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Dear New Apostles

Dear New Apostles

Although this collection of quotes directly refers to the experience of being a new apostle, we all can learn from them as we discover new callings in our own lives. 

Dear New Apostles,

You have just been called to be an Apostle of Jesus Christ. Perhaps it was a complete surprise, like it was for Elder Neal A. Maxwell, who was still groggy from an operation when President Spencer W. Kimball visited his hospital room and extended the call. Perhaps, like President James E. Faust, you had “strange forebodings” for months that you would be called. The Lord may have whispered to others that you would be called, like when Elder Neil L. Andersen had a clear distinct impression that “The person sitting on your right will be called to fill the vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve,” and seated to his right was Elder Henry B. Eyring.

Maybe you’ve had some time in-between being called and being sustained to get used to the idea, but it’s much more likely you found out only the day before that historic announcement in general conference, like President Russell M. Nelson and President Eyring. Maybe you have some big changes to make, like when Ezra Taft Benson moved his family from Washington, D.C. or when Dallin H. Oaks needed to wrap up his service on the Utah Supreme Court.

Whatever your circumstances before your call, there are some times ahead that seem to be common to most of the Lord’s modern apostles. Here are some inspiring and instructive quotes and stories for you, and for any member of the Church in a new calling, straight from the biographies and conference talks of those who’ve been in your shoes. You’ve likely heard many or all of these before; may they uplift and comfort you again now.

Your feelings for the Lord will be tender. You’ll also feel inadequate, overwhelmed, shocked, and out of place at first.

Elder Quentin L. Cook

During his first talk after his call: “To say that I feel deeply inadequate would be an understatement. When I was called as a General Authority in April of 1996, I also felt unequal to the calling. Elder Neal A. Maxwell reassured me then that the most important qualification for all of us serving in the kingdom is to be comfortable in bearing witness of the divinity of the Savior. A peace came over me at that time and has stayed with me since because I love the Savior and have had spiritual experiences that allow me to testify of Him. I rejoice in the opportunity to bear witness of Jesus Christ in all the world, notwithstanding my inadequacies.”1

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf

“To describe my inner feelings, I would say I am calm as a hurricane, or even better, I am happy and frightened. In one sentence, I need your prayers; I need the Lord. Having received a call and been given a sacred trust that will completely influence my life forever, my feelings are tender and my emotions often close to tears. I have a great sense of inadequacy, and I have felt a sweet agony from a deep and often painful examination of my soul during the many hours which have passed day and night since Friday morning this week.”2

President Howard W. Hunter

As he walked to the stand in general conference after the announcement: “‘I have never seen so many news photographers, and flashbulbs were going off like fireworks,’ Howard recalled. ‘My heart increased its pounding as I climbed the steps. Elder Hugh B. Brown moved over to make room for me and I took my place as the twelfth member of the Quorum. I felt the eyes of everyone fastened upon me as well as the weight of world on my shoulders. As the conference proceeded I was most uncomfortable and wondered if I could ever feel that this was my proper place.'”3

President Thomas S. Monson

The first night after receiving the calling was tough, as recorded in his biography: “That night neither Frances nor Tom slept well. Tom’s feet were so cold that he had to get up and pull on stockings. ‘I must have been in a state of shock,’ he suggests, ‘for I am told that this is one of the symptoms. At five A.M. I heard a rooster crowing, and I realized that I had not closed my eyes.'””4

On sitting on the stand at conference after his call—“I felt so strange and out of place sitting among the members of the Council of the Twelve. As I looked into the congregation I could see so many men who could have so capably filled the assignment which was extended to me.”5

President Russell M. Nelson

“Sunday evening following the last session of the April 1984 general conference, Elder Nelson requested that all of his available sons-in-law convene at the Nelson home to give him a blessing of comfort. The blessing, he said, ‘brought a great deal of relief to me’When asked what had precipitated the urgency of a blessing of comfort following his call, Elder Nelson replied, “The gap—the gap between what I was and what I ought to be. The gap seemed to be so very large, and I felt completely inadequate for this holy calling.'”6

