Chapter 7: The Calling of the Twelve

The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, (1979), 50–55

Map Chp. 7

The Galilean Ministry





Healing at Pool



Jesus Teaches of Himself



Discourse on the Sabbath






Jesus Withdraws to the Sea




Twelve Chosen





*Indicates emphasis


Interpretive Commentary

(7-1) John 5:31–34. What Did Jesus Say Concerning His Mission and the Witness Others Bore of Him?

Compare the following passages of scripture in the Inspired Version with John 5:31–34, 36–38 of the King James Version:

“32 Therefore if I bear witness of myself, yet my witness is true.

“33 For I am not alone, there is another who beareth witness of me, and I know that the testimony which he giveth of me is true.

“34 Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness also unto the truth.

“35 And he received not his testimony of man, but of God, and ye yourselves say that he is a prophet, therefore ye ought to receive his testimony. These things I say that ye might be saved. …

“37 But I have a greater witness than the testimony of John; for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.

“38 And the Father himself who sent me, hath borne witness of me. And verily I testify unto you, that ye have never heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape;

“39 For ye have not his word abiding in you; and him whom he hath sent, ye believe not.” (John 5:32–35, 37–39, Inspired Version.)

(7-2) John 5:39. What Does It Mean to “Search the Scriptures”?

“Since we cannot ‘live by [the words which] proceedeth forth from the mouth of God’ unless we know what they are, it is imperative that we study them. This the Lord has directed us to do.

“As the Jews disputed with Jesus because he said that God was his Father, he pointedly responded: ‘Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.’ (John 5:39.)

“In the Lord’s preface to his Book of Commandments, he said: ‘Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled.’ (D&C 1:37.)

“We are under divine instruction to ‘teach the principles of [the] gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon.’ (D&C 42:12.) This we cannot do unless we know what they are.” (Marion G. Romney in CR, Apr. 1973, p. 117.)

(7-3) Luke 6:9. “Is It Lawful on the Sabbath Days to Do Good, or to Do Evil?”

“Whether at home or in church, your thoughts and your conduct should be always in harmony with the spirit and purpose of the Sabbath. Places of amusement and recreation, while at proper times may serve a needed end, are not conducive of spiritual growth and such places will not keep you ‘unspotted from the world’ but will rather deny you the ‘fullness of the earth’ promised to those who comply with the law of the Sabbath. You who make the violation of the Sabbath a habit, by your failure to ‘keep it holy,’ are losing a soul full of joy in return for a thimble full of pleasure. You are giving too much attention to your physical desires at the expense of your spiritual health. The Sabbath breaker shows early the signs of his weakening in the faith by neglecting his daily family prayers, by fault-finding, by failing to pay his tithes and his offerings, and such a one whose mind begins to be darkened because of spiritual starvation soon begins also to have doubts and fears that make him unfit for spiritual learning or advancement in righteousness. These are the signs of spiritual decay and spiritual sickness that may only be cured by proper spiritual feeding.” (Lee, Decisions for Successful Living, pp. 147–48.)

(7-4) What Is the Distinction between a Disciple and an Apostle?

“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.” (Talmage, Jesus the Christ, p. 227. Italics added.)

(7-5) Matthew 10:1. From Whom Did the Twelve Apostles Receive Their Special Endowment of Power?

“At the commencement of His ministry, the Master chose twelve men whom he separated from the rest by the name, Apostles. These were to be special witnesses of the sanctity of His life, and of His divine mission, and to be responsible for transmitting to the latest posterity, a genuine account of His doctrines, and principles, and ordinances essential to the salvation of the human soul. …

“True servants in the Kingdom of God, when properly authorized, received an endowment of holy power except for which their ministry would be as the ‘tinkling of brass and the sounding of cymbals.’ This heavenly endowment to His chosen Twelve, came as a result of three sacred experiences. First, they were baptized of water, maybe by John the Baptist, or possibly as the only ones He did baptize, by the Master, himself, for John records that He and His disciples were in Judea ‘and there He tarried with them and baptized.’ (John 3:22) Then He ‘breathed on them and said unto them, receive ye the Holy Ghost,’ (John 20:22) which in all likelihood was the confirmation and the commission to receive the Holy Ghost, or the baptism of the Spirit, by the laying on of hands for that was the procedure followed thereafter by His disciples. …

“The third of the remarkable spiritual experiences to which the disciples were privileged is thus described by the Master, himself: ‘Ye have not chosen me but I have chosen you and ordained you,—that whatsoever ye should ask the Father in my name He may give it you.’ (John 15:16) Try to imagine if you can, being ‘called’ by the Master and ‘ordained’ under His hands. That these ordinations resulted in an endowment of power from on high as well as giving authority to act officially as the Lord’s representatives, is well attested by the miraculous events that followed, which made of them, ‘men different’ because of that divine commission.

“Not alone were these special apostolic witnesses to receive and enjoy these heavenly gifts. They were commissioned to transmit them by ordinations to others who had received the witness of the divine mission of the risen Lord.” (Harold B. Lee in CR, Apr. 1955, pp. 18–19.)

(7-6) Luke 6:13. What Is an Apostle?

One of the most important things to know about apostles is that they are called to be witnesses of the Savior. This witness may come in several ways. (See item 9-8.) Of this Elder Harold B. Lee has 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.” (“Born of the Spirit,” Address to Seminary and Institute Faculty, 26 June 1962.)

(7-7) What Do We Know about the Names of the Original Quorum of the Twelve?

The chart on page 54 summarizes New Testament statements about the names of the original twelve apostles. (Except where noted, this information is taken from Matthew 10:1–4, Mark 3:16–19, Luke 6:14–16, Acts 1:13, and John 21:2.)

