Sunday, September 26, 2021

The Apostolic Ministry

[Readers desiring to obtain their own hardback copies of volume one of I Know He Lives: How 13 Special Witnesses Came to Know Jesus Christ can find copies on sale here  Softbound copies can be purchased here, on sale. An ebook (Kindle) edition is available on Amazon here, for cheap. The Amazon page also includes the Introduction and first chapter of volume one for free.]

(by Dennis B. Horne)


This is the work of the Lord. This is His church on the earth.

He has entrusted His church to the care of humble men,

who have extraordinary responsibilities.

(President Ezra Taft Benson[1])


            “The great responsibility of an apostle is to be a special witness of Jesus Christ. I want you to know that the Savior lives. I want you to know that he is divine. I want you to know that he did atone for our sins. . . . I want you to know that the Savior guides the Church today. I’m so grateful for the blessings I have had in my life, of both feeling the Holy Ghost, and also knowing the voice of the Savior.”[2] So declared Elder Quinten L. Cook as part of his ministry as a special witness of Jesus the Christ. And so also do they all declare.

            Only those who actually serve as apostles and special witnesses can fully understand what it means to be one. However, on occasion they share slivers of information that give us a glimpse into their burdens and blessings. Some of those glimmers are found throughout the chapters in this book (and the first volume); others are found below. Elder Melvin J. Ballard (who has a chapter in the first volume) was one of the greatest apostles of our dispensation. He declared: “I know, as I know that I live. that this is the work of our Father. I know that Jesus Christ lives, that he is the Redeemer and Savior of the world. I know it as well as I know that I look upon your faces today. When the day shall come that, like Thomas of old, I may thrust my hand into his side or feel the prints of the nails in his hands and feet; or like Mary, I may bathe his feet with my tears, I shall not know it any better than I know it today; for I know that he lives, that he is the redeemer of the world and that he did speak to the Prophet Joseph Smith. I know that this is the Lord's work: that he is in it, and it will rise triumphant and go forward.”[3] Of his feelings at the time of his call to the Twelve, he reminisced:


            I felt very humble in my soul when President Grant informed me . . . that the Lord had made it known to him that I should continue my labors in the ministry [as an apostle], and that I should be one of the special witnesses of the Lord Jesus, and I said: “President Grant, if I thought I could be worthy to be one of the special witnesses of the Lord, Jesus, it would be the happiest moment of my life; for I esteem that the highest honor that could come to man.” But my ideal of the kind of men they ought to be was so great, and I found myself not measuring up to that standard, which I have in my own mind. Yet, with the help of the Lord and the patience of my brethren, I will do as I have said. I will try to be what you want me to be—a servant of the people; and with all the power and strength of my mind and soul I shall try to be faithful to this trust and to be a worthy representative of the Lord Jesus in the earth. I feel small; I feel little; I feel insignificant; but knowing, as I have known through the thirteen years that I have spent in the mission field, that the Lord will help the weak and make them strong, I depend upon him and your love, your fellowship and your support. I know this work will go forward. . . . The dogs may bark, but the grand, majestic Caravan, the Church of the living God, will move on triumphantly.[4]


            The formal events that pertain to becoming a member of the Quorum of the Twelve are the inspired name selection, call, and acceptance; the sustaining; the ordination to the office of apostle in which all priesthood keys on earth are conferred; the giving of the apostolic charge in their temple meeting; and the setting apart as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve.

            President Gordon B. Hinckley described much of this process:


            I wish to say something this morning of this wonderful and sacred office in the holy priesthood, the office of Apostle.

            Yesterday we sustained two of our Brethren in this sacred calling, thus, after they are ordained, filling the Council of the Twelve Apostles. I want to give you my testimony that they were chosen and called by the spirit of prophecy and revelation. There was much of prayer concerning this matter. There was discussion with President Kimball, the prophet of the Lord in our day, and a clear statement from him, for his is the prerogative in these matters. There was a clear and distinct impression, what I choose to call the whisperings of the Holy Spirit, concerning those who should be selected to assume this most important and sacred responsibility. . . .

            They were called because the Lord wanted them in this office as men who have a witness of his divinity, and whose voices have been and will be raised in testimony of his reality.

