SALT LAKE CITY – In the Saturday afternoon session of the 175th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder Neil L. Andersen and Elder Ronald A. Rasband were sustained (affirmed) by the membership of the Church as members of the Presidency of the Seventy, the third highest governing body of the Church. These new assignments had been previously announced by the First Presidency in June of this year.

The releases of Elder John H. Groberg and Elder David E. Sorensen as members of the Presidency of the Seventy were also previously announced. Both men received an expression of gratitude from those participating in the conference for their service in that leadership body.

The Presidency of the Seventy, under the direction of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, supervises domestic areas of the Church, assists with international administration and guides ongoing training of regional and local leaders.

Latter-day Saints around the world joined with thousands in attendance at the Conference Center to express appreciation for eleven general authorities who were released from full-time Church service.

Released from the First Quorum of the Seventy and named emeritus general authorities were Elder John H. Groberg, Elder F. Melvin Hammond, Elder Harold G. Hillam, Elder F. Burton Howard and Elder David E. Sorensen.

Elder Darwin B. Christenson, Elder Adhemar Damiani, Elder H. Aldridge Gillespie, Elder Stephen B. Oveson, Elder Ned B. Roueché and Elder Dennis E. Simmons were released as members of the Second Quorum of the Seventy.

One new Area Seventy was sustained and two Area Seventies were released from part-time service.

Presidency of the Seventy

Elder Neil L. Andersen, 54, began his service as a general authority in April of 1993 when he was named to the First Quorum of the Seventy. As a member of the Presidency of the Seventy, he has supervisory responsibility for the Idaho Area. He has served as executive director of the Audiovisual Department and first counselor in the Sunday School general presidency. He has served in area presidencies in the Brazil South, Utah North, Utah South, North America Southwest, North America Northeast, and Europe West areas. Before his call to the Seventy he presided over the France Bordeaux Mission and was president of the Tampa Florida Stake. Born in Logan, Utah, he graduated from Brigham Young University (BYU) and earned a master’s of business administration degree from Harvard University. He and his wife, Kathy Williams Andersen, are parents of four children and have nine grandchildren.

Elder Ronald A. Rasband, 54, was called to the Seventy in April 2000. In the Presidency of the Seventy, he supervises the North America West and North America Northwest areas. Elder Rasband has served as executive director of the Temple Department, president of the Utah Salt Lake City Area and counselor in the Europe Central Area. Prior to his call as a general authority, he presided over the New York New York North Mission from 1996-1999 and served on the Member Missionary Advisory Committee and on the Church’s Sesquicentennial Committee. Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, he attended the University of Utah and was awarded an honorary doctorate of business and commerce from Utah Valley State C ollege. He and his wife, Melanie Twitchell Rasband, are parents of five children and have nine grandchildren.

Released from the First Quorum of the Seventy

Elder John H. Groberg, 71, served in the Presidency of the Seventy from April 2004 to August 2005, and in the First Quorum of the Seventy since April 1976. He served as first and second counselor in the Sunday School general presidency, president of the Utah South, Asia and North America West areas; counselor in five area presidencies and executive administrator of areas in the Pacific and the United States. Elder Groberg was assistant executive director of the Genealogical, Priesthood, and Curriculum departments. Prior to his call as a general authority, he served as regional representative, president of the Tonga Mission and bishop. A graduate of BYU, he received a master’s of business administration degree from Indiana University. Elder Groberg was born in Idaho Falls, Idaho. He and his wife, Jean Sabin Groberg, are parents of 11 children and have 38 grandchildren.

Elder F. Melvin Hammond, 71, was called to the Seventy in April 1989. He has served as general president of the Young Men and as president of the North America Northwest, Mexico South, and Chile areas of the Church. Elder Hammond has also served as a counselor in the Mexico South, South America North, South America South, Mexico, and North America Central area presidencies. Prior to his call as a full-time Church leader, he served as president of the Bolivia Cochabamba Mission, stake president, bishop and temple worker. Elder Hammond was a professor of religion at Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho) in Rexburg, Idaho, and served eight terms in the Idaho state legislature, three as minority leader. Elder Hammond is married to the former Bonnie Sellers. They have six children and 28 grandchildren.

Elder Harold G. Hillam, 71, became a general authority in March 1990. He served as a member of the Presidency of the Seventy from 1995 to 2000. Elder Hillam was president and counselor in both the Brazil and the Europe West area presidencies. Previous to his calling to the Seventy, he served as a regional representative, president of the Portugal Lisbon Mission, regional welfare agent, stake president, area welfare leader, stake president’s counselor, bishop’s counselor and full-time missionary in Brazil. Elder Hillam attended Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho) and BYU and graduated from Northwestern University Dental School. Born in Sugar City, Idaho, he is
married to Carol Lois Rasmussen Hillam. They have seven children and 22 grandchildren.

Elder F. Burton Howard, 72, was called to the Seventy in September 1978. He has served as assistant executive director of the Priesthood Department, second counselor in the Sunday School general presidency, chairman of the Military Relations Committee and as a member of various other general Church committees. He has served as president of the North America Southwest, Europe West, North America Southeast, Mexico South, Mexico, North America
Northeast and South America North areas; counselor in eight area presidencies; executive administrator of two areas in the United States and president of the Uruguay Montevideo Mission. Prior to his call to full-time Church service, Elder Howard was a special representative of the First
Presidency in Latin American affairs, stake president, bishop, and full-time missionary in Uruguay. He is a graduate of the University of Utah College of Law and Utah State University (USU). Elder Howard and his wife, Caroline Heise Howard, have five children and 13 grandchildren.

