Special Witnesses Of (The Name Of) Christ


“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.” D&C 107:23



What does it mean exactly to be a “special” witness of Christ? There has been some confusion on this topic. How does the witness of the 12 apostles differ from that of a lay member of the church? What sets them apart? Does this special witness entail a personal manifestation of the living Christ? Is it just a confirmation from the Holy Ghost? Does being a special witness entail testifying boldly of any sacred experiences or withholding the nature of the those experiences from the lay members of the church because it’s too sacred to share? Is a lay member of the church entitled to these same experiences that the apostles may or may not have? If so, is the only difference the command the apostles have to be a witness of Christ’s name throughout the world?

A true witness is a face to face meeting with Jesus Christ

Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am.- D&C 93:1


Let us here observe, that after any portion of the human family are made acquainted with the important fact that there is a God who has created and does uphold all things, the extent of their knowledge, respecting his character and glory, will depend upon their diligence and faithfulness in seeking after him, until like Enoch the brother of Jared, and Moses, they shall obtain faith in God, and power with him to behold him face to face. Lectures on Faith 2:55 (canonized and accepted by the church as doctrine by unanimous vote in 1835) 


The following general charge was given to the Twelve by President Oliver Cowdery:—Dear Brethren—Previous to delivering the charge, I shall read a part of a revelation…


You have been indebted to other men, in the first instance, for evidence; on that you have acted; but 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. That is more than the testimony of an angel. When the proper time arrives, you shall be able to bear this testimony to the world. When you bear testimony that you have seen God, this testimony God will never suffer to fall, but will bear you out; although many will not give heed, yet others will. You will therefore see the necessity of getting this testimony from heaven.


Never cease striving until you have seen God face to face. Strengthen your faith; cast off you doubts, your sins, and all your unbelief; and nothing can prevent you from coming to God. Your ordination is not full and complete till God has laid His hand upon you. We require as much to qualify us as did those who have gone before us; God is the same. If the Savior in former days laid His hands upon His disciples, why not in latter days?History of the Church 2:194-195; Oliver Cowdery Apostolic charge to newly called apostles Feb 14, 1835


The other Comforter spoken of is a subject of great interest, and perhaps understood by few of this generation. After a person has faith in Christ, repents of his sins, and is baptized for the remission of his sins and receives the Holy Ghost, (by the laying on of hands), which is the first Comforter, then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God, and the Lord will soon say unto him, Son, thou shalt be exalted. When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and his election made sure, then it will be his privilege to receive the other Comforter, which the Lord hath promised the Saints, as is recorded in the testimony of St. John, in the 14th chapter, from the 12th to the 27th verses…


Now what is this other Comforter? It is no more nor less that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself; and this is the sum and substance of the whole matter; that when any man obtains this last Comforter, he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him, or appear unto him from time to time, and even He will manifest the Father unto him, and they will take up their abode with him, and the visions of the heavens will be opened unto him, and the Lord will teach him face to face, and he may have a perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God; and this is the state and place the ancient Saints arrived at when they had such glorious visions—Isaiah, Ezekiel, John upon the Isle of Patmos, St. Paul in the three heavens, and all the Saints who held communion with the general assembly and Church of the First Born. – Joseph Smith, History of the Church 3:380


11 We, Joseph Smith, Jun., and Sidney Rigdon, being in the Spirit on the sixteenth day of February, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty-two—

1By the power of the Spirit our eyes were opened and our understandings were enlightened, so as to see and understand the things of God—

13 Even those things which were from the beginning before the world was, which were ordained of the Father, through his Only Begotten Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, even from the beginning;

14 Of whom we bear record; and the record which we bear is the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, who is the Son, whom we saw and with whom we conversed in the heavenly vision.

20 And we beheld the glory of the Son, on the right hand of the Father, and received of his fulness;

21 And saw the holy angels, and them who are sanctified before his throne, worshiping God, and the Lamb, who worship him forever and ever.

22 And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!

23 For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the FatherD&C 76:11-24


1 The veil was taken from our minds, and the eyes of our understanding were opened.

We saw the Lord standing upon the breastwork of the pulpit, before us; and under his feet was a paved work of pure gold, in color like amber.

His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah, saying:

4 I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father.

5 Behold, your sins are forgiven you; you are clean before me; therefore, lift up your heads and rejoice.

6 Let the hearts of your brethren rejoice, and let the hearts of all my people rejoice, who have, with their might, builtthis house to my name.

7 For behold, I have accepted this house, and my name shall be here; and I will manifest myself to my people in mercy in this house.

8 Yea, I will appear unto my servants, and speak unto them with mine own voice, if my people will keep my commandments, and do not pollute this holy house.- Vision of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, D&C 110:1-8


October 7, 1889: October: . . .At 3 p.m. I attended a meeting of the Twelve at the Gardo House where Bros. Merrill, Lund and myself were set apart as Apostles in the order named. Pres. Woodruff set apart the first, Father [George Q. Cannon] the second, and Bro. Joseph F. [Smith] myself. Our charge was first given us by Father at Pres. W’s instance. The importance of our callings was portrayed, and our privileges were named. Among these were the privileges of having the ministration of angels, and of seeing the Savior Himself; of hearing the voice of God as audibly as we hear a man’s voice; of continually being under the direction of the Holy Ghost; of being prophets and revelators; and of many other things of which I have a verbatim copy, as also of my blessing and ordination, in which I was promised everything my heart desired in righteousness if faithful. –Abraham H. Cannon (Apostle), excerpt from his diary


Hidden away in the central part of the temple is the Holy of Holies, where the President of the Church may retire when burdened down with heavy decisions to seek an interview with Him whose Church it is. The prophet holds the keys, the spiritual keys and the very literal key to this one door in that sacred edifice.- Boyd K. Packer (Apostle), The Holy Temple (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft 1980) p. 4.


