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Twelve Apostles respond to misconceptions about their calling

After the Savior’s death and Resurrection, He instructed His disciples for 40 days and then ascended into heaven. Left with a vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles — created by the betrayal and death of Judas Iscariot — members of the Quorum gathered and petitioned the Lord.

Two men, Matthias and Barsabas, were identified and “the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles” (Acts 1:23-26).

Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve and his wife, Sister Ruth L. Renlund, visit with Church members in Sweden during a visit to the country on April 29.
Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve and his wife, Sister Ruth L. Renlund, visit with Church members in Sweden during a visit to the country on April 29. Photo: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

Then and now, “being called as an Apostle is not an accomplishment or achievement,” explained Elder Dale G. Renlund. “It’s not a calling that is earned. Matthias, in Acts chapter one, was selected by God instead of Barsabas. God didn’t tell us why. But the thing we should know is that Barsabas’ testimony honoring the Savior and His Resurrection was equal to that of Matthias.”

God chose, he explained. “If Barsabas fulfilled whatever calling he had, his reward was no different from that which Matthias would have received, provided he magnified his calling.”

The Church is not a business and is not run like one; Church leaders do not climb a corporate ladder or seek position or recognition. Their callings require extensive travel, but sightseeing opportunities are scarce. And they are not immune from challenges. Those are just some misconceptions, say members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Just as Barsabas’ testimony was equal to Matthias’ testimony, every member of the Church is entitled to and can “develop an Apostolic-like relationship with the Lord," said President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

“You do what the Lord asks you to do and you are grateful,” said Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf.

A warmth was shared between Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Church members in Russia during his visits to Moscow and St. Petersburg in late April 2018.
A warmth was shared between Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Church members in Russia during his visits to Moscow and St. Petersburg in late April 2018. Photo: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

Service to the Lord and the Church is “a privilege and a blessing. It is an honor,” said Elder Uchtdorf. “The Lord shows His love for us, and we can show our love to the Lord by doing whatever He asks us to do.”

‘Shepherds and witnesses’

There are perceptions that the Church is corporate and institutional, said Elder D. Todd Christofferson.

“There is a misconception that we come out of a professional and business life and we are basically corporate-style leaders,” he said. “In reality, we are shepherds and witnesses. We draw upon our past experiences and any skills and talents we developed, but that's not the focus. The focus is on what the Lord wants and how He wants us to do that.”

In the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles there are no factions, lobbying or power centers, said Elder Neil L. Andersen. There are “differing opinions,” but “there are no egos.”

“The Lord puts a lot of people together who are not that alike in many things — their professions, how they grew up, where they come from,” said Elder Andersen. “They are alike in their testimony of the Savior and in their humility. They don’t seek position, they are not trying to be the smartest person in the room. The Lord can work with that. I have never seen anyone show anger and I have never seen anyone put anyone down.”

“ They don’t seek position, they are not trying to be the smartest person in the room.”

Elder Gary E. Stevenson described two perspectives by which he comes to the Apostleship — his own background as a business executive and his background as the Church’s Presiding Bishop directing temporal affairs.

The Apostleship “is not like being a business executive, it is quite different than an executive role in a business,” he said. “The role of an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ is really a ministerial, pastoral role,” he said.

The role of being a witness of Jesus Christ to the world, he explained, “informs and defines us.”

Challenges

While some may think general Church leaders live a “charmed life,” the fact is that, just as with all of God’s faithful children, life is filled with “great blessings and challenges,” said Elder Quentin L. Cook.

One great blessing of the Apostleship is the responsibility to travel the globe and bear witness of Jesus Christ, he said. But travel does not take leaders to the exotic locations of the globe. Often it takes them to humble villages and into the homes of sweet, faithful members of the Church. It requires long hours on airplanes and many nights in hotels. “We go where the members are,” Elder Cook said.

Often, said Elder Ronald A. Rasband, Apostles have to add extra time to local and international travel so they can greet members and others. “It’s not about me,” he said. “It is about the deference and the honor the members of this Church hold for the office.”

Elder Ronald A. Rasband visits Europe.
Elder Ronald A. Rasband visits Europe. Photo: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

Some members of the Church may think members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and their wives and their families, “receive a special dispensation from heaven” and “are safeguarded from illness and family tragedy and other kinds of very normal experiences in mortality,” said Elder David A. Bednar. “That isn’t true.”

Elder Bednar has watched his senior Brethren deal with physical ailments and the limitations of advancing age. The natural consequences of growing older can in fact become remarkable sources of spiritual learning and insight. Inability to do many things can direct focus to the things of greatest importance, he said.

Elder Renlund said some believe the rewards for such effort are greater than other service opportunities in the Church.

“It's not about me.”

“Some say, or think, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to be an Apostle?’ because it appears that your rewards would be greater,” said Elder Renlund. In response, however, he compared President Thomas S. Monson to his father, Mats Åke Renlund.

President Monson received keys of presidency when he was ordained a bishop at age 22. He received keys when he served as a mission president in his early 30s and again when he was ordained an Apostle at age 36. He became the only man on earth authorized to exercise all priesthood keys when he became president of the Church.

Elder Renlund’s father joined the Church at age 24. He accepted every calling he ever received and was a simple, plain-spoken carpenter. “He never received keys of presidency in any calling.”

How does Mats Åke Renlund’s service compare to that of President Thomas S. Monson? asked Elder Renlund. “They are the same.”

Correction: The Church News misidentified Barsabas as Barnabas in a previous version of the article.