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Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
The group serves under the direction of the First Presidency, which consists of three high priests generally selected from the ranks of the Quorum of the Twelve. These two groups (the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency) each hold all the rights of authority to administer in the spiritual and temporal affairs of the Church.
The Quorum of the Twelve consists of twelve men ordained as apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ. Mormons believe that this group is identical in organization and authority to the group of the same name that was organized by the Savior when He was on the earth.
In modern times the first members of the Quorum of the Twelve were ordained on February 14, 1835. Under the direction of Joseph Smith, the initial Twelve were selected by the three witnesses of the Book of Mormon (Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris). Those selected and ordained to this quorum were Thomas B. Marsh, David W. Patten, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Orson Hyde, William E. McLellin, Parley P. Pratt, Luke S. Johnson, William B. Smith, Orson Pratt, John F. Boynton, and Lyman E. Johnson. They were called to be special witnesses of Christ and to preach the gospel throughout the world. Of them the Prophet Joseph Smith said:
- They are the Twelve Apostles, who are called to the office of the Traveling High Council, who are to preside over the churches of the Saints, among the Gentiles, where there is a presidency established; and they are to travel and preach among the Gentiles, until the Lord shall command them to go to the Jews. They are to hold the keys of this ministry, to unlock the door of the Kingdom of heaven unto all nations, and to preach the Gospel to every creature. This is the power, authority, and virtue of their apostleship. (Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 vols. 2:200)
In January 1841 Brigham Young was appointed as President of the Quorum of the Twelve, and in March 1844 Joseph Smith conferred on the quorum all of the ordinances, keys, and authority that he possessed. For this reason members of the Church consider the Twelve to be prophets, seers and revelators for the Church.
After the death of Joseph Smith, the Church faced the question of how succession in the presidency should occur. The resulting confusion was resolved when the Quorum of the Twelve was sustained by the Church membership to succeed the First Presidency. The Twelve, under the direction of Brigham Young, governed the Church from June 1844 to December 1847 during the westward exodus to the Salt Lake Valley. The Twelve sustained Young as President of the Church on December 5, 1846, near Winter Quarters, Nebraska, and this action was subsequently sustained by the Church as a whole in a conference on December 27, 1847.
Duties of the Twelve
Members of the Quorum of the Twelve are responsible for the overall administration of the Church and the spreading of the gospel throughout the world. They serve on committees established by the First Presidency and those within the Quorum. Committee assignments are rotated periodically. The Twelve are often assigned to speak at sessions of General Conference by the First Presidency, but topics are rarely assigned. The President of the Quorum of the Twelve also may assign apostles to attend regional of area conferences of the Church. Members of the Church regard messages of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve as inspired, but not infallible. (See Doctrine and Covenants 68:4)
Apostles seek to take the gospel to all nations and, under the direction of the First Presidency, meet with heads of state to obtain official permission to teach the gospel in various countries.
The Quorum of the Twelve meets in the Salt Lake Temple, often weekly, to transact all business that requires decisions by the Quorum. They seek unanimity in all their decisions. (Doctrine and Covenants 107:27) If agreement is not reached, then matters under consideration are tabled for additional consideration. If a unanimous decision is reached, then the matter is taken to a joint council between the Quorum and the First Presidency, and the two bodies consider final action on the matter.
When the Twelve act under direction of the First Presidency, they have authority to receive revelation for their individual assignments, which include supervising other Church leaders and overseeing stakes and missions. Only the President of the Church, however, has the right and authority to receive revelation for the Church as a whole. (Doctrine and Covenants 28:2-3)
Selecting an Apostle
Members of the Quorum of the Twelve serve for their lifetimes, unless removed from their position for iniquity or through resignation. When there are fewer than twelve men in the quorum, it is necessary for a new apostle to be chosen.
New apostles for the Quorum of the Twelve are selected by the First Presidency, by revelation. The position is not open to lobbying or application, although several candidates may be considered. The selection is made by applying the same general principles as were followed by the ancient apostles in New Testament times, that is, the First President and the remaining members of the Twelve meet and prayerfully consider new candidates. They voice their opinions on who it should be, and the final selection can only be unanimous. (See Acts 1:15-26.)
Once a decision is reached, the individual's name is submitted to the remaining members of the Quorum of the Twelve for their approval. The individual is then interviewed by the President of the Church and a calling is issued. The name is announced in a general conference of the Church for the sustaining vote of the membership as a whole. Such vote does not constitute an election in the political sense of the word; it indicates that the calling is approved by the membership and that the membership accepts the new apostle as such.
The newly sustained individual is then ordained as an apostle by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, who bestow upon him the keys (authority) of the holy apostleship. These keys are the same as were given by Christ to the ancient apostles and restored to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in modern times by Peter, James, and John. The keys given to the new apostle include the authority to preach the gospel in all the world and to seal ordinances on earth that will be sealed eternally. (See Matthew 16:19, 28:19-20).
Apostles are special witnesses of the name of Jesus Christ in all the world; they possess a knowledge, by revelation, of the literal resurrection of Christ and a knowledge that he directs the affairs of His Church.
Current Members of the Twelve
The current Quorum consists of:
- President Russell M. Nelson (president of the Quorum)
- Elder Dallin H. Oaks
- Elder M. Russell Ballard
- Elder Robert D. Hales
- Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
- Elder David A. Bednar
- Elder Quentin L. Cook
- Elder D. Todd Christofferson
- Elder Neil L. Andersen
- Elder Ronald A. Rasband
- Elder Gary E. Stevenson
- Elder Dale G. Renlund
Biographies of each man are available on the official Church website.
- Salt Lake Tribune article on new apostles being added in 2004
- Information on Parley P. Pratt and Orson Pratt, two of the original members of the Quorum of the Twelve
- Frequently asked questions about Mormonism