76: Patriarchs

Today, Denver addresses the following questions: “What can you tell us about Patriarchs and the Patriarchal priesthood? Is it on the earth now, and how can we learn more about it?”


Everything about the original form of priesthood, everything about what it is Abraham was seeking, all of this ties together because there is only one gospel. In The Lectures on Faith, the Second Lecture paragraph 37 to 53, there is a chronology given. I’m not going to go through the chronology, and you needn’t have brought it with you tonight. But that chronology is listed in The Lectures on Faith in order to save you the trouble of going through and tracking it yourself. It was important enough to Joseph Smith to put into The Lectures on Faith, so that you know how to reconstruct the fathers and who they were.

Noah was 502 years old when Shem was born. 98 years later the Flood came. Noah was 600 years old when the Flood came and Shem was 98. You can see that in paragraph 45 of the Second Lecture. Shem lived to be 600. Shem was 448 years old when Noah died. Shem was acquainted with both Noah and Abraham. Abraham lived to be 175 years old, and Shem was alive and a contemporary with him for 150 of the 175 years of the life of Abraham. Shem knew Noah. Shem knew those on the other side of the Flood, having lived with them for 98 years before the Flood. 

Abraham also had the records of the fathers from the other side of the flood. Look at Abraham chapter 1 verse 31: 

But the records of the fathers, even the patriarchs, concerning the right of Priesthood, the Lord my God preserved in mine own hands; therefore a knowledge of the beginning of the creation, and also of the planets, and of the stars, as they were made known unto the fathers, have I kept even unto this day, and I shall endeavor to write some of these things upon this record, for the benefit of my posterity that shall come after me.” 

Since Abraham was acquainted with the priesthood that belonged to the fathers, and since Abraham had a knowledge which reckoned from that priesthood, his knowledge went back to the time of the patriarchs. This knowledge included the beginning of creation, and therefore he knew about the planets, knew about the stars, in the form in which that knowledge was made known unto the fathers. Now go back to Doctrine and Covenants section 121, talking about our dispensation. Look at D&C 121: 28: 

A time to come in the which nothing shall be withheld, whether there be one God or many gods, they shall be manifest. [Because that’s included within the knowledge that the first fathers had. That’s included with what was here at one time.] All thrones and dominions, principalities and powers, shall be revealed and set forth upon all who have endured valiantly for the gospel of Jesus Christ. And also, if there be bounds set to the heavens or to the seas, or to the dry land, or to the sun, moon, or stars—All the times of their revolutions, all the appointed days, months, and years, and all the days of their days, months, and years, and all their glories, laws, and set times, shall be revealed in the days of the dispensation of the fulness of times—According to that which was ordained in the midst of the Council of the Eternal God of all other gods before this world was, that should be reserved unto the finishing and the end thereof, when every man shall enter into his eternal presence and into his immortal rest.” 

This is part of what we are expected to have given us, if we were interested enough to receive it. Abraham, unlike us, was interested. Abraham was not merely talking about something in this verse, Abraham 1: 31 but it becomes one of the major themes of his record. We read later on in the book of Abraham about the various stars shown to him, and the relationship between them. Then in Facsimile 2, there is an effort to lay out a relationship in the heavens, between certain positions of glory and authority and a configuration of the sky. Abraham’s record is a testimony about this knowledge of the heavens which was part of the original gospel that was entrusted to the fathers, and those records were handed down to him. We are told, likewise, in Doctrine and Covenants section 121 that is part of what is supposed to be included within, and is ultimately scheduled for revelation to, those who will receive the restoration of the Gospel, when it is fully upon the earth in the dispensation of the fullness of times. This knowledge can only return to us through revelation. When it does return, then we, like Abraham, will be at last in possession of the Gospel Abraham knew, studied and taught. 

The Egyptians tried to preserve the things that came down from the beginning, as we read in the book of Abraham. The Pharaoh “sought earnestly to imitate the order that came down from the beginning.” (Abr. 1: 26) Pharaoh succeeded in large measure in doing that. He was a righteous man, “Pharaoh, being a righteous man, established his kingdom and judged his people wisely and justly all his days, seeking earnestly to imitate that order established by the fathers in the first generations, in the days of the first patriarchal reign, even in the reign of Adam, and also of Noah, his father.” (Abraham 1:26.) Pharaoh was not out there freelancing. He was trying to imitate something, and Egypt generally did a commendable job of preserving some things that had fallen into decay elsewhere. But the restoration through Joseph Smith, and the promises that were made to the fathers, and the statement that was made by Moroni to Joseph on the evening that he came to him, when he reworded the promise given through Malachi, all of these are pointed to something that is, at this moment, still incomplete. This points to a work that at this moment is still undone; a project that remains for us, if we will receive it. But it will require revelation from heaven to be able to restore it. Therefore it will require people willing to receive new revelation.

