Dear 100 Hour Board,
Recently my mom attended a single adult conference; she was excited to go because the church patriarch was going to be there to speak. Neither one of us knew there still was a church patriarch, or what he does. Unfortunately, he couldn't make it, so the mystery remains:
who is the church patriarch, what does he do, why do we still have one, and does he have to be a descendent of the Smith family?
At the second session of General Conference, on Saturday, October 6, 1979, this statement was made by President N. Eldon Tanner as he began the sustaining of Church officers: "Before presenting the authorities for the vote of the conference, President Kimball has asked me to read the following statement: Because of the large increase in the number of stake patriarchs and the availability of patriarchal service throughout the world, we now designate Elder Eldred G. Smith as a Patriarch Emeritus, which means that he is honorably relieved of all duties and responsibilities pertaining to the office of Patriarch to the Church." The Church Almanac for 2008 reports that "No Patriarch to the Church has been sustained since October 6, 1979." And there's no anticipation that one will be called in the future.
Eldred G. Smith, who will be 101 years old in January, and his second wife, Hortense, have traveled throughout the Church presenting firesides, which are reported to be extremely interesting and informative. He has many artifacts which belonged to his great-great grandfather, Hyrum, the brother of Joseph. Inasmuch as he became emeritus in 1979, his title is honorary only. He does not, in any way, function as Patriarch to the Church.
So, what was the responsibility of the Church Patriarch when there was one? He would give patriarchal blessings to people who traveled to Church Headquarters for blessings because patriarchs weren't available in their home area. At times the President of the Church would assign him to travel to areas of the world where patriarchal services were not available.
Much thanks to Mama Sleuth for her help with this question!
~ Dragon Lady