General Authorities are the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
As Jesus Christ began his ministry, he called and ordained righteous men to hold the priesthood. He organized His Church with twelve Apostles to bear testimony of Him and to guide His Church. Seventy other men were also called to help the twelve Apostles bear these responsibilities:
- After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come (Luke 10:1, emphasis added).
Christ set up His church in the same way, when he visited the Book of Mormon people in America after His Resurrection.
- And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words unto Nephi, and to those who had been called, (now the number of them who had been called, and received power and authority to baptize, was twelve...(3 Nephi 12:1).
Eventually, the truth of Christ’s Church and its organization was lost, until revelation was given through Joseph Smith. Christ’s Church was again organized in the same way as Christ had organized it. Twelve men were ordained as Apostles, and seventy other men have been called to help lead and direct Christ’s Church. These men are referred to as General Authorities.
General Authorities hold the Melchizedek priesthood, also called the higher Priesthood, and are called to be in one of these positions: the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, The Seventy, or the Presiding Bishopric.
- The First Presidency is made up of three men, the President of the Church and two counselors. (The First Presidency in ancient times consisted of three men—Peter, James, and John.) The President of the Church holds all of the keys of the Priesthood and directs the Church through revelation.
- The Lord guides His covenant people today through the President of the Church, whom we sustain as prophet, seer, and revelator. The President of the Church presides over the entire Church. He and his counselors, who are also prophets, seers, and revelators, form the Quorum of the First Presidency.
- The Twelve Apostles are called to be special witnesses of Jesus Christ, just like the original twelve apostles. The Twelve Apostles also help guide the Church under the First Presidency’s direction.
- Members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are also prophets, seers, and revelators. They, along with the First Presidency, are "special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world" (Doctrine and Covenants 107:23). They act under the direction of the First Presidency "to build up the church, and regulate all the affairs of the same in all nations" (Doctrine and Covenants 107:33). They "open the door [to the nations] by the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ" (Doctrine and Covenants 107:35).
- The Seventy are called to work under the direction of the Twelve Apostles to help regulate the affairs of the Church. With the growth of the Church, other Quorums of seventy have been created.
- The Second Quorum of Seventy was created April 1, 1989, in response to the "continued rapid growth of the Church." The initial members of the Second Quorum were those members of the First Quorum of Seventy who were serving under a five-year call from April 1984 to October 1988. Currently, members of the Second Quorum serve five year calls, while members of the First Quorum are called until factors of age or health necessitate them being placed on emeritus status. Both are General Authorities with authority and responsibilty throughout the Lord's Church. The Seventy are not sustained as Prophets, Seers, and Revelators .
- Members of the Quorums of the Seventy are called to proclaim the gospel and build up the Church. They work under the direction of the Twelve Apostles and the leadership of seven brethren who are called to serve as the Presidency of the Seventy. Members of the First and Second Quorums of the Seventy are designated General Authorities, and they may be called to serve anywhere in the world.
- The Presiding Bishopric is in charge of watching over the physical dealings of the Church and work under the direction of the Twelve Apostles and First Presidency.
- The Presiding Bishopric is the presidency of the Aaronic Priesthood throughout the Church. The Presiding Bishop and his counselors serve under the direction of the First Presidency to administer the temporal affairs of the Church.
General Authorities are responsible to act as representatives of Jesus Christ. They are able to receive revelation from Him on how to direct His Church under the direction of the First Presidency. To fulfill this responsibility, General Authorities travel throughout the world to help teach members and local leaders, keep unity within the church, make sure that correct doctrines are taught, ordain local priesthood leaders, prepare and give messages to members of the Church, supervise all the executive affairs of the Church, and bear their testimonies of the Savior.
Who are General Authorities?
A person is typically called to be a General Authority by a member of the First Presidency or the Quorum of the Twelve. The President of the Church and members of the Quorum of the Twelve are called for the remainder of their lives. In current Church policy, men called to the Quorums of the Seventy keep the designation "Elder", although they hold the office of high priest in the Melchizedek Priesthood.
In the semi-annual general conference of the Church held in April of each year, General Authorities are presented to the general membership of the Church for a sustaining vote. This is a voluntary indication made by each member (by raising his right hand) that the member agrees to be led by the individuals presented as general authorities and to support them in their stewardships. This procedure is dictated by Church theology, which states that the Church shall be governed by the common consent of its membership (Doctrine and Covenants 20:65).
At the General Conferences of the Church, all members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve speak at least once. Members of the Seventy and Presiding Bishopric speak less often at General Conference.