All Christendom knows, or should know, that the ancient apostles were special witnesses of the Lord’s name; that they saw him after he rose from the dead; that he spent forty days with them as a resurrected being, teaching them all things that it was expedient for them to know pertaining to his kingdom. Those who believe the Book of Mormon are aware that, as with the Twelve in Jerusalem, so with the Twelve on the American continent: they were all witnesses of the Lord—they all felt the nail marks in his hands and feet; they all thrust their hands into his side.
There is general awareness in the Church that the latter-day Twelve hold the same office, possess the same priesthood and keys, and bear the same witness of the divine Sonship of him who redeemed us as did their predecessors in days of old. It is true that the witness of the Holy Ghost is sure and absolute and that a man can know with a perfect knowledge, by the power of the Holy Ghost, that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God who was crucified for the sins of the world. This unshakeable certainty can rest in his soul even though he has not seen the face of his Lord. But it is also true that those who have this witness of the Spirit are expected, like their counterparts of old, to see and hear and touch and converse with the Heavenly Person, as did those of old. Bruce R. McConkie- The Promised Messiah, p.592


Testimony of the Apostles: For instance these twelve disciples of Christ are supposed to be eye and ear witnesses of the divine mission of Jesus Christ. It is not permissible for them to say, I believe, simply; I have accepted it because I believe it. Read the revelation; The Lord informs us they must know, they must get the knowledge for themselves. It must be with them as if they had seen with their eyes and heard with their ears, and they know the truth. That is their mission, to testify of Jesus Christ and him crucified and risen from the dead and clothed now with almighty power at the right hand of God, the Savior of the world. That is their mission, and their duty; and that is the doctrine and the truth, that is their duty to preach to the world, and see that it is preached to the world. Joseph F. Smith- Gospel Doctrine, 11th ed, page 178


I would like… to speak as an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. There are fifteen men on earth who hold all of the keys of the kingdom, and it is a constant 24 hour-a-day recognition of the burden and privilege that that apostolic calling comes that each one of us feels. And for me, the best way is to bear testimony of truth, to express gratitude for that sacred privilege and honor and to respond to what is in section 46 of the Doctrine and Covenants where it says, “To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world. To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.” That word “know” is a very important word for those fifteen men who are apostles. The sacred experiences and the confirmation—that there is a certainty that our Father in Heaven lives and that His Son, Jesus Christ, is our Savior—not a hope, not a belief, not a wish, but an absolute confirmed certainty. That is what I would wish to express as I conclude this opportunity to be with you. Our Father in Heaven is real. His Son, Jesus Christ, is real. I know that personally and bear certain witness because I know the Savior. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen. – Sheri Dew Mormon Channel interview with Apostle, Elder Scott – beginning 1:26:06 mark


I know that God lives. I know that Jesus lives; for I have seen Him. I know that this is the Church of God, and that it is founded on Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. I testify to you of these things as one who knows—as one of the Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ that can bear witness to you today in the presence of the Lord that He lives and that He will live, and will come to reign on the earth, to sway an undisputed sceptre. George Q. Cannon (First Presidency)– Delivered in the October 1896 General Conference and reported in The Deseret Weekly,October 31, 1896, vol. 53, p. 610.


I know that God lives. I know that Jesus Christ lives,” said John Taylor, my predecessor, “for I have seen him.” I bear this testimony to you brethren in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen. – Spencer W. Kimball (Prophet)“Strengthening the Family—the Basic Unit of the Church”, April 1978


One evening while I was visiting Grandpa Snow in his room in the Salt Lake Temple, I remained until the door keepers had gone and the night watchmen had not yet come in, so grandpa said he would take me to the main front entrance and let me out that way. … After we left his room and while we were still in the large corridor leading into the celestial room, I was walking several steps ahead of Grandpa when he stopped me and said: ‘Wait a moment, Allie, I want to tell you something. It was right here that the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to me at the time of the death of President Woodruff. He instructed me to go right ahead and reorganize the First Presidency of the Church at once and not wait as had been done after the death of the previous presidents, and that I was to succeed President Woodruff.’

“Then Grandpa came a step nearer and held out his left hand and said: ‘He stood right here, about three feet above the floor. It looked as though He stood on a plate of solid gold.’ “Grandpa told what a glorious personage the Savior is and described His hands, feet, countenance, and beautiful white robes, all of which were of such a glory of whiteness and brightness that he could hardly gaze upon Him. “Then he came another step nearer and put his right hand on my head and said: ‘Now, Granddaughter, I want you to remember that this is the testimony of your grandfather, that he told you with his own lips that he actually saw the Savior, here in the temple, and talked with Him face to face.’” … I related this experience in the Eighteenth Ward sacramental service. After the meeting Elder Arthur Winter told me he also had heard my father tell of the Savior’s appearance to him in the temple instructing him not only to reorganize the First Presidency at once but also to select the same counselors that President Woodruff had, Presidents George Q. Cannon and Joseph F. Smith.- Lorenzo Snow (Pres Council of Twelve), as told by his granddaughter Allie Young Pond 


I have heard some people say—“If God revealed himself to men in other days, why not reveal himself to us?” I say, why not, indeed, to us? Why should not men in this day be put in possession of the same light, truth and intelligence, and the same means of acquiring a knowledge of God as men in other ages and eras have enjoyed? Why should they not? Who can answer the question? Who can solve the problem? Who can tell why these things should not exist today, as much as in any other day? If God is God and men are men, if God has a design in relation to the earth on which we live, and in relation to the eternities that are to come; if men have had a knowledge of God in days past, why not in this day? What good reason is there why it should not be so? Say some—“Oh, we are so enlightened and intelligent now. In former ages, when the people were degraded and in darkness, it was necessary that he should communicate intelligence to the human family; but we live in the blaze of Gospel day, in an age of light and intelligence.” Perhaps we do; I rather doubt it. I have a great many misgivings about the intelligence that men boast so much of in this enlightened day.

