Viewpoint: General Conference Is Opportunity to Sustain the Lord’s Chosen Apostles
Contributed By the Church News
“It is an important duty resting upon the Saints who … sustain the authorities of the Church, to do so not only by the lifting of the hand, the mere form, but in deed and in truth.” —President Joseph F. Smith
At each general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, members gather “to wait upon the Lord, to worship Him in spirit and in truth, to be fed the bread of life, and to receive counsel and instruction from those whom He has chosen to administer in the affairs of His Church” (Joseph Fielding Smith, “Out of the Darkness,” Apr. 1971 general conference).
At this conference, Church members have anticipated their opportunity to sustain three new members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles called to fill vacancies created by the deaths of Elder L. Tom Perry, on May 31; President Boyd K. Packer, on July 3; and Elder Richard G. Scott, on September 22.
The last time three new Apostles were sustained in the same general conference session was in April 1906: Elder George F. Richards, Elder Orson F. Whitney, and Elder David O. McKay, with the latter eventually becoming the ninth President of the Church.
It is exciting to be part of such a history-making moment. It is no less momentous, however, to sustain in every general conference, as well as in stake conferences, the President of the Church and his counselors in the First Presidency and the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators. While we sustain them by council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the Lord calls them one by one.
President Packer served 54 years as a General Authority, including as an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve, as well as a member, Acting President, and President of that quorum. During the April 2008 general conference, he described himself and his fellow Apostles as “very ordinary people.”
“They are not, as the original Twelve were not, spectacular individually, but collectively the Twelve are a power.
“We come from a variety of occupations. We are scientists, lawyers, teachers.
“Elder [Russell M.] Nelson was a pioneer heart surgeon. He performed thousands of surgical operations. …
“Several in this quorum were military men—a sailor, marines, pilots.
“They have held various positions in the Church: home teachers, teachers, missionaries, quorum presidents, bishops, stake presidents, mission presidents, and, of most importance, husbands and fathers.
“They all are students and teachers of the gospel of Jesus Christ. What unites us is our love of the Savior and His Father’s children and our witness that He stands at the head of the Church.
“Almost to a man, the Twelve come from humble beginnings, as it was when He was here. The living Twelve are welded together in the ministry of the gospel of Jesus Christ. When the call came, each has put down his nets, so to speak, and followed the Lord.”
In the October 2014 general conference, President Nelson, then a member and now President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said: “If the Restoration did anything, it shattered the age-old myth that God had stopped talking to His children. … A prophet has stood at the head of God’s Church in all dispensations, from Adam to the present day. Prophets testify of Jesus Christ—of His divinity and of His earthly mission and ministry. We honor the Prophet Joseph Smith as the prophet of this last dispensation. And we honor each man who has succeeded him as President of the Church.
“When we sustain prophets and other leaders, we invoke the law of common consent, for the Lord said, ‘It shall not be given to any one to go forth to preach my gospel, or to build up my church, except he be ordained by some one who has authority, and it is known to the church that he has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church’” (D&C 41:11).
President Nelson explained that after members sustain a man (presently President Thomas S. Monson) as President of the Church, they also sustain him and his counselors in the First Presidency and members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators.
“Think of that!” President Nelson said. “We sustain 15 men as prophets of God! They hold all the priesthood keys that have ever been conferred upon man in this dispensation. … They are committed to see that the Lord’s will truly will be done. The Lord’s Prayer provides the pattern for each of these 15 men when they pray: ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’”
Jesus Christ has always held all of the keys of the priesthood. When He first called His twelve Apostles, He gave all of them the priesthood (see John 15:16).
“Before He was crucified, Christ gave the keys of the priesthood power to Peter, James, and John. … However, in the centuries that followed the death of the Apostles, these keys were lost; and before men could exercise the priesthood again, these keys had to be restored. For this reason the Lord sent Peter, James, and John to the Prophet Joseph Smith to restore the Melchizedek Priesthood and the keys of that priesthood (see D&C 27:12-13). These sacred keys have been given to all the Apostles and prophets of the Church and are held by the prophet and Apostles of the Church today” (Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part B, lesson 2).
As we sustain the President of the Church, his counselors, and members of the Quorum of the Twelve as prophets, seers, and revelators, may we think of the counsel Joseph F. Smith gave 1898: “It is an important duty resting upon the Saints who … sustain the authorities of the Church, to do so not only by the lifting of the hand, the mere form, but in deed and in truth” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith (1998), 211; quoted by Russell M. Nelson, October 2014 general conference).