The title of this post is from a comment made by one of the missionaries that stopped by the other day. We were discussing the church that Christ established among the Nephites. The elder was adamant that the twelve disciples selected by Christ to lead His church were not apostles and, therefore, were not as ‘important’ in terms of hierarchy and mission. I would grant that these twelve men would not be ‘judging the house of Israel’ as was assigned to the original twelve apostles at the time of Christ, but it has occupied my mind considerably these last few days just what basis should be used to assess their contribution to the kingdom of God. And by extension, what we should expect from the men who are called to lead the church of Christ today.
By my estimation, the best measure is the fruits as we read in Matthew 7:
15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
It would seem to me that an examination of the fruits would be appropriate in understanding the differences between the ‘disciples’ of the Nephite church and the ‘apostles’ of today’s restored church.
First, let’s look at the twelve selected to lead the Nephite church. We only know a small amount about these men. We know their names and we know how long they lived (including the three Nephites). The scriptures do tell us that these men were able to establish a Zion community as we read in 3 Nephi 26:
17 And it came to pass that the disciples whom Jesus had chosen began from that time forth to baptize and to teach as many as did come unto them; and as many as were baptized in the name of Jesus were filled with the Holy Ghost.
18 And many of them saw and heard unspeakable things, which are not lawful to be written.
19 And they taught, and did minister one to another; and they had all things common among them, every man dealing justly, one with another.
20 And it came to pass that they did do all things even as Jesus had commanded them.
21 And they who were baptized in the name of Jesus were called the church of Christ.
These men were able to extend the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost to all the members. They were able to teach marvelous things. Perhaps most important in my mind is that the community they led was able to employ the law of consecration – they had all things common among them. This is similar to the experience of the apostles at the time of Christ. They, too, were able to see the baptism of fire among the members and they too were able to establish a community based of the law of consecration.
How close to living the law of consecration are we today? What are the leaders of the restored church doing to bring the people to this state? Should we be satisfied with the terrestrial law of tithing as a marker of the condition of the church?
Another equally important product that the disciples were able to provide is found in fourth Nephi:
5 And there were great and marvelous works wrought by the disciples of Jesus, insomuch that they did heal the sick, and raise the dead, and cause the lame to walk, and the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear; and all manner of miracles did they work among the children of men; and in nothing did they work miracles save it were in the name of Jesus.
These men were able to work miracles among the people. The scriptures repeatedly tell us that the presence of these miracles is a marker, not of just the men who perform them but of that veracity of the church of Christ. These works, as demonstrated by the Nephite disciples, are defined as the works of God and are required of His church, as found in 3 Nephi 27:
10 And if it so be that the church is built upon my gospel then will the Father show forth his own works in it.
11 But if it be not built upon my gospel, and is built upon the works of men, or upon the works of the devil, verily I say unto you they have joy in their works for a season, and by and by the end cometh, and they are hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence there is no return.
12 For their works do follow them, for it is because of their works that they are hewn down; therefore remember the things that I have told you.
The works of the Father are indeed the miracles as brought by the disciples. These men were able to demonstrate the works of the Father among the people to which they ministered.
So what of the apostles of today’s LDS Church? What are their fruits? Why are such miracles as described at the hands of the Nephite disciples not prevalent among the apostles of today? When was the last documented miracle by an apostle in the restored church? Why are they not blessing the church on a daily basis through these types of miracles?
What are the works of the leadership of the church? Should the building of 140 temples be counted as the works of the leadership of the church? Or the thousands of meeting houses and stake centers? Should we consider the ‘requirement’ by every apostle to publish their own words? What are the works of the corporate church? Is the billion dollar reconstruction of the area around the temple considered to be one of the major works of the men who lead the church today? These, unfortunately, are the works of men and they will only ‘have joy in their works for a season’ before they are hewn down.
In a talk given in Calgary, Alberta through the Church Educational System on May 7, 2000, Elder Dallin H. Oaks expanded the definition of miracle with these words recorded in the Church News of May 13, 2000:
Other far-reaching miracles occur as a result of obedience to the commandments of God. For example, he added, “there is something miraculous about the way the members of our Church pay their tithing so faithfully and are so blessed for doing so.”
Other large-scale miracles are occurring in the Church’s family history work, he said. “The effect of our Family Search Internet Genealogy Service in the year it has been available is truly miraculous. After one year our Internet site averages 8 million hits per day, representing daily visits by about 130,000 persons. In this same one-year period, the site registered users from 117 countries who downloaded over 410,000 copies of our Personal Ancestral File. This was an 8-fold increase in usage over the prior technology.”
Should the definition of miracles be changed to include the ‘works of man?’ Is it acceptable to the Lord that the works of God – raising the dead, healing the sick, the blind receiving sight, and the deaf receiving ability to hear – be supplemented with the works of man – the payment of tithing and the development of a popular website? As I have said before, should the condition of the church be measured on the terrestrial law of tithing, or the number of temples, or any other man-made activity? God had made it very clear that a church build upon the works of man will fail.
In summary, the lowly Nephite disciples who were called to lead the church of Christ were commanded to be ministers and servants to the people, they baptized them with water and with fire and the Holy Ghost. They were able to establish a Zion community, based on all things being common, that lasted three generations. They blessed the members of the church with mighty miracles – raising the dead, healing the sick. If I were to choose which made an adequate contribution to the kingdom of God, I would choose these disciples. They are an example of what our apostles should be today.
38 For it shall come to pass that the inhabitants of Zion shall judge all things pertaining to Zion.
39 And liars and hypocrites shall be proved by them, and they who are not apostles and prophets shall be known. (D&C 64)
What think ye?