There were men in those dark ages who could commune with God, and who, by the power of faith, could draw aside the curtain of eternity and gaze upon the invisible world. There were men who could tell the destiny of the human family, and the events which would transpire throughout every subsequent period of time until the final winding-up scene. There were men who could gaze upon the face of God, have the ministering of angels, and unfold the future destinies of the world. If those were dark ages I pray God to give me a little darkness, and deliver me from the light and intelligence that prevail in our day; for as a rational, intelligent, immortal being who has to do with time and eternity, I consider it one of the greatest acquirements for men to become acquainted with their God and with their future destiny. These are my thoughts and reflections in relation to these matters.- John Taylor (Apostle)Discourse by Elder John Taylor, delivered in the New Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, Sunday Afternoon, Sept. 7, 1873.


A witness can be visionary, through the Holy Ghost, or just very ambiguous


I feel, and the Spirit seems to accord, that the most important doctrine I can declare, and the most powerful testimony I can bear, is of the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ…. And now, as pertaining to this perfect atonement, wrought by the shedding of the blood of God—I testify that it took place in Gethsemane and at Golgotha, and as pertaining to Jesus Christ, I testify that he is the Son of the Living God and was crucified for the sins of the world. He is our Lord, our God, and our King. This I know of myself independent of any other person. I am one of his witnesses, and in a coming day I shall feel the nail marks in his hands and in his feet and shall wet his feet with my tears. But I shall not know any better then than I know now that he is God’s Almighty Son, that he is our Savior and Redeemer, and that salvation comes in and through his atoning blood and in no other way. God grant that all of us may walk in the light as God our Father is in the light so that, according to the promises, the blood of Jesus Christ his Son will cleanse us from all sin. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen. –Bruce R. McConkie (Apostle)- “The Purifying Power of Gethsemane,” Ensign, May 1985, 9


The role of an Apostle today is the same as it was anciently (see Acts 1:22; 4:33). Our commission is to go into all the world and proclaim “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (see Mark 16:15; 1 Corinthians 2:2). An Apostle is a missionary and a special witness of the name of Christ. The “name of Christ” refers to the totality of the Savior’s mission, death, and resurrection–His authority, His doctrine, and His unique qualifications as the Son of God to be our Redeemer and our Savior. As special witnesses of the name of Christ, we bear testimony of the reality, divinity, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, His infinite and eternal Atonement, and His gospel.- David A Bednar (Apostle), “Special Witnesses of the Name of Christ,” Religious Educator, vol. 12, no. 2, 2011)


I recall an experience which I had two years ago, bearing witness to my soul of the reality of his death, of his crucifixion, and his resurrection, that I shall never forget. I bear it to you tonight, to you, young boys and girls; not with a spirit to glory over it, but with a grateful heart and with thanksgiving in my soul, that I know that he lives, and I know that through him men must find their salvation, and that we can not ignore this blessed offering that he has given us as the means of our spiritual growth to prepare us to come to him and be justified. Away on the Fort Peck Reservation where I was doing missionary work with some of our brethren, laboring among the Indians, seeking the Lord for light to decide certain matters pertaining to our work there, and receiving a witness from him that we were doing things according to his will, I found myself one evening in the dreams of the night in that sacred building, the temple.
After a season of prayer and rejoicing I was informed that I should have the privilege of entering into one of those rooms, to meet a glorious Personage, and as I entered the door I saw, seated on a raised platform, the most glorious Being my eyes have ever beheld, or that I ever conceived existed in all the eternal worlds. As I approached to be introduced, he arose and stepped towards me with extended arms, and he smiled as he softly spoke my name. If I shall live to be a million years old, I shall never forget that smile. He took me into his arms and kissed me, pressed me to his bosom, and blessed me, until the marrow of my bones seemed to melt! When he had finished, I fell at his feet, and, as I bathed them with my tears and kisses, I saw the prints of the nails in the feet of the Redeemer of the world. The feeling that I had in the presence of him who hath all things in his hands, to have his love, his affection, and his blessing was such that if I ever can receive that of which I had but a foretaste, I would give all that I am, all that I ever hope to be, to feel what I then felt! –Melvin J. Ballard (Quorum of the Twelve)– (Improvement Era, October 1919, No. 12, vol. XXII)


Then came a marvelous manifestation, an admonition from a higher source, one impossible to ignore. It was a dream, or a vision in a dream, as I lay upon my bed in the little town of Columbia, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. I seemed to be in the Garden of Gethsemane, a witness of the Savior’s agony. I saw Him as plainly as ever I have seen anyone. Standing behind a tree in the foreground, I beheld Jesus, with Peter, James and John, as they came through a little wicket gate at my right, leaving the three Apostles there, after telling them to kneel and pray, the Son of God passed over to the other side, where He also knelt and prayed. It was the same prayer with which all Bible readers are familiar: “Oh my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”

As He prayed the tears streamed down his face, which was toward me. I was so moved at the sight that I also wept, out of pure sympathy. My whole heart went out to him; I loved him with all my soul, and longed to be with him as I longed for nothing else.
Presently He arose and walked to where those Apostles were kneeling-fast asleep! He shook them gently, awoke them, and in a tone of tender reproach, untinctured by the least show of anger or impatience, asked them plaintively if they could not watch with him one hour. There He was, with the awful weight of the world’s sin upon his shoulders, with the pangs of every man, woman and child shooting through his sensitive soul-and they could not watch with him one poor hour! . . .
All at once the circumstances seemed to change, the scene remaining just the same. Instead of before, it was after the crucifixion, and the Savior, with the three Apostles, now stood together in a group at my left. They were about to depart and ascend into Heaven. I could endure it no longer. I ran from behind the tree, fell at his feet, clasped Him around the knees, and begged Him to take me with Him.
I shall never forget the kind and gentle manner in which He stopped, raised me up, and embraced me. It was so vivid, so real. I felt the very warmth of his body, as He held me in His arms and said in tenderest tones: “No, my son; those have finished their work; they can go with me; but you must stay and finish yours.” Still I clung to Him. Gazing up into His face-for He was taller than I-I besought him fervently: “Well, promise me that I will come to you at the last.” Smiling sweetly, He said: “That will depend entirely upon yourself.” I awoke with a sob in my throat, and it was morning.
“That’s from God,” said Elder Musser, when I related to him what I had seen and heard. “I do not need to be told that,” was my reply. I saw the moral clearly. I had never thought of being an Apostle, nor of holding any other office in the Church, and it did not occur to me even then. Yet I know that those sleeping Apostles meant me. I was asleep at my post-as any man is who, having been divinely appointed to do one thing, does another.
But from that hour, all was changed. I was never the same man again. I did not give up writing; for President Young, having noticed some of my contributions to the home papers, advised me to cultivate what he called my “gift for writing.” “So that you can use it,” said he, “for the establishment of truth and righteousness.” I therefore continued to write but not to the neglect of the Lord’s work. I held that first and foremost; all else was secondary. Orson F. Whitney (Quorum of the Twelve)Through Memory’s Halls, Life Story of Orson F. Whitney, pp. 81-83


