During Jesus’s mortal ministry, He went into a mountain to pray. After a night of continual prayer, He called twelve disciples who would ensure the continuation of the Church He had established by giving it a “foundation of … apostles and prophets” (see Ephesians 2:19–20).
This foundation of living apostles and prophets—chosen and called through prophecy and revelation by priesthood authority, serving in love and unity under the direction of the resurrected Christ—continues today.
Who calls a new Apostle?
Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles says the selection and calling of new Apostles is the prerogative of the president of the Church.
“[President Monson’s] practice has been to ask each of his counselors and the members of the Quorum of the Twelve to give him names they would recommend for his consideration, not to discuss with each other but just individually, to give him whatever name or names they feel impressed he ought to look at," he says.
“What process he goes through exactly, I'm not sure. That’s, again, something private he pursues. He then brings back, when he’s reached his decision and had the inspiration he needs, the name or names to the council that we have of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to sustain it. That goes forward to general conference” (in Tad Walch, "Elder Christofferson Talks about How President Monson Calls a New Apostle, Reflects on Elder Scott,” Deseret News, Sept. 24, 2015).
"“I assure you that the Church is in good hands,” President Thomas S. Monson testifies. “The system set up for the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve [Apostles] assures [us] that it will always be in good hands and that, come what may, there is no need to worry or to fear. Our Savior, Jesus Christ, whom we follow, whom we worship, and whom we serve, is ever at the helm” (“Reach Out to Rescue,” LDS.org).
President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) explained the process in this April 1994 general conference talk “God Is at the Helm:”
Who can be called as an Apostle?
“The new member of the Twelve may be called from one of the Quorums of the Seventy (which are made up of General Authorities who are senior leaders in the Church) or from general Church membership around the world. Seniority in the Quorum of the Twelve is determined by the date an apostle is called rather than by age” (“Quorum of the Twelve Apostles,” MormonNewsroom.org).
President Russell M. Nelson, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, teaches: “All leaders in the Lord’s Church are called by proper authority. No prophet or any other leader in this Church, for that matter, has ever called himself or herself. No prophet has ever been elected. The Lord made that clear when He said, ‘Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you’ (John 15:16). You and I do not ‘vote’ on Church leaders at any level. We do, though, have the privilege of sustaining them” (“Sustaining the Prophets,” Oct. 2014 general conference).
What does an Apostle do?
The Lord called His Twelve Apostles to preach and “freely” bless others.
The Doctrine and Covenants teaches that Apostles serve as “special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world” (D&C 107:23).
The Prophet Joseph Smith established the importance of apostolic witnesses when he said, “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it” (History of the Church, 3:30).
“The First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles, called and ordained to hold the keys of the priesthood, have the authority and responsibility to govern the Church, to administer its ordinances, to expound its doctrine, and to establish and maintain its practices,” taught President Hinckley (“God Is at the Helm”).
Members of the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles serve for the remainder of their lives. As Elder Dallin H. Oaks explains, “It is up front a calling to spend the rest of your life, full-time, in His service and to spend your life testifying of His plan and His authority and His Atonement and His Resurrection and to participate, as assigned, in the leadership of the Church” (“Dallin H. Oaks,” LDS.org).
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland says that serving in the office to which he has been ordained has been for him, as it has been for others who have accepted the same call, a lifelong refining process. “I pledge everything I have and everything I know how to give to witnessing and reaffirming the divinity of the Savior’s life and the restoration of his gospel,” he said. “My greatest joy and my solemn obligation is to testify of Jesus Christ wherever I may go and with whomever I may be for as long as I shall live” (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Aug. 1995 Liahona).
How can we sustain the Apostles?
To sustain prophets and apostles, President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency, says we can sustain the Lord’s servants through our faith, prayers, service, and family and temple work. “We must examine our lives, repent as necessary, pledge to keep the Lord’s commandments, and follow His servants,” he taught (“The True and Living Church,” Apr. 2008 general conference).