To understand the commission of the Twelve travelling council—which quorum has been incorrectly labelled the Twelve Apostles—we must first understand the priesthood: where it came from; what it was for; who held it; where it went; and what the Saints were left with after the church was rejected by God in Nauvoo.
Moroni told Joseph Smith in 1823 that God would, “reveal […] the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah.” (D&C 2)
This promise was re-contextualized by the Mormon church to capitalize on the false claim that Elijah brought “sealing keys” in Section 110. But Elijah did not bestow priesthood, not even keys, when he stood before Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland temple.
Moroni was referring to John the Baptist, who did reveal by hand the priesthood. Because John the Baptist died before Christ’s resurrection, this passage of scripture surely has reference to him: “The graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose; and came out of the graves after his [Christ’s] resurrection.” (Matt 27:52-53) As a resurrected being, John the Baptist would lay a physical tangible hand on the heads of Joseph and Oliver.
It’s interesting to note that even in Joseph Smith’s 1838 retelling of history he chose to—after providing a detailed account of John the Baptist’s appearance—not include the supposed ordinations to the Melchizedek priesthood by Peter, James, and John; only that John the Baptist acted under the direction of those apostles who held the keys to the Melchizedek priesthood. (JS-H 1:72) Joseph only inferred that that same priesthood was to be conferred on them, not necessarily that Peter, James, and John would be the ones to do so.
Section 27 has given the deluded Saints an excuse to continue the faux narrative that the Melchizedek priesthood was restored previous to the establishment of the 1830-Church of Christ, yet reasonably so. The ancient apostles were said to have ordained and confirmed Joseph and Oliver to the apostleship. (verse 12)
This is only mirroring the same thing that occurred in Section 84: “This priesthood which ye have received, which I now confirm upon you.” (verse 42)
Although the seven servants to whom Section 84 was addressing had previously been ordained to the Melchizedek priesthood—as high priests beginning in 1831—they were then being confirmed to it, which should classify as an ordination as well!
John/Elijah had ordained Joseph and Oliver as elders, and the apostles were confirming them to the priesthood they already held.
Although the three of them—Peter, James, and John—jointly hold the keys of the dispensation of the last days and of the fulness of times, only Peter and James were the ones to visit Joseph and Oliver. And this because John was currently at that time living another probation under the name of Sidney Rigdon.
Oliver claimed only to have stood in the presence of Peter (in a letter to Phineas Young). Neither Oliver or Joseph purported that the apostle John visited them. Joseph gave a patriarchal blessing to Oliver Cowdery and, while mentioning this visitation, revealed that it had been more than just Peter who appeared unto the both of them. But only just that. It wasn’t just Peter, but it was not said to have been John. This is why my theory about John/Sidney is not contradictory in concluding that only Peter and James visited the first two elders. Section 7 tells us that Peter and James will minister for John the Beloved!!! (verse 7) Why do they not minister with him? Because John will not always be available.
God differentiated John from Peter and James as someone who was called to do a “greater work” (7:5) which is the same phrase and calling given to Sidney Rigdon. (35:3)
As previously stated, I believe John the Baptist was Elijah once again in the flesh. Having held the priesthood in his previous probation, he came to the earth in the meridian of time retaining his priesthood authority to baptize Jesus Christ in a time wherein no one held the priesthood to offer the ordinances of salvation. The original revelation of Section 84 made clear of this by the striking pronouncement that John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Ghost and baptized before even having been born.
Elijah was prophesied in Malachi to turn the hearts of the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to the fathers. (4:6) The New Testament affirms only half of this: “For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:15-17)
Notice that the hearts of the children were not turned to the fathers. However, John/Elijah turns many of the children directly to God/Christ! [Note: John/Elijah also turned the hearts of the children, Peter, James, and John to the fathers when he appeared unto them on the mount of transfiguration but this was not a fulfillment of the chapter-extensive narrative of Malachi.]
When John/Elijah visited Joseph and Oliver in 1829, this was not the ultimate fulfillment of Malachi either. Moroni distinguished Elijah’s priesthood revealment to, “plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the father, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers.” (D&C 3)
The Priesthood of Aaron—the fulness of the Levitical Priesthood that the lineal sons of Levi did not automatically hold—made way or planted the way for the children to turn to the fathers. It is only until Section 110 that, “the time has fully come, which was spoken of by the mouth of Malchi—testifying that he [Elijah] should be sent […] to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers.” (verse 14-15)
Elijah was referring to himself—Elias, John the Baptist—who appeared two verses earlier committing the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham.