            Each is a man of faith. After they are ordained to the holy apostleship and are set apart as members of the Council of the Twelve, they will be expected to devote themselves primarily to the work of the ministry. They will place first in their lives, above all other considerations, the responsibility to stand as special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world.[5]


            Also, as Elder Quentin L. Cook stated, “I have a firm testimony that this restored Church is led by our Savior, Jesus Christ. He knows whom to call as His Apostles and in what order to call them. He also knows how to prepare His senior Apostle to be the prophet and President of the Church.”[6] Their ministry begins and they magnify their calling in mortality until death. Since the ordination and sustaining does not make a man a true “special witness” by itself, they must acquire sufficient spiritual experience and knowledge to act as independent witnesses that Jesus Christ lives today as a resurrected being.[7] For example, Elder Melvin J. Ballard declared, “I know with my brethren that God lives, as surely as I know that I live. My testimony is not based upon books. It has come to me by the revelations of the Lord Jesus Christ to my spirit, through the manifestations of the Holy Ghost upon my soul. In the thirteen years I have already spent in the missionary field there have come to me innumerable witnesses and testimonies of the truthfulness of this great work. I know that Christ lives as well as I shall know it when the veil of his tabernacle shall be parted, and he shall be revealed, when I may have the privilege of hearing his voice and looking upon his face, or be invited as he did invite the Nephites to come up and touch him, to see and handle his hands, to feel the prints of the nails. If that shall someday be my privilege, as I hope it shall, I shall not know any better then than I know today, that he lives. . . .”[8]

            If an apostle’s testimony previous to his call was sufficient to qualify him, then ordination completes the requirement. If not, the newly called apostle must wrestle with God in mighty faith and prayer to obtain the requisite witness. When that testimony is declared to his Brethren, they know when it is enough or more. Then they are thereafter obligated “to bear witness, not out of belief but out of a certain knowledge of the Son of God, their Friend and Master, whose servants they are.”[9]

            Often, Jesus manifests Himself to them, his friends, either by vision or personal appearance, although He may not show Himself to some of them—but always the unspeakable power of the Holy Ghost is involved in great magnitude in a manifestation so that sure and absolute knowledge is granted. As Elder Cook further taught:


            None of us set out to be Apostles, that are members of the Quorum of the Twelve. That wasn’t our goal. Most of us felt quite incapable; everybody that I have read about felt that way when they got the call from the prophet. I know when President Hinckley called me I even started to argue with him; I was trying to think about it and come up with arguments and he put up his hand and he said “I don’t want to hear any of that” and he went ahead with the call. But an enormous peace came over me when I realized that my responsibility is to be a special witness of the name of Jesus Christ all over the world. And as one of His apostles here with you tonight, . . . I want you to know that Jesus Christ lives. I want you to know that He is Divine. I want you to know that this is His work. . . . I want you to know that because of great blessings from the Holy Ghost but beyond that spiritual experiences too sacred to share I know the Savior’s voice. I know who He is. I testify to you that He lives and that He guides the Church today.[10]


            Elder Mathew Cowley agreed with Elder Cook about the Brethren not seeking or aspiring to become apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, but he phrased his views more bluntly:


            It disturbs me no end when people talk to me about these positions [apostles] and say how wonderful they are. Well they are wonderful. It’s God’s work. But I tell you every one [of them] is giving his life for this work. Look at Brother [Albert E.] Bowen. He’s been lying on his back now for one year [in the hospital], partially paralyzed. One of the greatest lawyers this state ever had. A man of great income. One morning President Grant came by his home up on B street and said “Bert, jump in and ride down to conference with me.” On the way to conference he said, “You’re through practicing law.” And he gave up his profession. His producing capacity was wiped out from the standpoint of material wealth. He placed on the alter everything that he possessed; his health and vitality included. Look at President J. Reuben Clark; greatest international lawyer in the United States. A man who aspired to great heights in the diplomatic field of international law. He became ambassador of the United States to Mexico. Prior to that he was the personal counsel to Dwight Morrow. I don’t know whether it is true or not but I have heard that Mr. Morrow paid him five thousand dollars a month, . . . When President Clark was right at the peak of his career, what happened? . . . A call, a summons. And he withdrew himself from everything that he had been doing, which he enjoyed doing, and which he aspired to do. To do what? To be your humble servant and mine [in the First Presidency]. . . .[11]


