Evangelist (Latter Day Saints)
In the Latter Day Saint movement, an evangelist is an ordained office of the ministry. In some denominations of the movement, an evangelist is referred to as a patriarch (see Patriarch (Latter Day Saints)). However, the latter term was deprecated by the Community of Christ after the church began ordaining women to the priesthood. Other denominations, such as The Church of Jesus Christ (Bickertonite), have an evangelist position independent of the original patriarch office instituted by the movement's founder Joseph Smith, Jr.
Early Latter Day Saint movement
In 1833, Joseph Smith, Jr. introduced the new office of Patriarch, to which he ordained his father. The elder Smith was given the "keys of the patriarchal Priesthood over the kingdom of God on earth", the same power said to be held by the Biblical Patriarchs, which included the power to give blessings upon one's posterity. The elder Smith, however, was also called to give Patriarchal blessings to the fatherless within the church, and the church as a whole, a calling he passed onto his eldest surviving son Hyrum Smith prior to his death. Hyrum himself was killed in 1844 along with Joseph, resulting in a Succession crisis that broke the Latter Day Saint movement into several smaller denominations.
It is not known who first identified the term evangelist with the office of patriarch. However, in an 1835 church publication, W. W. Phelps stated,
- "[W]ho is not desirous of receiving a father's or an evangelist's blessing? Who can read the ancient patriarchal blessings, recorded in the bible, for the benefit of the church, without a heart filled with joy…?"
Joseph Smith also identified the term evangelist with the office of patriarch in 1839, stating that "an Evangelist is a Patriarch".
The necessity of an evangelist office in the church organization has been reinforced repeatedly, based on the passage in Ephesians 4:11, which states, "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers". In 1834, while writing what he called the "principles of salvation", prominent early Mormon co-founder Oliver Cowdery stated that:
- "We do not believe that he ever had a church on earth without revealing himself to that church: consequently, there were apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, in the same."
Joseph Smith echoed Cowdery's statement in 1842, in a letter to a Chicago newspaper editor outlining the church's basic beliefs. Smith said that his religion "believe[s] in the same organization that existed in the primitive church, viz: apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists".
Community of Christ
In the Community of Christ, which was formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, an evangelist is an office in the Melchizedec Order of the priesthood. The evangelist was originally called an evangelist–patriarch. This name derived from Latter Day Saint founder Joseph Smith's statement that "“an Evangelist is a Patriarch. … Wherever the Church of Christ is established in the earth, there should be a Patriarch for the benefit of the posterity of the Saints”.
An evangelist–patriarch's primary responsibility was to provide special blessings to members of the church; these blessings were considered one of the eight sacraments in the RLDS Church. The local Evangelist–Patriarchs of the church were governed by an individual with church-wide authority known as the Presiding Patriarch.
In 1984, when the first women began to be ordained to the office of evangelist–patriarch, the RLDS Church changed the title of the local Evangelist–Patriarchs to simply "evangelist". Similarly, it changed the title of the Presiding Patriarch to the "Presiding Evangelist". To be an evangelist, a person must already be a high priest of the Melchizedec Order of the priesthood.
The primary duty of an evangelist in the Community of Christ remains the giving of sacramental "evangelist's blessings"; it is for this reason that evangelists are often referred to as "ministers of blessing". Ideally, an evangelist is free from administrative responsibilities in the church in order to allow them to be fully responsive to the Holy Spirit. Their blessings—which are given by the laying on of hands—provide counsel and advice and confer spiritual blessings upon the recipient. Evangelist's blessings may or may not be recorded. If it is recorded, a copy is stored in the church archives at Independence, Missouri. A recipient may receive multiple evangelist's blessings in their life.
All evangelists belong to the Order of Evangelists, which is directed by the Presiding Evangelist (currently David R. Brock, since 2007).
The Church of Jesus Christ (Bickertonite)
In The Church of Jesus Christ (Bickertonite), the prescribed duties of an evangelist are to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to every nation, kindred, language, and people. An evangelist is part of the Quorum of Seventy Evangelists.
Quorum of Seventy Evangelists
The Quorum of Seventy Evangelists is responsible for management of the International Missionary Programs of the church and assists Regions of the church with their individual Domestic Missionary Programs. The Quorum of Seventy oversees the activities of its Missionary Operating Committees to ensure the fulfilling of Christ’s commandment to take the gospel to the entire world.
In 2007, the officers of the Quorum of Seventy Evangelists were:
- Evangelist Eugene Perri, President
- Evangelist Alex Gentile, Vice-President
- Evangelist Jeffrey Giannetti, Secretary
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, an evangelist is considered to be an office of the Melchizedek priesthood. However, the term evangelist is rarely used for this position, the church retaining the term Patriarch, the term most commonly used in the days of founder Joseph Smith, Jr.
The most prominent reference to the term evangelist in the denomination's literature is found in its Articles of Faith, derived from the Wentworth letter, a statement by Joseph Smith in 1842 to a Chicago newspaper editor that the church believes in "the same organization that existed in the primitive church", including "evangelists". Although Joseph Smith said that "an Evangelist is a Patriarch", the church has retained the term Patriarch.
- Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sec. 1, pp. 38-39.
- W. W. Phelps (1835), Messenger and Advocate 1(10): 146.
- Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith (1976), 151.
- Oliver Cowdery (1834), Messenger and Advocate 1(1): 2.
- Letter from Joseph Smith to John Wentworth, 1842, reprinted in Joseph Smith, "Church History", Times and Seasons (Nauvoo, IL) 1842-03-01.
- Smith, Joseph (1905). "The Prophet's Instruction on Various Doctrines". In B. H. Roberts. History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 3. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret News Press. p. 381. Retrieved 2009-07-14.
- LDS Articles of Faith.
- Edwards, Paul M., "RLDS Priesthood: Structure and Process", Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 17(3) (1984) p. 6.
- The Church of Jesus Christ (2005). Faith and Doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ. Bridgewater, MI: The Church of Jesus Christ.
- Valenti, Jerry (1986). "Volume 56", "Welcome to The Church of Jesus Christ". Bridgewater, MI: Gospel News, 9.
- Veazey, Stephen M. (2006). Faith & Beliefs: Sacraments in the Community of Christ (Independence, MO: Herald House).