We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church; namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists and so forth.
The Prophet is borrowing Paul's language, "And he gave some apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers." (Eph. 4:11)
A true restoration of necessity must restore the organization of the Church as well as the ordinances, authority, and true gospel. The "Primitive Church," as Joseph Smith calls it, is the church established by the apostles after the Ascension of Christ. We often speak of the Church Christ organized during his ministry. Is that fair to say? We might want to be more careful and accurate when describing the organization of the first Christian church.
The Savior himself never organized a church in the sense that he had a specific congregation led by various officers. He never had a church building. He never called a bishop for the Capernaum saints. He didn't preach from his personal pulpit but gave sermons in the streets, the temple, and the synagogues. After feeding the five thousand, He had a congregation ready to become his church, but He knew they just wanted more free lunch. Rather than baptizing them and organizing them into a congregation of believers, the Master left and crossed over, walking on the sea of Galilee, to get away from them (John 6:15-27). While it is true he called 12 Apostles and Seventies during his mortal mission, they were not initially asked to organize the Church. They were commissioned to do the same thing he was-preach the gospel and heal the sick (Matt. 10:5-8). Christ's mortal ministry was to preach the gospel, heal the sick, and to accomplish the atonement. Organizational matters would be left for the Apostles to do after He left. The Apostles would need the Holy Ghost to run the Church and were endowed with that necessary gift on the Day of Pentecost. (Acts 2)
Undoubtedly, the Master instructed the apostles on organizational matters when he spent 40 days with them after his Ascension (Acts 1:2-3). It became time to preach, baptize, and organize. They replaced Judas Iscariot with Matthias (Acts 1:20-26) proving that the office of an apostle was to continue. They received donations and offerings, "As many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need" (Acts 4:34-35). Receiving offerings in this manner is an example of early organization. But we have to ask, "Is that the job of an Apostle-to receive alms and distribute to the poor? (Acts 6:1-4) That's the Bishop's job. The church was so new they hadn't called any bishops yet. The offices of the priesthood were established slowly, as the need arose. Several decades later, the Primitive Church had apostles, missionaries, bishops, elders, teachers, deacons, etc. Paul declared, "Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers..." (1 Cor. 12:27-28) It takes real growth and regular revelation to refine the offices of a young church. Such was the case for several decades, but trouble came quickly.
"Christian churches had scarcely been gathered and organized, when here and there men rose up who not being contented with the simplicity and purity of that religion which the apostles taught, attempted innovations, and fashioned religion according to their own notions... were disposed to combine with Christiantiy Jewish opinions, customs, and institutions.
"...So long as the greater part of the personal disciples of the Saviour were alive, these innovators were not very successful and seem to have had no great number of followers, But gradually they acquired more influence; and before the decease of all those whom Christ had himself instructed, they laid the foundations of those sects which afterwards exceedingly disturbed the Christian community, and gave rise to so many controversies." (John Lawrence von Mosheim, Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History, [London: M'Corquodale and Co., 6th ed., 1868], 45)
When the church organization was restored in this dispensation, incremental implementation was also used. Offices of the Priesthood were not established all at once-there weren't enough members to fill them all.
"Some have supposed that the full Church organization was restored on April 6, 1830. This, however, was not the case. Of the nine priesthood offices, duties for only four-elders, priests, teachers, and deacons-were explained in Doctrine and Covenants section 20, the revelation that directed the original organization of the Church. Other offices-bishops, high priests, patriarchs, Apostles, and seventies-were added during the next five years. In 1835 Doctrine and Covenants section 107 outlined the structure and functions of quorums related to these priesthood offices. The first stake was established at Kirtland, Ohio, in 1834, but the first wards were not created until five years later in Nauvoo, Illinois.