When Zion does come to pass, heaven will look down and see what is to them, so comfortable, and so familiar, that it appears to accurately reflect a pattern that exists in the heavens. When they see we have that here, then they who come not only will not burn them up, but they will instead fall upon them and they kiss their necks. This will be because, at last, they had a sister and brother on the earth, united by belief, united by covenant, united by knowledge, united by light and truth, or in other words, the glory of God, which is intelligence. The purpose of the Gospel has always been, to inform, edify, to raise up, to instruct. It was never meant to be reduced to something that is merely repetitious. It was intended to challenge you to your very core. What you do and what you think and how you act is intended to make you godlike in your understanding. 

If you view priesthood as a brotherhood or an association, then I want to suggest, that the way in which you should parse the three orders of priesthood, is to parse them this way: As among men, it’s merely a brotherhood of men. As between mankind and the heavens, the first order, is an order in which there is an association between men and angels. The second order, is an order in which there is an association between mankind and the Son of God. And third order, the highest order, the patriarchal order, brings one into contact with the Patriarch, who of all the names that He could choose to be called by, chooses to have us call Him, our Father who art in heaven. The third grand order being sonship to the Father and association with Him who sits in the bosom of eternity, and who sustains all of His creations.

The highest priesthood is an association with the Father, brought about as a consequence of the Father calling the recipient to that status with the words, “My son.” It is the Holy Order after the Son of God, because those who inherit it become, by definition, one of His Sons. They are the Church of the Firstborn, because they are in association with and made by the Father equal to all those who rise up to be Firstborn. 

The other reason why I think patriarchal ought to be viewed as the highest form, is because the priesthood which began with Adam was a single form of priesthood which was a Holy Order after the Order of the Son of God. That priesthood after the Order of the Son of God descended from Adam down to the time of Enoch, and then it got renamed the priesthood after the order of Enoch. These are the “Patriarchs” and therefore their priesthood, in the original form of the Holy Order, can be rightly named “Patriarchal priesthood” because it was the priesthood of the original Patriarchs of mankind.

When Adam promises that the priesthood that was at the beginning, is going to return at the end of the world also (Moses 6: 7-8), he was talking about return at the end of the world of that priesthood which was held by the original patriarchs. He held this authority at a time when for generations, it was unitary, there was only one form of priesthood belonging to these patriarchs. The correct original designation of that priesthood is, the Holy Priesthood, or The Holy Order after the Order of the Son of God. It’s a long name, but it was that priesthood that was held by the patriarchs. As a consequence of it being that priesthood, held by the original patriarchs, which was in the beginning of the world and is to return at the end of the world also, I would prefer to regard the highest order, under the name designation of, Patriarchal Priesthood. 

If you go to Doctrine and Covenants section 84, verse 6 it says: “And the sons of Moses, according to the Holy Priesthood which he received under the hand of his father–in–law, Jethro.” Just to remind you, Jethro was a Midianite. He was a descendent of Midian born to Keturah. Keturah was the wife of Abraham after Sarah. After Sarah died Keturah bore Abraham children, one of whom was Midian. The birthright had already been given to Isaac. There is so much about the priesthood that has yet to be clarified (and I think that is a good thing. And I am not going to clarify enough for mischief to ensue.) But the fact the matter is, that priesthood Abraham had was different from the priesthood handed down through Midian. These differ. Priesthood that descended down and came to Moses did not possess the birthright. It did not possess that and its associated privileges. Therefore, it was not the same authority previously belonging to the Patriarchs. It was something less, something different.

Moses obtained priesthood through Jethro the Midianite, who was not even an Israelite. Midian was genealogically the same generation as Isaac (he was Isaac’s half-brother). It would be Isaac’s son Jacob, who would be named Israel, and it was Israel who possessed the birthright priesthood. Therefore Moses inherited a form of priesthood that was by its very nature, lesser than the one tracking the birthright. It was enough, however, to bring Moses into God’s presence. This is one of the reasons why the prophets of the Old Testament all had to be ordained directly by heaven in order to inherit the authority they held. 