Spiritual Blessings from the Ministry

            As the apostles go forth in their ministry to set the Church in order, preach the gospel, and bear their witness, they receive the consequent blessings that come with such continuous activity. “In my lifetime,” said Elder David B. Haight, “I have been permitted to witness events, to see and feel divine influences of the Lord in his providence, revealing his gospel by the power of the Holy Ghost.”[12] Further, “I have been blessed, as the years have passed, with unusual experiences with people, places, and personal events of an intimate, spiritual nature, and, through the power of the Holy Ghost, I have received an ever-deepening witness and knowledge of this heaven-directed restoration of the Lord’s plan of salvation.”[13]

            President M. Russell Ballard referred to gaining his special witness as a process: “I want to witness to you that Jesus is the Christ. He is the Son of God. I know so much more now than I knew when I was 19. What I am able to bear witness of has been a process, not an event. It’s been a process and a lifetime of service; having spiritual experiences; hearing the voice of the Lord; knowing His will and striving to perform it”[14] President Packer taught that the apostolic witness is continually reconfirmed: “I claim, with my Brethren the Apostles, to be a special witness of the Lord Jesus Christ. That witness is reaffirmed each time I feel within myself or in others the cleansing effect of His sacred sacrifice. My witness, and that of my Brethren, is true. We know the Lord. He is no stranger to His prophets, seers, and revelators.”[15]

            Elder Neil L. Anderson echoes these pronouncements of truth with his own: “I tell you with absolute sureness that I know Jesus is the Christ. I know that. He is resurrected. He is a God but He is a being. I am now a member of the Twelve. Many experiences have come to me. But I assure you that I knew long before, by the power of His Spirit, that He is the Lord Jesus Christ. . . . I confirm to you that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; He lives. We will all kneel at his feet. . . . He is resurrected. He guides this holy work. He appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith. . . . I sit in the senior councils of the Church and I assure you that He is not far from His prophets and apostles; that He leads us and guides us and that this is His holy work. . . . I know He lives. I witness He lives. I am His witness and I so declare.”[16]

            Once an apostle has had the Holy Spirit come upon him to such a degree that perfect knowledge and assurance is imparted that Jesus lives and is the Christ, then the apostle becomes a special witness. The necessary witness may come before or after ordination (often before), and is continually reaffirmed in their souls as they press forward in righteousness and with unwearyingness in their ministries. Although it is not a requirement, it is evident that some apostles have beheld Jesus more than once, have handled His resurrected body, and have seen the Father also. The apostles are exactly what they say they are—His witnesses.


Love and Unity among Brethren in Quorum

            After their ordination and setting apart these men serve as members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and sit together (by seniority) to deliberate in formal Council and counsel, where a sweet spirit of unity and love is normally present. There have been some occasions in the history of the Church when unity and love were not present as should have been, but those periods were the exception, not the rule.

            President Henry D. Moyle explained his views and experiences in Council:


            I have often said, and I shall repeat it again today, that it is not an uncommon experience in our lives—I am speaking now of the Quorum of the Twelve; we are a group of men who have been called from various walks of life; our backgrounds for the most part have been diverse. In total we cover a great expanse of territory. I don’t know where you would get twelve men who are more individualistic than the Twelve. There sometimes doesn’t seem to be any two of us that think or talk or act alike. And still, we can come in our Council meetings, in our work as it pertains to the Church, and be an absolute unit. And sometimes when some of us may be born of a more rebellious spirit than others, and who are not as humble as we might be, feel that the other Brethren have gone astray; there seems to come a time in our deliberations when that unity which is essential to the success of the Church is given to us, born of the Spirit. And when twelve men see alike and are united in their decisions, when they present those decisions to the Quorum of the First Presidency, and those three men who, in turn, are highly individualistic—they think and they reason differently—all three of them have had materially different backgrounds, but it is astonishing to see how after a matter has been fully discussed in our Councils, the unity that exists.[17]


