Elder D. Todd Christofferson was called as the LDS Church's newest apostle on Saturday, the same day church members sustained the new First Presidency in a solemn assembly.

A bevy of new leaders were also sustained to new positions Saturday. L. Whitney Clayton of the Quorums of the Seventy was called to the replace Elder Christofferson in the Presidency of the Seventy. Several new members of the Quorums of the Seventy were also called, along with a new Young Women General Presidency.

Elaine S. Dalton, formerly first counselor in the Young Women, is now president, with Mary N. Cook (formerly second counselor) as first counselor and Ann M. Dibb as second counselor. Sister Dibb, a former Young Women General Board member, is President Thomas S. Monson's daughter.

Saturday morning's solemn assembly was the first in 13 years and the first such assembly in the new Conference Center.

A solemn assembly is a unique opportunity for Latter-day Saints to sustain their top leaders by priesthood quorums and auxiliary groups, followed by a vote of the entire congregation.

President Monson was sustained as the 16th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, along with his first counselor, President Henry B. Eyring, and second counselor, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf.

Elder Christofferson filled a gap in the Quorum of the Twelve left when President Uchtdorf was called to serve in the First Presidency. He had been serving as a member of the Presidency of the Seventy since 1998, and was sustained to the First Quorum of the Seventy in April 1993.

As yet another American in the Quorum of the Twelve in a growing global church, Elder Christofferson was asked during a press conference Saturday how he would explain to church members why a non-American was not called as an apostle.

His answer: "It's a question of time."

"Remember, though, that we are not called to represent any place, any group any region," he said. "We don't need to try to tell the Lord about his sheep and how to take care of them. He knows them better than we do."

Elder Christofferson has served in various positions of leadership in the church, as a former regional representative, stake president, stake president's counselor and bishop. As executive director of the Family and Church History Department, Elder Christofferson was involved in the high-profile negotiations to block the names of Holocaust victims from submission for temple work. In 2001, with Elder Christofferson at the helm, the church compiled and released a new database to aid African American family history research called the Freedman Bank Records.

Before serving the church in a full-time capacity, Elder Christofferson worked as a lawyer. He was an associate general counsel of NationsBank Corp. (now Bank of America) in Charlotte. N.C., and practiced law in Washington D.C., Tennessee and North Carolina.

He had a "pretty unique start" to his law career in 1972 when he served as a 26-year-old clerk for Judge John J. Sirica during the Watergate hearings.

"It gave me, interestingly enough, a great deal of added faith in government and good people in government, for many people it had the opposite (effect)," Elder Christofferson said. "I saw there many, many good people do the right thing and restore the equilibrium, constitutional balance and status of the government of the United States."

He received his bachelor's degree from Brigham Young University and juris doctorate from Duke University.

Born and raised in Utah, Elder Christofferson moved to New Jersey when he was 15. As the only member of the church at his high school, Elder Christofferson said the time was "the most formative part of my life."

"It forced me to think very deeply about what I believe," Elder Christofferson said.

He lives in Sandy with his wife, Katherine Jacob Christofferson. They have five children.

Fifteen new general authorities were also sustained to serve in the Quorums of the Seventy.

Called to serve as members of the First Quorum of the Seventy were: Elder Marcos A. Aidukaitis, Porto Alegre, Brazil; Elder Gerald J. Causse, Bordeaux, France; Elder Lawrence E. Corbridge, Moscow, Idaho; Elder Eduardo Gavarret, Lima, Peru; Elder Carlos A. Godoy, Minas, Lavalleja, Uruguay; Elder James J. Hamula, Long Beach, Calif.; Elder Allan F. Packer, Brigham City, Utah; Elder Kevin W. Pearson, Salt Lake City, Utah; Elder Rafael E. Pino, Valencia, Venezuela; Elder Gary E. Stevenson, Ogden, Utah; Elder Jose A. Teixeira, Vila Real, Portugal; Elder F. Michael Watson, Spring City, Utah; and Elder Jorge F. Zeballos, Ovalle, Chile.

Called as members of the Second Quorum of the Seventy were: Elder Tad R. Callister, Glendale, Calif., and Elder Kent D. Watson, Cedar City, Utah.

President Monson has been serving as the church's president since Feb. 4, following the death of President Gordon B. Hinckley on Jan. 27.

President Monson is no stranger to the daily business of the church. He has served in the First Presidency since 1985, giving him more than 20 years of experience overseeing the faith's daily operations.

He was sustained a member of the Quorum of the Twelve in 1963 at the age of 36, after serving as a mission president in Canada. At age 22 he was called to serve as a bishop of a large, inner-city ward that brought him face-to-face with the daily challenges encountered by the elderly and the poor.

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President Eyring is a former educator and Harvard-trained businessman, while President Uchtdorf is a native German commercial pilot and airline executive.

President Uchtdorf is the first non-American in the First Presidency in nearly a century. Shortly after his calling, President Uchtdorf said, "I learned quickly in the church that we're not representing a nation or country or ethnic group. We are ... representing the church of Jesus Christ. We are representatives of him."


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