Grampa Bill's General Authority Pages
Joseph Smith, Sr.
Joseph Smith, Senior
Patriarch to the Church
Presiding Patriarch

        While other denominations, notably the Eastern Orthodox churches, have an officer which they style as a Patriarch, both the name and the function of Patriarch to the Church is unique to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that an "evangelist" (as in Ephesians 4:11) is a "patriarch" (TPJS, p. 151); that is, he confers the blessings of a Patriarch upon members of the Church. The Patriarch to the Church is one of only two positions in the Church to which one may be called by right of birth (and, of course, worthiness).

    The first Patriarch to the Church called in this dispensation was Joseph Smith, Sr, father of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr. At his death, his oldest surviving son, Hyrum, received the call to serve. With the exception of a ten year interregnum when acting Patriarchs were called, the call has remained in this birthright family.

    Before 1979, the Patriarch to the Church was a Church officer whose chief duty was to confer patriarchal blessings on church members who did not have the service of Stake Patriarchs readily available to them. As more areas were absorbed into newly created Stakes, each of which was provided with a Patriarch, the local availability of Stake Patriarchs greatly increased, but for many years there was a Patriarch to the entire Church. He was one of the General Authorities, ranking just below the Quorum of the Twelve. Like the Presidency and the Twelve, the Patriarch to the Church is (was) sustained as a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator.

    In 1979 the office of Patriarch to the Church was retired "because of the large increase in the number of Stake Patriarchs and the availability of patriarchal service throughout the world." Eldred G. Smith was designated "a Patriarch Emeritus, which means that he is honorably relieved of all duties and responsibilities pertaining to the office of Patriarch to the Church" (CR [Oct. 1979]:25). Since the office of Patriarch is both a Priesthood office to which one is ordained and a position in Church hierarchy, to which one is called, Eldred G. Smith's ordination remains valid although the position is not filled.


Joseph Smith, Sr., 1833-1840
Hyrum Smith, 1840-1844
William B. Smith*, 1845
John Smith, (Brother of Joseph Smith, Sr.) 1849-1854
John Smith, (Son of Hyrum Smith) 1855-1911
Hyrum Gibbs Smith, 1912-1932
Nicholas G. Smith**, 1932-1934
Frank B. Woodbury**, 1935-1937
George F. Richards**, 1937-1942
Joseph Fielding Smith, 1942-1946 (This is neither of the two men by the same name who became President of the Church.)
Eldred G. Smith, 1947-1979

* Brigham Young stated that William B. Smith was entitled by birthright to the office of Patriarch to the Church. President Young ordained him to that office, but William manifested a spirit of rebellion and was rejected by The Church in General Conference. Thus he was never sustained. President Joseph Fielding Smith stated that he "was never legally installed in this office."

** These brethren are not of a lineage that holds birthrights to this office and are referred to as "Acting Patriarchs to the Church."

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