I am a witness of the Resurrection of the Lord as surely as if I had been there in the evening with the two disciples in the house on Emmaus road. I know that He lives as surely as did Joseph Smith when he saw the Father and the Son in the light of a brilliant morning in a grove of trees in Palmyra.

This is the true Church of Jesus Christ. Only in the priesthood keys held by President Thomas S. Monson is the power for us to be sealed in families to live forever with our Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We will on the Day of Judgment stand before the Savior, face to face. It will be a time of joy for those who have drawn close to Him in His service in this life. It will be a joy to hear the words: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” I so testify as a witness of the risen Savior and our Redeemer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.- Henry B Eyring (First Presidency)“Come unto Me” April 2013


It is now my privilege and blessing to leave you my witness and blessing. I do so as one of the special witnesses, declaring to you with all of the conviction of my being and every cell of my body, from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet, that Jesus is the Christ and the Redeemer of the world and our Savior, the head of this Church. I know that He is close to the leadership of this Church. I know that His Spirit is available to all of us individually and in our callings. He lives. There is no question about that. I can testify with the same conviction and sureness as the brother of Jared. As he saw the finger of God, it is written, he believed no more, for he knew (see Ether 3:6, 19).


I know, and I testify in the words of Peter. When some of the Saints began to fall away and the Savior became discouraged and said to the Twelve, “Will ye also go away?” Peter replied: “To whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:67–69). By and through that same authority, I testify concerning His divinity and His being. I know this with a certainty that exceeds the knowledge that comes through our visual senses, for it is given to us by the Spirit to know with greater certainty than by our physical senses.James E Faust (First Presidency)“Beginnings”, CES Fireside for Young Adults, May 7, 2006


…I was conscious of two persons in the distance on a hillside, one standing on a higher level than the other. Detailed features were not discernible. The person on the higher level was pointing to something I could not see.   I heard no voices but was conscious of being in a holy presence and atmosphere. During the hours and days that followed, there was impressed again and again upon my mind the eternal mission and exalted position of the Son of Man. I witness to you that He is Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, Savior to all, Redeemer of all mankind, Bestower of infinite love, mercy, and forgiveness, the Light and Life of the world. I knew this truth before—I had never doubted nor wondered. But now I knew, because of the impressions of the Spirit upon my heart and soul, these divine truths in a most unusual way. I was shown a panoramic view of His earthly ministry: His baptism, His teaching, His healing the sick and lame, the mock trial, His crucifixion, His resurrection and ascension.

There followed scenes of His earthly ministry to my mind in impressive detail, confirming scriptural eyewitness accounts. I was being taught, and the eyes of my understanding were opened by the Holy Spirit of God so as to behold many things… During those days of unconsciousness I was given, by the gift and power of the Holy Ghost, a more perfect knowledge of His mission. I was also given a more complete understanding of what it means to exercise, in His name, the authority to unlock the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven for the salvation of all who are faithful. My soul was taught over and over again the events of the betrayal, the mock trial, the scourging of the flesh of even one of the Godhead…- David B Haight (Quorum of the Twelve)“The Sacrament”, Nov 1989


I bear my special witness that Jesus Christ “is the light and the life of the world; yea, [the] light that is endless, that can never be darkened…” (Mosiah 16:9).- Robert D. Hales (Quorum of the Twelve)- “Out of Darkness into His Marvelous Light”


I know that God is at all times and in all ways and in all circumstances our loving, forgiving Father in Heaven. I know Jesus was His only perfect child, whose life was given lovingly by the will of both the Father and the Son for the redemption of all the rest of us who are not perfect. I know He rose from that death to live again, and because He did, you and I will also… These things I declare to you with the conviction Peter called the “more sure word of prophecy” (2 Peter 1:19). What was once a tiny seed of belief for me has grown into the tree of life, so if your faith is a little tested in this or any season, I invite you to lean on mine. I know this work is God’s very truth, and I know that only at our peril would we allow doubt or devils to sway us from its path. Hope on. Journey on. Honestly acknowledge your questions and your concerns, but first and forever fan the flame of your faith, because all things are possible to them that believe. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.- Jeffrey R. Holland (Quorum of the Twelve), “Lord, I Believe,” Ensign, May 2013


I bear you that sacred testimony, that I know with a witness that is more powerful than sight. Sometime, if the spirit prompts me, I may feel free to tell you more, but may I say to you that I know as though I had seen, that He lives, that He is real, that God the Father and his Son are living realities, personalities with bodies, parts, and passions—glorified beings. If you believe that, then you are safe. If you don’t believe it, then struggle for that witness, and all will be well with you. And so I bless you, and commend you, and thank you again for the honor that you have conferred upon me this day. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Harold B. Lee (Prophet)“Be Loyal to the Royal within You,” 1973 Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year 