            President Boyd K. Packer likewise explained: “Each week we meet together in the temple. We open the meeting by kneeling in prayer, and we close with prayer. Every prayer is offered in the spirit of submission and obedience to Him who called us and whose servants and witnesses we are. The Lord requires that ‘every decision made by either of these quorums must be by the unanimous voice of the same’ and that ‘the decisions of these quorums … are to be made in all righteousness, in holiness, and lowliness of heart, meekness and long suffering, and in faith, and virtue, and knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and charity.’ This we earnestly strive to do.”[18]

            Obtaining unity of mind and purpose among a group of such strong-willed and opinionated men is no easy feat, but under the inspiration of the Lord is necessary and common. Elder Ullysees S. Soares noted, “I came here [to the Twelve] from the Presidency of the Seventy, and I think that was the highlight of all my service in the Church. I watched the Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency working in council, helping each other, supporting each other, learning from each other. And you know, the Twelve Apostles, it is a composition of strong personalities—very successful people in every way. But they also have their weaknesses. They are human beings. It’s so beautiful to see how they handle that among them.”[19]

            No major decision is announced to the Church until it becomes unanimous and the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve feel they have obtained the will of the Lord. President Ezra Taft Benson is one who desired and sought for unity among his fellow Quorum members, and felt such to be the standard state of Quorum affairs: “I want you to know of my love for President Spencer W. Kimballand how grateful we are that he is here with us at the closing session. I feel the same toward his counselors, and my brethren of the Twelve, the Seventy, and the Bishopric. I know them to be men appointed by our Lord, under the inspiration of heaven. I sustain their inspired words and counsel and testify to you of the unity that we all feel among the General Authorities of this Church.”[20] He further noted, “I have had the glorious privilege of a close and intimate association with the leadership of the Church, the General Authorities. I have always loved them, but I have never loved them as much as I do today. Any one of them would give his all, including life itself, if necessary, for the establishment of this great work and the upbuilding of the kingdom. With all my heart, I sustain them and love them and commend to you, my brethren and sisters, their example and counsel.”[21]

            And again, when welcoming a new member of the Twelve, he said, “I am happy, my brethren and sisters, in the appointment of Brother Stapley to our Council, and I'd like to say to him, and I'm sure I echo the feeling of all of my associates, that he will see and feel and witness a love that is not excelled among men anywhere in the world as he sits in the Council of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. I am grateful for these rich blessings.”[22]

            We are not so naïve as to think that feelings are never hurt, nor strong opposing views shared emphatically, but when all is said and done, the peace and power of the Holy Spirit prevails and love and unity are present—as has been declared.[23] So averred President Hinckley: “There is unity in the First Presidency of the Church. There is unity between the Presidency and the Twelve, perfect unity. There is unity among the members of the First Quorum of the Seventy and the Presiding Bishopric. I am somewhat familiar with the history of this Church, and I do not hesitate to say that there has never been greater unity in its leading councils and the relationships of those councils one to another, than there is today. I love my Brethren. To a man they are loyal. They are supportive. Without hesitation they respond to every call regardless of personal convenience. They are true disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.”[24]

            This matter of Quorum love and unity is considered of such importance among the apostles and other general authorities of the Church that President Packer, then Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve, prepared an internal proclamation of unity to be given to the First Presidency. Little is known of this item, but of it President James E. Faust announced:


            I am pleased to testify to the world of a very significant matter. As a special witness of the Lord Jesus Christ, I verify that among those who hold the keys of the kingdom of God on earth, there is complete unity and love and respect for each other. We totally sustain and uphold President Howard W. Hunter, President Gordon B. Hinckley, and President Thomas S. Monson as the First Presidency. This feeling of complete unity and support for the First Presidency was expressed last Thursday in the Salt Lake Temple in a proclamation by President Boyd K. Packer on behalf of the Twelve. This was joined in by President Rex D. Pinegar, representing the Seventies, and Bishop Merrill J. Bateman for the Presiding Bishopric. All of the General Authorities then voted to fully sustain the expressions of President Packer of full support for the First Presidency and for each other. In this unity, the gates of hell will not prevail against us.[25]


