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David O. McKay Diaries – “Patriarchs”

Below you will find diary entries on the topic of “Patriarchs.” You can view other subjects here.

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Sat., 26 Mar., 1932:

“10:30 a.m.–According to appointment, met George F. Richards, and James E. Talmage as a committee appointed by the First Presidency to consider the question of successor to the late Hyrum G. Smith, Patriarch to the Church.”

Tues., 29 Mar., 1932:

“Besides regular duties, met with the committee appointed to consider who is the rightful successor to Hyrum G. Smith.  After about two and one-half hours deliberation and inquiry, we made our report to the First Presidency.  In consultation with them until 7:00 p.m.  Missed by General Board meeting.”

Thur., 31 Mar., 1932:

“In council with the First Presidency and the Twelve.  This was a very important meeting at which was considered most carefully and prayerfully the line of descent of the Partriarchal office in the Church.”

Tues., 27 Apr., 1937:

“Assisted President Grant in setting apart George F. Richards as acting Patriarch to the Church.”

Sat., 3 Oct., 1942:

“10:00 a.m.–Opening session of the 113th Semi-Annual Conference. The attendance this year is limited to members of the Priesthood of the Church.  The main feature of this morning’s meeting will be the message of the First Presidency and the sustaining of the new Patriarch to the Church.”

Thur., 3 Jan., 1946:

“10:30 a.m.–Met with President George Albert Smith regarding Joseph F. Smith (Patriarch).”

Wed., 1 May, 1946:

“9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.—First Presidency and Patriarch Joseph Smith.”

Fri., 12 Jul., 1946:

“Items discussed at First Presidency’s Meeting:

. . .

2. Joseph F. Smith (Patriarch) at 3:00 p.m.”

Wed., 1 May, 1946:

“9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.–First Presidency and Patriarch Joseph Smith.”

Wed., 30 Aug., 1950:

“Elder Henry D. Moyle came in and reported [on his trip with George Albert Smith to Hawaii]. . . .

Joseph F. Smith, who is not in good standing in the Church, took a prominent part in the Centennial Pageant in Hawaii.”

Mon., 16 Apr., 1951:

“Eldred Smith, Patriarch to the Church, then called at the office at my request.  Additional space for First Presidency’s offices was given consideration.  Brother Smith said: ‘If my room is more convenient for the First Presidency, I shall take another room; anything you want me to do will be all right.’  I told Brother Smith to get in touch with President Stephen L. Richards, who will probably use his offices.”

Tues., 17 Apr., 1951:

7:30 a.m.–Conference with President Stephen L. Richards.  Reported to him that I had a conference with Patriarch Eldred Smith regarding exchange of officers in order that the First Presidency might have more office space, and that Brother Smith had expressed a willingness to do whatever we wanted him to do.  Brother Smith will see President Richards and they will make their plans regarding the exchange of offices.”

Thur., 15 Nov., 1951:


[Note from Clare]  Mrs. George Heslop of South Weber Ward would like you to administer to her daughter Lou Jean Heslop, 18 years of age, who is mentally ill.  The doctors are advising that a female operation be performed upon her, yet her patriarchal blessing states that she will become a ‘mother in Israel,’ and if this operation is performed she will be unable to have children. Brother Tanner before he died advised Mrs. Heslop never to give up hope for this girl.  Harold B. Lee has given her a blessing, but the young girl feels that if you can give her a blessing she will get well.

Mrs. Heslop will call tomorrow morning to see if you will give her daughter a blessing.  She has been coming to the office off and on for several weeks.


2. Mrs. George Heslop who came in for an administration of her 18-year-old daughter, Lou Jean, was advised that Lou Jean’s name would be placed on the prayer roll of those to be prayed for at the meeting of the 1st Presidency & Council of the Twelve November 29. Also that her daughter should not be operated upon as advised by the doctor.  (Mental illness–operation to prevent her from having children.)”

Fri., 11 Jan., 1952:

“Elder [Delbert] Stapley called regarding the reorganization of the Moapa Stake.  Said that he had talked to President Bunker last evening by telephone and had asked for his suggestions regarding his successor.  He had named several persons.

