Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Priesthood Line of Authority

Priesthood Line of Authority

By: Ardis E. Parshall - September 30, 2008

One of the distinctive features of Mormonism is our claim that the authority to preach, bless, speak, and otherwise act in the name of God comes from an exactly traceable pathway from John the Baptist (in the case of the Aaronic priesthood) and Christ’s ordination of the apostles (in the case of the higher priesthood), the ordination of Joseph Smith by certain of those resurrected bearers of priesthood, and through an unbroken and precisely definable chain from Joseph Smith down to the rawest young deacon ordained this week in the farthest corner of the church.

That is to me to me something special, something definable and different and demonstrable, that all Mormon priesthood bearers should be humbled by yet proud of, something you all should be aware of and ready to demonstrate when asked. One of the bits of Mormon ephemera for which I have a great deal of affection is the little business card-size chart that many LDS men carry which traces their personal priesthood line of authority – the man’s own name is at the bottom, and usually within six or eight steps that ordination arrives at the Lord himself.

Do you know your own line of authority?

It used to be quite easy to trace. The church was much smaller, church membership records used to record the names of the men who had blessed, baptized, confirmed and ordained to each priesthood office, and a small group of general authorities did much of the Melchizedek priesthood ordaining throughout the church. It has gotten more difficult, but no less important, with the growth of the church, and especially with a development – or devolution – in church record keeping during the 1970s, when a decision was made to record on membership records only the dates, and not the names, associated with priesthood ordinations. The complexity of tracing a priesthood line of authority became so onerous on the staff of the Historical Department that for years they stopped providing that service, although you could still come in yourself or hire someone to sift through mountains of ward and stake records to trace an individual line.

For the past few years, and in part due to the miracles of digitization, the church, through the membership department, has again assumed the work of tracing lines of authority. The easiest way, of course, is to ask the man who ordained you to your current office – he may have the information at his fingertips. If that is not an option, you can send an email to with “PLA” (minus the quotation marks) in the subject line. (You could also telephone, but you’re likely to wait on hold for a very long time – if you’re reading this online, email is no doubt a far easier way to do it.) Back will come a form for you to provide as much of the following information as you can provide to assist the staff in their search:

  • Your full name, and current ward and stake
  • Your date of birth, address, and telephone number
  • Your current priesthood office, and the (approximate) date of ordination, the ward and stake where you were living then, and the name of the ordainer, if known
  • The names and approximate dates of any Melchizedek priesthood ordinations you may have performed since holding your current office (if you ordained an outgoing missionary, for instance, they may already have traced the line for that missionary; knowing of this ordination can save them the effort of retracing the same line)

Remember that you have only one valid line of authority – that of your current office (unless you are a bishop or patriarch, in which case you trace your high priest’s line). Please don’t ask that they trace multiple lines for your earlier ordinations to lesser offices – they won’t, and it’s irrelevant.

Remember, too, that your line of authority passes through the office a man held at the time he ordained you – if you were ordained an elder by an elder, and that elder later became a high priest, you still trace your authority through his ordination as an elder.

They may contact you for further information. When they have traced the line, they will mail or fax it to you (they do not email the line, at present).

I’d like to hear your thoughts about the priesthood line of authority, and especially of any occasions where knowing your own line, or someone else’s, has resulted in a story. Or anything else remotely related.



  1. Ardis and others (well, at least the non-contentious ones!),

    I was very pleased to find this post as I was searching for some Priesthood Line of Authority information. I’ve been helping people find their priesthood lines since 2002 when I started a home-based business preparing certificates and wallet-sized cards for people. I have had some tremendous experiences in tracking people down, including one that started in Arizona and ended up being in my own stake in Tennessee! Of course, I started before the church began keeping the records again. It’s not as necessary now, but just last month I was able to help someone who had been using the wrong line for years. To me, it has the same rewards as doing genealogy. It’s very cool to be able to do them in foreign languages as well–Spanish especially. I have Portuguese and German, but I would love to get French and Italian versions if you know anyone who could help!

    Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks for your post and comments! I’ve bookmarked your blog so I can come back and read more–you’ve got some awesome stuff!