I come to you with a witness as sure as was the Apostle Paul’s, perhaps in a manner in which the Apostle Paul received his. A witness more perfect than sight is the witness by which the Holy Ghost bears witness to one’s soul that he knows these things are true. I witness to you tonight, with all my soul, that I know, as the Spirit has borne witness to my soul, that the Savior lives. To you who may not have that testimony, may I ask you to hold to my testimony until you have developed one for yourselves. But work on it, study, and pray until you too can know with a certainty that these things are true–that God lives and this is the plan of salvation.- Harold B. Lee (Prophet)– The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, p.640


Well, that day passed, ordination came, and then one of the Twelve came to me and said, “Now we would like you to be the speaker at the Sunday night service. It is for Easter Sunday. As an ordained Apostle, you are to be a special witness of the mission and resurrection of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” That, I think, was the most startling, the most overwhelming contemplation of all that had happened.  I locked myself in one of the rooms of the Church Office Building and took out the Bible. I read in the four Gospels, particularly the scriptures pertaining to the death, crucifixion, and resurrection of the Lord, and as I read, I suddenly became aware that something strange was happening. It wasn’t just a story I was reading, for it seemed as though the events I was reading about were very real as though I were actually living those experiences.

On Sunday night I delivered my humble message and said, “And now, I, one of the least of the Apostles here on the earth today, bear you witness that I too know with all my soul that Jesus is the Savior of the world and that He lived and died and was resurrected for us.”  I knew because of a special kind of witness that had come to me the preceding week. Then someone asked, “How do you know? Have you seen?” I can say that more powerful than one’s sight is the witness that comes by the power of the Holy Ghost bearing testimony to our spirits that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior of the world.-  Harold B. Lee (after being newly called as an apostle)The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, 639


In one week we will celebrate Easter. Our thoughts will turn to the Savior’s life, His death, and His Resurrection. As His special witness, I testify to you that He lives and that He awaits our triumphant return. That such a return will be ours, I pray humbly in His holy name—even Jesus Christ, our Savior and our Redeemer, amen.- Thomas S. Monson (Prophet),  “The Race of Life,” Ensign, May 2012


I claim, with my Brethren the Apostles, to be a special witness of the Lord Jesus Christ. That witness is reaffirmed each time I feel within myself or in others the cleansing effect of His sacred sacrifice. My witness, and that of my Brethren, is true. We know the Lord. He is no stranger to His prophets, seers, and revelators.Boyd K. Packer (President Quorum of the Twelve), “Truths Most Worth Knowing”, BYU Devotional, 2011


As a special witness of His holy name, I testify that Jesus is the divine Son of the living God. He will love you, lift you, and manifest Himself unto you if you will love Him and keep His commandments.- Russell M. Nelson (Apostle), Christ the Savior is Born”, BYU Devotional, Dec 2002


“I want our family to know that they have heard grandpa bear his testimony,” he said. “I know that Jesus is the Christ, that He lives, that the gospel is true, and that I know Him when I see Him, and I know His voice when I hear Him. I want you little ones to remember that you heard your grandfather bear a special witness of the Lord Jesus Christ and of the gift of the Holy Ghost.”- Boyd K. Packer (President of the Quorum of the Twelve), President Packer shares Christmas Testimony”, Church News, Dec 2010


One evening, a few days after this, when alone, engaged in earnest prayer, the heavens were opened, the veil was rent from my mind, and then and there I received the most wonderful manifestations, grand and sublime, I believe as man was ever permitted to receive, and beyond the power of language fully to describe. It was shown me in that vision that there truly existed a Son of God, that Joseph Smith was really a prophet of God.- Lorenzo Snow (Apostle), How I Gained My Testimony of the Truth, The Young Woman’s Journal, 4 (9 October 1886): 215-217


On May 5, 1961, Mr. John Cook, a newspaper feature writer, was granted an interview with President McKay. Towards the close of the interview he said that he hoped the President wouldn’t mind if he asked a question, and said that he President wouldn’t need to answer the question if he felt that he shouldn’t, but for his own information, not for publication, he would like to know if President McKay had ever seen the Savior. President McKay answered that he had not, but that he had heard his voice, many times, and that he had felt his presence and his influence. He then told about Peter (saying that he was his favorite among the apostles, even more so than Paul with all his education and learning- that Peter was a rough, simple man, but sincere) and he told how Peter had spoken of being partakers of the divine spirit, of a divine nature, and explained what he felt that to mean.
Then he told how some evidences were stronger even than that of sight, and recalled the occasion when the Savior appeared to his disciples and told Thomas who had doubted, “Reach hither thy finger and behold my hands and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless but believing.” And then President McKay said that he liked to believe Thomas did not actually look up, but knelt at Savior’s feet and said unto him, “My Lord and my God.” And then President McKay repeated the words of the Master, “Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” President McKay then smiled and said “That is quite the testimony I have given you. I do no know when I have given this before.”- David O, McKay (after being Prophet for 10 years), Ted Cannon, in “Tributes to President David O. McKay,” Improvement Era, 66 (1963), 785-786


A Witness does not have to be Face to Face and may be too sacred to share


May 15, 2011


Hello Elder Oaks, I’m Dean and Joy Wilding’s youngest daughter. You came to our wedding reception in 1991. Over the past six months, I’ve had an overwhelming desire to come into the presence of the Savior, have my calling and election made sure, become a personal witness of Christ, and receive my vision of the end from the beginning. Everyday I ask the Lord how I can repent and please him. It’s the driving force in my life…


There are many scriptures showing me that all the Holy Prophets have followed the pattern of becoming sanctified, coming into the presence of the Lord, witnessing the ministry and atonement of Christ, and receiving their vision of the beginning to the end: Lehi, Nephi, Jacob, Enos, King Benjamin, Isaiah, John, brother of Jared, Joseph in Egypt, etc. They are qualified to reveal and prophesy because they’ve seen it all and have been commissioned to do so. It has been my understanding that the reason we sustain the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve as Prophets, Seers, and Revelators is because all of you have been sanctified, have had the experience of seeing the Savior face to face, and have become apostolic witnesses of His birth, death, atonement, and resurrection. As part of that experience you’ve also seen the history and future of the world. Is this true?…


Have all the apostles received an apostolic witness of Christ unique and different from the faith and belief that most of us have? I like many others believe He lives because we can feel it in our hearts, but we are not yet special witnesses of Him. Have you seen him and witnessed His baptism, His teaching, His healing the sick and lame, the mock trial, His Crucifixion, His Resurrection, and His Ascension? I ask this question because I am studying this issue out in my mind. I don’t hear the special apostolic witness of Christ shared in our general conferences apart from the one I quoted from David B. Haight. I need to know why we call the current First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles Prophets, Seers, and Revelators. Thank you for all you do. I sustain you with my prayers and fellowship.


