Monday, October 20, 2014

The Twelve Apostles and the Keys of the Kingdom

A prophet is someone who speaks by the power of the Holy Ghost and has the testimony of Jesus Christ. They may or may not predict future events. In fact prediction is not the most important criteria for a prophet since false prophets can also sometimes tell the future and even perform miracles. Any true minister of God who has the testimony of Jesus and the gift and power of the Holy Ghost is a prophet since in speaking by the Holy Ghost, they speak the word and will of God. While the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is a prophet, he is not the only prophet, since all of God’s true ministers are prophets. As Joseph Smith taught, “No man is a minister of Jesus Christ without being a Prophet. No man can be a minister of Jesus Christ except he has the testimony of Jesus; and this is the spirit of prophecy” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 160). When he was asked if he was believed he was a prophet,”  Joseph Smith responded, “Yes, and every other man who has the testimony of Jesus. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.—Revelation, xix:10th verse” (Teachings, 119). This is why the Lord called his school the “school of the prophets, established for their instruction in all things that are expedient  for them, even for all the officers of the church, or in other words, those who are called to the ministry in the church, beginning at the high priests, even down to the deacons” (D&C 88:127; 1835 7:39). The President of the Church, however, is more than just a prophet. He is, significantly, an apostle.  The Lord set apostles first in the Church before prophets (1 Corinthians 12:28). The President of the Church is also the only prophet authorized to receive revelation for the whole Church.

In order to more fully appreciate the essential role of Apostles in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints it is helpful to understand how their role was established through the leadership and direction of the Lord and the prophet of the Restoration Joseph Smith.

The Three Witnesses of the Book of Mormon were commanded in revelation by God to seek out and choose the Twelve Apostles (D&C 18:27-40; 1835 43:5-6).  In 1835, they fulfilled this commandment and the Twelve  were chosen and ordained by Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer and Martin Harris and they were confirmed as such under the hand of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith taught them that they were next to the First Presidency in terms of over all authority in the Church and he also taught, “If the Twelve erred they were accountable only to the General Council of the whole Church, according to the revelations” (HC 2:285). He also taught, “The Twelve are not subject to any other than the first Presidency, viz., `myself,’ said the Prophet, `Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams, who are now my Counselors” (HC 2:374). The Lord outlined their duties and responsibilities in the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants. The Twelve were a quorum equal in authority to the Quorum the First Presidency, and also held the keys of the kingdom, but were to act under their direction. On March 27, 1836, in a solemn assembly during the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, Joseph Smith, the quorum of the First Presidency and the quorum of the Twelve Apostles were all acknowledged as “prophets and seers.” The record says:
Presdt Rigdon . . . . called upon the several quorums commencing with the presidency, to manifest by rising up, their willingness to acknowledge me as a prophet and seer and uphold me as such by their p[r]ayers of faith, all their quorums in turn, cheerfully complied with this request he then called upon all the congregation of Saints, also to give their assent by rising on their feet which they did unanimously . . . .
I then made a short address and called upon the several quorums, and all the congregation of saints to acknowledge the presidency as Prophets and Seers, and uphold them by their prayers, they all covenanted to do so by rising; I then called upon the quorums and congregation of saints to acknowledge the 12 Apostles who were present as Prophets and Seers and special witnesses to all the nations of the earth, holding the keys of the kingdom, to unlock it or cause it to be done among all nations them; and uphold them by their prayers, which they assented to do by rising (Joseph Smith Journal, 27 March, 1836, in Dean C. Jesse, Ronald K. Esplin and Richard Lyman Bushman, eds., The Papers of Joseph Smith. Journals Volume 1:1832-1839. The Church Historian’s Press, 2008, 203-4. Emphasis added). As the Book of Mormon says, “a seer is a revelator and a prophet also” (Mosiah 8:16-17). 

