When Jesus organized His ministry, He chose twelve men to assist Him. These men were not chosen from the professional clergy or people who had any special training. They were ordinary people who had worked at non-religious careers prior to their call. Once called, they became full-time ministers of God.
He found Peter and Andrew fishing, and said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” They promptly dropped their tools and followed Jesus, giving up their livelihood without question or taking time to think it over. He also found James and John on a boat, mending nets. They too immediately accepted the invitation and followed Jesus. Matthew was sitting at the receipt of customs, but he too followed Jesus. In all, Jesus chose twelve men from various walks of life.
Jesus called them apostles and instructed them to take the gospel to the lost sheep, but not, for now, to the Gentiles or the Samaritans. They were taught to preach without passing a collection plate or taking a salary. They were given the priesthood authority to conduct miracles in God’s name. He warned them that preaching the gospel would not be easy. People would reject them and persecute them for His sake. Perhaps they didn’t really understand the depth of the persecution they would face—some would be murdered—but they accepted the roles given to them.
In Ephesians, we learn that Jesus called for His church to always be built on a foundation of apostles and prophets.
20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone (Ephesians 2:19-20).
An apostle serves as a special witness of Jesus Christ. While they also carry out administrative processes required for the running of a church, their primary responsibility is to testify of Jesus and His ministry and to help others gain a testimony. They teach the gospel so their listeners will know what is required in a Christ-like life.
After the deaths of the apostles in Jesus’ ministry, an apostasy began and no new apostles were called. However, since the Bible says God’s church must have a foundation of apostles and prophets, there was a need for a complete restoration of the gospel and that included restoring the position of apostle.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are sometimes nicknamed Mormons, has a church built on a foundation of prophets and apostles, as the Bible requires. Jesus Christ sits at the head of the Church. The prophet alone can receive revelation for the entire church, just as it was in Biblical times. The apostles serve under him and travel the world sharing their message of the divinity of Jesus Christ and His atonement. Like the men Jesus chose, these men did not train in divinity schools. They were ordinary men who had secular careers in a variety of fields and who served as volunteers in their various local congregations. They now serve full-time without pay, as did Jesus’ apostles. However, if they have no other form of support, they can receive a modest stipend, which is not paid from tithing funds. The money comes from the for-profit arm of the church. The apostles of today follow the pattern set by the Savior when He organized His church.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.