"The auxiliary organizations came even later. Most developed during the time when Brigham Young presided over the Church. The first Relief Society had been organized at Nauvoo in 1842 with the object of caring for the needy and strengthening community morals. Latter-day Saint Sunday Schools had also met irregularly in both Kirtland and Nauvoo. Richard Ballantyne organized the first Sunday School in the Rocky Mountains in 1849. Neither the Relief Society nor the Sunday School, however, was formally established Church-wide until the 1860s." (Richard O. Cowan, The Church in the Twentieth Century [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1985], 65-66)
Anthon H. Lund
Now the Church was organized [in 1830], but not with all the officers of the Church as we have them today, for the simple reason they did not have enough members in the Church to make a complete organization. Ten months after the Church was organized Edward Partridge was ordained a Bishop to the Church, and in June following the first high priests were ordained. In December, 1833, Joseph Smith, Senior, was ordained a patriarch, and two months later the first High Council was organized. The quorum of Twelve apostles was organized February 14, 1835, and two weeks later a quorum of seventies was organized. All the offices in the priesthood were now established and men were ordained to fill them. (Conference Report, April 1917, First Day-Morning Session 14)
What was the first order of business after the Christ ministered to the disciples for 40 days? Peter understood immediately that the quorum of 11 Apostles was incomplete. As his first administrative duty, he took immediate action to restore the quorum according to the pattern set by the Master (Acts 1:15-26). His actions in filling this vacancy declare this universal truth to all of Christianity-that 12 ordained apostles are necessary to lead Christ's church. Mark E. Petersen stated, "There was a great significance in this action. It demonstrated beyond all doubt the fact that it was the plan and purpose of the Lord that the Quorum of Twelve should continue to be a Quorum of Twelve and not a Quorum of Eleven, or a Quorum of Ten, or Nine, finally to disappear...It gave encouragement to the Saints. It proved to them and to all men that the Church organization as provided by the Savior was to go on without change as long as men were willing to hear and accept the true gospel." ("Which Church is Right," Latter-day Tracts [Pamphlets], 6.)
"In the early years after the resurrection of Jesus, the apostles added members to their number as vacancies required. It appears that the first item of apostolic business after Jesus' ascension was the selection of one to take the place of Judas (Acts 1:21-26). This action establishes the principle, which is confirmed by the practice today of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that apostolic succession was to be continued and that the ancient apostles intended to replace members of the Twelve each time one died. In addition to Matthias, three others we are aware of became apostles after Jesus' ascension: James (Acts 12:17; Gal. 1:19), Barnabas (Acts 14:14), and Paul (Acts 14:14). These three were called early in the Church's history-before A.D. 50. But neither scripture nor other historical evidence gives us any indication of the calling of others. It thus seems reasonable to suggest that near the middle of the first century, the calling of apostles came to an end and the apostleship died out. As far as we know, by the 90s only John remained. When he left his public ministry around A.D. 100, apostleship ceased, and the keys of the kingdom were taken." (Kent P. Jackson, From Apostasy to Restoration [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1996], 20)
One of the most reputable historical sources for the first century church is Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History. Written by a Lutheran historian of the 1700's, the author describes the different offices of the early Church. In this case, he described the office of a prophet at a time when Christianity no longer recognized them.
"As few among the first professors of Christianity were learned men, and competent to instruct the rude and uninformed on religious subjects, it became necessary that God should raise up in various churches extraordinary teachers, who could discourse to the people on religious subjects in their public assemblies, and address them in the name of God. Such were the persons who in the New Testament are called prophets." (John Lawrence von Mosheim, Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History, [London: M'Corquodale and Co., 6th ed., 1868], 34)
Perhaps these extraordinary teachers possessed more of a spiritual endowment than a priesthood office. Prophets must have had strong testimonies, "for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" (Rev. 19:10). In our day, we might think of the same service being provided by General Authorities, Regional Representatives, Stake Presidencies, High Councils, Bishoprics, High Priests and sisters with the same testimony.
A pastor is a bishop.
