We know Seventies today as General and Area Authorities, their names for callings and releases read over the General Conference pulpit. If we think about it, we might remember that the office of Seventy used to be filled by members of stakes – but most of us were probably not old enough when practices changed to know the “how’s and wherefore’s” of local Seventies’ quorums. Here is material issued by the Melchizedek Priesthood leadership of the 1950s (undoubtedly some of these practices varied over time) regarding local Seventies:
1. The Calling of Seventies. – The calling of the seventies is a special one; those so called should be “especial witnesses”of Christ (D&C 107:25), and should have the desires, aptitudes, and inclinations for missionary work.
Not every elder who is ordained a seventy, however, need be called immediately into missionary service. There should be a reserve of seventies in training for missionary work, and it is the function of the quorums of seventy to prepare their members to teach the gospel effectively.
The seventies do not stand in a position intermediate between elders and high priests. Rather, they hold a highly specialized office, “thus differing from other officers in the church in the duties of their calling.”
Seventies in the stakes of Zion should be used within the field of their primary responsibility – that is, in missionary service. Seventies should not be used in auxiliary capacities when they are needed for missionary service, either stake or foreign.
Worthy seventies who, because of age, physical condition, or for other reason, can no longer be expected to serve effectively within the field of their primary responsibility may well be ordained high priests.
2. Service as Elders. – Elders should not be ordained seventies until they have gained a considerable degree of experience as elders, have matured in the gospel, and have become stable members of the Church.
This principle applies to young men called to serve as missionaries. After returning from their various fields of labor, they should affiliate with the elders quorums in their respective stakes and add their streng5th to them. Because of age, social, and fraternal considerations, and because their services usually are needed more with elders than seventies, they will thus gain for themselves greater opportunities for service and brotherhood in priesthood activities.
Concern is felt for the well-being of the quorums of elders. It is unwise to ordain too large a proportion of the outstanding and worthy elders into the quorums of seventies thus unduly weakening the elders quorums.
3. Worthiness a Prerequisite to Ordination. – Great care must be exercised in the selection and interviewing of prospective seventies. They must be morally clean; live in harmony with the policies, doctrines, and teachings of the Church and not run counter thereto in sympathy or practice; pay their tithes and offerings to the Lord in full; observe the Word of Wisdom; have an exemplary family life; and those who have been divorced must have received proper clearance form the First Presidency for a temple recommend.
4. Selection and Ordination of Seventies. – quorum presidents and unit leaders may ask the stake president to consider worthy and qualified elders with a view to having them ordained seventies, but the stake president will make the decision as to whether any recommendations are to be processed.
5. Ordination Procedures. a. Fill out and submit to the First Council the form entitled, “Request for Permission to Interview.” Do not advise those being considered that their names have been submitted.
b. the First Council will pass upon the need for additional seventies in each stake and quorum and will grant permission to interview such worthy brethren as may be needed.
c. After receiving permission in each instance, a member of the stake presidency will interview each prospective seventy and fill out the form entitled, “Recommendation for Ordination in the Priesthood.” If it is found upon interview that a brother is not morally clean, does not pay a full tithing, fails to keep the word of Wisdom, or for some other reason is not presently worthy to be ordained a seventy, then the stake president should not proceed further with the recommendation. Rather, it is important that a labor be taken up with such a brother so that through repentance and obedience he may become worthy for ordination prior to his recommendation.
d. Gain high council approval for the ordination; obtain the signatures of the bishop and president of the elders quorum certifying as to worthiness; present the name for a sustaining vote either at a stake priesthood meeting or at a general session of a stake conference.
e. Submit the form to the First Council so that arrangements may be made for final interview and ordination by one of the General Authorities.
6. Organization of Quorums and Units. – In stakes having thirty-six or more seventies (and where it is apparent that the total number in the stake will not fall below this number) a quorum will be organized; otherwise, a seventies unit, presided over by a chairman and tow counselors will be organized. More than one unit of seventies cannot exist in any one stake, nor can a quorum and a unit exist in the same stake.
Every reasonable effort should be made to keep quorums of seventies operating with a membership of approximately seventy in each. When quorums fall below a strength of thirty-six, and it is apparent that they cannot be built up to a proper strength without impairing the effectiveness of elders quorums, they will be combined with other quorums or converted into units.
Factors considered in determining the need of increasing or decreasing quorums of seventies in the various stakes include the following: stake population; total number of elders in the stake; number of elders who pay a full tithing and are otherwise worthy to be ordained seventies; the prospective missionary field, including the number in the minority groups with whom missionary work can be done; the geographical area of the stake; whether the stake membership is increasing or decreasing; the leadership available for use as presidents of the quorums; the effect that the creation of a new quorum or the discontinuance of an existing one would have on the quorums of elders; the number of brethren in the existing quorums of seventy; and any special circumstances that might prevail in the stake concerned.
7. Changes in quorum and Unit Leadership. – Changes in quorum presidencies are made on recommendation of stake presidencies, who should consult with the local quorum council in filling vacancies except in cases in which all members of the council are to be proposed for release. Seventies may be ordained high priests without the prior approval of the First Council unless they are serving in quorum presidencies or in the chairmanship of units. In these cases, the prior approval of the First Council or of one of the duly authorized General Authorities operating on the ground, is required. However, stake presidents are at liberty at any time without the prior approval of the First Council to take a member of a quorum presidency, or of a unit chairmanship, if such brother is being called to serve in a stake presidency, on a high council, or in a ward bishopric. (Stake and ward clerks are not members of the stake presidency or ward bishopric.)
8. Qualifications and Worthiness of Quorum Presidents. – The best qualified and most worthy available brethren in the quorums should be selected to serve as presidents. Such brethren must, at the time of their installation, be living in harmony with the same standards required of those recommended for ordination as seventies. Inasmuch as it does not take the full Church service time of all seven presidents in a quorum of seventy to administer quorum affairs, the First Council of the Seventy will permit quorums to operate with vacancies in their presidencies rather than install brethren who are not presently meeting the required standards.
9. Service of Quorum Presidents as Missionaries. – If the needs of the missionary work in the particular stake require, as many as four of the presidents of every quorum of seventy should be serving on stake or foreign missions at all times. three of the seven presidents should be available to operate the quorum and should serve as chairmen of the three standing committees. Quorum presidents on stake missions should devote their full Church service time to that call on the same basis that all stake missionaries do. Accordingly they are relieved from the responsibility of quorum administration and committee assignment and need not attend quorum presidency meetings unless these are held at a time when they could not be doing missionary work.