In Section 110, Moses “appeared” and Elias “appeared”; Elijah, however, does not appear. That’s because he was already there—he was/is Elias! The final vision was Joseph and Oliver’s eyes opening up to the realization that the messenger who had ordained them to the Priesthood of Aaron, and was now committing the gospel of Abraham, was the same person as Elijah.
When John the Baptist/Elias/Elijah committed the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham, Elijah’s role was finally complete. This also fulfilled the prophecy of John/Elijah in Section 84, that he would, “overthrow the kingdom of the Jews.” (verse 28) Does overthrow mean the kingdom of the Jews will no longer exist? No. 1828 Webster dictionary says “overthrow” means, “to turn upside down”!
The Jewish Twelve Apostles had dominion over the Gentiles when they held the keys of the kingdom, but even the apostles knew that in the last days the Gentiles would have these keys over the Jews! (Acts 1:6)
Now that Joseph and Oliver held the final keys, the kingdom was turned upside down. It was reversed. The Ephraim-Gentiles, beginning with Joseph and Oliver—both descendants of Joseph of Egypt (D&C 27:10)—had dominion over the Jews!
However, when the keys of the kingdom were lost from the earth, the House of Israel would not have Ephraimite leaders over them during the time of apostasy in which the Jews were to receive a mere knowledge of the fulness of the gospel, not the fulness itself. This leads us to the role of the Twelve, which quorum was first organized in 1835.
Firstly, let’s differentiate the Priesthood of Aaron from the lesser priesthood.
“The Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins.” (D&C 13)
“The lesser priesthood […] which priesthood holdeth the key of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel; which gospel is the gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins, and the law of carnal commandments.” (D&C 84:25-26)
It is my understanding that if the keys of the Priesthood of Aaron are not used to receive heavenly confirmation by angels—such as what occurred with Joseph and Oliver when they were visited by Peter and James—this results in the lesser priesthood which includes the the law of carnal commandments. D&C 107:20 restates the role of the Aaronic Priesthood, and makes it perfectly clear that the “power” of it will not comprise of carnal commandments.
If the power of the Aaronic Priesthood is never exercised, the preparatory gospel under the authority of the Aaronic Priesthood will cease to progress into the fulness; and as Joseph Smith mused, will, “administer no blessings but cursings.”
The Priesthood of Aaron, the power of the Aaronic, “abideth forever with the priesthood which is after the holiest order of God.” (D&C 84:18) This is a clear sign that that if used correctly this priesthood is not expendable but relates to the true order of priesthood which brings about sanctification. Take a closer look at Section 84:
“The offices of teacher and deacon are necessary appendages belonging to the lesser priesthood.” (verse 30)
“The offices of elder and bishop are necessary appendages belonging unto the high priesthood.” (verse 29)
Elder and Bishop are not offices of the high priesthood! They belong unto it. Elders and bishops do not have the Melchizedek priesthood; they are ordained unto it through the keys of the Priesthood of Aaron and are confirmed to it by a heavenly ordination as apostles, but neither ordination classifies as the Melchizedek priesthood.
After keeping the commandments and entering into the law of consecration they are then ordained to the Melchizedek priesthood—enabled by the keys of the Priesthood of Aaron which makes it possible to enter into the law of consecration with the necessary office of bishop. This is the authority of the kingdom. Remember this.
The Melchizedek priesthood will need to be confirmed upon them, not by angels but by the voice of God out of the heavens, as recorded in Section 84.
In the past I have wrongly believed Section 18 to be a future calling of Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer to ordain The Twelve Apostles during the time of the marvellous work. But after studying the revelation continuously over the years I now realize it truly did pertain to the Twelve of 1835. My ah-ha moment came when I realized the text was not speaking about The Twelve Apostles that accompany the church of God to deliver the fulness of the gospel to the Gentiles first, and the Jews secondly. Section 18 refers to Twelve “disciples” who have limited authority to both Jew and Gentile during the interim period where the fulness is not on the earth. (verse 26)
Nonetheless, these twelve disciples could have graduated to become The Twelve Apostles! This, however, was conditional. “If they desire to take upon them my name with full purpose of heart they are called to go into all the world to preach my gospel unto every creature.” (verse 28)
What was not conditional was this: “You are they who are ordained of me to ordain priests and teachers; to declare my gospel, according to the power of the Holy Ghost, which is in you, and according to the callings and gifts of God unto men; and I, Jesus Christ, your Lord and your God, have spoken it.” (32-33)
The gifts and callings of God are without repentance! (Romans 11:29) Even if the twelve disciples of 1835 do not take upon them Christ’s name they will still have the priesthood authority to ordain the church members as priests of the lesser priesthood.
