LDS Growth Encyclopedia on Missionary Work and Church Growth (Missiology)

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General Authority

Author: Matt Martinich

Posted: April 22nd, 2014

General Authorities are male leaders who hold full-time international church leadership positions. General Authorities consist of all members of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the Presidency of the Seventy, the First and Second Quorums of the Seventy, and the Presiding Bishopric. Seventies provide administrative support to the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. In early 2013, there were 99 General Authorities including 59 members of the First Quorum of the Seventy, 15 members of the Second Quorum of the Seventy, 12 members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, seven members of the Presidency of the Seventy, three members of the First Presidency, and three members of the Presiding Bishopric.[1] The number of General Authorities varies year to year due to changes in the number members in the First and Second Quorums of the Seventy. The number of members in other General Authority positions is fixed at 25. Former President of the Church Spencer W. Kimball reorganized the First Quorum of the Seventy in 1975 by calling Assistants to the Twelve, a former General Authority office that operated from 1941-1976,[2] as Seventies.[3] In 1989, the Church organized the Second Quorum of the Seventy to accommodate increasing numbers of Seventies. In 1995, the Church designated the calling of Area Seventy to replace regional authorities but these Seventy are not General Authorities and serve on a part-time basis.[4]

Some General Authority positions are for life such as President of the Church and Apostle whereas others such as Seventies and members of the Presiding Bishopric are not. General Authorities may be called to serve anywhere in the world[5] as assigned by the First Presidency. Some common responsibilities include setting apart and training stake presidencies, organizing and reorganizing stakes, presiding at stake conferences, leadership training, and opening unreached countries to missionary activity. Apostles and members of the First Presidency dedicate countries for missionary work and may dedicate newly completed temples instead of the President of the Church. The Church has discontinued some General Authority offices such as Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Apostles and the First Presidency review missionary applications and assign prospective missionaries to one of the Church's 405 missions. The First Presidency handles matters pertaining to some disciplinary actions of members such as excommunications and membership reinstatements, and temple marriage annulments.

The number of General Authorities in the First and Second Quorums of the Seventy has increased within the past several decades although there are times when the number of General Authorities has decreased. For example, the number of General Authorities increased from 91 in late 1996 to 109 in April 2010 but declined to 99 in early 2013. In late 1996, there were 91 General Authorities including 43 members of the First Quorum of the Seventy and 23 members of the Second Quorum of the Seventy.[6] In April 2010, there were 109 General Authorities including 62 members of the First Quorum of the Seventy and 22 members of the Second Quorum of the Seventy.[7]

The country of origin for General Authorities provides insight into the size, strength, and sustainability of global LDS leadership. In early 2013, 65 of the 99 General Authorities (66%) were born in the United States and 34 were born in Utah[8] (34%) notwithstanding nominal LDS membership in the United States and Utah constituting 43% and 13% of worldwide membership totals, respectively. Higher member activity rates in the United States than in most other countries, Church Headquarters based within the United States, the greater percentage of Latter-day Saints born in Utah half a century earlier than at present, use of English in international church administration, and a larger demographic of prospective older adult males who have served in various leadership positions have appeared responsible for the overrepresentation of American members in General Authority positions. Notwithstanding the overrepresentation of General Authorities from Utah and the United States, the geographic backgrounds of General Authorities has becoming more diverse over the past half century. Over 80% of General Authorities called between 1941 and 1974 were from Utah and nearly all others were from the Intermountain West.[9] In late 1996, 83.5% of General Authorities were born in the United States[10] whereas the percentage of United States-born General Authorities declined to 66% in early 2013. 


[1]  "General Authorities," lds.org, retrieved 12 February 2013.  http://www.lds.org/church/leaders

[2]  Plewe, Brandon S.  2012. "Church Leadership," Mapping Mormonism, p. 177

[3]  Kimball, Spencer W.  "The Reconstitution of the First Quorum of the Seventy," General Conference, October 1976.  http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1976/10/the-reconstitution-of-the-first-quorum-of-the-seventy

[4]  Hinckley, Gordon B.  "This Work is Concerned with People," Ensign, May 1995.  http://www.lds.org/ensign/1995/05/this-work-is-concerned-with-people

[5]  "Church Administration," True to the Faith, p. 35

[6]  "General Authorities," Deseret News 1997-1998 Church Almanac, p.14-39

[7]  "General Authorities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," Ensign, April 2010.  http://www.lds.org/Static%20Files/PDF/Magazines/Ensign/English/2010/EN_2010_05_00___09205_000_000.pdf

[8]  "General Authorities," lds.org, retrieved 12 February 2013.  http://www.lds.org/church/leaders

[9]  Plewe, Brandon S.  2012. "Church Leadership," Mapping Mormonism, p. 177

[10]  "General Authorities," Deseret News 1997-1998 Church Almanac, p.14-39