Because of apostasy by the overwhelming majority of Adam’s posterity, Abraham was born into apostasy. Abraham’s struggle to overcome an apostate world qualified him to be the father of the righteous. His struggle to return and reclaim faith is the model mankind would see, with very few exceptions, forever after. He was the prototype of “everyman” in a post-deluge world, cut off from God, the Patriarchs and the Garden. Abraham’s chosen son, with whom the covenant would continue, was Isaac. God renewed the covenant with Isaac, and again with Jacob, and again with Joseph. But Abraham married after the death of Sarah. His wife, Keturah, bore him sons also. Among these was Midian. Generations later, the chosen line was devoid of priesthood, but through Midian a descendant named Jethro was still a “priest” whose line of authority reckoned back generations. This priest who had seven daughters, ordained Moses to the very priesthood that allowed him to enter God’s presence. From this we know the “house of God” extended beyond the Biblical narrative involving Abraham’s lineage. God’s house included generations of righteous, priesthood empowered, independently functioning families lost to the scriptural record and our memory.

Anciently it was by descent through a family line. In Adam’s day the eldest worthy, surviving son (Able was replaced by Seth) held the priesthood in each generation. The accounts in Moses 6: 10-23 and in D&C 107: 41-53 are both preserving the priesthood lineage during the era of the Patriarchs. Abraham reconnected to that line, and reestablished Patriarchal authority for himself and four generations that followed. Following Moses, the tribe of Levi and family of Aaron held office. In the LDS Church common consent has been used for all but one office, the Patriarch to the Church. It was filled through patrilineal succession. Hyrum, as the older brother, held this “by right” (D&C 124: 91) which would continue “from generation to generation, forever and ever.” (D&C 124: 96.) That office has been discarded, its last occupant, Eldred G. Smith, was made emeritus by President Kimball October 6, 1979, and died April 4, 2013, at which point that line came to an end. That also will require a new restoration, which will be part of the dispensation completion in this day.

QUESTION: As a second witness then, which you have proclaimed you are, how is the Savior working through you to continue the restoration, he began through Joseph Smith?

DENVER: God could, does, and will work through anyone who awakens and then pays attention. There’s an army of witnesses and awakened individuals that are being assembled by God. It’s required to know him, and I know him. I’ve been taught and understand his gospel. The first task is to assure people that he lives and that his gospel exists as an authentic method for saving souls. The second task is to remember the restoration Joseph gave his life to begin.

We’re ungrateful when we fail to remember and practice it. At the moment, there is almost no clear understanding of that gospel. I’m working to set that out in a comprehensive way. It’s never been completed. There’s a great deal prophesied to roll out as part of the restoration that has not even commenced! Do we have Zion? What about the lost teachings of the brass plates? Do we have the rest of the Book of Mormon? Do we have the testimony of John? Do we have restored knowledge of the Jaredites? The list could be very long. But the fact that there is a list, tells us that the restoration must resume at some point in order to be completed. We don’t have it on the table, but we’ve forgotten what we once had. So the first job is to show that we are grateful enough to remember. And to remember it in a fulsome, comprehensive way. Before God is going to say, now I will permit it to move forward. We haven’t gotten to the point of remembering yet. Which is why we ought to be studying a lot more diligently the material we got in the restoration. We ignore it at our peril.

QUESTION: In the Phoenix or Mesa lecture (9-9-14), you stated,

“The Lord has said to me in His own voice, ‘I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you.’ Therefore, I want to caution those who disagree with me, to feel free, to feel absolutely free to make the case against what I say. Feel free to disagree, and make your contrary arguments. If you believe I err, then expose the error and denounce it. But take care; take care about what you say concerning me for your sake, not for mine. I live with constant criticism. I can take it. But I do not want you provoking Divine ire by unfortunately chosen words if I can persuade you against it.”

In Genesis 12:3, The Lord said unto Abraham, “I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee.” Abraham was further blessed to be the father of many nations, that in him “shall all families of the earth be blessed.” Abraham was a prophet. Isaac and Jacob were prophets. Abraham referred to the Fathers going back to Adam. You spoke about that in the talk on plural marriage and elsewhere. It seems there is something significant about connecting to the Fathers. Abraham was a patriarch. The LDS Church no longer has a presiding patriarch, or even such an office. Is there a patriarch on the earth today who can connect us to the Fathers?

DENVER: The simple answer is that there is always one on the earth. That has been true from Adam to the present time. Remember that in Nauvoo the Lord offered to connect the saints. A clearly defined condition for that to happen was necessarily an acceptable temple where he could come and restore the connection. The reconnection is ordinance-based and will require an acceptable temple before it goes beyond the single representative. 

The notion that Christ has a mission, has a destiny for mankind, the idea that His glory necessarily encompasses us, the idea that the temple anciently divided things into three levels of holiness, and the idea that His plan is robust enough, that His glory is robust enough to provide for both the immortality on the one hand and eternal life on the other hand, of mankind, suggests a Lord who is collegial, who is friendly, who is social, who is as interested in you as you may be curious about Him. A person who, in describing His own glory necessarily includes within it others, is the kind of being worthy of worship and worthy of admiration. 

