The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stood together Monday in the Rome Italy Temple Visitors' Center for iconic photographs — symbols of their unified testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ.
Taken in front of the statues of the Christus and the 12 ancient Apostles by Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen, the photographs connect the work of the ancient Apostles with the work of Latter-day prophets.
The gathering in Rome — a significant city in the history of the world and in the history of Christianity — marked the first time in Church history that every member of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles had been all together outside the United States. Every senior leader also participated in the Rome Italy Temple dedication.
“More than 2,000 years ago, our Savior Jesus Christ ministered to the world, establishing His Church and His gospel,” wrote President Russell M. Nelson in a Facebook post sharing the photograph. “He called Apostles and gave them the decree to ‘go ye therefore, and teach all nations.’
“In our day, the Lord’s Church has been restored. The Savior stands at the head of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As modern-day Apostles of Jesus Christ, the message we share today is the same message that Apostles shared long ago — that God lives and that Jesus is the Christ.”
Photographers captured two versions of the historic photograph. In the first photograph, the senior leadership of the Church wore street clothes; in a second version, they wore white temple clothing, a symbol of purity, worthiness and cleanliness in Latter-day Saint temples.
An additional photograph of President Russell M. Nelson was taken in front of the statue of Peter. The keys held in Peter’s hand are symbolic of Matthew 16:19, where Christ promised Peter, “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Thorvaldsen, a Danish sculptor born in 1770, was accepted into the Royal Danish Academy of Art and later studied in Rome. He died in 1844 — the same year as Joseph Smith.
In the moments before and after the photograph, the senior Church leaders displayed an obvious connection of energetic unity and friendship as they greeted and interacted together. All expressed deep gratitude for the invitation President Nelson gave them to participate in the historic events surrounding the dedication of the Rome temple.
President Nelson said the Lord told him to take the entire First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to Rome for the dedication. “I was just following the instructions I received,” he said. “It was very clear to me.”
Elder Jeffrey R Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said it is unprecedented for the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to be together “in such a remarkable setting for such a splendid reason.”
There are only a few times in history when the entire senior leadership of the Church have been together outside of Utah, the most recent being the Nauvoo Illinois Temple dedication in 2002.
Being together “is a remarkable and historic moment that touches our hearts deeply,” said Elder Ulisses Soares, joining other fellow members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in commenting on the experience.
Elder Ronald A. Rasband said he is “enjoying every minute of this precious experience.”
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf said a living prophet and living Apostles have the same call as Apostles did anciently, “to proclaim the gospel to all the world,” adding, “we are here with the prophet to do just that in our modern times.”
Elder Dale G. Renlund added: “We know that two former-day Apostles, Peter and Paul, were here, and then to have modern-day Apostles here, all of us, is just a moving experience, in some ways paying homage to them and homage to the gospel that we all preach.”