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In the Spring of 1829 the priesthood was restored to the earth. In the early days of the Church, only adult males were ordained to the Aaronic or Melchizedek priesthood. In 1908, young men began to be ordained to the offices in the Aaronic priesthood in preparation to receive the Melchizedek priesthood. In 1978 all worthy males over age 12 were given the priesthood.
Priesthood holders meet with other members holding the same priesthood office in a group called a quorum. Depending on the quorum, they could be organized at either the ward, stake, or church wide level. Some priesthood quorums kept records of their members separate from their regular Church membership records.
Priesthood Quorum Records
Each priesthood quorum record may show the member’s birth date, birthplace, parents, baptism, confirmation, ordination, and when they moved in or out of the quorum. Originals and microfilms of priesthood records and quorum minutes are now available only at the Historical Department—Archive Search Room. Some of these records were once at the Family History Library but have been removed.
Only a few priesthood quorum records are indexed. The Early Church Information File (cited in the "Biography" section of this outline) indexes selected quorum records for seventies and high priests before 1876. This index is available on microfilm at the Family History Library and available to Family History Centers. The microfilms it indexes are available only in the History Department—Archive Search Room.
The records are usually organized at the ward or stake level. Some early Elders Quorum records are indexed in:
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Kirtland Elders Quorum. Kirtland Elders’ Quorum Record, 1836–1841. Distinctive Mormon Documents Series. Provo: Grandin, 1985. (FHL book 977.1334/K1 K2c). This includes meeting minutes by date, and biographical notes on over 280 participating members. It has a name and subject index. Also indexed in the Early Church Information File.
Seventies. Before 1877, Seventies records were organized by church-wide quorums no matter where the Seventy lived. These records often give the residence of quorum members. After 1877 the Seventies quorums were organized by ward or stake. These records often contain genealogical and biographical information. Some Seventies records are indexed in:
Black, Harvey B. Seventy Quorum Membership, 1835–1846: An Annotated Index of Over 3,500 Seventies Organized in the First Thirty-Five Quorums of the Seventy in Kirtland, Ohio, and Nauvoo, Illinois. Provo, Utah: Infobases, 1996. Lists birth, parents, wives, quorum, Nauvoo civil data, Nauvoo Church data, post-Nauvoo Church data, and sources. This is included in the LDS Family History Suite 2.
Nauvoo Restoration Incorporated. Nauvoo Seventies Index. [Salt Lake City, Utah: Nauvoo Restoration, 198-?] This index is only available in the Historical Department—Archive Search Room. It is an alphabetical list of names, with birth date and place or age, parents, residence, source, baptism, and ordination information.
The only priesthood quorum records available in the Family History Library are:
Biographical Record of Early Seventies. Salt Lake City: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1996. (FHL film 1750806). Indexed in the Early Church Information File.
The records are usually organized at the ward or stake level. For early High Priest records and index see:
Nauvoo Restoration Incorporated. High Priests of Nauvoo and Early Salt Lake to 1872. N.p., [198-?] This is an alphabetical index to the records of early High Priests in Nauvoo and Salt Lake City. It lists name, birth date and place, parents, ordination dates and places, and source information. This index is only available in the Historical Department—Archive Search Room.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake Stake (Utah). High Priest Genealogies, Salt Lake Stake of Zion. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1974. (FHL film 924617 item4). Records contain name, date and place of birth, names of parents, baptismal dates, date and place ordained a High Priest, and residence. Dates as late as 1899 are included. Some records are incomplete. Indexed in the Early Church Information File.
Other Ordination Information Sources
You can also find priesthood ordination information in these sources:
- Certificates. The ward or stake clerk prepared an official ordination certificate and gave it to the newly ordained member shortly after he received the priesthood. These certificates are usually only available among the records in the member’s home.
- Church Membership Records. Each priesthood ordination is included on a man’s membership records up to 1983. After 1983 a man’s membership record only shows his current priesthood ordination. See the "Membership Records" section of this outline for more information.
- Deceased Members File. For men who died between 1941 and 1983 this file shows each priesthood ordination. After 1983 it only lists a man’s most recent priesthood ordination. See the "Vital Records" section of this outline for details.