President Dallin H. Oaks

“Shortly after my calling as an Apostle I had another landmark lesson about the deficiency of service that is conscious of self. I spoke to Elder (as he then was) Boyd K. Packer about how inadequate I felt for the calling I had received. He responded with this mild reproof and challenging insight: ‘I suppose your feelings are understandable. But you should work for a condition where you will not be preoccupied with yourself and your own feelings of inadequacy and can give your entire concern to others and to the work of the Lord in all the world.'”8

There will be comfort and help from members, friends, mentors, and the Lord

The prayers of the members are with you—

From Elder Quentin L. Cook’s first general conference talk: “President Hinckley extended this call to serve in the Quorum of the Twelve late Thursday afternoon. I cannot possibly articulate the kaleidoscope of feelings I have experienced since then. There have been sleepless nights and much prayer. My spirits have been buoyed, however, by the knowledge that President Hinckley is the prophet and that the membership of the Church will be praying for me and my family.”9

A comfort for President Monson—

“But [Elder Monson] found perhaps the greatest comfort in an idea expressed some time later by Elder Harold B. Lee, longtime mentor and friend, who said of those called to serve in the leading councils of the Church: ‘I heard the late Orson F. Whitney, a member of the Twelve, deliver a very impressive sermon in the Tabernacle prior to his passing [1931]. He moved his hand down over the pulpit below him where the General Authorities were sitting and said, “Now Brothers and Sisters, I don’t think that these, my Brethren, are necessarily the best living men in the Church. I think there are other men who live just as good lives and maybe better lives than these General Authorities, but I’ll tell you what I do know, that when there’s a vacancy in the ranks of the General Authorities, the Lord seeks out the man who is needed for a particular work and calls him to that service. I’ve watched that over the years.”‘10

President Nelson of Elder Bruce R. McConkie—

“Reflecting upon the life of that spiritual giant, who had served for nearly four decades as a General Authority, Elder Nelson said, ‘Elder Bruce R. McConkie was a great friend. His door was always open to me, and I frequently imposed upon his graciousness, asking him questions that possibly only he could answer.’ Pondering the fact that Elder McConkie had been diagnosed with terminal cancer more than a year before his death, Elder Nelson said, ‘I look upon the extra year of life that he was granted as a period for the training of Elder Dallin H. Oaks and me. We are greatly in his debt and miss him very much.'” 11

President Packer mentors newly called Elder Eyring

Shortly after President Henry B. Eyring was called as an apostle, he went on a trip to Japan with President Packer. (President Eyring is referred to as ‘Hal’, a nickname for Henry, throughout his biography.)

“The two of them had made many similar journeys, and President Packer had always used their time together as an opportunity to school Hal. But now the focus of the training was on the Apostleship. President Packer particularly pushed Hal to speak with greater sensitivity to the Spirit’s direction and to the way listeners would hear his words. In each of dozens of meetings with Church members and full-time missionaries, President Packer challenged Hal to probe the feelings of his heart and simultaneously to imagine himself standing at the back of the room, judging the likely effect he was having on the congregation.

“After each meeting, President Packer assessed Hal’s performance. He reminded Hal that he now spoke not only for the Church but to all of its individual members, many of whom knew no English and had little formal education. In this new position, any worldly eloquence or the slightest desire to impress would block communication with both the Spirit and the hearers.”12

You’ll be inspired and motivated by others

“Elder Hunter has never ceased to marvel at the privilege he has had each week to meet with the First Presidency and the Twelve in the temple to partake of the sacrament, petition the Lord in prayer, and discuss the affairs of the Lord’s kingdom. ‘The meeting of this council in the temple is an experience which makes one feel he should be better and do better,’ he wrote in 1967. ‘There is kindness, unity and love.’

“Many such expressions are tempered with feelings of wonder at being so blessed, such as these: ‘Sitting with this group of my brethren makes me feel my inadequacies, but always brings a resolution to try harder.’ ‘Times like these make me feel my own insignificance and unworthiness to be allowed such privileges and blessings.’ ‘These meetings are highlights in my life and always leave me with the question as to why I was selected and why I am privileged to sit in this council.’ ‘I left the temple today, as I have on previous occasions, feeling my inadequacies and wondering why I was selected for this association. I always resolve to attempt to do better and strive to be the example of what is expected.'”13

You’ll learn to endure the attention

President Boyd K. Packer understood the reason

“It is not unusual to see pictures of General Authorities in church buildings across the world. These pictures appear in Church publications. Whenever there is a change, new pictures appear. Now, with the sustaining of a new Presiding Bishopric and the calling of other Brethren, their pictures will appear in the news and eventually in chapels across the world.

