In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (casually known as the Mormon Church), twelve apostles are called by God to help the First Presidency lead the Church and be special witnesses of Jesus Christ to the world. Together they form the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. These men have the Melchizedek Priesthood. This priesthood was given to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery by the ancient apostles Peter, James, and John who appeared to them as heavenly messengers. With this priesthood, the Twelve Apostles have the proper authority to organize the Church, act in God’s name, and direct the teaching of the gospel.The late President and prophet of the Church, Gordon B. Hinckley, said, “I want to give you my testimony that they [Apostles] were chosen and called by the spirit of prophecy and revelation. . . . They were called because the Lord wanted them in this office as men who have a witness of His divinity, and whose voices have been and will be raised in testimony of His reality” (“Special Witnesses for Christ,” Ensign, May 1984, 49).The word apostle means “one sent forth.” When Christ chose his twelve apostles the gospel of Luke records, “that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles” (see Luke 6:12-13). Following the example of Christ, men are only called to be apostles when there has been much prayer and pondering, and inspiration has been received from the Lord.
Late President Gordon B. Hinckley went on to state,
It has always seemed a remarkable thing to me that, although the Lord chose twelve Apostles to assist him in the work of the ministry, and to extend it following his death; and that although Paul, who was an Apostle, declared that the Church should be ‘built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone’ (see Ephesians 2:20)-notwithstanding all of this, the office of Apostle and certainly a Council of Twelve Apostles, is not found to my knowledge in other Christian churches (Ibid.).
The office of an apostle was certainly a part of Christ’s Church as He personally organized it, so it would only make sense that His Church would continue to have apostles. Mormons believe that Christ has indeed called modern apostles to help lead His Church.
Members of the Twelve Apostles are expected to devote all of their time and energy to the work of the Church. “After they are ordained,” explained President Hinckley, “to the holy apostleship and are set apart as members of the Council of the Twelve, they will be expected to devote themselves primarily to the work of the ministry. They will place first in their lives, above all other considerations, the responsibility to stand as special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world” (Ibid.).
The Prophet Joseph Smith when the first apostles in this dispensation were being called asked, “what importance is there attached to the calling of the Twelve Apostles, different from the other callings or officers of the Church?” After some discussion, he then answered his question:
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…and they are to travel and preach…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 in their apostleship. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith, 1938, p. 74).