The Church History department has published a guide to research your priesthood line of authority in the article “Priesthood Line of Authority Research Guide” which appears below:
“Through the priesthood, God accomplishes the work of salvation and exaltation. The priesthood authority and keys needed to direct God’s work on earth were restored to the Prophet Joseph Smith. […] These keys are held by Church leaders today. They call and authorize others to assist in God’s work.”1
A priesthood line of authority is “a sequential pattern of ordinations that can be followed back to the early beginnings of the Church and ultimately to the Savior.”2 This orderly chain ensures that God’s priesthood authority has been received in an unbroken line from Jesus Christ and that “no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.”3 It is determined by the priesthood office held by an ordination’s officiator at the time the ordination occurs. For example, if a father who is an elder ordains his son to the office of elder, the son’s line of authority is traced through his father’s ordination to the office of elder. The line of authority would then follow the man who ordained the father, then the man who ordained him, and so on. If the father is later ordained to the office of high priest, his son’s line of authority remains unchanged, as he was ordained when his father was still an elder.
Some unique circumstances occasionally apply when researching a line of authority:
- A priesthood line of authority is not recorded for Aaronic Priesthood conferral or ordinations.
- A priesthood holder with the office of Seventy may be included in a member’s personal line of authority, but no separate line of authority is maintained for the office of Seventy.4
- Ordained bishops and patriarchs trace their priesthood line of authority through their high priest ordination.
- A priesthood line of authority may not be requested for someone whose membership has been withdrawn.
Although a line of authority is not an official Church record, a Melchizedek Priesthood line of authority can be requested from the Church Membership and Statistical Records Department. Members may request line of authority information for themselves, a child living at home or on a mission, or a deceased ancestor.
To request a line of authority, follow these instructions:
- Send an email to lineofauthority@ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
- To receive the priesthood line of authority request form in English, type “PLA” in the subject line. For Spanish, enter “PLA SP” in the subject line. For Portuguese, enter “PLA PT” in the subject line.
- You will receive a return email with additional instructions for completing your request.
Sometimes, though, a line of authority (even one requested directly from the Church, as above) may be incomplete—in the past, priesthood ordinations were not always recorded as meticulously as they are today. An incomplete line of authority “does not negate the validity of a member’s priesthood ordination if it was authorized by the proper authority and recorded on the official records of the Church.”5 However, you may still want to complete the line as best you can, and the Church History Library can possibly help.