered a “General Authority,” why some leaders are receiving emeritus status, and how often new General Officers are called.
Here is a breakdown of what each Church leader does, how they are called, and where they fit within the structure of Church leadership.
The Definition of a General Authority
According to ChurchofJesusChrist.org, “General Authority” is a term for any senior leader of the Church. The First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, General Authority Seventies, and the Presiding Bishopric are all known as General Authorities.
Presidency of the Seventy
- The Presidency of the Seventy is made up of seven General Authority Seventies.
- These seven men are called by and report to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
- The Presidency of the Seventy presides over all the Quorums of the Seventy (there are 12 quorums total).
- This is the third-highest presiding body in the organization of the Church.
- These leaders serve full-time at Church headquarters in Salt Lake City and have no other professional occupation.
- Unlike other presidencies in the Church, this unique style of presidency consists of all presidents and no counselors.
Quorums of the Seventy
- The First and Second Quorums are composed of General Authority Seventies.
- Other Quorums of the Seventy (there are currently 12 quorums total) are made up of Area Seventies.
- New quorums are created or realigned when a quorum’s number exceeds 70.
General Authority Seventy
- General Authority Seventies are called to the office of Seventy in the Melchizedek Priesthood.
- General Authority Seventies follow the direction of the Presidency of the Seventy.
- These men serve in the Church full-time and have no other professional occupation.
- These leaders frequently meet with, minister to, and teach local Church leaders, members, and missionaries.
- General Authority Seventies can be called to serve anywhere in the world. Some General Authority Seventies serve in Area Presidencies over a specific geographic area (e.g., Africa Central, Asia North, or South America Northwest). Others serve at Church headquarters in administrative functions.
- General Authority Seventies serve until they are 70 years old, then they are granted emeritus status at the following October general conference.
- As of May 2023, there are 102 General Authority Seventies currently serving.
- Each of the Church’s 23 areas worldwide is led by an Area Presidency, made up of a president and two counselors.
- Area Presidencies are usually made up of General Authority Seventies, but in some instances, an Area Seventy may be called to serve in an Area Presidency.
- The Area Presidency provides spiritual and administrative direction to the leaders and members of the Church in a specific geographic area.
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- Area Seventies are local area authorities specifically called in one of the Church’s 23 geographic areas throughout the world.
- Area Seventies are also ordained to the office of Seventy in the Melchizedek Priesthood.
- The authority of an Area Seventy is generally limited to the area where they serve, as opposed to a General Authority Seventy who has authority not restricted to a geographic area.
- Area Seventies live at home and only serve for a designated number of years, like a bishop or stake president.
- Area Seventies maintain other professional employment while serving in this calling.
- Area Seventies report to Area Presidencies.
- Stake presidents report to and are instructed by Area Seventies.
- An Area Seventy is not considered a General Authority.
- General Officers in the Church consist of the Relief Society, Young Men, Young Women, Primary, and Sunday School General Presidencies.
- A General Presidency oversees the administration of their respective organizations all over the world and travels frequently to meet with and teach local Church leaders and members.
- These men and women reside in Salt Lake City and serve at Church headquarters.
- Each organization’s presidency generally serves for five years.
- General Officers are not considered General Authorities.