    Comment by Terrie Soberg — July 15, 2009 @ 12:42 am

  2. Ardis, since this topic just came up again, I saw your comment in 21 about people wanting a line of authority for everyone who set them apart to a calling.

    When I was a teenager back in the ’70s, I got a book of remembrance (you know, with the long horizontal pages they had back then) with pre-printed pages to be filled out. The book had spaces to fill in the line of authority for every ordinance: blessing, baptism, confirmation, patriarchal blessing, marriage, ordination, and every person who set you apart for a calling. In addition, there were pages where you were supposed to graphically trace the authority of every person who ever laid hands on you, with photographs of every person in the line. The pages were pre-printed with Jesus, Peter, James, and John, and you would go forward from there. The book came with postage stamp sized photos of every living or dead general authority and every person in a general authority’s line with ordination information printed below the photo. That way, once you got back to a general authority, you had photos and information to go the rest of the way back.

    I did a page for my grandfather who gave me my baby blessing, because I had the information, but don’t think I did the photographs for anything else, though I filled in the forms with what little information I had for other ordinances. Even at the time, I thought it was going way overboard with the lines of authority. I couldn’t even tell you who set me apart for my callings.

    I would guess the requests for obscure lines of authority may have come from people wanting to fill in forms such as this.

    Comment by Left Field — July 15, 2009 @ 7:37 am

  3. You may be right, Left Field — I recall the photo charts for line of authority, but don’t remember directly all the possible ways that information may have been displayed. I don’t suppose there would be anything wrong with someone wanting to put that together today, except that it demands a lot of nonessential work from church employees and is a novelty rather than serving the purpose that the single effective line of authority has.

    The Book of Remembrance went out just before I was old enough to start compiling one. I kinda wish I had done it anyway!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — July 15, 2009 @ 8:45 am

  4. I suppose the idea was that every priesthood holder would have his line of authority printed on a card and pass it out every time he ordained or set someone apart. I know I got one from my patriarch, but I’ve certainly never gotten one from anyone who set me apart for a calling. My grandfather had one made with photographs, and my mother had the original photographic negative from which the cards were made. That’s how I got the photographs I needed to depict my blessing line of authority.

    I think my father got his line from Salt Lake for when he was an elder and ordained me a deacon and teacher. By the time I was a priest and elder, my father was a high priest, and I think he got a card from the guy who ordained him. I was ordained a high priest about 8 years ago by my stake president. He said he would give me his line of authority, but he never did before I moved away. I guess I should email him and see if he can send it to me.

    The don’t do Books of Remembrance anymore? I must be a few decades out of touch. I just thought they would be in a different format since they did away with the long genealogy forms.

    Comment by Left Field — July 15, 2009 @ 9:03 am

  5. No book of remembrance, at least not as an official church program beyond the “keep your personal history” mantra. You can still get packs of printed forms from private companies, printed on letter-size paper to fit in notebooks along with the current standard pedigree charts/family group sheets, but there’s no auxiliary promoting the keeping of a formal book of remembrance anymore. I’ll bet most readers under 40 are generally unfamiliar with the concept.

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — July 15, 2009 @ 9:17 am

  6. When I left on my mission, I had my Patriarchal Blessing reduced (to 5 1/2 x 8 1/2)and laminated with my Line of Authority on the back. Durable and easy to keep track of. It still fits in my scriptures. The steps are:
    [stake president]
    Matthew Cowley
    G.A. Smith
    (See #10)

    Dad had been ordained an Elder by his father, who had passed on by the time Dad was to be ordained a high priest. Dad had memorized his PLA, complete with dates, so he specifically asked that the ordination be performed by Bro. Olsen (who had ordained HIS dad) so his PLA wouldn’t change.

    Comment by Clark — July 15, 2009 @ 9:45 am

  7. Wow, that’s interesting. I guess I’d never noticed. I checked and found about an average of only one reference per year to a book of remembrance over the last twenty years, though it was mentioned as recently as February in the New Era.

    The pages I used for mine back in the 70s were of course also privately published, but I’m pretty sure the church produced the two-post binders and some other materials to go in them, in addition to the standard genealogy forms.