The Apostleship will continue until the Second Coming

            The purpose of the Church today, and continuing into the future, is to prepare a righteous covenant-making and keeping people for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to the earth. This truth is often repeated in the messages given by the apostles. Elder Andersen declared, “This gospel was established to prepare for His coming, that across the world there might be a righteous people, ready to receive Him at His coming. When will that be? We do not know. But we can see it coming. As is written in the scriptures, we will never be a large political group, we will never be a majority across the world, but this kingdom will be in every nation, every culture,

every race. The day will come that Jesus, the Son of God, will return. I testify of His reality. He lives. He is a Being. He is the Son of God. I witness that He lives. I am His witness.”[26]

            Unfolding the doctrine further, President Packer taught: “Paul taught that the apostles and prophets were called ‘for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,’ and he declared that these offices would endure ‘till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God.’”[27] Elder Bruce R. McConkie expanded on these teachings: “There will be a day when there will no longer be apostles and prophets. Paul tells us that prophecy will cease; also that apostles are to remain only until there is a unity of the faith, that is until all men are converted to the truth and the millennial era has commenced.” Further:


            The fact is, there is going to be a day when the same [church] organization we now have will no longer exist. The only promise that we have about apostles and prophets for instance, is that they are going to continue until there is a unity of the faith, meaning that some time during the millennial era, perhaps virtually at its beginning, there will no longer be apostles and prophets. This will be because every man is converted and there will no longer be a need for especial witnesses to bring them to the truth. This will also be because everyone will know all of the doctrines including all of the future and there will be no occasion for prophets to foretell it. . . . What the organization will be during the millennium we do not know, except that Christ will reign personally upon the earth and obviously some extensive and elaborate organizational arrangements will be needed to govern the billions of people who will then live.


            Therefore, the line of apostolic succession with prophet-presidents will continue until the Millennium arrives. The church has already surpassed one hundred members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, some few of whom have fallen from their high positions, but the vast majority of which have remained true and faithful. Who knows how many others will be called to serve Him before that unknown time of the second coming arrives. President Benson said: “I testify that there has been, and there is now, and there will be legal successors to the Prophet Joseph Smith who hold the keys of the kingdom of God on earth, even the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (See D&C 21:1–7; D&C 107:91–92; D&C 112:15.) He receives revelation from God to direct His kingdom. Associated with him are others who are prophets, seers, and revelators, even those who make up the presiding quorums of the Church, namely the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. (See D&C 112:30.)”[28]

            Elder LeGrand Richards phrased it this way: “With all my heart and soul, I bear you my witness of the divinity of this work, that God the Eternal Father has decreed its destiny. It is built on the foundation of apostles and prophets, with Christ our Lord as the chief cornerstone. And he is guiding his church today, and will continue to do so until he comes in the clouds of heaven as the holy prophets have declared.”[29]


Some that are Able and Worthy are not Called

            God showed the ancient patriarch Abraham that in the pre-mortal existence, “there were many of the noble and great ones,” meaning those intelligent, good, and obedient spirits that He would “make [His] rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good” (Abraham 3:22-23). This means that in this dispensation there are multitudes of worthy men that are noble and great and valiant that could serve God in any position needed, including that of apostle.

            The problem is, there are (usually) only fifteen apostles that serve at a time, as a Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve (their official designation). Elder Glen L. Rudd noted this limitation after some pondering about a stalwart friend: “He [President Gordon B. Hinckley] had a great love for his father [Bryant S. Hinckley]. I had the privilege of knowing his father and being aware of the greatness of this man and could never figure out why he was not one of the Twelve Apostles until I realized that there was only room for 12 men. He and a few other good men were never in the Twelve even though they were well qualified for any position in the Church.”[30]

            With this situation in mind, President David O. McKay told Elder Gordon B. Hinckley: “I have felt to nominate you to fill the vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and we would like to sustain you today in conference. . . . Your grandfather was worthy of this, as was your father. And so are you.” In response to such glowing recognition, President Hinckley said: “Tears began to fill my eyes as President McKay looked at me with those piercing eyes of his and spoke to me of my forebears. My father was a better man than I have ever been, but he didn’t have the opportunities I have had. The Lord has blessed me with tremendous opportunities.”[31]