-Jennifer Willis Letter from Jennifer Willis to Dallin H. Oaks, and the response


I don’t know just how to answer people when they ask the question, “Have you seen the Lord?” I think that the witness that I have and the witness that each [of the apostles] has, and the details of how it came, are too sacred to tell. I have never told anybody some of the experiences I have had, not even my wife. I know that God lives. I not only know that He lives, but I know Him.Marion G. Romney (First Presidency) Journal

Entry as quoted in; F. Burton Howard, Marion G. Romney: His Life and Faith (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988), 222


Dear Sister: Answering your letter of the 12th. I know of no instance where the Lord has appeared to an individual since His appearance to the Prophet Joseph Smith, Sincerely, your brother, (signed) Heber J. Grant- Heber J. Grant (Prophet for over 7 years and apostle for over 36 years), Letter to Mrs. Claud Peery, April 13, 1926; First Presidency Letterpress Copybooks, Vol. 72, CHD


Every member of the Council of the Twelve Apostles should have, and I feel sure have had, the knowledge of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This does not have to come by direct visitation of the Savior, but it does come from the testimony of the Holy Ghost. Let me call your attention to the statement of the Savior in Matthew 12:31, 32. The testimony of the Holy Ghost is the strongest testimony that can be given. It is better than a personal visit. It is for this reason that the Savior said that all manner of sin and blasphemy against the Holy Ghost could not be forgiven.- Joseph Fielding Smith (President Quorum of the Twelve), Doctrines of Salvation, Vol 3, 153-154, 1956


Questioner: “Um…I know that in times past, a requirement of being an apostle was seeing Jesus Christ. Having an intercourse with Jesus Christ, as I’m having to you. Has our First Presidency had this? Because I have to say that that is, I mean in reading the scriptures, that’s just very obvious to me. And that’s a big concern that I’ve had for quite a while. I know from my own personal experiences that not everybody has the spiritual gift to be able to communicate with God or with Christ. I personally have not communicated with Christ very specifically. That’s not something I claim to, but do the members of the First Presidency claim to?


Tad R. Callister: Well, I need to say two things, I think, <name redacted>. One is I’m not aware of anywhere from the scriptures where it says everyone has to have seen him. I’m aware that everyone…

Questioner: An apostle is a special witness of Jesus Christ and to witness something means to see it.


Tad R. Callister: Well, seventies are special witnesses of Jesus Christ. The exact same language is used in the scriptures. And we become witnesses of Christ. The very wit..the same words are used in the scriptures when we become baptized. A witness is to have a testimony of something and you don’t have to see it. The Holy Ghost can be your witness to you. In fact it’s called ‘The Witness.’ It’s a witness of the Father and the Son. So the Holy Ghost can be our witness. But secondly, I do not honestly know if they’ve seen the Savior or not the Savior. And President Packer I heard him once say that there are some sacred questions…they’re the questions…the answers are so sacred that we don’t respond to them in a general setting.


Questioner: Except as apostles that’s their responsibility and calling to do so.


Tad R. Callister: I think it’s their responsibility to bear witness of Jesus Christ. That you know he’s real. And those witnesses come in different ways. It may be a voice they heard. It may be the Holy Ghost. The important thing is they have a certainty of knowledge that can come by the power of the Holy Ghost. That’s the important thing. Just like you can know.- Tad R. Callister (Pres First Quorum of Seventy)




Occasionally during the past year I have been asked a question. Usually it comes as a curious, almost an idle, question about the qualifications to stand as a witness for Christ. The question they ask is, “Have you seen Him?” That is a question that I have never asked of another. I have not asked that question of my brethren in the Quorum, thinking that it would be so sacred and so personal that one would have to have some special inspiration, indeed, some authorization, even to ask it. There are some things just too sacred to discuss. We know that as it relates to the temples. In our temples, sacred ordinances are performed; sacred experiences are enjoyed. And yet we do not, because of the nature of them, discuss them outside those sacred walls. It is not that they are secret, but they are sacred; not to be discussed, but to be harbored and to be protected and regarded with the deepest of reverence…
There are those who hear testimonies borne in the Church, by those in high station and by members in the wards and branches, all using the same words—“I know that God lives; I know that Jesus is the Christ,” and come to question, “Why cannot it be said in plainer words? Why aren’t they more explicit and more descriptive? Cannot the apostles say more?” How like the sacred experience in the temple becomes our personal testimony… I have heard one of my brethren declare: “I know from experiences, too sacred to relate, that Jesus is the Christ.” I have heard another testify: “I know that God lives; I know that the Lord lives. And more than that, I know the Lord.” It was not their words that held the meaning or the power. It was the Spirit. “… for when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men.” (2 Ne. 33:1.)…-Boyd K. Packer (Apostle), The Spirit Beareth Record, April 1971


Hi <  >,   Harold G. Hillam of the Seventy (now deceased) said to me that President Hinckley had described Jesus as having fair hair and blue eyes with no beard.


