Need for Valid Priesthood Authority


 Joseph Smith taught that marriages sealings without proper authority were not valid. While modern polygamists and Mormon fundamentalists claim genuine authority, researching their lines of authority demonstrates severe problems. Ceremonies performed by false authority bring condemnation.

Doctrine and Covenants scripture D&C 132:18 states that any plural marriage that is not authorized by the “one” man holding the keys of sealing “is not valid neither of force when they are out of the world.”  Joseph Smith held the keys in his day and Brigham Young after the Prophet’s death.

Early Church leaders solemnized plural unions using the priesthood keys held by the senior apostle who rises to that position through seniority based on the date of his ordination as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles within the Church (see D&C 112:16-18). LDS Church presidents claim an orderly succession of sealing authority from Joseph Smith to Thomas S. Monson through the office of Church President, who has always been the senior apostle. They control the sealing authority, which they allow only for monogamous ceremonies today.

Joseph Smith taught this principle plainly. On one occasion his brother Hyrum, who was serving as Assistant Church President, proceeded to seal a couple without his consent, Joseph being absent from Nauvoo at the time. Brigham Young later referred to this occasion saying that no one could “act on the sealing principle only as he was dictated by Joseph.  This was proven, for Hyrum did undertake to seal without counsel.”[1]  When the Prophet returned and discovered what had occurred, he strongly cautioned Hyrum saying that if he ever did it again, “he would go to hell and all those he sealed with him.”[2]  Joseph annulled Hyrum’s actions and later resealed the couple.

LDS scholar, Andrew Ehat wrote: “This early experience with regard to the authority to perform marriage sealings… illustrates the exclusive authority that Joseph Smith held: That certain of the presiding keys of the priesthood were not to be delegated.”[3]

Three years after the martyrdom, W. W. Phelps married three wives without Brigham Young’s authorization. Although Phelps had clearly embraced a polygamous lifestyle, Young excommunicated him, because his marriages were not performed by proper authority, telling him he had committed adultery.[4]

Polygamists after 1904 broke away from the Church, but they did not take valid authority with them. Today, some perform plural unions without any authority at all, apparently believing that Joseph’s teachings are inaccurate and that simply trying to live the principle will be bring blessings.

Many modern polygamist describe a historical line of authority leading back to Joseph Smith. However, research demonstrates the faultiness of the  claims. Some report their authority came through invlalid offices like High Priest Apostles or the Right of the Firstborn or through non-doctrinal councils like the Council of Seven Friends (or Priesthood Council).  Examining their claims reveals that the law of witnesses (2 Cor. 13:1, D&C 6:28) was not followed by leaders such as Lorin C. Woolley, A. Dayer LeBaron, Elden Kingston, and others.

A few polygamous authorities claim a new dispensation of authority by angelic beings directly from heaven.  However, Joseph Smith was told he was bringing in the last dispensation (D&C 27:13).

Individuals who embrace Joseph Smith’s teachings about plural marriage must also believe his revelations about sealing authority. Plural marriage is a commandment that can be revoked, but the need for proper authority to seal any eternal marriage, monogamous or polygamous, is always required, or it “is not valid” in the next life.

sources of authority table black

[1]  . Brigham Young to William Smith, 9 August 1845, Brigham Young Collection.  E. Gary Smith, “Patriarchal Crisis of 1845,” 34; Ehat, “Introduction of Temple Ordinances,” 266, fn 212.

[2] Ehat, “Introduction of Temple Ordinances,” 71.

[3] Ibid., 47-48.  Only “one” man can preside, a position that cannot be delegated or ignored.

[4] Richard Van Wagoner and Steven C. Walker; BYU Studies Vol. 23, No. 1, pg.6.