Explaining Priesthood Lines

The majority of priesthood lines are very straightforward, but there are some that are a little more complicated.

The following information will be helpful in understanding how the Priesthood Line of Authority works.

Jesus Christ ordained Peter, James, and John, who ordained Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.

Joseph Smith ordained Lyman Wight who ordained Sidney Rigdon and Martin Harris.

Oliver Cowdery ordained David Whitmer.

Joseph and Oliver ordained Frederick G. Williams together.


These men became part of one of two groups, either the Three Witnesses or the First Presidency.

  • The Three Witnesses of the Book of Mormon were Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris.
  • The First Presidency consisted of Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams.

The Three Witnesses were called by revelation to choose the Twelve Apostles and on February 14, 1835 were “blessed by the laying on of the hands of the Presidency.”


They ordained the following as Apostles:

Lyman E. Johnson
Orson Hyde
William E. M’Lellin
William Smith
Brigham Young
David W. Patten
John F. Boynton
Thomas P. Marsh
Heber C. Kimball
Luke S. Johnson
Orson Pratt
Parley P. Pratt

These apostles were ordained on different dates. The majority of Priesthood Lines of Authority come through Brigham Young or Heber C. Kimball who were both ordained on February 14, 1835.

The First Presidency confirmed the ordinations by the laying on of hands (History of the Church, Vol. 2, pages 187-188.)

The apostles went forth on their missions and as they ordained men to offices in the Priesthood, these ordinations were recorded and passed down for posterity.

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