As I contemplated the recent passing of both Elder Perry and Elder Packer, I was reminded of the council given to the leaders of the church regarding their function and purpose. That thought led me back to the scriptures, the Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Doctrinal History of the Church.

Here is what the Doctrine and Covenants states regarding the officers of the Church:

22  Of the Melchizedek Priesthood, three Presiding High Priests, chosen by the body, appointed and ordained to that office, and upheld by the confidence, faith, and prayer of the church, form a quorum of the Presidency of the Church.

23  The twelve traveling councilors are called to be the Twelve Apostles, or special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world—thus differing from other officers in the church in the duties of their calling.

24  And they form a quorum, equal in authority and power to the three presidents previously mentioned.

25  The Seventy are also called to preach the gospel, and to be especial witnesses unto the Gentiles and in all the world—thus differing from other officers in the church in the duties of their calling.

26  And they form a quorum, equal in authority to that of the Twelve special witnesses or Apostles just named.

27  And every decision made by either of these quorums must be by the unanimous voice of the same; that is, every member in each quorum must be agreed to its decisions, in order to make their decisions of the same power or validity one with the other— (D&C, section 107)

Do we today have three quorums that are equal in authority and power? Does the body of sanctioned officers known as the Seventy, represent, in their unanimity, an equal weight, in terms of their decision, to what comes from the First Presidency or the Twelve traveling apostles? Where is the revelation that changed this order of things?

Of course, it gets better:

37  The high council in Zion form a quorum equal in authority in the affairs of the church, in all their decisions, to the councils of the Twelve at the stakes of Zion.

Are the standing high councils in a stake today equal in authority to the Salt Lake based ‘general authorities?’

39  It is the duty of the Twelve, in all large branches of the church, to ordain evangelical ministers, as they shall be designated unto them by revelation—

So, the traveling High Council, the Twelve, here have the duty to manage the affairs of the branches? What about the organized stakes? Here is what is found in the history of the church within weeks of when section 107 was penned:

President Smith proposed the following question. What importance is there attached to the calling of the Twelve Apostles, different from the other callings or offices of the Church?

After the question was discussed by Councilors Patten, Young, Smith and M’Lelllin, President Joseph Smith, Jun., gave the following decision:

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 no 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 (TPJS, page 79, DHC 2:200, Feb. 27, 1835)

The second quote is also from TPJS entitled Items of Instruction to the Twelve and the Seventy Order of Councils:

President Joseph Smith stated that the Twelve will have no right to go into Zion, or any of the stakes, and there undertake to regulate the affairs thereof, where there is a standing high council, but its is their duty to go abroad and regulate all matters relative to the different branches of the Church. When the Twelve are together, or a quorum of them, in any church, they will have authority to act independently, and make decisions, and those decisions will be valid. But where there is not a quorum, they will have to do business by the voice of the Church. No standing High Council has the authority to go into the churches abroad, and regulate the matters thereof, for this belongs to the Twelve. No standing High Council will ever be established only in Zion, or one of her stakes. When the Twelve pass a decision, it is in the name of the Church, therefore it is valid.

It is amazing to me how broad a change has been instituted in the Church (with a capital C) and the impact it has had on the churches (with a small c). What would the worship environment if this directive were carefully followed in the intervening years between 1835 and the present? If the standing High Council had jurisdiction over the organized stakes of Zion, there would be no central coordination and no uniform direction from Salt Lake City. The Twelve would be focused on the less developed areas of the spread of the gospel and would be helping the branches grow and strengthen. The stakes would be largely autonomous entities focused on the spiritual growth and well-being of the saints.