            The mathematical circumstances simply dictate that many tremendous, capable, spiritual, disciples of Christ cannot be called to the Holy Apostleship. Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote this of his own father, Oscar W. McConkie: “[He] was a very spiritual man. He had many visions and revelations. The Lord entrusted him with much knowledge. . . . [He] would have been qualified to fill any position in the Church but he did not for instance, happen to be called to be one of the General Authorities.”[32] He explained further: “Now the fact is, that there are usually many men who could fill any position, who could take any vacancy that arises and do it honorably and well, building up the kingdom and furthering the work. But some individual has to be called to do it. It is certain that whoever is called, thereby becomes the Lord’s anointed, and even if the Lord would have preferred someone else yet the one called is entitled to inspiration and if he seeks to magnify his calling to the full, he will come off triumphant in the work assigned. . . . I know a number of brethren who are or have been in a similar category. One of them is old President [Edward J.] Wood who was the president for many years of the Alberta Temple in Canada. He was a mission president and a stake president and had many visions and revelations and worked many miracles but was never called to be one of the General Authorities. There are many others, some of whom I know and many of whom obviously I do not know.” Elder McConkie recognized the faithfulness and spirituality in many fine men across the Church; men who could be called to the apostleship if vacancies existed and if God so willed.


All Apostles are Not of Equal Stature

            When our generation discerns the high spiritual caliber of the apostles and prophets of today, it is sometimes hard to imagine that some others in Church history were not as we see today. President Ezra Taft Benson shared a story about his grandfather, and its powerful lesson:


            Years ago my great-grandfather, while an investigator, attended a Mormon meeting during which a member had a quarrel over the Sacrament table with the branch president. When the service was over, Mrs. Benson turned to Ezra T. and asked him what he thought of the Mormons now. I'll always be grateful for his answer. He said he thought the actions of its members in no way altered the truth of Mormonism. That conviction saved him from many a tragedy. Before joining the Church, Grandfather was moved by a marvelous prayer of Apostle John E. Page.

            But later the young convert was greatly shocked by the same man [John E. Page] whose actions reflected his gradual apostasy.

            Ironically, when Elder Page eventually was excommunicated, Brigham Young selected the young convert to fill Elder Page's place in the Quorum of the Twelve.

            Six of the original Twelve Apostles selected by Joseph Smith were excommunicated. The Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon left the Church. Three of Joseph Smith's Counselors fell—one even helped plot his death.

            A natural question that might arise would be, that if the Lord knew in advance that these men would fall, as he undoubtedly did, why did he have his Prophet call them to such high office? The answer is; to fulfill the Lord's purposes. For even the Master followed the will of the Father by selecting Judas. President George Q. Cannon suggests an explanation, too, when he states:

            “Perhaps it is His own design that faults and weaknesses should appear in high places in order that His Saints may learn to trust in Him and not in any man or men.” (Millennial Star 53:658-659. February 15, 1891.)

            And this would parallel Lehi's warning; put not your “. . . trust in the arm of flesh. . . .” (2 Nephi 4:34.)

            “The Church,” says President McKay, “is little, if at all, injured by persecution and calumnies from ignorant, misinformed, or malicious enemies.” (The Instructor, February 1956, p. 33.)

            It is from within the Church that the greatest hindrance comes. And so, it seems, it has been.[33]


            Since the early days of the Church, continuing into the 1900s in Utah, some of the apostles have fallen for various reasons. Albert Carrington, John W. Young (an apostle but not one of the Twelve), John W. Taylor, Matthias Cowley, Moses Thatcher, and Amasa M. Lyman all lost their standing for various reasons: teaching false doctrine, plural marriage problems, aspiring to the wealth and ways of the world, and desire for power. As noted (in Elder Mark E. Petersen’s chapter), Elder Richard R. Lyman committed adultery many times over years before he was caught and excommunicated. A few other members of the Twelve seemed to spend their time more in business pursuits to the neglect of their callings, although in those days that was a much more complicated issue than it is today, when apostles receive a “living allowance” and don’t have to work at a regular job and serve as apostles at the same time. Yet, it seems as though as the decades have passed, and the Church itself has grown and strengthened, so have its leaders—until we get the spiritual giants we know and love today that God has so marvelously magnified.


