As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “In order to establish a church that would continue under His direction even after He was taken from the earth, Jesus ‘went…into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.’”
“And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples; and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles’ (Luke 6: 12-13)
“Later on, Paul would teach that the Savior, knowing the inevitability of His death, had done this to give the Church a ‘foundation of…apostles and prophets’” [See Ephesians 2:19-20].
The Twelve are foundational to the Lord’s church, yet curiously this is a reality often overlooked.
The only other place amidst these thousands of statues in this city that you can find the Twelve is in the Visitors’ Center of the new Rome Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Behind a rounded glass that shines across Rome temple square is the statue of the Christus, surrounded by 12 apostles, with Paul there to take the place of Judas Iscariot.
These were created by Bertel Thorvaldsen, a Danish sculptor in the 1830’s. He was living in Rome at the time and these were made of Carrara marble quarried nearby.
They were placed in Denmark’s Church of Our Lady in Copenhagen and has been a national treasure, much visited by tourists.
The Christus has been a popular statue and when one sees it, it is usually a copy of a copy. Copies have proliferated.
Architect, Niels Valentiner, hoped that the Christus and the 12 apostles, should be in the Rome Temple Visitors’ Center, but he believed that a scan needed to be made of the statues with the new technology available to us now so that they could be superior replicas.
Through a series of miracles, the scanning was accomplished and Thorvaldsen’s statues now grace the Visitors’ Center.
Elder Rex D. Pinegar told this story. “Following the closing session in Copenhagen, Denmark, we all visited a cathedral referred to as the Dome. Within this great edifice are the best-loved works of Denmark’s greatest sculptor, Bertel Thorvaldsen—his original Christus and the Twelve Apostles.
“The imposing statue of Christ stands in an alcove at the front of the cathedral beyond an altar. Standing in order along the two sides of the cathedral are the lifelike statues of the apostles, with Paul replacing the betrayer Judas Iscariot.
“Others of the Twelve are shown with identifying symbols indicating, for example, the manner in which they earned a living or how they were martyred. President Kimball thoughtfully studied each statue.
“As we were ready to leave the cathedral, the Danish caretaker, a man about sixty years of age, was standing near the door awaiting our departure. President Kimball shook his hand, thanked him for his kindness in letting us visit the cathedral.”
“Then the president began an explanation of the church established by Jesus Christ and of its importance to us. All those present gathered near to be taught by the prophet.”
“He began in simple words which went something like this: ‘My dear friend, the man who created these statues was surely inspired of the Lord. The beauty and majesty of the Christus are wonderful. While Thorvaldsen was doing his work here, in 1821 to 1844 Joseph Smith was doing his work in America.”
“Thorvaldsen didn’t have the gospel as did Joseph Smith, but he had the Spirit. He must have been inspired to create these statues of Christ and the apostles. He was trying to bring them to life.”
“Gathering President Tanner, Elder Monson, and Elder Packer closer to him, the president continued, ‘We are living apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ. There are Twelve Apostles and three others who are the presidency of the Church.”
“’We hold the real keys, as Peter did, and we use them every day. They are in use constantly.’ Then the president introduced me. ‘This is a real, live seventy,’ he said.”
“You will recall that the Savior called His Twelve Apostles and His seventy. He sent the seventy two-by-two before His face into every city into which He Himself should come to prepare the way before Him. We can give you the true gospel of Jesus Christ.”
“What a thrilling spiritual feeling to hear the prophet bear witness of his own calling and to have so graphically illustrated the importance of living apostles.”
“As beautifully and masterfully done as the statues were, they were only marble and could do no more than remind us of the real priesthood leaders which they represented.”
“How blessed we all felt to be present with a living prophet and apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ. We must be more than ‘marble.’ We must follow the prophet’s lead and become ‘living examples’ of Christ—bearers—living carriers of His message of salvation to those about us.”