I told Brother Stapley to see President [Stephen L.] Richards; that he is well enough to see him, and has some very definite ideas regarding the brethren in that Stake whom he knows very well.  I inquired of Brother Stapley if President Bunker had named Brother Empey, and he answered that he had not.  I remarked that Brother Empey is a very fine man.

It was agreed that Brother J. Harold Brinley, the first counselor, would not be strong enough to head the Stake.  Brother Bunker has recommended him as good Patriarch material; and stated that the present Patriarch wants to be relieved to do Temple work.  I said I thought it would have a good effect to appoint Brother Brinley as Patriarch at the time of the reorganization, but that he (Elder Stapley) should talk it over with President Richards.

Later, Elder Stapley called again and wanted to know my decision regarding Brother Brinley–I told him that that would be left to him; that he should study and discern whether Brother Brinley has Patriarch material in him, and then follow his impressions.”

Tues., 27 May, 1952:

“From 9 until 10 a.m.–Was engaged in First Presidency’s meeting.

It was decided at this meeting that I should look into the matter of patriarchal blessings for the people of Europe and report upon my return.  Pres. Stayner Richards has recommended that permission be granted under certain specified conditions for the giving of patriarchal blessings to our Saints in Great Britain.”

Thur., 31 Jul., 1952:

“[First Presidency meeting]  Matter of patriarchal blessings for members of the Church in Europe was considered.  I reported that Brother Stayner Richards earnestly requests that we consider the advisability of granting the people in Great Britain the privilege of having patriarchal blessings, suggesting some safeguards which seem to be ample.  I told Brother Richards the First Presidency and Twelve had ruled on the matter once before, and it would have to go before them before any change could be made. I stated that I felt we should not treat the matter hurriedly.”

Fri., 17 Oct., 1952:

“This morning at 8 o’clock I met by appointment, at his request, Brother Edward L. Clissold who discussed the following topics:

1. Patriarch for the Oahu Stake.  Henry D. Moyle agrees with Brother Clissold that a man by the name of Clinton J. Kawahele would be a good patriarch.  He is also good material for the Bishop of Laie.  He is only about 40 years of age.  I suggested that they make him Bishop of Laie for the present, and later he can be called to the office of Patriarch.  The experience he will gain as Bishop will increase his knowledge and understanding.

2. We decided that it would be a good thing to have the Kaluka Plantation appraised before we draw up any contract for renewal to the sugar company whose lease will run out in another two or three years.

3. Regarding the School:  I said that we had already decided to have the School there, and that I am surprised at the delays that have come.  We agreed in our consultation this morning that a master plan be drawn so that the buildings that are erected in the next two to ten years will be erected in accordance with this plan–thus far they have been built haphazardly.  However, before any firm be approached to draw this master plan, it will probably be advisable to turn the Sugar plantation owned by the Church over to the Stake Corporation Sole.–it is now under the management of the Zion’s Securities Corporation.”

Fri., 12 Dec., 1952:

“I called Eldred Smith, Patriarch to the Church, and told him that Elder Spencer Kimball and Bishop LeGrand Richards have been appointed a committee to read patriarchal blessings given by him.”

Thurs., 12 Mar., 1953

9:15 to 9:30 a.m.—Patriarch Eldred Smith called at the office.  Said he does not know where he is at, that he is receiving letters asking why he does not call the patriarchs together and have a meeting.  I explained that such a meeting is being called for Conference time, and that it will be under the direction of the Twelve, at which time they will be given instructions.  He said he could not understand why he is not the presiding patriarch.  I said that is explained in a letter from the Twelve, that his is not an administrative office.  The patriarch mentioned that he is told not to give any blessings other that patriarchal blessings here, and yet when he is in the stakes the Brethren will not permit him to do any setting apart or ordaining, but if anybody wants a special blessing they invite him to give it.  Later at our regular meeting, The Brethren of the Presidency felt there was no reason why he should not assist in setting apart high councilment or high priests quorum president, but that he should not ordain bishops or presidents of stakes.

I told the Patriarch that I would continue the discussion with him at some later time before Conference.

Wed., 22 May, 1957:

“3:45 to 4:45 p.m.  Eldred G. Smith,  Patriarch to the Church, called at the office and gave his side of what seems to him to have been a censure given to him by Elders Spencer Kimball and LeGrand Richards.