All of this is reiterated in Section 112: “The Twelve, duly recommended and authorized by you, shall have power to open the door of my kingdom unto any nation whithersoever ye shall send them—Inasmuch as they shall humble themselves before me, and abide in my word, and hearken to the voice of my Spirit.” (21-22)
“Purify your hearts before me; and then go ye into all the world, and preach my gospel unto every creature who has not received it.” (verse 28)
The fulness of the priesthood was lost from the earth late-1834 with the dissolution of the united firm/order of the law of consecration. This happened before the twelve disciples were ordained to be the Twelve travelling council in 1835. Yet even still, these twelve held the keys of the Priesthood of Aaron which could have enabled them to open up the authority of the kingdom by becoming converted and entering into the law of consecration. Only after that could they have had the fulness of the priesthood restored to the earth to fulfill the commission to, “preach my gospel unto every creature,” with the promise of, “he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that is not baptized, shall be damned.” (D&C 112:28-29)
This commission of the Twelve has a notable change in Section 124: “I give unto you my servant Brigham Young to be a president over the Twelve traveling council; which Twelve hold the keys to open up the authority of my kingdom upon the four corners of the earth, and after that to send my word to every creature.” (127-128)
Even after—and if—they open up the authority, they are not to preach the gospel and baptize! Why not? Because they are not under the authority of Thomas B. Marsh. “I say unto you, my servant Thomas, thou art the man whom I have chosen to hold the keys of my kingdom, pertaining to the Twelve, abroad among all nations.” (D&C 112:16)
This was not a conditional calling. The Lord knows the end from the beginning and has thus declared unequivocally that Thomas B. Marsh is the man! “Your brethren, the Twelve, duly recommended and authorized by you, shall have power to open the door of my kingdom unto any nation withersoever ye shall send them.” (verse 21)
So in Nauvoo, without Marsh, even if the Twelve were to succeed in opening up the authority of the kingdom, they still would not have been able to preach the gospel to all nations and baptize. They as a quorum only had the maximal capacity of authority to send the word of the gospel until the Lord returned Thomas B. Marsh to his calling over the Twelve. Notice that there are only eleven men named in Section 124 who are called as members of the Twelve travelling council.
Three and a half months later on April 8th 1841 Joseph would ordain Lyman Wight into the quorum. Why wouldn’t God ordain Lyman Wight then and there in that extensive revelation which painstakingly set in order every single important office in the church?
Because if the church was not rejected as warned, Thomas B. Marsh was supposed to fill it.
Lyman’s ordination into the quorum was for show. It probably pleased the Lord that Joseph ordained someone into it who would refuse the future leadership of Brigham, further testifying that the Twelve travelling council had no authority over the God’s kingdom.
The quorum of the Twelve are never referred to as The Twelve Apostles by the Lord himself. They were were not even lower-case apostles, which true elders are—the ones who have a calling to baptize. (D&C 20:38) Section 124 seems to refer to the twelve disciples as apostles in verse 139 but this was actually referring to a potential travelling high council, which the Twelve travelling council had not yet become.
Their only duties given, which weren’t contingent on their conversion, was for them to bear record of Christ’s name and promulgate the fulness of the gospel. (D&C 118:4)
1828 Webster dictionary defines promulgate as, “To make known by open declaration.”
D&C 18:26 gives the prophesied Twelve the unconditional calling to “declare” the gospel “unto Gentile and unto Jew.” Preaching the gospel—not just declaring or promulgating—came on the condition of conversion. (18:28)
The “Twelve Apostles” provided a testimony to the 1835-Doctrine and Covenants, which was the book of scripture carefully repackaged for all nations after the Gentiles rejected the fulness of the gospel contained in the 1833-Book of Commandments. 3rd Nephi 16:10-12 explains that after the rejection of the fulness, a knowledge of the fulness of the gospel was to go to all of the House of Israel.
