When the Lord visited the Saints in ancient America following His resurrection, He organized His Church according to the order of a new dispensation, with twelve disciples called and ordained as priesthood leaders. These chosen men included “Nephi [the son of Nephi, who was the son of Helaman, the chief judge] and his brother whom he had raised from the dead, whose name was Timothy, and also his son, whose name was Jonas, and also Mathoni, and Mathonihah, his brother, and Kumen, and Kumenonhi, and Jeremiah, and Shemnon, and Jonas, and Zedekiah, and Isaiah”. At the completion of His ministry among the people, the Savior asked His disciples, “What is it that ye desire of me, after that I am gone to the Father?”. Nine of them desired that they might come speedily unto Him in the kingdom of heaven following their mission—a request that He graciously granted.
But the three remaining disciples, at first reluctant to confess the desire of their hearts, wanted more than anything to tarry in the ministry, continuing their service among the children of God, even beyond the years of mortality. The Savior responded, “Behold, I know your thoughts, and ye have desired the thing which John, my beloved, who was with me in my ministry, before that I was lifted up by the Jews, desired of me [see John 21:21–23; D&C 7:1–8]. Therefore, more blessed are ye, for ye shall never taste of death; but ye shall live to behold all the doings of the Father unto the children of men, even until all things shall be fulfilled according to the will of the Father, when I shall come in my glory with the powers of heaven”.
These three disciples, whose names were withheld by Mormon at the command of the Lord , were given special blessings.
And again, ye shall not have pain while ye shall dwell in the flesh, neither sorrow save it be for the sins of the world; and all this will I do because of the thing which ye have desired of me, for ye have desired that ye might bring the souls of men unto me, while the world shall stand.
And for this cause ye shall have fulness of joy; and ye shall sit down in the kingdom of my Father; yea, your joy shall be full, even as the Father hath given me fulness of joy; and ye shall be even as I am, and I am even as the Father; and the Father and I are one.
Following their appointment to tarry, the three disciples experienced a miraculous partial transformation of their mortal bodies. “And behold, the heavens were opened, and they were caught up into heaven, and saw and heard unspeakable things”. They were not authorized to share their extraordinary experiences, but instead went about their mission as representatives of the Savior, preaching the gospel of salvation. And “they did go forth upon the face of the land, and did minister unto all the people, uniting as many to the church as would believe in their preaching; baptizing them, and as many as were baptized did receive the Holy Ghost”. Prisons could not confine them; the earth could not hold them when they were interred; furnaces were powerless to consume them; dens of beasts were no threat—so blessed were they by the powers of heaven. “And it came to pass that thus they did go forth among all the people of Nephi, and did preach the gospel of Christ unto all people upon the face of the land; and they were converted unto the Lord, and were united unto the church of Christ, and thus the people of that generation were blessed, according to the word of Jesus”.
History: Permission to tarry was granted to the three disciples of Jesus around AD 34–35. They joined with their brethren of the twelve to bring about much good in the decades following the visit of the Savior. “And there were great and marvelous works wrought by the disciples of Jesus, insomuch that they did heal the sick, and raise the dead, and cause the lame to walk, and the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear; and all manner of miracles did they work among the children of men; and in nothing did they work miracles save it were in the name of Jesus”. Following the deaths of the other nine disciples, the three who tarried continued the work of salvation until the successive generations began to lapse into wickedness. “And from this time [around AD 300] the disciples began to sorrow for the sins of the world”. Over the next century the spirituality of the people declined to the point that the disciples could not mingle any longer with them. “And there are none that do know the true God save it be the disciples of Jesus, who did tarry in the land until the wickedness of the people was so great that the Lord would not suffer them to remain with the people; and whether they be upon the face of the land no man knoweth”.
Nevertheless, during their tenure, both Mormon and Moroni associated with the three disciples. Mormon said, “But behold, I have seen them, and they have ministered unto me”. And Moroni reported, “But behold, my father and I have seen them, and they have ministered unto us”. That would have been, perhaps, around the turn to the fifth century AD, Moroni having finished his mission concerning the sacred plates around AD 421.
The future ministry of the three disciples includes grand and glorious service among God’s children.
They will also be among the Jews, and the Jews shall know them not.
And it shall come to pass, when the Lord seeth fit in his wisdom that they shall minister unto all the scattered tribes of Israel, and unto all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, and shall bring out of them unto Jesus many souls, that their desire may be fulfilled, and also because of the convincing power of God which is in them.
And they are as the angels of God, and if they shall pray unto the Father in the name of Jesus they can show themselves unto whatsoever man it seemeth them good.
Therefore, great and marvelous works shall be wrought by them, before the great and coming day when all people must surely stand before the judgment-seat of Christ;
Yea even among the Gentiles shall there be a great and marvelous work wrought by them, before that judgment day.
The Savior promised the three a wondrous blessing. “And ye shall never endure the pains of death; but when I shall come in my glory ye shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye from mortality to immortality; and then shall ye be blessed in the kingdom of my Father”.