Saturday, February 21, 2015

Apostles And Assumptions

A quorum of twelve apostles did not exist in Mormonism until February 1835. Even though no quorum existed, the term “apostles” was used and many individuals were identified as “apostles.” The term meant someone sent with a message from God. The term was used to identify all the missionaries sent to preach the Book of Mormon and restoration.

The revelations given through Joseph Smith specifically identified the following men as “apostles” in the following sections and dates:
Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer, D&C 18:9 (June 1829)
Joseph Smith, D&C 20:2 and Oliver Cowdery, D&C 20:3 (April 1830)
Joseph Smith, D&C 21:1 and Oliver Cowdery 21:10 (April 1830)
Sidney Rigdon, Parley Pratt and Leman Copley, D&C 49:1, 11 (March 1831)—sending them forth “like unto mine apostle of old, whose name was Peter”

A series of revelations likewise referred to “apostles” and included the following admonitions, instructions, and commandments to the following audiences:

1.  November 1831 - D&C 1:14: “the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people.”
This did not, indeed could not, refer to a non-existent quorum of the twelve. At that time, it referred to any of the “disciples” he sent out as missionaries in the early church as explained in the same revelation, D&C 1:4-9.

2. March 1830 - D&C 19:8: refers to giving information to Martin Harris because “it is meet unto you to know even as mine apostles.”
Meaning that Martin Harris was entitled to have a mystery revealed to him.

3.  The language in D&C 27:12 is not part of the original revelation given in August 1830. It was added apparently by Sidney Rigdon sometime between 1834 and 1835.

4.  December 1830 - D&C 35:6: informs Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon that they could then give the gift of the Holy Ghost “by the laying on of the hands, even as the apostles of old.”
This is consistent with everywhere else in scripture which associates “laying on hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost” with the status of “apostle.” See, e.g., D&C 20:38, 43; 3 Ne. 18:36-37; Moroni 2:2-3.

5.  September 1831 - D&C 64:39: “they who are not apostles and prophets shall be known.”
Given to the elders of the church, many of whom were calling themselves “apostles” as is mentioned two months later in the November 1831 revelation (D&C 1:14, discussed first above). All the missionaries called themselves “apostles.” The revelation meant that the unworthy who were sent as missionaries will be exposed to be unworthy.

6.  September 1832 - D&C 84:63: “you are mine apostles”
Given to the missionaries who were now returning, having been sent out the prior year. All the missionaries were identifying themselves as “apostles” and the Lord was acknowledging and confirming this was true.

7.  June 1833 - D&C 95:4: “For the preparation wherewith I design to prepare mine apostles to prune my vineyard for the last time,”
Referring to the Kirtland Temple the Lord wanted built (and they had delayed commencing). He said it was necessary to prepare all these “apostles” who were serving missions.

8. February 1834 - D&C 102—minutes of a meeting written by Oliver Cowdery which identifies the “traveling high council composed of the twelve apostles.” This council would not come into existence for another year.

9. March 1835 - D&C 107:23: The twelve apostles are identified as “twelve traveling councilors”
These particular “apostles” were a traveling council with authority equal to the many other “apostles” in the church. The apostles in the first presidency, and in the seventy, and in the other standing high councils are all equal in authority to these traveling high council apostles. 

In 1835, the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris, were asked by Joseph Smith to choose the first twelve members of the newly announced quorum of the twelve. The witnesses made their choices at a meeting on February 14, 1835. The three witnesses were also the ones who ordained the twelve chosen men as apostles between February and April 1835. Ordination was accompanied by a charge given by Oliver Cowdery that explained their ordination was not complete until they qualified. In part it included:

It is necessary that you receive a testimony from heaven to yourselves; so that you can bear testimony to the truth of the Book of Mormon, and that you have seen the face of God. That is more than the testimony of an angel. When the proper time arrives, you shall be able to bear this testimony to the world. When you bear testimony that you have seen God, this testimony God will never suffer to fall, but will bear you out; although many will not give heed, yet others will. You will therefore see the necessity of getting this testimony from heaven.  Never cease striving until you have seen God face to face. Strengthen your faith; cast off your doubts, your sins, and all your unbelief; and nothing can prevent you from coming to God. Your ordination is not full and complete till God has laid his hand upon you. We require as much to qualify us as did those who have gone before us; God is the same. If the Savior in former days laid his hands upon his disciples, why not in latter days? . . .  The time is coming when you will be perfectly familiar with the things of God. . . . You have our best wishes, you have our most fervent prayers, that you may be able to bear this testimony, that you have seen the face of God. Therefore call upon him in faith in mighty prayer till you prevail, for it is your duty and your privilege to bear such a testimony for yourselves. (DHC, 2:192-98.)  

Oliver’s charge was nothing new. Joseph Smith had already explained to the “School of the Prophets” that to be an “apostle” required a visit from Christ and the Father. Oliver was just repeating what everyone already knew.

So when the language of D & C 1 (“the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people”) is put into context, it really has nothing to do with a non-existent,  traveling high council that was formed later. That later group displaced and overthrew church government, establishing itself as a controlling oligarchy that is non-scriptural, non-historical. Fortunately, we can know the Lord intends that “they who are not apostles and prophets shall be known.” If we compared the claims being made now to the scriptures, I suppose that might be possible to accomplish even now.


  1. 127 I give unto you my servant Brigham Young to be a president over the Twelve traveling council;

    128 Which Twelve hold the keys to open up the authority of my kingdom upon the four corners of the earth, and after that to send my word to every creature.

    129 They are Heber C. Kimball, Parley P. Pratt, Orson Pratt, Orson Hyde, William Smith, John Taylor, John E. Page, Wilford Woodruff, Willard Richards, George A. Smith;

    If you deny one, you deny all.

  2. Not sure I understand this comment, but on the assumption you think "denying" is related to the post:

    The "traveling high council" had jurisdiction outside the stakes to open up the missionary work. They had no jurisdiction inside stakes, which were presided over by standing high councils.

    There is no question the traveling high council were given the assignment to do missionary work throughout the world. When they succeeded and got a stake organized, they lost their jurisdiction or surrendered their "keys" to the standing high council--which was a body equal in authority to the traveling high council.

    Inside the stake, the twelve apostles had no authority. This is why when Brigham Young wanted Sidney Rigdon excommunicated, he had to use the stake and the Nauvoo High Council to accomplish it.

  3. The problem with these two definitions of Apostles in the church today, is that many, nearly all, members of the church wrongly assume that if one has the administrative title, one also has had the spiritual commission. The two were never the same thing. Consider what the Word Apostle means: It comes from the word apostolos, a greek word meaning to be sent. This means that the only true apostles are sent, and sent from where? from the presence of Christ who has sent them to testify to the world that they are literal witnesses of his resurrection. anything less than this is an empty title, a word divorced from its original meaning.
    You can see the full commission to the apostles given by Oliver Cowdery here:


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