In January of 1844, this is some eight years post Kirtland temple, Joseph is talking about Elijah and he said:

(This is taken from [a talk] in front of Robert E. Foster’s hotel nearby the Nauvoo temple, then under construction, from Wilford Woodruff’s journal. He put quotes in it too. Good for Wilford. He’s better than my transcription machine in that respect.)

“The Bible says, “I will send you Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord (of course, he misspelled “dreadful”. He spells it like “dredlocks” instead,) Come that he shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children & the hearts of the Children to their fathers lest I Come & smite the whole earth with a Curse,’ Now the word turn here should be translated (bind or seal) But what is the object of this important mission or how is it to be fulfilled, The keys are to be delivered the spirit of Elijah is to Come, to be delivered, to come, the gospel to be established, the Saints of God gathered, Zion built up, & and the Saints to Come up as saviors on Mount Zion but how are they to become Saviors on mount Zion[?] by building temples erecting Baptismal fonts & going forth & receiving all the ordinances, Baptisms, Confirmations, washings, annointings, ordinations & sealing powers upon our heads in behalf of all our Progenitors who are dead & redeem them that they may Come forth in the first resurrection & be exalted to thrones of glory with us.” 

Then Joseph laments. This is the only guy. This is an important talk, and this is the only guy who records this, Wilford Woodruff. Woodruff records Joseph saying:

“I would to God that this temple was now done that we might go into it & go to work & improve our time & make use of the seals while they are on the earth & the Saints have none to much time to save & redeem their dead, & gather together their living relatives that they may be saved also, before the earth will be smitten.”

This is the place where Joseph says – he is talking about Elijah. He is talking about the seals being on the earth, and he’s talking about preparing for Zion. In this context, in January of 1844, this is where Joseph says:

“Their has been a great difficulty in getting anything into the heads of this generation it has been like splitting hemlock knots with a Corn doger for a wedge & a pumpkin for a beetle, Even the Saints are slow to understand I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God, but we frequently see some of them after suffering all they have for the work of God will fly to pieces like glass as soon as any thing Comes that is Contrary to their traditions, they Cannot stand the fire at all, How many will be able to abide a Celestial law & go through to receive their exhaltation I am unable to say but many are Called & few are Chosen.”

In March of 1844 he picks up the subject again; on March 10, 1844. This time, when he is talking about Elijah, he says, 

“The spirit & calling of Elijah is ye have power to hold the keys of the revelations ordinances, oricles powers & endowments of the fulness of the Melchezedek Priesthood & of the Kingdom of God on the Earth & to receive, obtain and perform all the ordinances belonging to the Kingdom of God even unto the sealing of the hearts of the fathers unto the children & the hearts of the children unto the fathers even those who are in heaven.”

The hearts of the fathers who are in heaven; that’s the mission of Elijah. If you will receive it, this is the spirit of Elijah – that we redeem our dead and connect ourselves with our “fathers which are in heaven.” 

“Go to and finished the temple and God will fill it with power and you will then receive more knowledge concerning this priesthood.”

This statement is another reason I suggest the third, or highest form of the priesthood should be called “Patriarchal priesthood.” Joseph’s words suggest that ordination to what I call the middle/Melchizedek priesthood could occur outside the temple. He had given those ordinations to others. But for what he calls the Patriarchal priesthood it required something which by its nature, necessitated the completion of the temple, and required the presence of God. To restore this fullness, as the revelation given in January 1841 recounts, needed God to come: “For there’s not a place found on the earth that he may come to and restore again that which was lost onto you or which he has taken away, even the fullness of the priesthood.” (D&C 124: 28.) This highest form requires Him, God, to come to that place, and for Him, God, to restore to you that which has been taken away, the fullness. As Joseph put it: “Go to and you finish the temple. God will fill it with power. You will then receive more knowledge concerning this priesthood.” 


The foregoing are excerpts taken from:

  • Denver’s 40 Years in Mormonism Series, Talk #4 entitled “Covenants” given in Centerville, UT on October 6th, 2013
  • Denver’s 40 Years in Mormonism Series, Talk #5 entitled “Priesthood” given in Orem, UT on November 2nd, 2013
  • Denver’s 40 Years in Mormonism Series, Talk #10 entitled “Preserving the Restoration” given in Mesa, AZ on September 9th, 2014, including footnote 51 found on page 10
  • A Q&A session entitled “A Visit with Denver Snuffer” held on May 13, 2015
  • Denver’s talk entitled “Christ’s Discourse on the Road to Emmaus”, given in Fairview Utah on April 14, 2007
  • Denver’s talk entitled “The Mission of Elijah Reconsidered”, given in Spanish Fork, UT on October 14th, 2011