JESUS SELECTS TWELVE APOSTLES
Jesus First Invited Disciples to Follow Him
● Jesus called Peter, James, and John to be his disciples (Luke 5:1–11; Matt. 4:18–22).
● Peter, James, and John “forsook all” and followed the Master, even prior to their call to the Twelve (Mark 1:16–20). The giving up of the fishing business probably entailed a substantial monetary sacrifice for these men.
Jesus’ First Disciples
● The Apostle Paul commented on the nature of those called to serve (1 Cor. 1:26–27).
● The names of the original Twelve Apostles (Matthew 10:1–4; Mark 3:16–19; Luke 6:14–16; John 21:2). Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “No two of these listings give the same order of seniority . . . All of [them] place Peter first, and the three that mention Judas place him last. . . .”1
— Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist, then of Jesus (John 1:35–40).
— Peter was Andrew’s brother (John 1:41–42). Jesus called him Cephas (a stone).
— James and John were fishing business partners with Andrew and Peter (Luke 5:1–11).
— Phiip was a resident of Bethsaida, where Andrew and Peter lived (John 1:43–44).
— Nathanael (Bartholomew) was Philip’s friend; Jesus saw him in vision (John 1:45–51).
— Matthew (Levi) was a despised publican (tax collector for the Romans) (Luke 5:27–32).
— Simon Zelotes was a Zealot, a patriot in the struggle against Rome (Luke 6:15–16).
— James (the Less) and Judas (Lebbaeus Thaddaeus) were brothers and sons of Alphaeus.
— Thomas was also known as Didymus, which means “twin.”
— Judas Iscariot was the only Judean among the Twelve.
Jesus Selected Apostles from among the Disciples
● The difference between a disciple and an Apostle:
— Disciples (mathetes in Greek) were learners or followers of a specific teacher.
— These disciples were followers of Jesus Christ.2
— Apostles are disciples who have been called as special witnesses of Christ (D&C 107:23).
— The word Apostle means “one [who is] sent forth.”3
— The members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are sent forth to testify to the world that Jesus is the Savior and Redeemer of mankind.
● Elder James E. Talmage said:
“Discipleship is general; any follower of a man or devotee to a principle may be called a disciple. The Holy Apostleship is an office and calling belonging to the Higher or Melchizedek priesthood, at once exalted and specific, comprising as a distinguishing function that of personal and special witness to the divinity of Jesus Christ as the one and only Redeemer and Savior of mankind. The Apostleship is an individual bestowal, and as such is conferred only through ordination.
“The word ‘Apostle’ is an Anglicized form derived from the Greek apostolos, meaning literally ‘one who is sent,’ and connoting an envoy or official messenger, who speaks and acts by the authority of one superior to himself . . . So great is the sanctity of this special calling, that the title ‘Apostle’ should not be used lightly as the common or ordinary form of address applied to living men called to this office.”4
The Apostles Were Called by Revelation
● Jesus prayed all night before selecting the Twelve Apostles (Luke 6:12–16).
— This was prior to the Sermon on the Mount.
— The distinction between a disciple and an Apostle is made clear.
● Choosing Judas’ replacement was accomplished through revelation, not by throwing dice (casting lots) (Acts 1:21–26).
Jesus Ordained the Apostles
● The Apostles were separated from the others and ordained (Mark 3:13–19).
THE MISSION OF THE TWELVE APOSTLES
Special Witnesses of Jesus Christ
● An Apostle is a special witness of the Savior (Luke 6:13).
● Compare the mission of the earlier Apostles in Jesus’ day with the mission of our latter-day Apostles to be “special witnesses” of Christ (D&C 107:23).
● The source of their witness is personal experience with the Savior and also the Spirit of God (Matthew 10:20).
● Just before the Savior’s ascension, He reminded them they would receive power through the Holy Ghost to be witnesses “unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
The Apostles’ Training for Their Service
● The Apostles did not have any formal training for the ministry such as the scribes and Pharisees had.
— Most came from humble circumstances, and were hardworking, sincere, and spiritual men.
— Several had already followed John the Baptist.
— The influence of good families is seen in the calling of brothers to the Quorum.
— Not all had shared identical opinions about prevailing political affairs.
● After their call the Twelve received specific instructions at the Sermon on the Mount (3 Nephi 13:25–34). The Savior’s sermon to the Nephites indicates that certain portions of that sermon were directed only to the Twelve.
● The Savior’s charge to the Twelve in connection with their call (Matthew 10:5–42).
— They have power to heal the spiritually and physically sick (v. 1).
— They are sent initially only to the lost sheep of Israel (vv. 6–7).
— They are to use their priesthood power to bless and heal people (v. 8).
— They are to seek out those who are prepared to hear the gospel (vv. 11–14).
— They are to teach as guided by the Spirit (vv. 19–20).
— They are to give their lives entirely to the Savior’s work (v. 39).
The Apostles’ Message and Methods
● Their main message was repentance and the coming of God’s kingdom (Matthew 10:7).
