When I first joined the church we sustained the Patriarch of the Church, along with the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve as a “Prophet, Seer and Revelator.”  I would expect that at some point Patriarch Smith will be succeeded by his oldest, direct, descendant, unless there is still a living sibling of his upon whom the office would devolve (which I doubt).
When the office was established, it formed an independent line of priesthood authority. This line was not be dependent upon selection by temporary office holders drawn from many family lines.  Instead the Smith family, through whom the church was restored, would hold this hereditary office forever.  It will be interesting to see how this office is handled in the future.

17 thoughts on “Patriarch

  1. As a Smith descendant, I am curious about this. Once Eldred dies, would this office theoretically go to his eldest son or any Smith descendant who is the oldest? The reunions are full of white hair, so its anybody’s guess…everyone seems to be over 90 or under 10….

  2. I thought that when Patriarch Smith was given “emeritus” status back in 1979 that it was never to be filled again. Is that wrong or is it not yet known what will happen.

    Quinn notes in one of his books (Extensions of Power, p. 131) the following:

    “Whenever a patriarch after 1844 tried to magnify his presiding office, the Twelve and First Presidency recoiled in apprehension. However, when individual patriarchs seemed to lack administrative vigor, the Twelve and First Presidency criticized them for not magnifying their office. Few men could walk such an ecclesiastical tightrope. For various reasons the First Presidency and Twelve were in conflict with seven out of eight successors of the original Presiding Patriarch, Joseph Smith, Sr. The hierarchy finally resolved the situation on 6 Oct 1979 by making Eldred G. Smith an “emeritus” general authority without replacing him. This permanently “discontinued” the office of Patriarch to the Church. … Vacating the office in 1979 ended the conflicts. However, according to Brigham Young’s instructions, the 1979 action made the church vulnerable: “It was necessary to keep up a full organization of the Church all through time as far as could be. At least the three first Presidency, quorum of the Twelve, Seventies, and Patriarch over the whole Church … so that the devil could take no advantage of us.[15]” It is beyond the scope of this analysis to assess such metaphysical vulnerability. Administratively, however, the decision to leave the patriarch’s office vacant after 1979 streamlined the hierarchy and removed a source of nearly constant tension.”

  3. Have you read “Lost Legacy”? It was written by Eldred G. Smith’s grandson (oldest son of oldest son) to whom the office would rightly fall (depending upon worthiness, of course).

    From my limited understanding and through reading the book it appears that the office will “die” with Patriarch Smith. I do not believe the brethren have authorized him to pass the office.

  4. Question: Comment if you are inspired to do so… What is the reason that every few years, the verbage for the temple ordiances are streamlined or removed completely from the original script? Thank you.

  5. Joseph Smith, by revelation, established two presiding offices: The President of the High Priesthood and the Patriarch of the Church. The President (Joseph Smith) presided. But the Patriarch stood by with keys to ordain the next President and provide for orderly transition from one President to the next.

    The Patriarchal office is by lineage or descent. That way it cannot be stolen by an interloper; thereby creating a separation of power inside the one Church (or kingdom).

    Joseph became President through divine ordination by the Lord and messengers sent by the Lord.
    Brigham Young was sustained as President, relying upon his ordination as an Apostle.
    John Taylor was also sustained, relying also upon his ordination as an Apostle.

    These precedents were relied upon through Joseph F. Smith, who had an ordinance/ordination accompany his assumption of the office of President of the Church. That ordination was performed by his half-brother, John Smith, the Patriarch of the Church.

    Heber J. Grant was conflicted about the Patriarch because he considered himself a descendant of Joseph Smith by sealing and the Patriarch was competition to that; and therefore he did not want the Patriarch to ordain him president. He had the Twelve ordain him. He also initiated the name change from “Presiding Patriarch” to “Patriarch to the Church.”

    Heber J. Grant’s practice continued thereafter.

    Interestingly the term “Prophet” was not applied to a living man holding the office of “President of the Church” until 1955, during the administration of David O. McKay. The term “Prophet” until that time always meant exclusively Joseph Smith, and not the office holder of President. Before then it was “President Young” and “President Taylor” and “President Woodruff” and so on. However, in 1955 the Church News began a new practice of referring to the living President McKay as a “Prophet.” It was felt that changing the reference to the living President would result in quicker acceptance of direction from him, and less criticism of the President. (President Grant was the most unpopular Church President in the Church’s history, and that was something they hoped to avoid happening again.) It worked. No-one wants to reject counsel from a living prophet of God.

    So since that time the practice has been for living Presidents to continue to be referred to by the title “Prophet” by all General Authorities and other leaders. However, I have noticed that the President never refers to himself as “Prophet” in any declaration I have been able to find. He accepts that term as used by others, but does not apply it to himself.

