Presiding Patriarch

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In the Latter Day Saint movement, the Presiding Patriarch (also called Presiding Evangelist, Patriarch over the Church, Patriarch of the Church, or Patriarch to the Church) is a church-wide leadership office within the priesthood. Among the duties of the Presiding Patriarch are to preside in council meetings, ordain other patriarchs, and administer patriarchal blessings.

Originally, the office of Presiding Patriarch was one of the highest and most important offices of the church's priesthood. The role was equated by Joseph Smith, Jr. with Biblical patriarchs from Adam to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and it was expected that the office would descend through lineal succession from father to son. This precedent was set when Hyrum Smith, Joseph Smith's brother, became the second Presiding Patriarch because he was the eldest surviving son of the first Presiding Patriarch, Joseph Smith, Sr. When the office was given to Hyrum, he was given "keys of the patriarchal priesthood over the kingdom of God on earth, even the Church of the Latter Day Saints". Thus, some have argued that Presiding Patriarch is an office of the Patriarchal Priesthood. However, the existence and meaning of the Patriarchal Priesthood is controversial and uncertain.

The Community of Christ[edit]

In the major denominations of the Latter Day Saint movement, the role of the Presiding Patriarch diminished substantially after the death of Hyrum Smith. Today, the Community of Christ, formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, ordains a Presiding Evangelist who plays an important role as a world church leader, but it is not required that the person be a descendant of Joseph Smith's family. That tradition was discontinued in 1958 when RLDS Prophet–Presidents W. Wallace Smith, a grandson of Joseph Smith, Jr., presented Roy Cheville as a successor to Elbert A. Smith. Unlike Elbert A. Smith, Cheville was not a descendant of Joseph Smith, Sr.. Prior to 1984 Presiding Patriarch and Presiding Evangelist were used interchangeably for the one presiding over the Order of Evangelists. In 1984, the Community of Christ dropped the use the name Presiding Evangelist for this role, along with the change of name of the local office from Evangelist-Patriarch to simply Evangelist. The current Presiding Evangelist of the Community of Christ is David R. Brock.

Role within the Community of Christ[edit]

Within the international leadership Councils, Quorums, and Orders of the Community of Christ, the Presiding Evangelist serves as a spiritual companion, counselor and guide to the church and its leaders, and to the Order of Evangelists in fulfilling the significant ministry they provide, especially what the church considers "a time of transformation and change".

According to the church, Evangelists are ordained to be ministers of blessing, witnessing of Jesus Christ and responsive to the reconciling and redeeming influence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of persons, serving in multiple ministries according to the unique gifts and callings of each evangelist.

Chronology of the Presiding Patriarchs/Evangelist of The Community of Christ[edit]

Date Presiding Patriarch Notes
Joseph Smith, Sr.jpg 18 December 1833 – 14 September 1840 Joseph Smith, Sr. Father of Joseph Smith, Jr.
Hyrum Smith ca 1880-1920.png 14 September 1840 - 27 June 1844 Hyrum Smith Oldest surviving son of Joseph Smith, Sr.
Williamsmith.gif 24 May 1845 – 19 October 1845 William Smith Oldest surviving son of Joseph Smith, Sr.. Also referred to as "Petitioner for RLDS Patriarchate" from 1872 to 1893 by the Community of Christ (RLDS).[1]
Alexander Hale Smith.jpg April 1897 – 12 August 1909 Alexander H. Smith Brother of Joseph Smith III
Joseph R. Lambert.jpg 12 August 1909 – 20 April 1913 Joseph R. Lambert Acting Presiding Patriarch
Frederick A. Smith.jpg 20 April 1913 – 10 April 1938 Frederick A. Smith Son of Alexander H. Smith.
Elbert A. Smith.jpg 10 April 1938 – 4 February 1958 Elbert A. Smith Grandson of Joseph Smith, Jr. Son of David Hyrum Smith
4 February 1958 – 4 April 1974[2] Roy A. Cheville Left his professorial career at Graceland College to accept ordination. In 1974 he became "Patriarch Emeritus".[2] First person to serve in that office who was not a direct descendant of Joseph Smith, Sr.
4 April 1974[2] - 29 March 1982[3] Reed M. Holmes  
29 March 1982[3] – 5 April 1992[4] Duane E. Couey  
5 April 1992[4] – 5 April 1994[5] Paul W. Booth Presiding "Evangelist” became preferred title.[1]
5 April 1994[5] – 2000 Everett S. Graffeo  
2000 – 6 March 2006[6] Danny A. Belrose  
1 May 2006[6] – 27 March 2007 [7] Richard E. Kohlman Acting "Presiding Evangelist”
26 March 2007[7] David R. Brock  

Duties within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints[edit]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) effectively discontinued the office of Presiding Patriarch in 1979, indicating enough local patriarchs existed so that the church-wide position was no longer needed. Until that time, the role and duties of the office had varied. The Presiding Patriarch sometimes appointed local patriarchs in the stakes of the church and presided over them as a loose "Quorum of Patriarchs." Like the local patriarchs, the Presiding Patriarch was also empowered to give patriarchal blessings.

