When He lived on earth, Jesus instructed his disciples with these words: "After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hollowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven." (Matthew 6:9,10)
The scriptures are replete with references to the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven, but in order to have a kingdom there needs to be a king who is the supreme ruler. Another aspect of a kingdom is that it has territorial boundaries. As such, some kingdoms are large while others are smaller in varying degrees. Yet, regardless of its size, the king is the highest authority within the area which comprises his kingdom.
It is also possible to have a king of a small kingdom rule within the boundaries of a larger kingdom. Such was the case during the time of Jesus. Although the nation of Israel was under the rule of Rome, the Emperor had appointed Herod to be the king over the Jews.
However, to have a kingdom, especially a large one, requires more than just a king. Although everyone under the king's authority is required to obey his commands, there needs to be a system of hierarchy or chain of command, with some people having power and authority over other people. If this wasn't so then the king would have no other choice than to personally insure that all his subjects carried out every one of his orders. Since no king wants to do everything himself, it's not only necessary, but also wiser for him to delegate portions of his authority to others and let them oversee the work that needs to be accomplished. This structure or organization of authority is known as a government.
Jesus taught that there is a kingdom in heaven where God, the Father, is the King. He also instructed us to pray for that kingdom to come here to earth. But a king is not effective unless his subjects obey him, therefore Jesus further stated that we should pray that the Father's wishes, commands, and instructions be done here on earth just as the citizens of the kingdom of heaven obey the Father's will.
The very fact that there is a kingdom in heaven, presided over by God, the Father, implies that there must also be a government, a hierarchy of authority, or a chain of command within that kingdom. Indeed, from the scriptures we know that there are heavenly beings known as archangels. Obviously, archangels must have more authority than just ordinary angels. Then there is mention of beings identified as "principalities and powers", which seem to indicate more of an organizational structure.
The Lord told Joseph Smith, "Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion" (D&C 132:8). Everything God does is done in an orderly and systematic manner. Consider the universe. The moon revolves around the earth, the earth revolves around the sun and the sun revolves around the center of the Milky Way galaxy all in perfect order and according to predictable laws, which eliminates confusion and chaos.
As Latter-day Saints we believe that our Church is the Kingdom of God on the earth, yet notice how it is organized. The President of the Church presides -- i.e., he has the right to dictate, give direction and issue commands -- over everyone in the Church. His authority is absolute in that no earthly mortal has the right to supercede, overrule, or annul anything he says. He is, in effect, the king of God's earthly kingdom.
But he doesn't regulate the Church without subordinates. Under his direction, are two counselors and under their combined direction is the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. In the early days of the Church, the next layer of authority was the Stake Presidents who presided over Bishops and twelve men known as the High Council. The Bishop presides over two counselors who then preside with him over such Ward organizations as the Aaronic Priesthood, the Relief Society, the Young Men, the Young Women, the Sunday School, the Primary, the scouting program and other areas. Each of these organizations are presided over by a president and two counselors who oversee the workers.
As the Church began to grow, the workload of the Apostles became more than they could humanly handle, so another level of authority was instituted, known as the General Authorities. As the Church continued to grow, Regional Representatives were added and then Area Presidents.
If we were to diagram this flow of authority we see a very complex but orderly organizational structure. Of course, this example would be only a skeletal drawing since the responsibilities of each of these levels of authority can be broken down into further levels of management to accommodate all the various duties that are necessary for the Church to accomplish.
All organizations are designed with some kind of hierarchy. In business there is the chairman of the board, who presides over the president of the company, who presides over vice-presidents, who preside over district managers, who preside over local managers, who preside over foremen, who preside over the workers. This form of governing the affairs of an organization is effective and efficient, and has been used throughout all recorded history simply because there is no better way to manage.
However, no organization exists just for the sake of existing. No matter how small or large, every organization has a purpose. The apostle Paul stated the mission of Christ's church this way: "And he gave some apostles and some prophets; and some evangelists; and some pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ" (Ephesians 4:11-12). Notice that in describing the objective of the church, he also explained the necessity for the hierarchy or organizational structure of the church in achieving those objectives.
But what happens when the earth is destroyed and renewed and we inherit the Kingdom of Heaven? Will there just be God, the King, and all the rest will be equal subjects? Or will there be a form of government, a hierarchy of authority, a chain of command?
We know that those who inherit the highest degree of the celestial kingdom will become gods, kings and priests (Revelations 5:10). More than that, the Lord explained to Joseph Smith that the worthy will receive crowns and become "rulers over many kingdoms" (D&C 78:15). A kingdom cannot exist without an organized, orderly form of government, especially if there are many kingdoms within the main kingdom. If that is so, then what will this form of government be like, how will it function and what will its purpose be?
