By: Brad Masters //
As Rebbie pointed out on Monday, we Mormons are pretty stoked about this weekend. We’re looking forward to 10 HOURS of religious, moral, and practical instruction from women and men of God. Now, that may not sound quite as fun as binge watching the ‘flix for ten hours, but we assure you, the excitement of hearing messages that feel uniquely (and inexplicably) tailored to your most private yearnings and concerns is more gratifying than all the seasons of House of Cards and Friends combined (and it won’t leave you alone…in your bed…at 3 am…with Dorito grease on your tee shirt, a hole in your soul, and an empty feeling of worthlessness…wait, I mean, what?).
But there’s another reason why Mormons are particularly interested in this session of General Conference: Three new members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles will be announced. That’s right. Like Mark, Matthew, John, Peter. Three new apostles. In this post, I want to help explain why we have modern-day Apostles, how they’re selected, and what these men are like.
Didn’t the original Apostles die 2,000 years ago? Why do Mormons believe there are Apostles today?
The quality and quantity of objectives Christ completed in his short, three year divine mission is proof enough of His divinity. He redeemed mankind from death, saved us from our sins, healed the sick, raised the dead, and spoke truth to power. Christ knew all along his ministry would be short, so He established a Quorum of Twelve Apostles who would carry His torch after He returned to Heaven.
Mormons believe that Christ has since restored His original church and the authority to act in His name. This was explicitly prophesied by Peter: “Repent ye therefore, and be converted that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the haven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” Acts 3:19-21
And as part of restoring His Church, He had to reconstitute the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. And we believe that in fact, He did just that. In 1835, 12 Apostles were called, and as each has passed away over the years, new apostles were called to take their place. And sadly, over the past several months, three beloved modern-day apostles passed away. Tom Perry, Boyd Packer, and Richard Scott.
These three men had been apostles for decades and were very dear to many of us. But because of their passing, there are now three vacancies in the Quorum. And this weekend, the prophet of the Church, Thomas S. Monson, will likely announce who has been selected to fill them.
How are new Apostles selected (or, as we say, “called”)?
We don’t know everything about how these new apostles are selected, but we do know the most important thing: They are chosen by God with the help of the other members of the Quorum.
Think back to when the original Apostles filled the quorum vacancy left by Judas’s betrayal and death. They got together and selected two men, “Joseph called Barsabas” and “Matthias.” And then, “they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, that he may take part of this ministry and apostleship.” Acts 1:23-25. And the Lord revealed to their hearts that it was to be Matthias who would be the newest Apostle.
So it goes in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! (We aren’t kidding around when we talk about a “restitution of all things”—he even restored the original procedures for selecting his servants). Elder Todd Christofferson, a current apostle, described the process in remarkably similar terms:
“President Monson . . . ask[s] each of his counselors and the members of the Quorum of the Twelve to give him names they would recommend for his consideration . . . . What process he goes through exactly, I’m not sure. That’s, again, something private he pursues. He then brings back, when he’s reached his decision and had the inspiration he needs, the name or names to the council that we have of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to sustain it. That goes forward to general conference.”
Just like the Apostles of old, new apostles are chosen by (1) the selection of certain names for consideration, and (2) a prayer to God asking which should be called. This weekend, we will watch as this restored, millennia-old process brings three new servants of God who will work tirelessly to proclaim what apostles have proclaimed since Peter, James, and John: “He is not here, for he is risen!”
What are these Apostles like?
One last point. These Apostles are extraordinary men. Christ selects His servants by criteria that contrast starkly with what modern democracies or stockholders look for in good “leaders.” Where many political and business leaders are self-aggrandizing, Christ values humility: “Whosoever is chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:27-28). Where the world looks for boldness, Christ seeks out the meek. “Whoseover therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”(Matthew 18:4) Where the world prizes toughness, Christ venerates love and vulnerability: “By this shall men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35)
Don’t get me wrong. The current crop of Apostles are phenomenally capable and successful men, and by any secular metric. But what really sets them apart is how successfully they’ve modeled their lives after Christ’s perfect example of humility, meekness, and love. (In fact, they’re so wise, and their examples so appealing, that even Hip Hop’s most famous rappers have taken to quoting Apostlic wisdom on their Twitter accounts!)
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I’m so grateful to be a member of a church that believes the Lord did not stop speaking or caring about us, but rather continues to call incredible leaders to help shepherd us through the rough patches of life.
Long ago, Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “It is the office of a true teacher to show us that God is, not was; that he speaketh, not spake.” This weekend, with the calling of three new, modern-day Apostles, we will witness that great truth unfolding before our very eyes.