Patriarch (Latter Day Saints)
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In the Latter Day Saint movement, Patriarch (also called Evangelist) is an office of the Priesthood whose main duty is to give Patriarchal blessings to church members. It is considered to be either an office of the Patriarchal Priesthood or the Melchizedek priesthood. In some denominations, there is only one Patriarch, the Presiding Patriarch, who in some cases holds the highest office of the church organization.
Patriarch in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
In the early days of the Church, a single patriarch, known as the Presiding Patriarch or Patriarch to the Church, exercised his office throughout the whole Church. This office passed down through the male descendants of Hyrum Smith, who were among the Church's General Authorities. In 1979 Presiding Patriarch Eldred G. Smith was given emeritus status, meaning he retired from performing his duties. No successor was called to replace Smith as Presiding Patriarch.
With the organization of each stake, a Patriarch is ordained and called to serve the members of that stake. A Patriarch is chosen by the stake presidency and each selection is approved by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The selected man must be married, hold the Melchizedek priesthood, and normally be at least 55 years old. He must be ordained to the office of patriarch by an Apostle or the president of the stake where he lives (if the stake president has written permission from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to do so). A Patriarch retains his priesthood office for life. Though he can be released from his responsibilities because of age, illness, or other circumstances, he will still be able to function as a Patriarch if again called to do so. If a Patriarch who has previously been released is called to serve as a stake Patriarch again, he does not have be re-ordained, only set apart again, since holders of priesthood offices retain that office for life.
A Patriarch's primary responsibility is to give Patriarchal Blessings to members in his stake. He also has the authority to give such blessings to all of his descendants, regardless of what stake they are in. Unlike other priesthood blessings, patriarchal blessings are recorded and archived at Church headquarters. Under ordinary circumstances, a member will receive only one such blessing in his or her lifetime.
The priesthood calling Patriarch emeritus was created in October 1979, when the Patriarch to the Church, Eldred G. Smith, was released from his duties and given general authority emeritus status. Unlike the position of Presiding Patriarch, the Patriarch emeritus is not sustained by the church as a "prophet, seer, and revelator". Smith was the only Presiding Patriarch in LDS Church history to have been designated Patriarch emeritus. With Smith's death in April 2013, the LDS Church has not indicated the future of the role of Patriarch to the Church.
Fathers as patriarchs
In addition, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints considers a father to be a patriarch in his household, meaning that it is his duty to preside within his own family, taking the lead in spiritual matters within the home. This holds true even when the father is not a member of the church. Accordingly, it is proper for priesthood representatives who are visiting a home to defer to him. If he is worthy and holds the proper priesthood authority, it is likewise customary for the church to invite or allow him to officiate in priesthood ordinances for his own family, including giving his children "father's blessings", which are similar to patriarchal blessings. Such blessings may be recorded like patriarchal blessings, but are not forwarded to the LDS Church archives.
Patriarch in the Community of Christ
The Community of Christ retains the position of "Presiding Patriarch" or "Presiding Evangelist"; the ordination of women led the church to stop using the term "Presiding Patriarch" and to refer to those of the "Order of Evangelists" using only the term "evangelists" rather than using the terms "patriarchs", or "patriarch and evangelists" to refer to the members of that order. The Community of Christ practiced lineal succession in the office of Presiding Patriarch until the ordination of Roy Cheville to that office in 1958.
In the Community of Christ, calls to the office of evangelist originate from members the Council of Twelve Apostles following consultation with the Presiding Evangelist. They are approved by the Council of Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency, and vote is taken by either the World Conference or by a Mission Center conference to sustain and approve that call.
Evangelists give various kinds of blessings, including blessings on families, on congregations, and on individuals.