The keys of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 16:19)
The Lord’s promise was fulfilled six days later on the Mount of Transfiguration when Peter, James and John had keys bestowed upon them by the Lord and by prophets from previous dispensations. These keys have been restored to the earth today through the prophet Joseph Smith and are exercised in holy temples around the world. Boyd K. Packer wrote:
“Peter was to hold the keys. Peter was to hold the sealing power, that authority which carries the power to bind or seal on earth or to loose on earth and it would be so in the heavens. Those keys belong to the President of the Church-to the prophet, seer, and revelator. That sacred sealing power is with the Church now. Nothing is regarded with more sacred contemplation by those who know the significance of this authority. Nothing is more closely held. There are relatively few men who hold this sealing power upon the earth at any given time-in each temple are brethren who have been given the sealing power. No one can get it except from the prophet, seer, and revelator and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is more closely held than any other authority. I am an Apostle and in company with fourteen other men now living hold all of the keys. I have the sealing power. It was given to me at the time of my ordination, as is true of all the Brethren who hold membership in the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. I can seal and I can loose according to the directions given by the President of the Church. But I cannot give this authority to another. If another is to have it, he must get it from that one man on the earth who has the right to exercise all the keys of the priesthood. We know from the revelations that there will be but one at a time on the earth who has this right.” (The Holy Temple, 88.)
The original twelve apostles
Simon (Peter) – Given a special name by Jesus: Cephas (Syriac) or Petros (Greek) which means “stone or rock.” He was Andrew’s brother and the son of Jonah. By trade, Peter was a fisherman. He was a married man (1 Corinthians 9:5) and his home was Capernaum. He received the keys of the kingdom on earth from Jesus, Moses and Elias on the Mount of Transfiguration. He was the President of the Church following Christ’s ascension. He opened up the gospel to the gentiles. He came with James and John to bestow the Melchizedek Priesthood on Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in 1829. Tradition says he was crucified, head downward, in Rome.
James – the son of Zebedee and Salome. James is the Greek form of the Hebrew Jacob. He was John’s brother. Jesus referred to James and John as Boanerges, the sons of thunder, evidently because of their temperament. (Mark 3:17.) He was a fisherman who lived in Bethsaida, Capernaum and Jerusalem. He was with Peter and John on certain special occasions – the raising of Jairus’ daughter, the Transfiguration and at Gethsemane. He preached in Jerusalem and Judea and was beheaded by Herod, the first of the twelve to be martyred (Acts 12:1,2).
John -The name means “Jehovah’s Gift,” from the Hebrew Johanan. He was James’ brother. He was known as the ‘Beloved’. He wrote the Gospel of John, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John and the book of Revelation. John did not die but has been allowed to remain on the earth as a ministering servant until the Second Coming.
Andrew – The name means “manly.” He was Simon Peter’s brother. He lived in Bethsaida and Capernaum and was a fisherman before Jesus called him. Originally he was a disciple of John the Baptist (Mark 1:16-18). Andrew brought his brother, Peter, to Jesus (John 1:40). According to tradition, it was in Achaia, Greece, in the town of Patra that Andrew died a martyr. Andrew, feeling unworthy to be crucified on the same-shaped cross as his Master, begged that his be different. So, he was crucified on an X-shaped cross, which is still called Saint Andrew’s cross and which is one of his apostolic symbols.
Philip – The name comes from the Greek and means “lover of horses.” Philip came from Bethsaida, the town from which Peter and Andrew came (John 1:44). The likelihood is that he, too, was a fisherman. Tradition says that after the ascension of Christ Jesus, Philip traveled into Scythia (south Russia) and remained there for twenty years preaching the Gospel. Eventually, in the company of the apostle Bartholomew, Philip went to Asia Minor and laboured in Hierapolis in what is modern day Turkey. He was crucified there. Philip’s tomb is still to be found in the Turkish city of Hierapolis.
Nathanael (Bartholomew) -The name means “gift of God,” and is from the Hebrew. Bartholomew was probably his surname. Jesus called him “An Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile” (John 1:47). He is said to have been martyred in 68 AD
Thomas – He is also called Didymus, from the Greek, meaning “twin.” In John 20:25, we see him saying unless he sees the nailprints in Jesus’ hand and the gash of the spear in His side he will not believe. That’s why Thomas became known as Doubting Thomas. Tradition says he laboured in Parthia, Persia, and India, suffering martyrdom by being thrust through by a spear near Madras, India.
Matthew – He was also called Levi, a Hebrew word meaning “gift of Jehovah.” Also called the Publican (tax collector). He is James the Less’ brother. He was probably the best educated of the apostles and had a thorough knowledge of the scriptures. He wrote the Gospel of Matthew to show that Jesus is the Messiah of whom the prophets spoke. He is believed to have been killed by a spear and a battle axe.
James – Son of Alphaeus. Called “the less” to distinguish him from James, son of Zebedee. He is Matthew’s brother. He is believed to have been beaten and stoned to death in Jerusalem for preaching of Christ.
Thaddeus – (Also known as Jude or Judas, not Iscariot) Thaddeus is the Hebrew root for “heart.” He is also called Lebbaeus which is Arabic for “root.” Tradition says he preached in Assyria and Persia and died a martyr in Persia.
Simon – Called “the Canaanite” (Matthew 10:4) and “the Zealot” (Lu. 6:15). The Hebrew word for zealots was Kananim. This would explain the title “Canaanite.” The Zealots were fanatical Jewish Nationalists who hated Rome. There is a strong Christian tradition that Simon was crucified by the Romans in Caistor, Lincolnshire and subsequently buried there on May 10, circa 61 AD.
Judas– Called Iscariot, probably because he was from the village of Kerioth (Joshua 15:24). He was the only one of the twelve who was not a Galilean. He betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. He was replaced in the Twelve by Matthias.