Why does the Book of Mormon refer to The Twelve in 3rd Nephi as disciples and not Apostles? I found 24 reference to disciples, ministers and the Twelve but no any mention of Apostles. Why is that? Is it because there can or should be only one set of Apostles on the earth at one time? A friend of mine told me that Elder McConkie in Mormon Doctrine stated that those among the Nephites were ‘Apostles,’ but I looked in both of his books and that is not true. He called them disciples. The reason I’m asking this question is that I observed in the new film, Joseph Smith Prophet of the Restoration, 11 minutes 20 seconds into the film that it said, that Jesus ordained Twelve Apostles among the Nephites and that seemingly is not true. I am a Host at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building for some 12 years now and I want to know the truth.
“Apostle” is an office in the Melchizedek Priesthood, and the twelve Nephite disciples were given that very office. This was taught by Joseph Smith, and has been reaffirmed by Elder McConkie in Mormon Doctrine.
“The Twelve Disciples among the Nephites ministered in an ordained apostolic capacity. (3 Ne. 18; 19; 27; 28) In writing about the Book of Mormon, the Prophet said that it ‘tells us that our Savior made his appearance upon this continent after his resurrection; that he planted the gospel here in all its fullness, and richness, and power, and blessing; that they had apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, and evangelists; the same order, the same priesthood, the same ordinances, gifts, powers, and blessings as were enjoyed on the eastern continent.’ (History of the Church, vol. 4, p. 538)” (Apostles).
You are correct that the Book of Mormon proper does not refer to the Nephite twelve as Apostles, but I suspect that is because the authors were aware they fell under the direction of the Twelve Apostles in the Old World.