History of the Presiding Patriarch within the LDS Church[edit]

When a Presiding Patriarch has existed, the church has sustained the person as a prophet, seer, and revelator.[8] In the history of the LDS Church, there have been eight Presiding Patriarchs, three Acting Presiding Patriarchs, and one Patriarch Emeritus.

  • When the senior Smith was on his deathbed, he ordained his eldest son, Hyrum Smith, to succeed him in the office by right of lineal succession.
  • When Hyrum was assassinated with his brother Joseph, their only surviving brother, William Smith asserted his lineal right to the Patriarchate. William was duly ordained to the office by senior apostle Brigham Young in 1845. Later that same year, William was excommunicated from the church by Young for apostasy. After joining himself with a rival faction of the church, led by James J. Strang, William was sustained as Presiding Patriarch for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Strangite). He later left Strang's organization and asserted his own claim to be successor by right of lineal succession to the President of the Church (after joining himself with other factions for short periods of times).
  • John Smith was succeeded by Hyrum's son, John Smith, who was ordained in 1855 and served until his death in 1911.
  • This John Smith was followed by his grandson, Hyrum G. Smith, who was ordained in 1912 and served until his death in 1932.
  • Officially, the office was left vacant from 1932 until 1937. However, some church sources state that Nicholas G. Smith and Frank B. Woodbury served as Acting Presiding Patriarch from 1932 to 1934 and from 1934 to 1937, respectively.[9] These two patriarchs were not direct descendants of Joseph Smith, Sr., were not sustained to their positions in general conference, and it is unknown whether they were ordained or set apart as Acting Presiding Patriarchs. It is clear, however, that they fulfilled the duties normally performed by the Presiding Patriarch between 1932 and 1937.
  • In 1937 George F. Richards, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, was officially called, sustained, and set apart to the office of Acting Presiding Patriarch. Like Nicholas Smith and Woodbury, Richards was not a descendant of Joseph Smith, Sr., and therefore had no right to the Patriarchate based on descent. It is for this reason that he was considered to be merely "acting" in the capacity of Presiding Patriarch.
  • In 1942, Richards was released from his duties as Acting Patriarch and church president Heber J. Grant called Joseph Fielding Smith[10] to be the Presiding Patriarch. Smith was the son of apostle Hyrum M. Smith and a grandson of his namesake, former church president Joseph F. Smith, who himself was the son of Hyrum. Therefore, the new Presiding Patriarch qualified as a direct descendant of Joseph Smith, Sr. However, this was nevertheless the first time since the call of "Uncle John" that the church had departed from the practice of father-to-son or father-to-grandson lineal succession, for Joseph Fielding Smith was not a descendant of Hyrum G. Smith, who was in 1942 the most recent Presiding Patriarch that was not considered to be merely acting in the calling. Joseph Fielding Smith was released from the position of Presiding Patriarch in 1946 by church president George Albert Smith when it was discovered that he was having a gay relationship with another Latter-day Saint man.[11]
  • In 1947, the church returned to the practice of father-to-son lineal succession by calling Hyrum G. Smith's son, Eldred G. Smith, to the office of Presiding Patriarch. In 1979, the First Presidency announced that Eldred G. Smith had been honorably released and designated Patriarch Emeritus[12] because, it said, every stake had its own patriarch.[8] This administrative action has effectively discontinued the office within the LDS Church. Upon Smith's death on April 4, 2013, if the church were to fill the position by continuing the practice of father-to-son lineal succession, Eldred's son, E. Gary Smith, would become Patriarch to the Church, which is considered unlikely.[13] The LDS Church has not stated directly whether it will appoint a new Presiding Patriarch, though after Smith's death an official magazine of the church described him as "the last person to hold the position".[14] Gary Smith has co-authored a book expressing his agreement with the necessity and inevitability of the elimination of the office, and believes the church has discontinued the office[15] in part because of its discomfort with an inherited position.[8]