Points to Ponder

The Special Calling of Members of the Quorum of the Twelve

What is the special calling of an apostle? Read the following scriptures and carefully think about the words or phrases that describe the calling of an apostle:

Acts 1:18. What is the significance of the phrases “witnesses unto me,” and “unto the uttermost parts of the earth”?

Matthew 28:18–20. What command is here given to apostles?

D&C 112:1–7. To whom are the Twelve to bear witness?

D&C 112:16–19. What keys do the Twelve have, and what doors can they unlock?

D&C 107:23, 24, 33–35, 58. What special calling sets the apostles apart from all other church callings?

The Prophet Joseph Smith explained the important calling of an apostle by asking a question and then giving the answer:

“… 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.” (HC, 2:200.)

Now read Elder Boyd K. Packer’s testimony as he responded to his call as a member of the Council of the Twelve:

“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 with you 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.” (In CR, Apr. 1971, pp. 123–25.)

Apostles Are Chosen by the Lord

Now that you have reviewed briefly the calling of an apostle, perhaps you have wondered how a man is called to such a high and holy calling. Review Luke 6:12, 13. Why did Jesus spend all night in prayer and meditation before calling the Twelve? Is this same process used in calling an apostle today?

(7-8) Apostles Are Called by Revelation

An example which illustrates how apostles are called today is taken from the life of President Joseph Fielding Smith:

“For an hour or more the Church Presidency and Council of Twelve Apostles, meeting in the Salt Lake Temple in April, 1910, had discussed various men as possibilities to fill the vacancy in the council occasioned by the death of President John R. Winder on March 27, and the subsequent advancement of Apostle John Henry Smith to the presidency. But to every name suggested there was some exception taken. It seemed impossible to reach any unanimity of feeling in the matter. Finally President Joseph F. Smith retired to a room by himself and knelt in prayer for guidance. When he returned he somewhat hesitantly asked the 13 other brethren whether they would be willing to consider his son Joseph Fielding Smith Jr. for the position. He was reluctant to suggest it, he said, because … Church members, he feared, would be disgruntled to have another of his sons appointed as a general authority. Nevertheless he felt inspired to offer Joseph’s name for their consideration. The other men seemed immediately receptive to the suggestion and sustained President Smith in it. …

Years later Heber J. Grant, who by then was president of the Church and who was present in the council meeting in the temple the day Joseph was chosen in 1910, assured a group of the correctness of the decision: It was at a Smith family reunion. President Grant pointed to Joseph Fielding and said, ‘That man was called by direct revelation of God. I am a witness to that fact.’” (Smith and Stewart, The Life of Joseph Fielding Smith, pp. 174, 177.)

Those Who Follow the Council of the Twelve Will Be Blessed and Sustained by the Lord

(7-9) The Lord Guides His Saints through the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve

“May I now say—very plainly and very emphatically—that we have the holy priesthood and that the keys of the kingdom of God are here. They are found only in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. …

“Now, brethren, I think there is one thing which we should have exceedingly clear in our minds. Neither the President of the Church, nor the First Presidency, nor the united voice of the First Presidency and the Twelve will ever lead the Saints astray or send forth counsel to the world that is contrary to the mind and will of the Lord.” (Joseph Fielding Smith in CR, Apr. 1972, p. 99.)

Since each of the special witnesses of the Lord is chosen for his high post by divine revelation, in much the same way that Jesus chose those in his day, what should be our attitude toward such men? How well do you personally accept them in their appointed posts?

Do you sustain them in word and action, or do you at times criticize and find fault with their counsel?

Would the Lord approve of the way in which you honor them?

Read Acts 2:42. How steadfast are you in the apostles’ doctrine?

What blessings come to you because the Lord has set apostles in the Church? (See Ephesians 4:11–14.)

Given Name

Alternate Names or Special Meanings

Family Facts


Given a special name by Jesus: Cephas (Syriac) or Petros (Greek) which means “stone or rock.” See John 1:42.

He was the son of a man named Jonah and brother to Andrew. (Matthew 16:17; John 1:42)


James is an English form of the Hebrew Jacob. The Hebrew means “supplanter.” He and his brother John were called Boanerges, meaning “sons of thunder.”

Son of Zebedee and brother of John. (Matthew 4:21)


The name means “Jehovah is gracious,” from the Hebrew Johanan.

Son of Zebedee and brother of James. (Matthew 4:21)


The name means “manly.”

Son of Jonah and brother of Simon Peter. (Matthew 4:18)


The name comes from the Greek and means “lover of horses.”

He may have been a Jewish-Greek as he was approached by the Greeks in John 12:21.

Nathanael (Bartholomew)

The name means “gift of God,” and is from the Hebrew.

He was likely the son of a man named Tholomew.


He is also called Didymus, from the Greek, meaning “twin.” See John 11:16; 20:24.

Didymus may have been his surname.


A Hebrew word meaning “gift of Jehovah”; he was also called “Levi” and “the Publican.”

He was the son of Alphaeus. (Mark 2:14) Brother of James the less.


Called “the less” to distinguish him from James above.

He was the son of Alphaeus and brother of Matthew.


This is the Hebrew form of the Greek Judas. He is also called “not Iscariot” to distinguish him from the traitor Judas (John 14:22), Lebbaeus (Arabic for “root”), and Thaddaeus (Hebrew root for “heart”).



Called “the Canaanite” (Matthew 10:4) and “the Zealot” (Luke 6:15). The Hebrew word for zealots was Kananim. This would explain the title “Canaanite.”

He probably had been a member of the Hebrew group which advocated fierce allegiance to Israel and violent overthrow of Roman domination.


Called Iscariot, probably because he was from the village of Kerioth (Joshua 15:24).

He was the son of Simon. (John 6:71; 12:4).