Special Witnesses Know

            The apostles and prophets know they are apostles and prophets, and, while humble, do not back down from their obligation to firmly bear witness. Elder Robert D. Hales shared this experience:


            Early in my Church service, Elder Harold B. Lee taught this lesson when he came to organize a new stake in the district where we were living. Elder Lee asked me, as a newly sustained bishop, if I would join him at a press conference. There, an intense young reporter challenged Elder Lee. He said to him, “You call yourself a prophet. When was the last time you had revelation, and what was it about?” Elder Lee paused, looked directly at him, and responded in a sweet way, “It was yesterday afternoon about three o’clock. We were praying about who should be called as the president of the new stake, and it was made known to us who that individual should be.” The reporter’s heart changed. I will never forget the Spirit that came into that room as Elder Lee bore his powerful witness of revelation that can be received by those faithfully seeking to do the Lord’s will.[34]


            President Howard W. Hunter bore his special witness of the resurrection of the Savior and in doing so invoked the special witness of his associate, President Romney:


            The eternal truth is that Jesus Christ arose from the grave and was the firstfruits of the Resurrection. (See 1 Cor. 15:23.) The witnesses of this wonderful occurrence cannot be impeached. . . .

            I humbly testify of my privilege to bear the holy apostleship and to work daily with a modern Quorum of Twelve Apostles who are disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to go forth as “special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world.” (D&C 107:23.) And so have the Apostles always testified.

            In our own day, Apostles and prophets are carrying on the work of bearing witness to the world of Jesus Christ. If I may have the privilege, I wish to repeat what President Marion G. Romney, the President of our present apostolic quorum, said concerning the resurrection of Jesus. Not long ago he made this statement to a general conference of the Church:

            “At this Easter season, I am grateful for this opportunity to bear witness to the resurrection of Jesus and to set forth, in part at least, the basis upon which that witness rests.

            “‘He is risen; he is not here.’ (Mark 16:6.) These words, eloquent in their simplicity, announced the most significant event of recorded history, the resurrection of the Lord Jesusan event so extraordinary that even the Apostles, who had been most intimately associated with Jesus in his earthly ministry and who had been carefully taught of the coming event, had difficulty grasping the reality of its full significance. The first accounts which reached their ears ‘seemed to them as idle tales’ (Luke 24:11) as well they might, for millions of men had lived and died before that day. In every hill and dale men’s bodies mouldered in the dust, but until that first Easter morning not one had risen from the grave. …

            “That the whole of his mortal life moved toward this consummation, he had repeatedly taught. It was foreshadowed in his statement about laying down his life and taking it up again. To the sorrowing Martha he had said, ‘I am the resurrection, and the life’ (John 11:25); and to the Jews, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ (John 2:19.) …

            “The evidence that Jesus was resurrected is conclusive.” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1982, pp. 5–7; or Ensign, May 1982, p. 6.)

            To the testimony of President Romney and the witnesses of my Brethren, I add my own apostolic witness that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God; that he was born into mortality and fulfilled his ministry as related in the scriptures, which record his birth, his life, his teachings, and his commandments.

            In teaching his Apostles, Christ made known to them “that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.” (Mark 8:31.) So it was. He was crucified and placed in the tomb. On the third day, he did arise to live againthe Savior of all mankind and the firstfruits of the Resurrection. Through this atoning sacrifice, all men shall be saved from the grave and shall live again. This always has been the testimony of the Apostles, to which I add my witness, . . .[35]


            Indeed, the call to the holy apostleship is one of bearing witness to the world of the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ and that He lives today because He was resurrected.

            These special witnesses know whereof they speak and declare with boldness and love their knowledge of heavenly truths. President Packer declared, “God lives. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Only Begotten of the Father. Of him I bear witness. He has a body of flesh and bone as tangible as the bodies that we have. This I know.”[36] And again from Elder Anderson: “I give you my firm and solemn witness that I know He lives, that He is the Son of God; the God of heaven and earth. That one day we will all kneel at His feet and all the things we are professing today we will see are true and complete in every way. He lives. I witness that He lives. I am His witness.”[37] All of this is critically important to the membership of the Church. President James E. Faust quoted the Prophet Joseph Smith as teaching: “I will give you a key that will never rust, if you will stay with the majority of the Twelve Apostles, and the records of the Church, you will never be led astray.”[38] Let us indeed follow the prophets and apostles and never be led astray.[39]


[1] Ezra Taft Benson, “Counsel to the Saints,” Ensign, April 1984.