Some 2 years later, while in Elder Hillam’s office, I mentioned that I never saw Jesus at or since my Second Anointing. At the time I had concluded the church was not true, but I wanted his explanation. He said to me “the Brethren have instructed  us not to talk about such sacred experiences”. I said that if I replied to someone in that manner, they would assume I had seen Him. He looked at me in a manner that suggested to me “so what”. I took it that I was to lie about the experience.   Hope this answers your question.   Kind regards, Tom. – Tom Philips (Has received his Second Anointing/Calling and Election made sure and no longer believes in the teachings of the church), Email correspondence directly to me on 12/29/17, from Tom Philips. You can read about Tom’s experience here and listen to his podcast here


Me: “Hey Elder Nelson, do you have a minute that I could ask you a question? Sorry, I’ve just always wanted to ask this of an apostle and I will probably never get another chance like this one. If I’m being out of line, just let me know.”


Russell M. Nelson: “Sure, what would you like to know?”

Me: “What does it mean, as an apostle specifically, to be a special witness of Christ?”


Russell M. Nelson: “Well, if you look at the etymology of the word witness, that word means someone who testifies who has special knowledge.”


I didn’t sense that he was being purposefully evasive at this point, but wasn’t satisfied with such a vague answer, so I thought I’d better ask a better clarifying question.

Me: “So does that mean that you personally, have literally seen God or Jesus with your physical eyes?”


Russell M. Nelson: “No, it absolutely does not.”


Me: “So just to clarify, your special witness is from the holy ghost, similar how that of a stake president, bishop, or even me – just more special given your more broad life experiences?”


Russell M. Nelson: “Yes, that is correct. Every time you take the sacrament or participate in a similar ordinance or action, you are also becoming a witness for Christ. That was your lesson for the day.”


Me: “OK, thanks for answering my question. I appreciate your openness and willing to talk. Enjoy the rest of your hike!”


Russell M. Nelson: “You too, have a nice day with your family.”
-Member of the church who encountered Russell M. Nelson (Pres of Quorum of the Twelve) on a hike


Richard E Turley: {57:35}   Another claim that we sometimes hear is that current apostles have no right to run the affairs of the church since they do not meet the New Testament standard of apostles because they do not testify of having seen Christ.  


Dallin H. Oaks: {57:51}   The first answer to this claim is that modern apostles are called to be witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world, Doctrine and Covenants 107:23. This is not to witness of a personal manifestation. To witness of the name is to witness of the plan, the work, or mission such as the atonement and the authority or priesthood of the Lord Jesus Christ, which an apostle who holds the keys is uniquely responsible to do. Of course apostles are also witnesses of Christ just like all members of the Church who have the gift of the Holy Ghost. This is because the mission of the Holy Ghost is to witness of the Father and the Son.
In addition, while some early apostles and other members of the church have had the sublime spiritual experience of seeing the Savior and some have made a public record of this, in the circumstances of today we are counseled not to speak of our most sacred spiritual experiences, otherwise with modern technology that can broadcast something all over the world, a remark made in a sacred and a private setting can be said abroad in violation of the Savior’s commandment not to cast our pearls before swine. – “Boise Rescue” 3 Stake Combined Fireside, June 13, 2016


A television reporter asked the then-new apostle if, as a “special witness for Christ,’’ he ever had seen the Lord.

“I know him better than if I had seen him,’’ Hales replied. “Now it will be my responsibility to tell the world that I know.”- Elder Robert D. Hales (Apostle, newly called), Salt Lake Tribune article, Oct 1, 2017


The first, from George Albert Smith and dated March 25, 1950, replies to a letter of Wright’s received March 15, with a single-spaced page and a half of orthodox credo. One paragraph near its end seems to answer a direct question: “I have not seen the Father or the Son, neither have I heard their voices in an audible way, but I have felt their presence and have enjoyed the whispering of the Still Small Voice that comes from them, the result of which has given me a testimony of the truth.” President Smith closes with the affirmation that if Wright “will be humble and prayerful, searching the scriptures, [he] too may know which is the Church that our Heavenly Father recognizes. . .”- George Albert Smith (Prophet for 5 years at this point and apostle for over 40 years), as quoted in: The Vocation of David Wright: An Essay in Analytic Biography” by Bruce W. Jorgensen in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 11, No. 2 Summer 1978, p. 48-49



I sit and reflect at times, and in my reading of the scriptures, I think of the mission of our Lord, what he did for me, and when these feelings come upon me I say to myself, I cannot be untrue to him. He loved me with a perfect love, as he has done for all men, especially those who serve him, and I must love him with all the love I can, even if it is imperfect, which it should not be. It is wonderful. I did not live in the days of our Savior; he has not come to me in person. I have not beheld him. His Father and he have not felt it necessary to grant me such a great blessing as this. But it is not necessary. I have felt his presence. I know that the Holy Spirit has enlightened my mind and revealed him unto me, so that I do love my Redeemer, I hope, and feel it is true, better than everything else in this life. I would not have it otherwise…- Joseph Fielding Smith (Apostle for 38 years at the time of this letter), July 18, 1948, Letter to his sons Douglas and Milton


Apostles are travelling councilors or special witnesses who go into all the world to preach…They are special witnesses for Jesus Christ. It is their right to know the truth and to have an abiding witness…The question frequently arises: “Is it necessary for a member of the Council of the Twelve to see the Savior in order to be an apostle?” It is their privilege to see him if occasion requires, but the Lord has taught that there is a stronger witness than seeing a personage, even of seeing the Son of God in a vision. Impressions on the soul that come from the Holy Ghost are far more significant than a vision. When Spirit speaks to spirit, the imprint on the soul is far more difficult to erase. Every member of the Church should have impressions that Jesus is the son of God indelibly pictured on his soul through the witness of the Holy Ghost.- Joseph Fielding Smith (Pres. Quorum of the Twelve), Improvement Era, November 1966, 979


Jesus lives! I bear my witness to you this morning. There are some witnesses I cannot give now, perhaps sometime later. Many things are too sacred to share at this time. I have received a witness that I cannot or dare not deny. When I see Jesus, I cannot mistake His identity. I know that He lives!- Harold B. Lee (Prophet)- “Meeting of the Temple Workers for the Provo Temple”, July 9, 1972, in Williams’ The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, 636 