No official member of the Church has the authority to go into any branch thereof, and ordain any minister for the church, unless it is by the voice of that branch. No Elder has authority to go into any branch of the Church, and appoint meetings, or attempt to regulate the affairs of the Church, without the advice and consent of the presiding Elder of that branch.The Twelve and the Seventy have particularly to depend upon their ministry for their support, and that of their families; and they have a right, by virtue of their offices, to call upon the churches to assist them. (TPJS, page 74)

What kind of a world would it be if those in leadership positions within the Church were expected to be ‘ministers and servants’ as the Lord directed the Nephites (see 3 Nephi 12:1). The twelve apostles would have to rely on the branches for their financial support? Wow, I would think the line for applications would shorten considerably if this were the case. But, on the other hand, what humility would be spawned when those who serve in the highest of church callings were to rely on the branches for their physical needs?

So what am I to make of this? Obviously, the Church is directed by revelation. That any directive found in the scriptures can be overridden by the inspiration of the leaders of the church. I just thought that when such things were to occur, the changes were to be ratified by the body of the church. Surely, I must have missed the ratification vote for the Church Handbook of Instruction.

What think ye?

7 Responses to “Calling of the Apostles”

  • I cannot imagine that the men who excommunicated me would have done so without being emboldened by those at the top. None of the twelve sitting on the stake high council, I was told (by one who was present) recommended excommunication. Yet the presiding high priest excommunicated me anyway, apparently at the behest of “high ups”. (He couldn’t even remember all of the “charges” (he had been told) against me!) He was clearly just “following orders”. The whole proceedings, including the outcome, was previously dictated.

    The Church Handbook of Instruction now takes precedence over venerated and accepted holy scripture; the directives of living “prophets” now override the testimonies of dead ones; the teachings of the servants of the Master now hold greater sway upon the operations of the Church than the teachings of the Master Himself. And gross darkness covers the minds of the people.

    • Spektator:

      Your situation weighed heavily on my mind and heart. I could have easily pointed to your blog and the embedded story line to buttress my position. You are the one that has suggested the church organization should resemble a pancake, not a pyramid…

      But alas, most TBM are mind-numbingly aligned with the idea that the arm of flesh is greater the the hands of God. In so doing, they chaff at any idea that threatens their reliance on the works and words of men to save them.

  • James Russell Uhl:

    It is amazing to me that as the 21st century unfolds the government of our church and the government of our nation seem more and more to be operating out of the very same play book.
    Both seem to feel free to re-write any law they do not agree with.
    Both seem to feel free to disregard any law they find inconvenient.
    Both seem to be governed from the top down in a completely autocratic fashion.
    Both seem to regard their financial dealings as a private matter, no longer the concern of those who provide the funding.
    Both seem to be more concerned with maintaining power than with the welfare of those they “serve”.
    Both are led by people who clearly consider themselves above the masses they lead.
    Both seem to be becoming more and more monarchical with each passing month.
    Both have effectively insulated themselves from the people whom they pretend to serve.
    Both have shown a predilection to slander, smear and railroad anyone who opposes their “leadership” or their changing of time honored rules of law.
    The list of similarities goes on and on and on.
    The sheer wrongness of this is becoming glaringly apparent to more and more people.
    Is it any wonder people are leaving the United States and leaving the church in record numbers?
    Is it any wonder there is so much discontent among the people of both groups?
    James Russell Uhl

  • log:


    This is simply a demonstration that no society built up on any principle other than the Golden Rule can last. Anything else tears itself apart.

    We are down here to experience it and make a choice. Will we repent and be converted and healed and have Zion in our midst, or will we choose the path of paternalism, hierarchy, and conflict?

  • James Russell Uhl:

    AMEN Brother!

  • Bob:

    Fortunately the Lord will soon cleanse His church, via the prophet Joseph Smoth, as mentioned in The Second Book of Commandments.

  • Greg:

    The current interpretation of those scriptures is that the 12 have both authority and power equal to the first presidency meaning together they hold all the keys and thus can ordain a new president of the church and other apostles. They also can represent the first presidency in whatever action is needed.
    You’ll note that the 70’s have authority but no power. This is interpreted to mean that they can under the direction of the quorum of the 12 and the first presidency go out and accomplish anything they are assigned but they have no power to ordain and apostle or a Pres of the church.

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