[2] Quinten L. Cook, Provo, Utah, MTC talk excerpt, June 10, 2014.

[3] Melvin J. Ballard, Conference Report, June 1919, 91.

[4] Ibid.

[6] “The Blessing of Continuing Revelation to Prophets and Personal Revelation to Guide Our Lives,” Ensign, May 2020.

[7] Don’t get me wrong; the ordination does bring these men great blessings. As one of them put it, “the ordination brings a special power and gift, and that we cannot ignore. . . .” (Neil L. Andersen, “Align with the Brethren,” Leadership Enrichment Series, August 15, 2012, 5). While the ordination to the apostleship itself does not bestow a sufficient special witness of Jesus, it definitely assists with that attainment by granting that right and privilege.

[8] Melvin J. Ballard,  Conference Report, October 1925, 130-31.

[9] Gordon B. Hinckley, “Special Witnesses for Christ,” Ensign, April 1984.

[10] Quentin L. Cook, excerpt from talk given at the Provo, MTC, March 3, 2015.

[11] “Learning to Live Through Better Use of Vocational Opportunities,” BYU Speeches, June 19, 1953.

[12] “The Streams of Your Life,” BYU Speeches, November 24, 1987.

[13] “Joseph Smith: The Prophet,” BYU Speeches, March 2, 1986.

[14] M. Russell Ballard, Excerpt of talk given at the Provo, Utah, MTC, November 23, 2014.

[15] “Truths Most Worth Knowing,” CES Devotional for Young Adults, November 6, 2011, 8.

[16] Neil L. Anderson, excerpt from talk given at the Provo, Utah, MTC, April 8, 2014.

[17] “Unity Under the Gospel,” BYU Speeches, March 22, 1955. (13:15 mins in)

[18] “The Twelve Apostles,” Ensign, September 2005.

[19] Ulisses Soares, Leadership Enrichment Series, “A Conversation on ‘Act under the Direction of the Spirit,’” September 14, 2018.

[20] “Valiant in the Testimony of Jesus,” Ensign, April 1982.

[21] Conference Report, Sept./Oct. 1949, 23.

[22] Conference Report, Sept./Oct. 1950, 144.

[23] Elder Neil L. Andersen discussed how counsel is usually given to members of the Twelve privately: “You can see it would be a lot different for President Packer to give me some good counsel when I’m just sitting across from him as opposed to if I’m sitting in with the Quorum of the Twelve and he says, “Listen, Neil, you asked me the other day to give you some counsel about your ministry and I have just thought about it now, and I thought I’d give it to you here.” (Laughter) We all have our own personal feelings” (Neil L. Andersen, Leadership Enrichment Series,  “Align with the Brethren,” 9).

[24] “Special Witnesses for Christ,” Ensign, April 1984.

[25] “The Keys That Never Rust,” Ensign, October 1994.

[26] Neil L. Andersen, “Align with the Brethren,” 18.

[27] “The Twelve Apostles,” Ensign, September 2005.

[28] “I Testify,” Ensign, October 1988.

[29] “The Mountain of the Lord’s House,” Ensign, April 1971.

[30] Glen L. Rudd, Kia Ngawari: Life of Glen L. Rudd (Salt Lake City: privately printed, 2002), 197-98.

[32] Amelia Smith McConkie: Remembrances for Her Family, comp. Mary McConkie Donoho (Privately published, 2007), 491.

[33] Conference Report, October 1963, 16.

[34] “Personal Revelation: The Teachings and Examples of the Prophets,” Ensign, October 2007.

[35] Howard W. Hunter, “An Apostle’s Witness of the Resurrection,” Ensign, May 1986.

[36] “Teach the Scriptures,” October 14, 1977, 9. This address is posted on the church website but is missing the last two pages, from which this quotation is taken.

[37] Neil L. Anderson, transcribed excerpt of talk given at Provo, Utah, MTC, October 27, 2015.

[38] “The Keys That Never Rust,” Ensign, October 1994.

[39] For further information about special witnesses and their testimony of Jesus, see the bulk of the March 2008 Ensign.

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