After Jesus called Nephi and 11 others as His disciples in the Western Hemisphere, He told the multitude: "Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you, and to be your servants. . . ." (3 Ne. 12:1.)
In A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, Daniel H. Ludlow wrote:"Although the words disciple (one who follows) and apostle (one who is sent) have distinct and separate meanings, the two terms are used somewhat interchangeably in the New Testament.
"The Book of Mormon tends to use the word disciple except when referring to the apostles who were called by Jesus when He lived on the earth on the eastern continent. In fact, apostle is used in only 16 verses in the entire Book of Mormon. . . ."
"It is doubtful that the word apostle is ever used in the Book of Mormon to refer to the chosen twelve of the Nephites. However, Joseph Fielding Smith indicated that they were apostles in the sense that they were special witnesses of the Savior. His statement follows:
" `While in every instance the Nephite twelve are spoken of as disciples, the fact remains that they had been endowed with divine authority to be special witnesses for Christ among their own people. Therefore, they were virtually apostles to the Nephite race, although their jurisdiction was . . . eventually to be subject to the authority and jurisdiction of Peter and the twelve chosen in Palestine.
" `According to the definition prevailing in the world an apostle is a witness for Christ, or one who evangelizes a certain nation or people. . . .
" `Therefore the Nephite twelve became apostles, as special witnesses, just as did Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times. . . ."