How many priesthoods are there? I know there is the Aaronic and Melchezidek, but someone mentioned there was also the Patriarchal Priesthood?
Technically, there’s only one Priesthood. All other orders are appendages to that priesthood. That priesthood is/was called “the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God”.
“But out of respect or reverence to the name of the Supreme Being, to avoid the too frequent repetition of his name, they, the church, in ancient days, called that priesthood after Melchizedek, or the Melchizedek Priesthood.” (D&C 107:3-5)
In vs. 6 we then read: “But there are two divisions or grand heads—one is the Melchizedek Priesthood, and the other is the Aaronic or Levitical Priesthood.”
So that’s scriptural. Two grand heads.
But, as you have heard, and many others as well, is that there is something about a Patriarchal Priesthood. A third grand head perhaps? Well, not exactly.
There is something called the Patriarchal Priesthood. It’s also sometimes referred to as the Patriarchal Order. But it is not a grand head or division of the priesthood like unto the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods. However, there are plenty of teachings about it:
Joseph Smith taught:
“There are three grand orders of priesthood…
…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.”
And Joseph Fielding Smith taught:
“…the Lord conferred upon Aaron and his sons a Priesthood which was called after his name; and also that the first order was that which is called Evangelical, or Patriarchal, which was the Priesthood held by Adam and the antediluvians and even down to the time of Moses.” (Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., The Way to Perfection, p.211)
In point of fact, the priesthood itself (the Melchizedek priesthood and it’s appendages) is patriarchal. Joseph Fielding Smith also taught:
“The patriarchal authority has come down from Abraham through Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Ephraim. Why Manasseh, the older son of Joseph, was not chosen we do not know. If we had the full record, this matter would no doubt be made clear. All through the centuries from the beginning to the days of Moses, the patriarchal priesthood prevailed. Those who held this authority were high priests.” (Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., Doctrines of Salvation, Vol.3, p.161)
We can also read in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, (Vol.3,):
“In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints there are two priesthood divisions: the Aaronic and the Melchizedek. The highest order of the Melchizedek Priesthood is patriarchal authority. The order was divinely established with father Adam and mother Eve. They are the fount and progenitors of all living, and they will appear at the culmination of earth’s history at the head of the whole sealed family of the redeemed. The promises given to Abraham and Sarah pertain to this same order.”
As we read some of these quotes, it does seem like there may be, indeed, three divisions of the priesthood. But as we have read, the scriptures speak of only two. So what are we to understand?
President Boyd K Packer explained it thus:
There are references to a patriarchal priesthood. The patriarchal order is not a third, separate priesthood. (See D&C 84:6–17;D&C 107:40–57.) Whatever relates to the patriarchal order is embraced in the Melchizedek Priesthood. “All other authorities or offices in the church are appendages to [the Melchizedek] priesthood.” (D&C 107:5.) The patriarchal order is a part of the Melchizedek Priesthood which enables endowed and worthy men to preside over their posterity in time and eternity. (What Every Elder Should Know – And Every Sister as Well: A Primer on Principles of Priesthood Government)
We can gather from these and other quotes that the Patriarchal Priesthood is, as sometimes referred to, an order. What is an order, you ask. In this case I like to think of it as a club or organization of sorts. Or, as Merriam-Webster puts it: “a group of people united in a formal way: as (1) : a fraternal society <the Masonic Order> (2) : a community under a religious rule; especially : one requiring members to take solemn vows”
Note that last part about solemn vows.
So how does one acquire this order of the priesthood? Once more, we turn to the scriptures. D&C 131:1-2
“In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees;
“And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage];”
Think about what it means to be a patriarch. In fact, let’s go back to Merriam-Webster on it: “a man who is father or founder.”
So, tying that into D&C 131, we enter into marriage, and that is an order of the priesthood. Well what order could that be? What do we become when we are married? Husbands (or wives), and ultimately, fathers (and mothers). Moreover, it is the way in which we become founders of a family. It is the beginning our our patriarchy (for men. Matriarchy for women, obviously).
Clearly not just any marriage will do. Men may become patriarchs by definition when they marry by the world (or even simply procreate). But we do not enter the priesthood order of patriarchy unless we join the priesthood order of marriage, namely, marriage by sealing for time and all eternity in the temple of God.
Ezra Taft Benson clarified this when he taught:
“How did Adam bring his descendants into the presence of the Lord? The answer: Adam and his descendants entered into the priesthood order of God. Today we would say they went to the house of the Lord and received their blessings. The order of priesthood spoken of in the scriptures is sometimes referred to as the patriarchal order because it came down from father to son. But this order is otherwise described in modern revelation as an order of family government wherein a man and woman enter into a covenant with God, just as did Adam and Eve, to be sealed for eternity, to have posterity, and to do the will and work of God throughout their mortality.” (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p.257)
This is the patriarchal order and the patriarchal priesthood. It is the order of the priesthood wherein fathers preside in their homes. It is not a separate priesthood though. It is part of the Melchizedek priesthood. A man without one cannot belong to the other. It should also be pointed out that the other ordinances in the temple are distinctly tied into the covenants and rights belonging to the patriarchal order of the priesthood, and all of these culminate with the sealing covenant of eternal marriage (without which, many of the other covenants cannot be fulfilled).
There is a great deal more that is related to the Patriarchal Order/Priesthood, but it is beyond the scope of this question and answer. However, now that you understand what the Patriarchal Priesthood is, further research should be easy. Study fathers, presiding, family, temple endowments, marriage, covenants, the Abrahamic Covenant, etc. All these things, and many more, are a part of the Patriarchal Priesthood.