In the Friday Morning Session of the October 1975 General Conferece, President Spencer W. Kimball made a few remarks, almost an aside, which were in fact, a momentus announcement.
Today we announce to you the appointment of four new General Authorities to assist in the carrying forth of the work of the Lord, especially in the missionary area. Elder Gene R. Cook of Bountiful, Utah, formerly executive secretary of the First Council of the Seventy will become a member of the First Council of the Seventy. The First Quorum of the Seventy will be gradually organized, eventually with seventy members, the presidency of which will be made up of the seven members. Three Brethren this day will be added to the First Quorum of the Seventy. They are Charles A. Didier, a native of Belgium, now of Frankfurt, Germany, a seventy; William Rawsel Bradford of San Antonio, Texas, now president of the Chile Santiago Mission, a seventy; Elder George Patrick Lee of Towaoc, Colorado, and Shiprock, New Mexico, a seventy, now serving as president of the Arizona Holbrook Mission. These four men will assume and carry out the responsibilities of General Authorities. These four General Authorities will be presented with the other General Authorities for your vote a little later in the conference.
Writing in the Ensign for November 1975, Jay M. Cook, recognizing the importance of President Kimball's announcement, gave a commentary and explication.
For 140 years a significant arm of priesthood organization at the general Church level has remained dormant, awaiting the day when the Lord would indicate that its time had come. Thus, for the brethren of the priesthood, it was a moment of great interest when President Spencer W. Kimball announced in the Friday morning session that “the First Quorum of the Seventy will be gradually organized, eventually with seventy members. … Three brethren this day will be added to the First Quorum of the Seventy.”
Information about the ordained office of seventy in the Melchizedek Priesthood was first given to Saints in this last dispensation on February 28, 1835, when the Prophet Joseph Smith organized some brethren into a First Quorum of the Seventy.
One month later, on March 28, the Prophet recorded the revelation known as the 107th section of the Doctrine and Covenants in which the apostles were identified as the “traveling high council” of the Church (D&C 107:23), and the First Quorum of the Seventy was identified as the “traveling ministers” of the Church (D&C 107:97). The apostles were to be “special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world,” and the seventies were called to “preach the gospel, and to be especial witnesses unto the Gentiles and in all the world.”
A tithe of the quorum’s number, seven presidents, was to preside over the seventy, and would be known as the First Council of the Seventy. After the death of Joseph Smith, the only members called to the First Quorum of the Seventy were seven presidents called to serve as the First Council of the Seventy. In further reference to the First Council the Lord indicated that their senior member was to preside over the other six presidents within that Council, and that the council of seven presidents would, of course, preside over the remaining 63 members. (D&C 107:93–97.)
Since the early days of the Church, the First Quorum of the Seventy has had no members in its quorum other than the seven presidents filling the First Council. President Kimball’s announcement indicates that in the timetable of the Lord, it is now desirous for additional “traveling ministers” to be added to the General Authorities of the Church to share the great burdens that carrying the gospel to the world involves.
As in all other priesthood quorums except the Quorum of the Twelve, membership in the First Quorum of the Seventy will not be marked by seniority. Membership in the First Council of the Seventy is, however, listed by seniority. Careful reading of the 107th section also shows that general quorums of seventy “traveling ministers” may also be called to serve the entire Church under the direction of the First Council of the Seventy “if the labor in the vineyard of necessity requires it.” (D&C 107:96.)
Additional information about the First Quorum of the Seventy will probably be given in the days ahead and through the normal teaching processes of the Church.