In Their Stead

When Jesus was on the earth, He chose twelve apostles and commissioned them to help Him do His work. (See Matthew 10.) But following His resurrection and ascension, the apostles faced an administrative problem. One of their number, Judas Iscariot, had betrayed the Savior and had subsequently taken his own life. So they now numbered eleven instead of twelve.

It might have seemed presumptuous to choose a replacement. After all, the Savior Himself had chosen each of them. Who were they to make such a choice themselves? But Peter found guidance in the scriptures.

In Psalm 109, David asks for God’s help in overcoming the treachery of his enemies. One of his requests was that those who were in positions of authority might quickly be replaced by others who were more supportive and devoted. “Let his days be few,” he prayed, “and let another take his office” (Psalm 109:8).

Peter saw in this passage an important principle: When you hold a position of responsibility, it’s not about you. You may hold it for a time, but when you are no longer in that position, someone else can fulfill it in your place.

In the King James Version of the Bible, Peter uses a unique word instead of office: “His bishoprick let another take,” he said (Acts 1:20, emphasis added). The Greek word translated “bishoprick”—episkopé (ἐπισκοπή)—refers to hands on, personal leadership: oversight combined with personal care and attention.

Following Peter’s guidance, the apostles counseled together and appointed Matthias to serve in Judas’s place (Acts 1:23-26).

On the American continent, the twelve disciples chosen by Jesus followed the same pattern. As they grew old and died, “there were other disciples ordained in their stead” (4 Nephi 1:14).

In 1838, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints faced a severe challenge. The Three Witnesses of the Book of Mormon, a member of the First Presidency, four members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and the entire presidency of the church in Missouri left the church over a period of about nine months. (See “The Apostasy in Kirtland, 1836–38,” Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual (2003), 169–80 and “The Church Moves to Northern Missouri,” Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students.)

David W. Patten, one of the remaining apostles, was called to serve as a missionary during that time. In that brief revelation, the Lord reassured David that the Church would survive this devastating loss of leadership:

For verily thus saith the Lord, that inasmuch as there are those among you who deny my name, others shall be planted in their stead and receive their bishopric. 

Doctrine and Covenants 114:2

Today, I will remember that my responsibilities at church and at work are temporary. I will fulfill each one to the best of my ability and with humility, knowing that when I no longer hold it, someone else will fulfill it in my stead.

2 thoughts on “In Their Stead

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  1. This is an helpful perspective. It keeps one from being personally overwhelmed by the responsibilities of a calling or position as well as deterring the feeding of one’s ego with those same responsibilities.

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