● They were to go two by two (Mark 6:7–13; see especially v. 7).
● The Lord gave similar instruction to the seventy (Luke 10:1–16).
● They were to dust off their feet against those that rejected them (Luke 9:1–6).
● They were to be “wise as serpents” but “gentle as doves” (Matthew 10:16).
● They would be hated by all people (Matthew 10:21–33; especially v. 22).
● They were to avoid those who “seek to kill the soul” (v. 28).
● Eventually, they will judge the twelve tribes of Israel (1 Nephi 12:9).
● Anyone sent by the Apostles is also an apostolic witness—a very select group: (D&C 112:16–22). There are two such groups of people in the latter-day Church:
What are the doctrinal insights we receive from this week’s lesson material? You should consider discussing one or more of these with your class.
● Apostles are personal witnesses of Jesus Christ. The Apostles in Jesus’ day were personal witnesses of Christ’s glory (2 Peter 1:16–19). This is also true of the Apostles today.
President Harold B. Lee said:
“May I impose to bear my own testimony. I was visiting with one of the missionaries some years ago when two missionaries came to me with what seemed to be a very difficult question, to them. A young Methodist minister had laughed at them when they had said that Apostles were necessary today in order for the true Church to be upon the earth. And they said the minister said: ‘Do you realize that when they met to choose one to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Judas, that they said it had to be one who companied with them and had been a witness of all things pertaining to the mission and resurrection of the Lord? How can you say you have Apostles, if that be the measure of an Apostle?’ And so these young men said, ‘What shall we answer?’
“I said to them: ‘Go back and ask your minister friend two questions. First, how did the Apostle Paul gain what was necessary to be called an Apostle? He didn’t know the Lord; had no personal acquaintance. He hadn’t accompanied the Apostles. He hadn’t been a witness of the ministry, nor the resurrection of the Lord. How did he gain his testimony sufficient to be an Apostle? Now the second question you ask him: How does he know that all who are today Apostles have not likewise received that witness?’ I bear witness to you that those who hold the apostolic calling may, and do know of the reality of the mission of the Lord.”5
President Joseph F. Smith said, “These twelve disciples of Christ are supposed to be eye and ear witnesses of the divine mission of Jesus Christ. It is not permissible for them to say, I believe, simply; I have accepted it simply because I believe it. Read the revelation; the Lord informs us they must know, they must get the knowledge for themselves. It must be with them as if they had seen with their eyes and heard with their ears and they know the truth.”6
Elder Boyd K. Packer said:
“I have heard one of my brethren declare: ‘I know from experiences, too sacred to relate, that Jesus is the Christ.’” I have heard another testify: ‘I know that God lives; I know that the Lord lives. And more than that, I know the Lord.’
“It was not their words that held the meaning or the power. It was the Spirit. ‘ . . . for when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men.’ (2 Ne. 33:1).
“I have come to know that the witness does not come by seeking after signs. It comes through fasting and prayer, through activity and testing and obedience. It comes through sustaining the servants of the Lord and following them . . .
“Now, I wonder [why] one such as I should be called to the holy Apostleship. There are so many qualifications that I lack. There is so much in my effort to serve that is wanting. As I have pondered on it, I have come to only one single thing, one qualification in which there may be cause, and that is, I have that witness. I declare to you that I know that Jesus is the Christ. I know that he lives. He was born in the meridian of time. He taught his gospel, was tried, was crucified. He rose on the third day. He was the first fruits of the resurrection. He has a body of flesh and bone. Of this I bear testimony.”7
● Apostles are to be wholly dedicated to their work (Matthew 10:34–39). Jesus said to them, “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me” (v. 37).
— Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said, “To say that his disciples must hate all that is dear to them is surely a hard saying. But we discover from other interpretations of the doctrine (Matt. 10:37–38) that the meaning is that anyone who loves his father, mother, wife, and all that is dear to him, even his own life, more than he loves Christ, is not worthy of him and cannot be his disciple. The thought is very clear in this instruction that all who seek eternal life are required to come to Christ willing to give up all that they possess, if necessary. Should they be unwilling to do so, even to the laying down of life in his cause, then they are not worthy of his kingdom. This is reasonable; no unjust demand is made by our Savior, for he came and laid down his life for us that we might have life everlasting. He suffered for us; should we not love him more than we love our own lives?”8
● The Apostles hold the keys of the Kingdom for all the world. The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “What importance is there attached to the calling of these Twelve Apostles, different from the other callings or officers of the Church? . . . “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.”9
1. The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, 4 vols. [1979–81], 2:104–105.
2. Bible Dictionary, “Disciple,” 657.
3. Bible Dictionary, “Apostle,” 612.
4. Jesus the Christ, 3rd ed. , 227–229.
5. “Born of the Spirit,” Address to Seminary and Institute Faculty, 26 June 1962.
6. Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. , 178.
7. In Conference Report, April 1971, 123–125.
8. The Way to Perfection , 272– 273.
9. History of the Church, 2:200.