Tag: charge to twelve

Charge to Twelve

This is really a “comment” in response to a question belonging to the earlier post on Elder Packer’s Testimony.  However, it was too long to put in there as a reply comment, so will be put up here as a blog entry.  It is an interruption.  Sorry.  There is a fellow asking for it, and I delayed for so long that I feel I owe him a response.  I am really writing this to him.

Taken from Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power.  (A good book by Quinn.  He’s written some bad ones, but this is not one of them.  I think he was stinging from criticism and in this book proved he was still a good historian.)

“In 1835 Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdrey emphasized to the newly organized Quorum of the Twelve Apostles that their calling was charismatic, evangelical and also institutional.  Of the three, the charismatic definition of the apostleship was the earliest, going back to 1829.  Cowdrey told the new apostles: ‘It is necessary that you receive a testimony from heaven for yourselves; so that you can bear testimony to the truth of the Book of Mormon, and that you have seen the face of God.’  Then he continued: ‘That is more than the testimony of an angel … Never cease striving until you have seen God, face to face.’  Cowdrey acknowledged that most of the new apostles had depended on visions of others for their faith and suggested that some might even be skeptical of visions.  Thus it was not necessary to see Jesus to be chosen as an apostle.  However, once ordained each man had a lifelong obligation to seek this charismatic experience: a vision of deity.  Some apostles from 1835 onward reported having had such visions before their ordination.  Apostles in the nineteenth century referred publicly to their visionary witness.

“… some LDS apostles, including Orson Pratt and Heber J. Grant, felt inadequate because they had not had such encounters.

“In the twentieth century, charismatic apostleship changed in several ways.  First, the ‘charge’ at ordination no longer obligated apostles to seek visions.  Second, the Presidency and apostles began down-playing the importance of these experiences.  Third, apostles began speaking of a non-visionary ‘special witness of Christ’ by the Holy Ghost in terms which allowed listeners to conclude that the apostles referred to an actual appearance of deity.  Fourth, apostles were reluctant to discuss their visionary experiences publicly.  Fifth, evidence indicates that a decreasing number of apostles experienced visions before or after ordination.
“The change in the apostolic ‘charge’ apparently began with the appointment of Reed Smoot as an apostle in 1900.  General church authorities had long regarded him as ‘reliable in business, but [he] has little or no faith.’  President Lorenzo Snow blessed him to receive ‘the light of the Holy Ghost’ so that he could bear testimony of Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith.  That was an extraordinary departure from the apostolic charge as given since 1835.
“…Twentieth-century apostles began applying this ‘as if’ approach to their spoken testimonies.  Usually this involved wording their ‘special witness’ of Christ in a way that encouraged listeners to assume the leader has had a more dramatic encounter with the divine than actually claimed.”
The full discussion ranges from pages 1 through 6 and would require too much typing to do it here.  But the above, taken only from pages 1-2, gives you some more particulars than my brief reference before.  The whole discussion is documented with references from the Church’s archives where the writer reviewed the transcripts of the actual ordinations, etc.  They are all set out in the footnotes, which are omitted from the quote I have excerpted above.