The first key to understanding these questions is to understand the nature of the priesthood. The priesthood is the authority to preside within the kingdom of God on earth and in heaven. It is important to remember that the ability to preside means that a person has the right to give orders, to issue directives and to direct the affairs of those under their rule. For example, a Bishop presides over his Ward's Sacrament meeting. That means, he gives his consent to everything happening during that time. At any point in the proceedings he can exercise his right to change whatever is occurring and no one under his stewardship has the authority to override his decision. However, if the Stake President presides at that meeting, the Bishop still has the right to make decisions as long as the Stake President concurs with it. If a Regional Representative is also in attendance in an official capacity then his authority supersedes that of the Bishop and the Stake President. That's what it means to preside.
In the Kingdom of Heaven, only those who have the priesthood are allowed to occupy presiding-type positions. Those who do not hold the priesthood have no authority, and as such are mere workers.
In the beginning of earth's history, the first person given the priesthood was Adam. However, even without the priesthood, Adam presided over his family by virtue of his position as father. The term used in describing a family presided over by the father is known as patriarchal. Adam then was the patriarch of his family. As his sons grew to manhood and in righteousness, Adam, the patriarch, was able to confer the priesthood on them. The passing of the priesthood from father to son is known as the patriarchal order of the priesthood. It appears from the scriptures that from the time of Adam to Moses, the priesthood was mostly patriarchal in nature.
However today we don't follow that order. If we did, a man could, for example, ordain his son to the priesthood without the consent of his bishop or stake president (unless he was a literal descendant of these two men). On the other hand, the man would need his father's consent - expressed or implied - to perform the ordination. If the man's grandfather were still alive, then he would preside over all his sons and could overrule any of their decisions in the matter.
In heaven the priesthood is patriarchal in nature.
That is the reason for the Lord's words to Malachi when he said, "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse." (Malachi 4:5,6)
Before the resurrection, there must be a welding of generations; sealing children to their parents and connecting them to their parents to form one continuous link all the way back to Adam. When this work is completed, the righteous members of mankind who are worthy of exaltation will be united into one grand family organization or government.
A father has the right to preside over his children and their posterity, but a child doesn't have authority over the father. This is the natural order which God has instituted. In the resurrection, we will still follow that order, and that is why it is necessary to seal one generation to another. Since Adam is the first father and all other people in the world are his children, Adam, under the patriarchal order, has the right to preside over the entire human race.
In D&C 78:16 we're told, "Who hath appointed Michael [Adam] your prince, and established his feet and set him upon high, and given unto him the keys of salvation under the counsel and direction of the Holy One, who is without beginning of days or end of life."
Adam holds the keys of salvation for the human race, but does so under the direction of the Holy One, who is Jesus Christ. Joseph Smith further explained, "Adam is the father of the human family and presides over the spirits of all men, and all that have had keys must stand before him in this grand council [at Adam-ondi-Ahman]... The Son of Man stands before him [Adam] and...Adam delivers up his stewardship to Christ...but retains his standing as head of the human family" (D.H.C. 3:386-7).
The apostle Paul further explained, "Then cometh the end, when he [Christ] shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power" (1 Corinthians 15:24).
The priesthood is the authority to preside within the kingdom of God and the priesthood is patriarchal in nature. God presides over all of us because we are His children and He is our Father. Next in authority is Jesus Christ, and third in the chain of command or priesthood patriarchal hierarchy is Adam. From there each righteous father who has achieved exaltation presides over his children through each succeeding generation. In reverse, each person pays honor, respect and obedience to his father, no matter how many generations back he may go. For example, those who are from the lineage of Ephraim can call Ephraim, Joseph, Jacob, Isaac and Abraham their fathers but not Manasseh. Those who are descendants of Aaron can call him their father, but not Moses because he is their uncle. This is the government that will exist in the resurrection.
But what about Jesus? He was born in the meridian of time and can trace his genealogy back through King David to Abraham and then to Adam. Why then is He second in line of authority if the government of God is patriarchal? It would seem that Abraham should preside over Him and Christ should be submissive to Adam's authority.
In listing the genealogy of Jesus, Luke tells us that "Cainan which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam which was the son of God." (Luke 3:38) Adam was the son of God! As such, that puts him in direct lineage to God the father. But Adam was created, not begotten. Jesus had an earthly mother, but His literal father was God Himself. Jesus is the only begotten son of God in the flesh while Adam is the only created son of God in the flesh (as far as we know. Eve would be the only created daughter of God in the flesh on this earth.)