Chronology of the Presiding Patriarchs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints[edit]

Dates Presiding Patriarch Notes
Joseph Smith, Sr.jpg 18 December 1833 – 14 September 1840 Joseph Smith, Sr. Father of Joseph Smith, Jr.
Hyrum Smith ca 1880-1920.png 14 September 1840 – 27 June 1844 Hyrum Smith Oldest surviving son of Joseph Smith, Sr.
Williamsmith.gif 24 May 1845 – 19 October 1845 William Smith Oldest surviving son of Joseph Smith, Sr.
John Smith (uncle of Joseph Smith, Jr).jpg 1 January 1849 – 23 May 1854 John Smith "Uncle John"; brother of Joseph Smith, Sr.
John Smith (nephew)1895.JPG 18 February 1855 – 6 November 1911 John Smith Son of Hyrum Smith
Hyrum G. Smith2.jpg 9 May 1912 – 4 February 1932 Hyrum G. Smith Grandson of John Smith, previous Presiding Patriarch; great-grandson of Hyrum Smith
Nicholas G. Smith.jpg 4 February 1932 – 1934 Nicholas G. Smith
(de facto Acting Presiding Patriarch)
Son of Apostle John Henry Smith; grandson of Apostle George A. Smith; great-grandson of former Presiding Patriarch "Uncle" John Smith; was never officially called, set apart, or sustained as the Acting Presiding Patriarch, but carried out the functions of the office
Frank B. Woodbury.jpg 1934–October 8, 1937 Frank B. Woodbury
(de facto Acting Presiding Patriarch)
Unrelated to Smith family; was never officially called, set apart, or sustained as the Acting Presiding Patriarch, but carried out the functions of the office
George F. Richards 1920.jpg October 8, 1937 – 8 October 1942 George F. Richards
(Acting Presiding Patriarch)
Unrelated to Smith family; unlike Nicholas G. Smith and Frank B. Woodbury, was officially called, set apart, and sustained as the Acting Presiding Patriarch
Joseph Fielding Smith (presiding patriarch).jpg 8 October 1942 – 6 October 1946 Joseph Fielding Smith[10]
Great-grandson of Hyrum Smith; not a descendant of previous Presiding Patriarch Hyrum G. Smith; released by President George Albert Smith amid reports of homosexual activity. Restored to "priesthood status" in 1957.
Eldred G. Smith.jpg 10 April 1947 – 4 October 1979 Eldred G. Smith Son of former Presiding Patriarch Hyrum G. Smith; great-great-grandson of Hyrum Smith. Patriarch emeritus from 4 October 1979 to his death on 4 April 2013.
Position abolished

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Howard, Richard P. Lesson 2: A Brief Historical Survey of the Ministry of the Evangelist-Patriarch, page 13. Temple School Course PA 222: Evangelists: Sharing a New World of Blessing, Community of Christ.
  2. ^ a b c Doctrine and Covenants Sec 151:1a and 151:2
  3. ^ a b Doctrine and Covenants Sec 155:1a and 155:2a
  4. ^ a b Doctrine and Covenants Sec 158:2a and 155:2a
  5. ^ a b Doctrine and Covenants Sec 158:1 and 155:2a
  6. ^ a b Communication to the Church(Belrose Released): March 6, 2006
  7. ^ a b World Conference 2007: Official Minutes of Business Session
  8. ^ a b c d Stack, Peggy Fletcher (2013-04-05). "Longest-serving Mormon general authority dies at 106". Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved April 5, 2013. 
  9. ^ Ludlow, Daniel H., ed. (1992). Encyclopedia of Mormonism. New York: Macmillan Publishing. p. "Presiding Patriarch". ISBN 0-02-879602-0. 
  10. ^ a b Not to be confused with his uncle of the same name, Joseph Fielding Smith, who served as church president from 1970 to 1972.
  11. ^ Quinn, D. Michael (2001). Same-Sex Dynamics among Nineteenth-Century Americans: A Mormon Example. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. p. 370. ISBN 0-252-06958-7. 
  12. ^ "The Sustaining of Church Officers", Ensign, November 1979, p. 18.
  13. ^ Fletcher 2006.
  14. ^ Sarah Jean Weaver, "Elder Eldred G. Smith Dies at Age 106", Liahona, May 2013.
  15. ^ Bates & Smith, 1996.

References[edit]