An iconic and historic photograph

An iconic and historic photograph March 11, 2019

 

The FP and 12 in Rome
In the Visitors’ Center of the Rome Italy Temple:  President Russell M. Nelson and his counselors in the First Presidency, President Dallin H. Oaks and President Henry B. Eyring. Members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are President M. Russell Ballard, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Elder David A. Bednar, Elder Quentin L. Cook, Elder D. Todd Christofferson, Elder Neil L. Andersen, Elder Ronald A. Rasband, Elder Gary E. Stevenson, Elder Dale G. Renlund, Elder Gerrit W. Gong and Elder Ulisses Soares.  (From LDS Newsroom)

 

At the April 2008 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latteer-day Saints, President Boyd K. Packer of the Council of the Twelve told a remarkable story:

 

In 1976 an area general conference was held in Copenhagen, Denmark. Following the closing session, President Spencer W. Kimball desired to visit the Vor Frue Church, where the Thorvaldsen statues of the Christus and of the Twelve Apostles stand. He had visited there some years earlier and wanted all of us to see it, to go there.

To the front of the church, behind the altar, stands the familiar statue of the Christus with His arms turned forward and somewhat outstretched, the hands showing the imprint of the nails, and the wound in His side very clearly visible. Along each side stand the statues of the Apostles, Peter at the front to the right and the other Apostles in order.

Most of our group was near the rear of the chapel with the custodian. I stood up front with President Kimball before the statue of Peter with Elder Rex D. Pinegar and Johan Helge Benthin, president of the Copenhagen stake.

In Peter’s hand, depicted in marble, is a set of heavy keys. President Kimball pointed to those keys and explained what they symbolized. Then, in an act I shall never forget, he turned to President Benthin and with unaccustomed firmness pointed his finger at him and said, “I want you to tell everyone in Denmark that I hold the keys! We hold the real keys, and we use them every day.”

I will never forget that declaration, that testimony from the prophet. The influence was spiritually powerful; the impression was physical in its impact.

We walked to the back of the chapel where the rest of the group was standing. Pointing to the statues, President Kimball said to the kind custodian, “These are the dead Apostles.” Pointing to me, he said, “Here we have the living Apostles. Elder Packer is an Apostle. Elder Thomas S. Monson and Elder L. Tom Perry are Apostles, and I am an Apostle. We are the living Apostles.

“You read about the Seventies in the New Testament, and here are two of the living Seventies, Elder Rex D. Pinegar and Elder Robert D. Hales.”

The custodian, who up to that time had shown no emotion, suddenly was in tears.

I felt I had had an experience of a lifetime.

(From Boyd K. Packer, “The Twelve” [April 2008 General Conference]:  https://churchofjesuschrist.org/general-conference/2008/04/the-twelve?lang=eng.)

 

Here’s something that I wrote roughly four years ago:

 

Significantly, I think, the Visitors’ Center currently being constructed along with a temple outside of Rome will feature marble replicas not only of the Christus, which appears in several temple visitors centers elsewhere, but, flanking that statue, of Thorvaldsen’s Twelve Apostles, including Peter with the keys. The implicit challenge to the claimed Petrine authority and keys associated with St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City is too obvious to overlook.

(“Seeing Ourselves Through the Eyes of a Friendly and Thoughtful Evangelical”  in Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 15 (2015), note 9.)

 

 

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