    My deacon’s ordination certificate from 1971 was book-of-remembrance size with holes pre-punched to form a page in the book. By the time I became a teacher, the certificate had shrunk to normal letter size. That long certificate was really a bad idea. Mine is still in the book of remembrance binder, but if anyone wants to use a different format, it’s going to be impossible to include their original certificates without folding. My patriarchal blessing (late 70s) was also on a legal sized form, but it was a vertical format and didn’t have holes punched.

    The long genealogy forms were also a problem because they had to be folded to type on them and no matter where it was folded, it seemed that some entries went across the fold. Rumor had it that one could get a typewriter with an extra long carriage to hold legal sized forms sideways, but I never saw one.

    Comment by Left Field — July 15, 2009 @ 9:56 am

  8. Clark, that’s the first time I ever heard that reason given for asking for a particular man to do an ordination, but why not? It’s really cool that he had the line memorized.

    Left Field, I’ve got a couple of advertisements for long-carriage typers that I can put up as a post. I don’t recall whether I’ve ever seen one in real life, either, but I remember a certain tone of envy in the voice when someone once referred to Sister So-and-So who did have one. Those long two-post binders made great coffee table books but lousy on-the-shelf books. I suppose as long as we were using them, it did make sense to print certificates and other docs to fit them, but converting to the standard three-ring binder must have been painful for those who had invested so much time in arranging and decorating their books of remembrance in the long format. Maybe that’s one reason why they went away — the enthusiasm couldn’t survive the transition.

    And I realize now that I didn’t acknowledge Terrie, who jump started this old discussion. If you’ve read this far, Terrie, thanks for your comment. Like you, I’ve faced having to redesign my business somewhat recently, when technology and decisions at the church library have opened options other than MY services to obtain the records people need. I’m starting to feel like a whale oil salesman in the early days of electricity, or like a buggy-whip manufacturer in the early days of the automobile.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — July 15, 2009 @ 10:04 am

  9. la presente es para solicitar mi linea de autoridad ya que en este momento la que yo tengo parece no ser beridica y deseo que si es posible se me confirmara nuevamente ,
    fui ordenado 29 jun de 1976 en la estaca camarones ciudad de mex. y pertenesia al barrio madero agradecere su atencin a esta solicitud atentamente abel mera m.

    Comment by abel mera mendoza — August 23, 2009 @ 9:13 pm

  10. Hermano Abel,

    Gracias por su pregunta. Favor de referirse al comentario #49. Debe de mandar un correo electronico como dice el comentario. Si tiene cualquier otra pregunta, anotela aqui. Gracias.

    Comment by Jared T. — August 23, 2009 @ 9:35 pm

  11. buenas noches

    Soy miembro de la iglesia desde el 17 de junio de 1984 fui ordenado elder por el Presidente de Misiòn John B. Keeler el 25 de noviembre de 1984 en el Distrito de Nuevo Laredo tamaulipas ( Hoy Estaca Nuevo Laredo )y quisiera contar con mi lìnea de autoridad.
    Desde entonces he servido en la iglesia. El 29 de mayo de 1988 fui ordenado Sumo Sacerdote por Juan Salais Caballero en la Estaca Piedras Negras Mèxico en Piedras Negras, Coahuila. El 8 de octubre de 1989 fui presentado y el 10 de octubre apartado como primer consejero al presidente de estaca en Piedras Negras y el 22 de noviembre de 1992 fui llamado como Presidente de estaca sirviendo por un perìodo de 9 años.
    Deseo saber si existe la linea de autoridad de John B. Keeler para contar con la mìa y si es la de èl la que debo de obtener o la de la ordenaciòn de sumo sacerdote. despuès de mi relevo como presidente de estaca fui llamado como obispo de mi barrio piedras negras 4

    Comment by JESUS ARTURO ROSAS HERRERA — February 4, 2010 @ 6:33 pm

  12. Hermano Jesus,

    Gracias por su pregunta. Favor de referirse al comentario #49. Debe de mandar un correo electronico como dice el comentario. Si tiene cualquier otra pregunta, anotela aqui. Gracias.

    Comment by Jared T. — February 4, 2010 @ 9:05 pm