- Membership Department. If the Church has proof of a man’s death in 1976 or later, the Membership Department will provide the man’s most recent priesthood ordination. Telephone 801-240-3500 for more information.
- Priesthood Line of Authority. These records are usually found in the personal records of priesthood holders. The lineages may have been prepared by the members themselves, or by the Historical Department at the request of the priesthood holder. The Historical Department no longer provides this service. For further details see the following "Tracing Your Priesthood Line of Authority" section.
- Church Census Records. Church censuses give the office of each priesthood holder. Censuses were taken in 1914, 1920, 1925, 1930, 1935, 1940, 1950, 1955, and 1960. See the "Census" section of this outline for details.
- Missionary Records. Missionary records in the Historical Department—Archive Search Room usually include priesthood ordinations. The missionary indexes at the Family History Library do not have priesthood ordination records.
- Early Temple Records. Some early temple records show priesthood ordinations. In the early days of the Church, men were often ordained to the Melchizedek priesthood when they went to the temple to receive their endowment. The endowment registers have a column labeled "Ordained." If a man was ordained to an office of the Melchizedek priesthood, the name of the man who ordained him appears in the column. The column also notes if he was ordained to an office other than elder. The Endowment House, and early St. George, Logan, Manti, and Salt Lake temple registers contain these ordinations. The record of a man’s endowment may be the only place where his priesthood ordination is recorded. See the "Temple Records" section of this outline for more information.
Tracing Your Priesthood Line of Authority
The Church will no longer research priesthood lines of authority for you, but we can suggest records you can use to find this information for yourself.
Recent Ordinations. The easiest way to obtain a current priesthood line of authority is to request a copy from the individual who ordains you at the time of your ordination. You can then add your own name and ordination date to the line of priesthood authority.
How to Trace a Current Priesthood Line of Authority. If the person who ordained you does not have his line of authority, ask him what office he held, who ordained him to that office, and on what date he was ordained. You may need to contact the officiator to learn who ordained him and when. Continue in this way to trace the line back to a General Authority. Once the line of authority reaches a General Authority, it is relatively easy to trace the priesthood lineage to Jesus Christ using the sources in "General Authority Priesthood Lines" mentioned below.
If someone in your line of authority does not know who ordained him or when, ask him to check with his ward clerk. Current membership records show a priesthood holder’s most recent priesthood ordination. You can also search the other sources described in this section.
Trace the appropriate priesthood office. Be careful to trace the priesthood authority line of the person who ordained you, and the person who ordained him, and so on back, using the office he held at the time of the ordination (which is not always his current office). Furthermore, only certain offices are considered when you trace a person’s line of authority. Only the offices of Priest, Elder, Seventy (not the General Authority Seventies), High Priest, and Apostle are used. For other callings such as Bishops, Stake Presidents, Area Authorities, other Church officers, and General Authorities who are not Apostles, you must follow their priesthood lineage through their ordination as a High Priest.
Previous Priesthood Offices. From time to time a priesthood holder is asked to provide his line of authority for an ordination he performed while holding a previous priesthood office. Sometimes he can search his personal papers and find a line of authority for the previous office, or an ordination certificate for the previous office. You could also look in the rest of the other sources described in this section.
If someone in your line of authority has died. If the person died since 1976 and if the Church has proof of the person’s death, the Membership Department will provide recent ordination information. Telephone 801-240-3500 for more information. If the person died before 1977, search for his priesthood ordination information in the Deceased Members File (see the "Vital Records" section of this outline) or other priesthood records mentioned in this "Priesthood Records" section.
General Authority Priesthood Lines. When you have traced the priesthood lineage to a General Authority see:
"General Authorities’ Priesthood Line of Authority" Deseret News 1976 Church Almanac. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret News, 1976. (FHL book 289.305 D457). See page B51 to B54 for General Authorities ordained before 1976. This table shows all General Authorities up to 1976 and who ordained them. Use it to help trace a priesthood lineage back to Jesus Christ.
For the line of authority of an Apostle ordained after 1976, see the current edition of the Church Almanac, or contact his office.
Line of Authority Form. For an example of a blank form you can use to show a priesthood line of authority see page B55 of:
"Priesthood Authority Line" Deseret News 1976 Church Almanac. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret News, 1976. (FHL book 289.305 D457).