We lay no claim to being Apostles of the world—but of the Lord Jesus Christ. The test is not whether men will believe, but whether the Lord has called us—and of that there is no doubt! We do not talk of those sacred interviews that qualify the servants of the Lord to bear a special witness of Him, for we have been commanded not to do so. But we are free, indeed, we are obliged, to bear that special witness. But that witness, the testimony of this work, is not reserved to those few of us who lead the Church. In proper order that witness comes to men and women and children all over the world. – Boyd K. Packer (Apostle)“A Tribute to the Rank and File of the Church”, May 1980


Men who have professedly seen the most, known and understood the most, in this Church, and who have testified in the presence of large congregations, in the name of Israel’s God, that they have seen Jesus, &c., have been the very men who have left this kingdom, before others who had to live by faith. I have a witness right before me, and I am fearful every time that a man or woman comes to me and relates great visions, saying, “I have had a vision, an angel came and told me thus and so; the visions of eternity were opened, and I saw thus and so; I saw my destiny; I saw what the brethren would do with me; I foresaw this and that.” Look out for that man or woman going to the devil…What will make me believe? What made the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ witnesses?

What constituted them Apostles—special witnesses to the world? Was it seeing miracles? No. What was it? The visions of their minds were opened, and it was necessary that a few should receive light, knowledge, and intelligence, that all the powers of earth and hell could not gainsay or compete with. That witness was within them, and yet, after all that was done for them, after all that Jesus showed them, and after all the power of the spirit of revelation which they possessed, you find that one of them apostatized, turned away and sold his Lord and master for thirty pieces of silver, in consequence of his not being firm to his covenant in the hour of darkness and temptation. – Brigham Young (Prophet), A Discourse by President Brigham Young, Delivered in the Tabernacle, Great Salt Lake City, February 17, 1856


I have flattered myself, if I am as faithful as I know how to be to my God, and my brethren, and to all my covenants, and faithful in the discharge of my duty, when I have lived to be as old as was Moses when the Lord appeared to him, that perhaps I then may hold communion with the Lord, as did Moses. I am not now in that position, though I know much more than I did twenty, ten, or five years ago. But have I yet lived to the state of perfection that I can commune in person with the Father and the Son at my will and pleasure? No—though I hold myself in readiness that he can wield me at his will and pleasure. If I am faithful until I am eighty years of age, perhaps the Lord will appear to me and personally dictate me in the management of his Church and people. A little over twenty years, and if I am faithful, perhaps I will obtain that favor with my Father and God. I am not to obtain this privilege at once or in a moment. – Brigham Young (Prophet)Remarks by President Brigham Young, Delivered in the Tabernacle, Great Salt Lake City, September 1, 1859


I bear witness to you, although I have not seen the Savior sitting upon the right hand of God, I know that He lives; that I know that Jesus is the Christ..- Heber J. Grant (Apostle), Conference Report, April 1899, pp 28-29


I have been buoyed up and, as it were, lifted out of myself and given power not my own to teach the glorious truths proclaimed by the Redeemer of the world. I have not seen Him face to face but have enjoyed the companionship of His Spirit and felt His presence in a way not to be mistaken. I know that my Redeemer lives and gladly yield my humble efforts to establish His teachings.- George Albert Smith (Apostle)Salt Lake City, October 26, 1914, as quoted in Liahona: The Elders’ Journal, Vol 12, No 32




When I was young I was taught by my mother that the Prophet of the LDS church enters the Holy of Holies to speak with Christ and receive instruction directly from him. This was/is a common teaching in the church, from what I understand. I’m assuming it comes from the statement Elder Packer made, that the Prophet holds the literal key to that room and uses it to interview with Christ directly. This made sense to me, as a youth and well into adulthood. After all, I taught on my mission that “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7).


How else could Christ make his will known to mankind? Surely Christ would not want to be misunderstood and would want to give the Prophet specific instructions on how to run his church. If the Lord’s will was left up to mere spiritual impressions, wouldn’t that leave too much room for misinterpretation? If spiritual impressions were just as good (if not better like many leaders claim) as a face to face meeting, why would a face to face meeting be so strongly emphasized in the early days of the church? Why would Brigham Young say “If I am faithful until I am eighty years of age, perhaps the Lord will appear to me and personally dictate me in the management of his Church and people?” Why would Joseph Smith stress the importance of receiving the Second Comforter (“he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him, or appear unto him from time to time, and even He will manifest the Father unto him”) if a spiritual impression was equally effective?


So why all the confusion on whether or not the Apostles and Prophets ACTUALLY see Christ and speak with him?


Joseph Smith boldly declared “And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him…”  Why has the emphasis changed from the apostolic charge that they must see Christ and have God lay his hands on them, to one of ambiguity and of experiences that are “too sacred to discuss?”


I think this brings up some important issues to contemplate. I’ve studied quite a bit about the historical figure Jesus Christ. There is near consensus, even among non-believing historians, that Jesus was a real person, and that he was indeed crucified. The debate is whether or not he was a divine figure, was actually resurrected, and continues living today. Among believing and non-believing members of the LDS church, that debate would extend to whether or not Jesus Christ actually leads the Mormon church and indeed whether it is the “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased…” (D&C 1:30).


I think most literal believing members lean towards believing the Apostles and Prophets see Christ face to face. Those who hold non-literal belief may tend to care less about those face to face visits but focus more on how the church and leaders can help them become more Christ-like in their daily lives. Non-believing members would probably think it’s pretty clear Jesus was not resurrected and does not appear to LDS Apostles and Prophets, or anyone else for that matter. They would likely point to the fact that blacks were denied temple blessings and black males the Priesthood, for 130 years, and that children of LGBTQ individuals are currently denied ordinances. Surely these decisions could have been easily corrected by Christ in an interview with his Prophet, in the Holy of Holies.


Regardless of where one falls on the spectrum of belief, I think it’s a useful exercise to consider what a “Special Witness” of Christ actually entails, and to consider the many statements made by those who have actually been called to that office.


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