If you read a bit on what has been said by LDS authorities about Apostles, you’ll find many explanations and interpretations of what, exactly, they have witnessed and are to “witness” or testify of. Recently, a Correlation-driven phrase (publicly taught by Correlation managers in the 1990s) drawn from D&C 107 has been defined by Dallin Oaks in the Boise Rescue of Apostates Unnamed.
Apostles are witnesses of the “name of Christ,” he claims, rather than of the person sometimes called “Christ.” You can read what Oaks claims to mean by that phrase, apparently working backwards from what he sometimes does (manages things, talks about stuff) to what that phrase must mean, he being identified by himself as a person with that title.
With the recent passing of two apostles, the phrase has again popped up, being used by Deseret News as it copies press releases issued by the LDS Media room. “In addition to their primary responsibility to be special witnesses of the name of Christ throughout the world,” we are told, “the apostles have heavy administrative responsibilities as they oversee the orderly progress and development of the global Church.” Does that combination of phrases strike anyone as odd? “In addition to their primary responsibility,” they also “have heavy administrative responsibilities” concerned with “the global Church”? That reads, believe it or not, nearly like it does in D&C 107:
107:23 The twelve traveling councilors are called to be the Twelve Apostles, or special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world—thus differing from other officers in the church in the duties of their calling….The Twelve are a Traveling Presiding High Council, to officiate in the name of the Lord, under the direction of the Presidency of the Church, agreeable to the institution of heaven; to build up the church, and regulate all the affairs of the same in all nations, first unto the Gentiles and secondly unto the Jews.
So, it is just like the Lord explained, right?
Now what about this priesthood thing? Does that relate to their being “special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world,” and a duty to “officiate in the name of the Lord”? Notice first that they are witnesses of the name of Christ “in all the world,” rather than “to the world.” What if rather than be a group of guys apparently unique in being able to say, “I believe something about someone I call Jesus,” instead they were to be witnesses of the name of Christ? Doesn’t that mean the same thing? Depends on what you mean by “name of Christ.”
In the Cultural History, the final chapter of the fifth volume, I bring up the puzzle of the “name of Christ,” and don’t solve it. I don’t think we have the texts to explain what that phrase means, we need more material to work from. Yet, in the case of the apostles, we may have some clue to its meaning. Returning to D&C 107, we read about priesthood. I know D&C 107 has been cut up and stitched together, but if they can use it, so can I:
18 The power and authority of the higher, or Melchizedek Priesthood, is to hold the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church—19 To have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the heavens opened unto them, to commune with the general assembly and church of the Firstborn, and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant.
First, the power is not the priesthood, but the priesthood (as a group) holds keys…magic authority, right? Not so. What are the keys to spiritual blessings? “To have the privilege of receiving the mysteries,” and so on. Those are the keys, it seems: receiving mysteries, having heavens opened, communion with the firstborn, and God and Jesus, too. That would bless the church, right? That would witness of the name, maybe? Not that they would come back and say, “I am a witness of Jesus, or of his name, that he has a name, or something,” but instead, by their using the keys of power, they would be special witnesses–living evidences of his name–in all the world.
They would not merely address “the World” in a proclamation of beliefs. Big deal. Any twelve so-called Christians could say they believe in Jesus, or “know” something they don’t really “know,” but instead believe. Who cares. But imagine if they actually were in the Melchizedek Priesthood, and were witnesses of his name, having used the keys of power to receive mysteries and communion with the Firstborn, and so on? Man, you wouldn’t have a Great Apostasy due to some blogger revealing that Joseph Smith had a few wives, or that the Book of Mormon speaks of horses and dashed in Jaredite windows. We could say, I don’t care about that, because that guy is a witness, in his being and his doing. But we cannot say that, not honestly. They are not special witnesses; they say things. Say this or that in public, while doing whatever under cover of darkness.
Why are they not in the priesthood? First, they are not: if they were, they could and would do those things, which they don’t, and so they aren’t. And why are they not? Again, D&C 107:
39 It is the duty of the Twelve, in all large branches of the church, to ordain evangelical ministers, as they shall be designated unto them by revelation—40 The order of this priesthood was confirmed to be handed down from father to son, and rightly belongs to the literal descendants of the chosen seed, to whom the promises were made.41 This order was instituted in the days of Adam…
Now, some will suggest that “this priesthood” refers to the “evangelical ministers,” or patriarchs, and thus the matter of who rightly belongs to this order can be dismissed. But if “evangelical ministers” are to be ordained by the Twelve, clearly they cannot have also inherited a place in that order, by right of lineage. If it refers to any priesthood, I’d say it refers to the Melchizedek order, those folks who commune with the Firstborn and God and Jesus.
So what priesthood does the current Twelve Apostles of the Corporation really hold? None, for you cannot “hold” a priesthood, unless your hands are very broad indeed. What priesthood are they part of? None and none, at least, not any with actual powers like those mentioned in D&C 107. What powers do they possess? They claim to act in the name of Christ, and probably some good comes of this activity. But do they administrate a global church in the name of Christ? What a strange notion.