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My husband was excommunicated for apostasy months ago.  He doesn’t recognize the excommunication and claims to still have the patriarchal priesthood. He uses that priesthood to prepare the sacrament and baptize and rebaptize our two young sons. Are these baptisms valid? He is performing them in a pond and without the authority and permission of the bishop.  He can’t still hold a patriarchal priesthood, can he?





Dear Bri,

There is some backstory here that you need to have before we get to the answer to your question (which is actually pretty straightforward).  First, the background:

Ever since the Church renounced plural marriage and began excommunicating those who refused to stop the practice, a number of splinter groups have made the claim that the Church has no right to restrain or revoke a man’s priesthood.  One of the leaders in developing this argument, John W. Woolley, seized on an early sermon of Joseph Smith’s, given on August 27, 1843.  In that sermon, between discussions of the Melchizedek and Aaronic priesthoods, Joseph noted:

The 2nd Priesthood is Patriarchal authority.  Go to and finish the temple, and God will fill it with power, and you will then receive more knowledge concerning this priesthood.  History of the Church 5:554-556.

Woolley twisted this observation and argued that while the LDS Church held the keys to the Aaronic andMelchizedek priesthoods, it had no control whatsoever over this third, “patriarchal” order of priesthood.  Not-coincidentally, Woolley himself had been an ordained patriarch and a temple worker before his apostasy.

Woolley’s argument is still made by fundamentalist Mormons today, and they have also been given something of a renaissance through the writings of a prolific ex-Mormon named Denver Snuffer who has made numerous allegations against the Church leadership and has apparently been encouraging his followers to go through re-baptisms like the ones your husband has performed.

Now, there is–for lack of a better word–a “system” of interactions, primarily familial in nature, that is often called the “patriarchal order” or the “patriarchal priesthood”.  But, even in the August 27 sermon, Joseph was clear that this order was subordinate to the Melchizedek Priesthood (the transcription in the History of the Church may not be very clear on this, but Franklin D. Richards and James Burgess each kept their own notes which both reiterate this point).  On another occasion Joseph pointed out that  while there were different orders or degrees of priesthood, “All priesthood is Melchizedek”.  Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 180.

All of this leads us back to your question about whether your husband, having been excommunicated, may continue to exercise his priesthood independently of Church authority.  The short answer is “no”.  In Doctrine and Covenants 107:65-67, we read:

Wherefore, it must needs be that one be appointed of the High Priesthood to preside over the priesthood, and he shall be called President of the High Priesthood of the Church;


Or, in other words, the Presiding High Priest over the High Priesthood of the Church.


From the same comes the administering of ordinances and blessings upon the church, by the laying on of the hands.

The right to perform ordinances and blessings lies with the First Presidency.  When I baptize my grandchildren I do not do so because I, independently, hold priesthood keys.  I do it because I have been delegated the right to perform that ordinance, by a priesthood leader who does have the keys.  To separate oneself from the priesthood leadership of the Church, is to separate oneself from all priesthood authority–whether it be Aaronic, Melchizedek, or Patriarchal.





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