Elder David E. Sorensen, 72, served in the Presidency of the Seventy from August 1998 to August 2005. He was called to the Seventy in June 1992. Elder Sorensen served as executive director of the Temple Department, president of the North America West and Asia North areas and counselor in the Asia and Utah South areas. At the time of his call to the Seventy, he owned and operated his own businesses. Before his call to serve as a general authority, he was president of the Canada Halifax Mission, stake president, stake president’s counselor, high councilor, bishop, bishop’s counselor  and full-time missionary in the eastern United States.


Born in Aurora, Utah, Elder Sorensen is married to Verla Anderson Sorensen. They are parents of
seven children and grandparents of 32.

Released from the Second Quorum of the Seventy

Elder Darwin B. Christenson, 70, was sustained a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy in April 2000. At the time of his call, he was the temple recorder at the Idaho Falls Idaho Temple. He has served as a counselor in the Brazil North and Brazil South Area presidencies and as assistant executive director of the Temple Department. Before his call to full-time Church service, Elder Christenson served as president of the Brazil Sao Paulo North Mission, member of the Church’s Missionary Advisory Committee, stake president’s counselor, high councilor, stake Young Men president, bishop and full-time missionary in Brazil. He graduated from Idaho State
University with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and business. Born in Firth, Idaho, he and his wife, Sandra Joelene Lyon, are the parents of four children, one of whom is deceased, and grandparents of 12.

Elder Adhemar Damiani, 65, was named a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy in April 1999. He has served as president of the Brazil North Area and as a counselor in the Brazil South area presidency. Prior to his call as a general authority, Elder Damiani served as an Area Seventy, president of the Brazil Curitiba Mission, counselor in the presidency of the São Paulo Missionary Training Center, regional welfare agent, stake president’s counselor, high councilor and bishop. He graduated from the University of Economic Sciences in São Paulo, Brazil, and was awarded an advanced degree in business administration from the Getulio Vargas Foundation of São Paulo. A native of Brazil, Elder Damiani and his wife, Walkyria Bronze Damiani, have two children and five grandchildren.

Elder H. Aldridge Gillespie, 70, became a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy in April 2000. He has served as counselor in area presidencies for the South America North and North America Southeast areas and as assistant executive director of the Temple Department. At the time of his call to the Seventy, Elder Gillespie was president of the Mexico Tampico Mission and had served previously as a regional representative, patriarch, stake president, mission president’s counselor, bishop, and missionary in the Spanish American Mission. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from USU and a doctorate in civil engineering from the University of Arizona. Born in Riverside, California, he married Virginia Ann Larsen. They are the parents of five children and have 18 grandchildren.

Elder Stephen B. Oveson, 69, was called to full-time Church service as a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy in April 1999. He has served as both counselor and president in the Chile area presidency, counselor in the North America Southwest area presidency and as assistant executive director of the Audiovisual and Priesthood departments. At the time of his call as a general authority, he was president of the Buenos Aires South Mission.  He previously served as a temple worker, a high councilor and a bishop. He is a graduate of BYU in finance and banking. Born in Grass Valley, Oregon, Elder Oveson is married to Dixie Randall Oveson. They are the parents of six children, five living. They are also parents to a foster Navajo son and have
17 grandchildren.

Elder Ned B. Roueché, 71, became a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy in April 1998. He has served as both counselor and president in the South America West area presidency and as a counselor in the Utah South, North America West and Mexico North Areas. Before his call to the Seventy, he served the Church as president of the Venezuela Barcelona Mission, a member of an advisory committee in the Missionary Department, counselor in a stake presidency, high councilor, bishop, temple worker and missionary. He studied engineering at the University of Utah and Weber State College. Born in Salt Lake City, Elder Roueché and his wife, JoAnn Sheffield Roueché, have five children and 16 grandchildren.

Elder Dennis E. Simmons, 71, was called to the Seventy in April 1996. He has served as president of the Africa Southeast Area, as a counselor in area presidencies in the New Zealand/Pacific Islands, North America Central, Utah South and Africa areas of the Church. Elder Simmons has also served as assistant executive director of the Missionary and Audiovisual departments. Before his call as a general authority, he served as an Area Seven ty, regional representative, president of the Washington D.C. North Mission, stake president and bishop. He earned a bachelor’s degree from USU and a law degree from George Washington University. A native of Beaver Dam, Utah, he is married to Carolyn Thorpe Simmons. They have six children and 13 grandchildren.

Area Seventies

Area Seventies give voluntary Church service within their assigned geographic areas and support area presidencies in international areas. Called as an Area Seventy: Sione M. Fineanganofo, 63, Tongatapu, Tonga. Released as Area Seventies: Jairo Mazzagardi, 58, Vinhedo, Brazil; and Pita R. Vamanrav, of Nuku’alofa, Tonga, who passed away on 11 June 2005.