    The recorded times when a Church President was asked if he was “a Prophet” include testimony by Joseph F. Smith when asked by the Senate Committee in the hearings to seat Senator Smoot. His response was “my people sustain me as such.” President McKay was asked by a reporter and his response was “look me in the eye and tell me I’m not a prophet.” President Lee essentially repeated the same response to a reporter as President McKay. And when he was interviewed by the Press President Hinckley essentially repeated Joseph F. Smith’s response, saying in effect: “I’m sustained by the Church as such.” There may be others, but those are the ones I recall at the moment.

    All of which is, I suppose, interesting history. I of course, sustain as “prophets, seers and revelators” the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve every Ward Conference, Stake Conference, General Conference and temple recommend interview.

  6. It is interesting history…but, once made into an “emeritus” calling, does it die with Patriarch Smith? I suppose, by lineage, the calling never ceases…but as a practice of the church it could end with this “emeritus” status, could it not?

  7. Although he is emeritus, he nonetheless retains the office. It isn’t gone just because he is emeritus at present. Nor, for that matter, is the office gone if it is neglected and unfilled. It still exists in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Just as the First Quorum of Seventy existed in Section 107, though it was not filled until President Kimball did so. It was nevertheless part of the restored Church.

    If they elect to let it lapse into a vacancy, it does not eliminate the existence of the office. It just shows neglect to fill it. A thing for which I presume those responsible will be accountable to the Lord.

  8. For a very interesting read about the historical nature and function of a Patriarch…check out a site hosted by Bruce Porter…it concerns the Seed of Abel vs the Seed of the Cain and the responsibility of who leads their families with full approval of the Lord.

  9. Heck, I’m curious to know what happened to the calling of “Church Healer.”

    Was Johanni Wolfgramm the last Church healer called?

  10. I know that Johanni Wolfgramm was a great healer in the Church, but where has the idea come from that he had a calling as “Church Healer”? I could be wrong, but I believe he was simply a Melchizedek Priesthood holder who had tremendous faith and a profound gift for healing.

  11. Patriarch Eldred Smith and his wife Jeanne, had the privilege of receiving their second anointing ordinances on 6 Jan. 1950. I know this is perhaps way out in left field, and I know little of the details of 2nd Anointings…. can those who receive these ordinances choose the time they leave this mortal life?

  12. I have tossed and turned all night about this. I reviewed my own patriarchal blessing (given to me nearly 39 years ago) early this morning. I was drawn to a particular section once again.

    In addition, I’ve gone over in my mind what we’ve been taught in Alma 13. Then this from President Packer in our last general conference:

    “We have done very well at distributing the authority of the priesthood. We have priesthood authority planted nearly everywhere. We have quorums of elders and high priests worldwide. But distributing the authority of the priesthood has raced, I think, ahead of distributing the power of the priesthood. The priesthood does not have the strength that it should have and will not have until the power of the priesthood is firmly fixed in the families as it should be.

    President Harold B. Lee stated: “It seems clear to me that the Church has no choice—and never has had—but to do more to assist the family in carrying out its divine mission, not only because that is the order of heaven, but also because that is the most practical contribution we can make to our youth—to help improve the quality of life in the Latter-day Saint homes. As important as our many programs and organizational efforts are, these should not supplant the home; they should support the home.”

    President Joseph F. Smith made this statement about the priesthood in the home: “In the home the presiding authority is always vested in the father, and in all home affairs and family matters there is no other authority paramount. To illustrate this principle, a single incident will perhaps suffice. It sometimes happens that the elders are called in to administer to the members of a family. Among these elders there may be presidents of stakes, apostles, or even members of the first presidency of the Church. It is not proper under these circumstances for the father to stand back and expect the elders to direct the administration of this important ordinance. The father is there. It is his right and it is his duty to preside. He should select the one who is to administer the oil, and the one who is to be mouth in prayer, and he should not feel that because there are present presiding authorities in the Church that he is therefore divested of his rights to direct the administration of that blessing of the gospel in his home. (If the father be absent, the mother should request the presiding authority present to take charge.) The father presides at the table, at prayer, and gives general directions relating to his family life whoever may be present.”

    While I’ve known these things, an expanded paradigm is beginning to emerge for me in my heart and mind. I’m beginning to see a little more light and now anxiously await further light and knowledge on this from the Spirit.

    I’m going to review Denver’s thoughts on Alma 13.

  13. My eyes and understanding are beginning to open.

    Things on my mind are Alma 13 and president Packers address on Priesthood in our last general conference.

    I reviewed president Packers talk early this morning.

    Time to again read Alma 13 and review Denver’s thoughts on Alma 13.

    BTW, I believe the answer to my last question on this thread is: yes.

  14. I wonder about the Presiding Patriarch. D&C 124 sure makes it seem like it is senior in rank to that of the 1st Presidency. Also, it comes by right of lineage. I question the propriety of another telling the Patriarch who he can ordain as a successor. It is his right to do so.

    Finally Denver’s comment intrigues me. First he tells us that the custom of calling the President the Prophet used to be reserved exclusively for Joseph. Then he says that he sustains the FP and Qo12 as prophets, seers and revelators. Perhaps I’m not understanding what he’s saying.


Comments are closed.