A general authority is a member of the highest levels of leadership within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who has 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. As a group, the general authorities are often referred to as "the Brethren". As of October 2017, there are 109 general authorities.
The first scriptural use of the term general authority was in minutes of a meeting for the organization of the Presiding High Council in 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." The use of the term general authorities at this time and in this context is generally interpreted to include the First Presidency and the Presiding High Council.
|Organization||Membership||Title given to members
(e.g., Title Smith or Title John J. Smith)
|First Presidency||President of the Church and his chosen counselors||President||President of the Church: Life|
Counselors: Until own death, death of the President of the Church, or release at the discretion of the president
|Quorum of the Twelve Apostles||12 apostles||Elder;
president or acting president of the Quorum: President
|Typically life; may be removed from Quorum to join First Presidency|
|Presidency of the Seventy||7 seventies, typically drawn from the First or Second Quorum of the Seventy||Elder||Variable (usually 5-8 years); until release at the discretion of the church president; may remain a member of the First or Second Quorum of the Seventy when released|
|First Quorum of the Seventy||Up to 70 seventies||Elder||Life; will typically be relieved of active duties and granted emeritus status around age 70|
|Second Quorum of the Seventy||Up to 70 seventies||Elder||Variable (usually 5-7 years); until release at the discretion of the church president|
|Presiding Bishopric||3 bishops: one presiding bishop and two counselors||Bishop||Variable (usually 9-12 years); until release at the discretion of the church president; will typically become a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy upon their release|
|Presiding Patriarch||Defunct (was 1 patriarch)||Elder||Defunct; Life; In 1979, Eldred G. Smith was released from active duties and given general authority emeritus status. A new presiding patriarch has not been called since his death in 2013.|
|Assistants to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles||Defunct (was variable)||Elder||Defunct; All Assistants to the Twelve were added to the First Quorum of the Seventy in 1976 and the position was eliminated.|
Not all church leaders with church-wide responsibility are considered general authorities. The general presidencies of the church's organizations, which are sustained as general officers of the church, but are not general authorities, include the general presidencies of the following organizations:
The latter three groups are composed of women and represent the only three organizations in which women are given church-wide authority.
Also excluded from the definition of general authorities are members of the Third through the Twelfth Quorums of the Seventy, who are called area seventies and have responsibilities relating to a limited geographical area, not church-wide authority.
Until 2004, general leadership for the Sunday School and Young Men organizations had historically been filled by general authorities. However, in the church's April 2004 general conference, Thomas S. Monson, of 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."
Due to this change, no general organization presidencies are composed of general authority seventies. Rather, the general authorities remain active in general church committees and have less jurisdiction over local stakes. Generally, stake presidents now report to area seventies, who in turn report to area presidencies, which are usually composed of general authority seventies.
Typically, general authorities are given 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 due to disfellowshipment, excommunication, or resignation.
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 emeritus status in the October following their 70th birthday. Members of the Second Quorum of the Seventy are 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 typically become members of the First Quorum of the Seventy and are therefore retained as lifetime general authorities, including later being granted emeritus status.
In the church's biannual general conferences, held in April and October, all the general authorities and general officers of the church are presented to the Latter-day Saints for 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 right 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 consent of its membership. 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.
|First second-generation general authority||Joseph Smith Sr.||December 18, 1833||Presiding Patriarch||Son Joseph Smith Jr. was President of the Church|
|First non-American general authority||John Taylor||December 19, 1838||Quorum of the Twelve Apostles||Born in England; joined church in Upper Canada|
|First third-generation general authority||John Smith||February 18, 1855||Presiding Patriarch||Father was Hyrum Smith, Assistant President of the Church and presiding patriarch; grandfather was Joseph Smith Sr., presiding patriarch|
|First fourth-generation general authority||Joseph Fielding Smith||April 7, 1910||Quorum of the Twelve Apostles||Father was Joseph F. Smith; President of the Church; grandfather was Hyrum Smith; great-grandfather was Joseph Smith Sr.|
|First general authority of Asian descent||Adney Y. Komatsu||4 April 1975||Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles||Joined the First Quorum of the Seventy in 1976; was given emeritus status in 1993|
|First Native American general authority||George P. Lee||3 October 1975||First Quorum of the Seventy||Excommunicated in 1989|
|First resident of Europe general authority||Charles A. Didier||3 October 1975||First Quorum of the Seventy||Native of Belgium; was a member of the Presidency of the Seventy from 1992 to 1995 and from 2001 to 2007; was granted emeritus status 3 October 2009.|
|First resident of Asia general authority||Yoshihiko Kikuchi||October 1977||First Quorum of the Seventy||Native of Japan; was granted emeritus status 1 October 2011.|
|First resident of the United Kingdom general authority (i.e. resident when called)||Derek A. Cuthbert||March 1978||First Quorum of the Seventy||Died in 1991 during general conference.|
|First resident of Latin America general authority||Ángel Abrea||20 March 1981||First Quorum of the Seventy||Given emeritus status in 2003|
|First resident of Australia general authority||Robert E. Sackley||April 1988||First Quorum of the Seventy||Transferred to Second Quorum of the Seventy in 1989; died in 1993|
|First general authority of black African descent||Helvécio Martins||April 1990||Second Quorum of the Seventy||Released in 1995|
|First Korean general authority||Han In Sang||July 1991||Second Quorum of the Seventy||Released in 1996|
|First Filipino general authority||Augusto A. Lim||July 1992||Second Quorum of the Seventy||Released in 1997|
|First Chinese general authority||Tai Kwok Yuen||July 1992||Second Quorum of the Seventy||Released in 1997|
|First resident of Africa general authority||Christoffel Golden Jr.||April 2001||First Quorum of the Seventy||Resident of South Africa|
|First black African general authority||Joseph W. Sitati||April 2009||First Quorum of the Seventy||Native of Nairobi, Kenya|
|First Puerto Rican and Caribbean general authority||Hugo E. Martinez||April 2014||Second Quorum of the Seventy||Native of Mayagüez, Puerto Rico|
|First Italian general authority||Massimo De Feo||April 2016||General Authority Seventy||Native of Taranto, Italy; resident of Rome|
|First Fijian general authority.||Taniela B. Wakolo||April 2017||General Authority Seventy||Native of Lomaloma, Lau, Fiji; resident of Suva|
|First African-American general authority||Peter M. Johnson||April 2019||General Authority Seventy||Native of New York.|