- General authority
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints(LDS Church), a general authority is a member of certain leadership organizations who are given administrative and ecclesiastical authority over the church. A general authority's jurisdiction is church-wide, in contrast to the responsibilities of a local authority or an area authority, which relate to a particular area, unit, or department of the church. However, not all church leaders with church-wide jurisdiction in the church are considered general authorities. The current number of general authorities as of October 2007 is 94. [See “General Authorities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”, [http://www.lds.org/churchmagazines/EN_2007_11_00___00611_000_000.pdf "Ensign", Nov. 2007] , pp. 64-65.]
Origin of the term
The first scriptural use of the term "general authority" was in minutes of a meeting for the organization of the
Presiding High Councilin 1834. Though the original minutes did not refer to the term "general authorities", the revised minutes, which were included in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, stated that decisions of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles"can only be called into question by the general authorities of the church in case of transgression." [Doctrine and Covenants, sourcetext|source=The Doctrine and Covenants|book=Covenant 102|verse=32] The use of the term "general authorities" at this time and in this context is generally interpreted to include the First Presidencyand the Presiding High Council.Fact|date=January 2008
Composition and distinction from general officers
By definition, general authorities are members of the church's priesthood, which does not include women. The most common definition of the general authorities includes the members of the following leadership organizations:
Excluded from the definition of the general authorities are members of the following organizations:
* The Third through the Eighth Quorums of the Seventy (who are called "Area Seventies" and have responsibilities relating to a limited geographical area)
* The general presidency of the Young Men
* The general presidency of the Sunday School
* The general presidency of the
* The general presidency of the Young Women
* The general presidency of the Primary
The latter three groups have traditionally been composed of women and represent the only three organizations in which women are given church-wide authority. With the exception of the area seventies, who have no church-wide authority, the members of the above organizations are usually referred to as "general officers" or "
general auxiliary presidencies" of the church to distinguish them from general authorities.
General leadership for the Sunday School and Young Men organizations have historically been called from the ranks of the general authorities. However, in the April 2004 general conference of the church,
Thomas S. Monsonof the First Presidency announced that "a recent decision [has been made] that members of the Quorums of the Seventy [will] not serve in the general presidencies of the Sunday School and Young Men." [ [http://www.lds.org/portal/site/LDSOrg/menuitem.b12f9d18fae655bb69095bd3e44916a0/?vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=534ed9cbdb01c010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&hideNav=1 “The Sustaining of Church Officers”] , "Ensign", May 2004, 24.]
Due to this change, no general auxiliary presidencies are composed of general authorities. Rather, the general authority seventies are now more active in general church committees and have less jurisdiction over local stakes, particularly in
North America. Generally, stake presidents now report to the area seventies, who then report to area presidencies, which are usually composed of general authority seventies. In North America, there are no area presidencies, with members of the Presidency of the Seventy taking the responsibility of overseeing the areas.
Typically, general authorities are given authority to use the
sealing power, while general officers and area seventies are not.
A person is typically called to be a general authority or general officer 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 typically called for life, although there have been more than a dozen instances when an apostle has been released from his service in the Quorum of the Twelve.
As with any calling in the church, general authorities and general officers serve "until they are released". In current church practice, men called to the First Quorum of the Seventy typically remain general authorities for life, but are granted
emeritusstatus in the October following their 70th birthday. (This practice has been more flexible in recent years, and as of the October 2004 General Conference, three of the seven members of the Presidency of the Seventy, two other members of the First Quorum, and four members of the Second Quorum were aged 70 or more and continued in office.) Members of the Second Quorum of the Seventyare typically called for a period of five to seven years. When members of the Second Quorum are released, they are no longer general authorities of the church. When members of the presiding bishopric are released, they almost invariably become members of the First Quorum of the Seventy and are therefore retained as lifetime general authorities.
In the biannual general conferences of the church held in April and October, all of the general authorities and general officers of the church are presented to the
Latter-day Saintsfor a sustaining vote, in accordance with the church's interpretation of the principle of common consent. This is a voluntary indication made by each member (usually by raising the hand) that the member assents to be led by the individuals presented as general authorities and general officers. Members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are always named by name, as are any persons being added or released from a position or any general authority or general officer moving from one organization to another (e.g., a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy being called to the Presidency of the Seventy). Otherwise, the general authorities and general officers of the church are simply sustained "as presently constituted".
This biannual procedure is dictated by church theology, which states that the church shall be governed by the
common consentof its membership. [Doctrine and Covenants, sourcetext|source=The Doctrine and Covenants|book=Covenant 20|verse=65] Dissenting votes are rare and have even more rarely prevented a person from holding the proposed position. General authorities and general officers are also assigned to deliver sermons during the two-day conferences.
General authority firsts
Council on the Disposition of the Tithes
* [http://www.desnews.com/confer/leaders/leaders.htm Deseret News General Authority Roster]
* [http://gapages.com/ Grampa Bill's G.A. Pages] : brief biographies of every LDS Church general authority in history
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