He then took a great deal of time referring to unpleasant conditions existing in his office.  He said that inasmuch as Sister Timmons was employed as a secretary in the office of the Patriarch before he (Brother Smith) was ordained as Patriarch to the Church, she still ‘assumes’ the right to make his appointments.  I answered:  ‘Well, haven’t you asked her to make your appointments, and to keep a record of them?’  He admitted that that was the case.

I further said to Brother Smith:  ‘That spirit should not exist in any office in the Church, and you should plan the affairs of your office so that there should be complete harmony and good will.’

Brother Smith said that he had another matter about which he wished to talk to me, but inasmuch as an hour’s time had gone by, and that I had an appointment, I told him that he would have to see me at some future time.

Thur., 11 Jul., 1957:


Patriarch to the Church — Duties of

The following was considered at the meeting of the First Presidency this morning:

The report of Elders Spencer W. Kimball and LeGrand Richards on their interviews with Patriarch Eldred G. Smith was read.

President McKay stated that the patriarch to the Church is under the direction of the First Presidency; he is appointed by the First Presidency and approved by the other General Authorities of the Church and sustained by them; that he is ordained and set apart by the First Presidency to be patriarch to the Church; and that it is his duty to be in his office ready to respond to any application, during reasonable hours each day, of any worthy member of the Church for a patriarchal blessing.  Formerly when transportation was not so good as it is today the patriarch travelled around the Church giving blessings.  The patriarch today should be in his office every day at regular hours whether he receives any calls or not and should be there when people come.  He is not under the direction of the Twelve, except as the Twelve may be authorized to visit or give instructions by appointment of the First Presidency.  A blessing given by a stake patriarch is a stake patriarch’s blessing, and not a blessing of the Patriarch to the Church.

President McKay reported that the Patriarch had come for an interview during which he informed President McKay that he felt that he (the Patriarch) had been neglected by the First Presidency, in not having been invited to the weekly meetings and to sit by the First Presidency.  President McKay explained to him that the weekly meetings of the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve deal with secular and spiritual matters relative to the administration of the stakes, wards, and missions, and that the Patriarch’s work is to give blessings and is not administrative.  President McKay told him that the matter would be considered with the First Presidency.

President McKay also reported that the Patriarch said that he had not been consulted in the selection of his secretary and that he resents the attitude of his secretary.

Fri., 17 Jan., 1958:

“Although our hearts were aching over the loss of a noble, loving brother, a devoted husband and father, nevertheless we were deeply thankful for the blessings of this day.

It is interesting to note that when Thomas E. was 11 years of age, he was given a patriarchal blessing by Patriarch John Smith who said in that blessing:  ‘It is the will of the Lord, and thy privilege, that you become a mighty man in Israel and live to the age of eighty and three.’  Thomas E. died in his eighty-third year.”

Fri., 6 Oct. 1961:

“7:30 a.m.

Bishop Carl W. Buehner called at the office.  He apologized for some of the statements he made in his address at the general conference meeting on Sunday, October 1, 1961.  ‘Really,’ he said, ‘if I had given way to my real feelings I would have bawled, and it would have been worse than what I did say.  I feel all right about my release as counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, and will do anything you want me to do.’

I told him that I had always felt impressed that he would represent the Church well in presiding over a mission in Germany, and that I had mentioned that fact particularly to him when I told him of his release as second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric.  I said that I was very much disappointed when he told me that he did not speak German, and that Sister Buehner’s health is not good.  I said, ‘I shall tell you this morning that I still feel to let you know that I should like you to preside over one of the German Missions.  I am not worried about your not speaking the German language – you know enough about it that you can fulfill a mission in that country.’  He said, ‘Oh, I can get along all right with it.’  Then he said, ‘I want to tell you that my patriarchal blessing says that I shall preside over a mission in the land of my birth.’  I told him that I am concerned about the health of Sister Buehner, and that I would give him three months to attend to her health needs – to have whatever operation she needs – and that I would see him again.

