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The word apostle means “one who is sent out.” However, they were more than just messengers. They carried a very special message and were sustained in a marvelous manner.

  • A witness of Christ: "Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord?" (1 Cor. 9:1) "Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,  Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection. . . and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles." (Acts 1:21-22, 26)
  • Ability to perform signs and wonders: "Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds." (2 Cor. 12:12)

Oliver Cowdery's charge to the Twelve

After the 12 apostles were chosen by the Three Witnesses, Oliver Cowdery gave them special instructions.
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 vol. 2: p. 195)

Testimony of Jesus

But is it necessary for a man to have seen the Savior to be an Apostle? Joseph Smith seemed to think so and that having such an experience by itself qualified you to be an apostle even though you were not part of the Quorum of the Twelve. He told Zevedee Coltrin that by seeing the Savior you would be "prepared to be the apostles of Jesus Christ."

Zebedee Coltrin reported seeing Jesus Christ and the Father in winter of 1832-33, then Joseph responded:
"Brethren, now you are prepared to be the apostles of Jesus Christ, for you have seen both the Father and the Son and know that They exist and that They are two separate personages." (3 October 1883, Salt Lake School of the Prophets Minute Book 1883 (Palm Desert, California: ULC Press, 1981), 39)

Experience of latter-day Apostles

Did any of those apostles that were called in 1835 and later follow through on the charge from Oliver Cowdery and make their "ordination . . . full and complete" by getting the ordination from God? We can never know for sure without them bearing witness of such an event. We have the testimony of George Q. Cannon that he had seen the Savior.

George Q. Cannon 1896 (quoted by Spencer W. Kimball in April 1974 conference)
Elder George Q. Cannon, who was in the presidency of the Church at one time, said this: “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.” (Delivered in the October 1896 General Conference and reported in The Deseret Weekly, October 31, 1896, vol. 53, p. 610.)

However, president Heber J. Grant didn't seem to be aware of this experience by elder Cannon. He wrote to Mrs. Claud Peery in 1926 and told her, "I know of no instance where the Lord has appeared to an individual since His appearance to the Prophet Joseph Smith." (Heber J. Grant, letter to Mrs. Claud Peery, April 13, 1926, typescript in Lester Bush papers, University of Utah Archives.)

Nevertheless, it is also recorded in his diary, “I have never prayed to see the Savior. I know of men – Apostles – who have seen the Savior more than once. I have prayed to the Lord for the inspiration of His Spirit to guide me, and I have told Him that I have seen so many men fall because of some great manifestation to them, they felt their importance, their greatness.” (Heber J. Grant, The Diaries of Heber J. Grant, p. 468, probably referring to Matthias F. Cowley and John W. Taylor)

We also have the statements of more recent members of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles where they have indicated that they have not been visited by the Savior.

Joseph Fielding Smith was called as an Apostle April 10, 1910. Thirty-eight years later he had not seen the Savior
On July 18, 1948, he sent a letter to his sons Douglas and Milton, who were serving as full-time missionaries. He wrote:

“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.

Bruce R. McConkie in his final testimony, tells us that he has never seen the Savior.

. . .
In speaking of these wondrous things I shall use my own words, though you may think they are the words of scripture, words spoken by other Apostles and prophets.

True it is they were first proclaimed by others, but they are now mine, for the Holy Spirit of God has borne witness to me that they are true, and it is now as though the Lord had revealed them to me in the first instance. I have thereby heard his voice and know his word.

Those who can Testify

There are many individuals who are not part of the LDS Quorum of Twelve Apostles that have testified of being visited by the Lord. As indicated by Joseph Smith above, that would qualify them to be Apostles, although not part of the LDS church quorum.