Although we are spirit children of God, because of Adam's transgression, he and all of his posterity have been cut off from the family of God and are no longer His children in a spiritual sense. Paul taught, "Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are [now] sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ" (Galatians 4:3-7).
Because of our acceptance of Christ's sacrifice for our sins and our obedience to the gospel principles, we are reborn into the family of God and become His sons and daughters through adoption! Jesus, on the other hand, is not adopted; He is the literal Son of God because He can trace His biological parental lineage directly to God the Father and was never spiritual cut off from the family of God through transgression.
In a physical sense Jesus is the true Son of God while we are step-children, received into the family of God through adoption by grace. Therefore, in the patriarchal order, a true son receives the birthright before a step-son. Consider the story of Ishmael and Isaac. Ishmael was born before Isaac but didn't get the birthright because he was the son of a handmaiden rather than the son of Abraham's wife (Genesis 21:1-21). Although Adam was born long before Jesus, Adam is a son through adoption and therefore must give obedience to Jesus, the literal true descendant of God.
Because the priesthood is the authority to preside in the Kingdom of God and is patriarchal in nature, it was therefore imperative that Jesus be born directly through the loins of God the Father instead of being reborn through the Spirit. Only in this way could He come to earth during the meridian of time and still occupy the supreme position of authority over all but the Father.
Since this government is patriarchal, does it mean that those at the top of the hierarchy will have greater authority and responsibility than those at the bottom of the chain? In other words, will Joseph Smith be given less authority in this government than Ephraim because he was born in the latter days? Does it mean that Joseph Smith Junior will be inferior in authority to his father, Joseph Smith Senior? Not necessarily.
If I run a business with the help of my sons, I could decide to put one of them in charge of presiding over my business. Although they might do a much better job than I ever could, they would still honor and respect me as their father while I would support and approve of their actions as president of my company. They could therefore serve in a greater capacity than I but would do so with my consent. In the government of God, everyone will be given assignments and authority suitable to their talents, skills and abilities, both temporally and spiritually, but that doesn't diminish the role of a father to preside over a son who is fulfilling a grander mission than himself.
But what is the purpose of such an organization?
The only place where this form of government will exist is among those who are worthy to inherit the highest degree of the celestial kingdom. This is the realm of exaltation, where those who so live inherit all that the Father has. As such, they will be gods, kings and priests simultaneously. We know there will be many kingdoms that will need a presiding ruler and we know that these gods will each beget an innumerable number of spirit children. Obviously there will be plenty of work to be accomplished. The celestial kingdom is not a place for rest and relaxation; it is a place filled with responsibility and eternal demands of enormous consequences that must be attended to. To successfully meet such an overwhelming mission, those so engaged will be structured into an effective and efficient hierarchy of command that will help glorify and strengthen the entire family of God.
This, then, is the purpose and goal of the government of God, not only in heaven but also on earth.
If the patriarchal order of the priesthood is the government of God's kingdom, where does the Holy Ghost fit in? We know that He is still a spirit (D&C 130:22), and we know that, like Jesus Christ, He was righteous enough to become a god before the earth was made. If the laws of salvation apply to all, then at some point in earth's history, the Holy Ghost must be born here to receive His physical body. However, that can't happen until His mission is completed, which will be when His function is no longer necessary. Under the patriarchal order of the priesthood, that would put His presiding authority at the very end of the family hierarchy. But it would be inconceivable that this glorious Being would not receive a presiding position in the government of God next to Jesus Christ.
It could be speculated that one way around this dilemma is that, near the end of the world, He would become the second begotten son of the Father. That would make Him a true Son instead of a step-son, but Jesus would still be the eldest and therefore retain His preeminent position of authority in the family order.
Another interesting point to ponder is, since the priesthood is patriarchal in nature, if Jesus had begotten children while He lived on earth, where would they and their posterity fit into the presiding hierarchy of the celestial family of God, seeing they could trace their biological lineage directly to God the Father through Jesus? Since this group of generations would be sealed to Jesus, the true Son of God, would that also mean they would not come under the patriarchal authority of Adam? If that was the case, there would be a large segment of the world's population that Adam would not preside over. On the other hand, if they did come under Adam's patriarchal authority, they would also come under Christ's patriarchal rule. Since Christ presides over Adam, this would create a dilemma of presiding authority for them.
It seems that, just as it was absolutely necessary for Jesus to be the only begotten of the Father in order for Him to take His place at the head of the family of God, it appears that it was just as essential that Jesus have no mortal offspring. In that way, it insured that Adam remained the only presiding authority over the entire human race, while doing so under the presiding direction of Jesus Christ.