Carl W. Buehner, Mission President

We had some discussion in regard to appoint Bishop Carl W. Buehner to preside over one of the missions in Europe.  It was the unanimous sentiment of the Brethren after considerable discussion of the matter that Brother Buehner should be asked to preside over the new mission to be organized in Bavaria, Germany.  Someone had suggested, I mentioned, that Brother Buehner be asked to preside over the European Mission succeeding Alvin R. Dyer.  It was agreed that Brother Buehner should be called to preside over the new mission to be formed in Bavaria, Germany, and that he should be given three months in which to prepare to leave for the mission, and in which time his wife could arrange to have the proper treatment for her eyes.  It was agreed that the appointment should be publicized now, that doing so at this time would have a good effect under all the circumstances.  (This was changed later and Bishop Buehner was chosen second counselor in the General Superintendency of the Y.M.M.I.A. for the time being).

Thurs., 7 Feb. 1963:

“10:00 – 1:30 p.m.

“Was engaged in Council Meeting.  We had a very good meeting!  Among matters discussed were:

1)  Age for Patriarchal Blessings

Brother Spencer W. Kimball referred to an item in the minutes regarding the age for patriarchal blessings.

I said that there should be no minimum age at which members may receive patriarchal blessings; that this should be left to the inspiration of the Lord to the Bishop of the Ward where the party resides, and to the Patriarch himself.  However, I said that those to be given blessings should be old enough to appreciate, comprehend, and understand the significance of the blessing.

Brother Kimball suggested that this action be approved for inclusion in the new Handbook.

Sun., 13 Nov. 1966:

“9:00 a.m.

President Ernest L. Wilkinson of the Brigham Young University called at the apartment.

Sunday, November 13, 1966


2.  Patriarch Eldred Smith’s address to the students at BYU:

I had with me a copy of Eldred Smith’s address to the students at BYU on November 8 and read to the President that part that had to do with the Negro.  I told the President that I had considerable doubts as to whether that part of the speech should be printed, and that Brother Lee had suggested that I see him directly about it.  The President directed that no part of the address be printed.  I commented that I couldn’t understand why some people didn’t have better common sense, and the President remarked, ‘Neither do I.’

Thur., 27 Jun., 1968:

“At 9 o’clock this morning, feeling much better than I have for some little while, I called a meeting of the First Presidency. Presidents Brown, Tanner, Smith and Dyer were present.

Among the items we  discussed were:

Patriarchal Blessings – Fathers Not to Designate Lineage of Children 

There was called to the attention of the brethren a matter that was considered in the meeting of the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve May 23, 1968 pertaining to the giving of Patriarchal Blessings by fathers holding the priesthood. It was reported that Elder Bruce McConkie had stated while at the Brigham Young University where he gave a talk that the father, if he should receive the inspiration, can pronounce the lineage of his child. Some of the brethren of the Council did not agree with this statement. They felt that there should be no dispute over the right of the father to give his son a father’s blessing and let it be recorded in the family records if that were desired, but they would question the statement that the father, in giving his son a father’s blessing, could declare his lineage and call if a patriarchal blessing as compared with an ordained patriarch’s right to declare the lineage. President Dyer said that President John Taylor had stated that if the father has had a patriarchal blessing wherein his lineage was given to him, he can, under certain circumstances, also pronounce the lineage of his son in giving him a blessing. President Tanner commented that the father and son sometimes do not have the same lineage.

The brethren were all agreed, however, that even in the event the father may have the power to designate the lineage we should discourage fathers throughout the Church from pronouncing the lineage of their children. I stated that this is definitely right.

Thurs., Jul. 3, 1969:

“President Tanner, accompanied by Secretary Joseph Anderson, met with President McKay at 12:30 p.m. and presented the following matters and actions were taken as indicated:

Patriarchal Blessings Behind the Iron Curtain

President Tanner reported to President McKay that at a recent meeting of the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, it became the recommendation of the Council that Percy Fetzer, who is a Regional Representative and looking after our saints behind the Iron Curtain in East Germany, be ordained a patriarch and given permission when he visits Dresden and other areas behind the Iron Curtain to give blessings to worthy saints in that area.  It was explained to the president that a new mission was recently organized in East Germany, of which Henry Burkhardt was made the president.  He was also ordained a high priest by Brother Monson at that time.  President McKay agreed that this was a good thing to do.