“Those who know me well know that I very much dislike to see pictures of myself displayed. But I endure that, as do the other Brethren, for very good reason.

“There is purpose in members of the Church everywhere in the world being able to identify the general and local authorities. In that way they can know of whom they learn.”14

President James E. Faust passed on this apostolic wisdom

“When I was called as a General Authority, I was blessed to be tutored by many of the senior Brethren in the Church. One day I had the opportunity to drive President James E. Faust to a stake conference. During the hours we spent in the car, President Faust took the time to teach me some important principles about my assignment. He explained also how gracious the members of the Church are, especially to General Authorities. He said, ‘They will treat you very kindly. They will say nice things about you.’ He laughed a little and then said, ‘Dieter, be thankful for this. But don’t you ever inhale it.'”15

President Hinckley endured attention

Sheri L. Dew discovered President Hinckley’s dislike for attention while writing his biography. She wrote of the experience: “I’ll never forget meeting with him after he had read the first third of the manuscript. After an uncomfortable pause, during which it seemed he was searching for the words to let me down easily, he began: ‘I am sick, sick, sick of reading about Gordon Hinckley. There is just too much about Gordon Hinckley in this manuscript.’ I groped for a response. ‘Whom did you want me to write about in your biography?’ came to mind, but I couldn’t think of a respectful way to phrase the question so I remained silent. Then I had my first exposure to a mini-sermon he would repeat at least a dozen times during succeeding months. ‘Adulation is poison,’ he said, emphasizing each word. ‘Adulation has ruined many a good man and woman, and I don’t want this book to portray me as something I’m not.'” 16

  1. Quentin L. Cook, “Live by Faith and Not by Fear,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov 2007
  2. Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “The Opportunity to Testify,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov 2004
  3. Eleanor Knowles, Howard W. Hunter, (Deseret Book, 1994) ch. 8
  4. Heidi S. Swinton, To the Rescue: The Biography of Thomas S. Monson, (Deseret Book, 2010), ch. 15
  5. Heidi S. Swinton, To the Rescue: The Biography of Thomas S. Monson, (Deseret Book, 2010), ch. 15
  6. Spencer J. Condie, Russell M. Nelson: Father, Surgeon, Apostle, (Deseret Book, 2003), ch. 18
  7. Dallin H. Oaks, Life’s Lessons

    President Gordon B. Hinckley

    “The days that followed were filled with introspection, pondering, prayer, and many tears. Above all else Gordon desired to be worthy of this calling, but he felt acutely aware of his personal failings. For a time it was as though he was experiencing his own dark night and in the process coming face-to-face with his inadequacies. He found himself pleading with the Lord to make him equal to the mantle he now bore. Perhaps the intensity of the loneliness, the realization that he of himself wasn’t equal to the call, was for a reason—so that he would never forget whose errand he was on and who would make him capable of filling this overwhelming assignment.”7Sheri L. Dew, Go Forward with Faith:The Biography of Gordon B. Hinckley, (Deseret Book, 1996), ch. 14

  8. Quentin L. Cook, “Live by Faith and Not by Fear,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov 2007
  9. Heidi S. Swinton, To the Rescue: The Biography of Thomas S. Monson, (Deseret Book, 2010), ch. 15
  10. Spencer J. Condie, Russell M. Nelson: Father, Surgeon, Apostle, (Deseret Book, 2003), ch. 18
  11. Robert I. Eaton and Henry J. Eyring, I Will Lead You Along: The Life of Henry B. Eyring, (Deseret Book, 2013) ch. 22
  12. Eleanor Knowles, Howard W. Hunter, (Deseret Book, 1994) ch. 12
  13. Boyd K. Packer, “From Such Turn Away,” Ensign or Liahona, May 1985
  14. Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Pride and the Priesthood,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov 2010
  15. Sheri L. Dew, Go Forward with Faith:The Biography of Gordon B. Hinckley, (Deseret Book, 1996), Preface

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