"In this century (1st century) and the next, a bishop had charge of a single church, which might ordinarily be contained in a private house... he instructed the people, conducted all parts of public worship, and attended on the sick and the necessitous in person; and what he was unable thus to perform, he committed to the care of the presbyters (elders), but without power to determine or sanction anything except by the votes of the presbyters (elders) and people." (John Lawrence von Mosheim, Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History, [London: M'Corquodale and Co., 6th ed., 1868], 35)
"In these public assemblies of Christians the holy Scriptures were read... then followed and exhortation to the people, neither eloquent nor long, but full of warmth and love... Next, the prayers, which constituted no inconsiderable part of public worship... To these succeeded hymns... the prayers of Christians were followed by oblations of bread, wine, and other things... bread and wine... were set apart and consecrated by prayer, offered up by the presiding minister alone, the people responding amen. The distributors of the sacred supper were the deacons." (John Lawrence von Mosheim, Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History, [London: M'Corquodale and Co., 6th ed., 1868], 44)
Teachers in the Primitive Church would have been more like Sunday School teachers, not Aaronic Priesthood teachers.
"As it was the design of our Saviour to gather a church from among all nations, and one which should continue through all ages, the nature of the case required him first to appoint extraordinary teachers (the apostles) who should be his ambassadors to mankind, and everywhere collect societies of Christians, and then that he should cause to be placed in these societies ordinary teachers and interpreters of his will, who should repeat and enforce the doctrines taught by the extraordinary teachers, and keep the people steadfast in their faith and practice." (John Lawrence von Mosheim, Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History, [London: M'Corquodale and Co., 6th ed., 1868], 32)
The Prophet Joseph Smith explained the meaning of the term evangelist as follows:
"An Evangelist is a Patriarch, even the oldest man of the blood of Joseph or of the seed of Abraham. Wherever the Church of Christ is established in the earth, there should be a Patriarch for the benefit of the posterity of the Saints, as it was with Jacob in giving his patriarchal blessing unto his sons." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected and arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976], 151)
"The office of patriarch is therefore necessary in the complete and perfect organization of the callings of the Holy Priesthood in the Church of Christ." (Improvement Era, 1950, Vol. Liii. September, 1950. No. 9)
Bruce R. McConkie
Having lost the true knowledge of the priesthood and its of offices, and knowing nothing of patriarchal blessings as a necessary part of church administration, the false traditions of the sectarian world have applied the designation evangelist to traveling preachers, missionaries, and revivalists. The sectarian theory is that evangelists travel to spread the gospel. This usage of the term is so widespread that even in the Church it is not inappropriate to speak of the evangelical work of missionaries. (Mormon Doctrine, 2d ed. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966], 242)
And so forth
Other officers mentioned in the scriptures and ancient histories are as follows:
"The rulers of the church were denominated sometimes presbyters or elders, a designation borrowed from the Jews, and indicative rather of the wisdom than the age of the persons... These were men of gravity and distinguished for their reputation, influence, and sanctity." (John Lawrence von Mosheim, Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History, [London: M'Corquodale and Co., 6th ed., 1868], 33-34)
"In this century (1st) baptism was administered in convenient places not in the public assemblies, and by immersing the candidates wholly in water... the confirmation of those baptisms... were administered by the presbyters (elders)." (John Lawrence von Mosheim, Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History, [London: M'Corquodale and Co., 6th ed., 1868], 44)
"That the church had its public servants or deacons, from its first foundation, there can be no doubt... Those young men who carried out the corpses of Ananias and his wife, were undoubtedly the deacons of the church at Jerusalem, who were attending on the apostles and executing their commands (Acts 5:6-10)... The distributors of the sacred supper were the deacons." (John Lawrence von Mosheim, Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History, [London: M'Corquodale and Co., 6th ed., 1868], 34, 44)
"There were also in many churches, and especially in those of Asia, female public servants, or deaconesses, who were respectable matrons or widows, appointed to take care of the poor and to perform other offices" (John Lawrence von Mosheim, Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History, [London: M'Corquodale and Co., 6th ed., 1868], 34)