A title indicating one sent forth to preach; later designated as a specific ecclesiastical and priesthood office. By 1830, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were designated as apostles. The “Articles and Covenants” of the church explained that an “apostle is an elder” and, as such, had the same responsibilities as an elder, though an apostle’s main duty was apparently to preach [Doctrine and Covenants 20:38-42]. Individuals with proselytizing responsibilities were sometimes referred to as apostles. In June 1829, a revelation commanded Cowdery and David Whitmer to select twelve disciples, similar to the twelve apostles in the New Testament and the twelve disciples in the Book of Mormon [D&C 18:9-30]. On 14 February 1835, the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon selected twelve men as apostles; Cowdery saw this as a fulfillment of the June 1829 revelation. Shortly thereafter, these men were ordained as members of an organized body, which became known as the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. These apostles constituted a “travelling high council” with the responsibility to oversee church congregations outside of Zion and the organized stakes and to act as “special witnesses of the name of Christ, in all the world”; they were also designated “Prophets and Seers.” At a special conference convened on 16 August 1841, Joseph Smith expanded their jurisdiction to include affairs throughout the church. After the Twelve Apostles were appointed, usage of the term became increasingly restricted to members of that quorum, although occasionally members of the Quorums of the Seventy were referred to as apostles.
Retrieved with permission from The Joseph Smith Papers.