The crescendo of this occurred in 1838 where the residue of the Twelve are told by God in Section 118 to depart over the great waters and there promulgate the fulness of the gospel. This wave of missionary work resulted in the converts who were to build up Nauvoo. This declaration of the gospel to both Jew and Gentile was performed by the Twelve in their unconverted state. I do not assume them to be unconverted by a negative bias towards them, but accept this to be so by God’s own telling. In Section 112, Thomas B. Marsh is informed that the Twelve were not yet converted. (verse 13)
If they were to have become converted and thus been the legitimate Twelve Apostles, their mission would have been clearly defined to be more than mere promulgation. And if their priesthood had been exercised correctly they would have preached the gospel first to the Gentiles, secondly to the Jews. (107:35) The gospel would have gone to the Gentiles again because the times of the Gentiles needs to come in one last time—for it is Ephraim who establishes Zion before Judah becomes sanctified after the pains they experience outside the protection of the safe haven of Zion.
In Section 124 they were given only one immediate duty: to use their priesthood keys to open up the authority of the kingdom. If successful they could proceed once again in sending the word of the gospel to all nations, both Jew and Gentile.
The Twelve travelling council, “hold the keys to open up the authority of my kingdom upon the four corners of the earth, AND AFTER THAT to send my word to every creature.” (127-128)
But they didn’t open up the authority! This means that they lost the authority to send the word of the gospel forth!!!
Do you know what this means? The scriptures we have received have not been authorized by God. This is why The Doctrine and Covenants has been completely corrupted. We have not been given the word of God as it came forth by Joseph Smith, because the leaders of the LDS church have not been authorized to publish or send forth The Book of Mormon or Doctrine and Covenants—which also means that The Pearl of Great Price is not official cannon in the time being.
After losing access to the keys of the kingdom, the twelve disciples—who never became The Twelve Apostles—continued forth with the lesser priesthood, the “authority” of the Aaronic, with the unconditional ordination to ordain priests (D&C 18:32) to the same authority.
I do not hesitate to suggest it is within our realm of possibility to exercise the “power” of this priesthood to receive confirmation by angels as elders and bishops.
However, we cannot open the the authority of the kingdom of God because the keys of the kingdom are not on the earth until the servants who hold those keys return to the earth. The Saints of the second watch were only capable of entering into the law of consecration once Sidney Rigdon united with the Saints.
We can only enter into the law of consecration and thereafter receive the Melchizedek priesthood when Joseph Smith comes as the one mighty and strong to set in order the house of God to arrange by lot the inheritance of the Saints to prepare the way for the Lord. Once we have done so, the Christ/Elias of the third watch, Sidney Rigdon, will come suddenly. Then begins the dispensation of the fulness of times.
Is it possible that other members of the 1835-1841 quorum of twelve will return to the earth—and not just Thomas B. Marsh? Although the Pratt brothers engaged in unholy practices, I suspect this was a result of the iniquity of the saints. Orson had the gift to prophesy (34:10); Parley was blessed to expound scripture and the mysteries of God (97:3). Even my personal favorite of the LDS restoration, Lyman Wight, lost it in Texas by marrying multiple women.
There’s no telling who else 2nd Nephi 27:5 pertained to…
“For behold, ye have closed your eyes, and ye have rejected the prophets; and your rulers, and the seers hath he covered because of your iniquity.”
There may even be leaders of today’s LDS quorum—our “rulers”—who are seers that have not yet had opportunity to exercise their prophetic gifts which remain dormant.
I bring this up as a reminder that there will be surprises as to how the third watch will play out. If Joseph Smith comes immediately to us personally as a resurrected being this will not be a test.
Don’t think for a second we will be graced with a test any easier than those who have come before us. To receive the fulness of the priesthood and have it confirmed upon us by a baptism of fire will be not be a simple feat, that arrives knocking on our doorstep for us to make the obvious choice to accept.
The words of Lyman Wight:
But those who aspire after this priesthood, and seek to obtain it while rolling in luxuries, and seeking the applause of men, I would simply ask them these questions, Have you drunk of the cup whereof Christ drank, and have you been baptized with the baptism wherewith he was baptized? Have you followed the commandment that he gave to the young man and sold all that thou hadst, and give it to the poor? Have you sold the last coat you had, and traveled in your shirt sleeves sooner than you would see the poor left to the ravages of a ruthless mob? Have you traveled on foot hundreds and hundreds of miles and sought a place for the Saints to camp at, night after night, that they might seclude themselves from the hands of wicked and evil designing men, and then roll yourself in a blanket, and lay yourself in an open prairie, under the open canopy of heaven, in the cold night dews? If you have not done all these, you have not yet fulfilled the saying of the Saviour where he says, If you would be greatest you must first become the least and servant of all.