It is noteworthy that only the First Presidency and the Twelve were acknowledged as prophets and seers. Unlike the First Presidency, however, the primary mission of the Twelve was to travel abroad preaching the Gospel, opening the door of the Lord’s kingdom in all nations. After they were called in 1835, they were told that their business at first was not to serve in Zion in Missouri or the stakes, but to go out into the world and build up the Church abroad. In a revelation given in 1837, the Lord told the Twelve that they were not to trouble themselves about the affairs of the kingdom in the stake in Kirtland, but were then to go abroad in the world and preach the Gospel (D&C 112:27-29). The Lord also told Thomas B. Marsh, who was then President of the Quorum of the Twelve, “thou art the man whom I have chosen to hold the keys of my kingdom as pertaining to the Twelve, abroad among all nations—That thou mayest be my servant to unlock the door of the kingdom in all places where my servant Joseph and my servant Sidney, and my servant Hyrum, cannot come. For on them have I laid the burden of all he churches for a little season” (D&C 112:16-18). The Lord thereby indicated that, while the primary duty of the Twelve was to preach, testify and build up the kingdom abroad, that there might be circumstances in which their duties would be expanded to “all places” where the First Presidency, for whatever reason, could not or may not be able to go. The Lord also said that the current assignment of responsibilities was “for a little season” further suggesting that after a time the Twelve might be called upon to share some of the burden which at that time was only assigned to and carried by the First Presidency (Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith and Sidney Rigdon).
This was in fact soon the case during the difficulties in Missouri where the entire First Presidency suffered in prison for months, while the saints were being driven from the state. In a letter written to Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball, the Prophet wrote, “In as much as we are in prison and for a little season if need be the management of the affairs of the Church devolves on you that is the Twelve . . . . It will be necessary for you to get the Twelve together ordain such as have not been ordained, or at least such of them as you can get. And proceed to regulate the Elders as the Lord may give you wisdom . . . . Appoint the oldest of those Twelve who were first appointed, to be President of your Quorum. (Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon and Hyrum Smith to Heber C. Kimball and Brigham Young, 16 January, 1839, Jesse, Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, 2002, 423-425). During this time, when the First Presidency could not be there, the Twelve, under their direction, took on an expanded burden of responsibility in accordance with previous revelation. Also with the death of David W. Patten and the apostasy and excommunication of Thomas B. Marsh, Brigham Young was now the senior member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the presiding authority over that quorum. The Twelve, in fact did go abroad and preach the Gospel as they were commanded to do and had great success in Great Britain between 1837 and 1841, resulting in the conversion of thousands and opening up the way for the conversion and eventual immigration of tens of thousands to the United States. 

Upon their return, the Prophet received a revelation naming the Twelve including Brigham Young as President of that Quorum and they were approved in their offices at a subsequent conference of the Church. The Prophet then put them to work, expanding their responsibilities to include regulating and overseeing Church business at Church headquarters in Nauvoo. This marked an expansion of responsibilities for the Twelve under the Prophet's inspired direction. On August 10, 1841, “I spent the day in council with Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, John Taylor, Orson Pratt, and George A. Smith, and appointed a special conference for the 16th instant. I directed them to send missionaries to New Orleans; Charleston, South Carolina; Salem, Massachusetts; Baltimore, Maryland; and Washington, District of Columbia. I also requested the Twelve to take the burden of the business of the Church in Nauvoo, and especially as pertaining to the selling of Church lands (HC 4:400). On August 16, in compliance with the Prophet’s request, a special conference of the Church was held in order to explain this to the Saints. The record states:
The time had come when the Twelve should be called upon to stand in their place next to the First Presidency, and attend to the settling of emigrants and the business of the Church at the stakes, and assist to bear off the kingdom victoriously to the nations, and as they had been faithful, and had borne the burden in the heat of the day, that it was right that they should have an opportunity of providing something for themselves and families, and at the same time relieve him, so that he might attend to the business of translating. Moved, seconded and carried, that the conference approve the instructions of President Smith in relation to the Twelve, and that they proceed accordingly to attend to the duties of their office. . . . Moved, that the conference accept the doings of the Twelve, in designating certain individuals to certain cities, &c.: when President Smith remarked that the conference had already sanctioned the doings of the Twelve; and it belonged to their office to transact such business, with the approbation of the First Presidency (HC 2:403-4. Emphasis added).
So again, this expansion of responsibility came about under prophetic direction and was approved by the voice of the Church. 

On January 28, the Prophet recorded a revelation which said:

“Verily thus saith the Lord unto you, my servant Joseph, go and say unto the Twelve, that it is my will to have them take in hand the editorial department of the Times and Seasons, according to the manifestation which shall be given unto them by the power of my Holy Spirit in the midst of their counsel, saith the Lord. Amen" (HC 4:503).
Note here that it was the Prophet Joseph Smith himself who authorized the Twelve to officiate in business of the Church at the stakes, including Church headquarters at Nauvoo, even though earlier instructions had not permitted this. In this change, the Twelve were not usurping local authority, but were simply fulfilling an expanded responsibility given them by the prophet and by revelation to “regulate” and “set in order” all the affairs of the Church in all the world under the direction of the First Presidency. Brigham Young and the Twelve were acknowledged in their apostolic authority according to God’s law of common consent in the revelations. They had already been called of God to be the Twelve Apostles by revelation to Joseph Smith and were fulfilling their duties as apostles to take the lead when there are no higher authorities present (D&C 20:38-45, 49-50, 56). Joseph was now no longer present. Brigham Young and the Twelve had also already been previously acknowledged as prophets and seers and given the keys of the kingdom along with the First Presidency. Sidney Rigdon had served as a counselor to Joseph Smith in the First Presidency, but with Joseph Smith dead and the other counselor, William Law excommunicated for apostasy, there was no longer a quorum of the First Presidency equal in power and authority to the Twelve in their acts and decisions (D&C 107:27-32). The Twelve, who had been previously called, appointed, and ordained by Joseph Smith and sustained in their offices by the law of common consent were the ones authorized to regulate all the affairs of the Church and to ordain and set in order all other officers of the same in all the world (D&C 107:58).

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