Lesson 10: Patriarchs and Patriarchal Blessings

Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part A, (2000), 69–76


The purpose of this lesson is to help us understand the role of patriarchs and to prepare us to receive a patriarchal blessing.

Introduction

The Lord loves all His children and desires to bless them. Our actions and choices, however, determine the extent to which He can bless us. President Joseph F. Smith said: “Every person will receive his just reward for the good he may do and for his every act. But let it be remembered that all blessings which we shall receive, either here or hereafter, must come to us as a result of our obedience to the laws of God upon which these blessing are predicated” (“What is to Become of Such as Me?” Improvement Era, Nov. 1912, 71).

When we receive our patriarchal blessings, we are told many of the blessings Heavenly Father has in store for us in this world and in eternity. These blessings will be ours if we live true and faithful lives. Knowing these things in advance can motivate us to be worthy to receive the blessings promised to us.

What Is a Patriarch?

Patriarchs are fathers. Adam was the first patriarch, and he was responsible for blessing his posterity and helping them live righteously. One of the last acts of service Adam performed for his children was to give them a patriarchal blessing.

In a vision Joseph Smith saw Adam calling his children together and giving them patriarchal blessings. Then he saw the Lord appear to them, and Adam foretold what should happen to his family. Speaking of this great event, the Prophet Joseph Smith said, “This is why Adam blessed his posterity; he wanted to bring them into the presence of God” (see Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 158–59).

The word patriarch is also the title of an office in the Melchizedek Priesthood. In the organization of the Church in Jesus’ time, patriarchs were called evangelists (see Ephesians 4:11). When the Church was restored, this priesthood office was also restored. Joseph Smith explained that “an Evangelist is a Patriarch. … Wherever the Church of Christ is established in the earth, there should be a Patriarch for the benefit of the posterity of the Saints” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 151).

Most stakes of the Church have one worthy Melchizedek Priesthood bearer who is called and ordained under the direction of the Quorum of the Twelve to be the stake patriarch. As a high priest, he has the authority to perform any duty a high priest can perform; but because he is a patriarch, he also has the specific responsibility to bestow blessings on members of the stake who seek patriarchal blessings.

Patriarchs have the right and are inspired to give patriarchal blessings in the name of the Lord. These blessings can bring comfort in hours of sorrow or trouble, can strengthen faith, and can help motivate us to live worthy of the blessings the Lord has in store for us. (See Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 3:170.)

What Is a Patriarchal Blessing?

  • Show visual 10-a, “Patriarchal blessings reveal lineage and promise blessings that can be obtained through righteous living.”

    patriarchal blessing(click to view larger)

    10-a, Patriarchal blessings reveal lineage and promise blessings that can be obtained through righteous living.

In 1957 the First Presidency of the Church explained that a patriarchal blessing contains an inspired declaration of lineage. We are also given inspired and prophetic directions and promises about our missions in life. These blessings include promises of spiritual gifts, temporal blessings, advice, and warnings that will help us accomplish our life missions. (See First Presidency letter to stake presidents, 28 June 1957.)

One important part of a patriarchal blessing is the declaration of our lineage, which tells us through which tribe of Israel we receive our blessings. Because of our ancestry, we are entitled to receive, according to our righteousness, the same blessings given to Adam, Abraham, Jacob, and other great prophets of God. (See Eldred G. Smith, in Conference Report, Apr. 1971, 145–47; or Ensign, June 1971, 100–101.)

When we joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we became heirs of Heavenly Father. This means that we will receive all the blessings that Heavenly Father has for us—if we live righteous lives. These are the same blessings promised to Abraham. Members of the Church are either directly descended from Abraham or adopted into one of the tribes of Israel because they have accepted the true gospel. (See Romans 8:14–17; Galatians 3:26–29; D&C 63:20; 86:8–10.)

Another important part of a patriarchal blessing is the insight given us about our missions while in this life. Through our patriarchal blessings, Heavenly Father tells us what our purposes are here on earth and how to accomplish them. The fulfillment of our blessings, however, is conditional.

Elder John A. Widtsoe taught that some of these blessings may not come in this life: “It should always be kept in mind that the realization of the promises made may come in this or the future life. Men have stumbled at times because promised blessings have not occurred in this life. They have failed to remember that, in the gospel, life with all its activities continues forever and that the labors of the earth may be continued in heaven” (Evidences and Reconciliations, arr. G. Homer Durham, 3 vols. in 1 [1960], 323).

  • Ask the assigned class member to share his testimony of the guidance and support his patriarchal blessing has been to him in his life.

Receiving a Patriarchal Blessing

To receive our patriarchal blessings, we must meet certain personal requirements. We must:

  1. 1.

    Be worthy, baptized members of the Church.

  2. 2.

    Have a desire to receive direction from the Lord.

  3. 3.

    Have studied the gospel and know the purpose of patriarchal blessings.

  4. 4.

    Be mature enough to appreciate the significance of and receive encouragement from the blessing.

  5. 5.

    Receive a recommend from our bishop or branch president.

  6. 6.

    Make an appointment with the stake patriarch to receive our patriarchal blessing.

Before we go to receive our blessing, we should pray to prepare ourselves spiritually, and we should pray for the patriarch that he may be inspired on our behalf. We may also fast to prepare ourselves.

  • Ask the assigned class member to describe how he prepared to receive his patriarchal blessing.

When patriarchs give us our blessings, they record them. They do this so they can give us a printed copy of our blessing. A copy is also filed in the official records of the Church. This way, if any of us ever loses his blessing, he can get another copy of it from the Church.

Because a patriarchal blessing is personal and sacred, it should be kept in a safe but convenient place. Its content should be shared only with close family members. In order for our patriarchal blessings to help us, we should study them often. As we do, we will know what we must do to receive the promised blessings.

Conclusion

The following story shows how one person was blessed when he worked faithfully to follow the counsel given to him in one part of his patriarchal blessing.

“I had always felt that I had some purpose in life, and that I would accomplish a great mission, but I did not know how I was going to bring this to pass, for I reached my adult years without having learned to adequately read or write.

“I thought I was as smart as the other boys, but my scholastic record indicated otherwise—I was a straight F student. A special battery of school-administered tests, that were based on reading, indicated that I was not too bright—that perhaps I shouldn’t even be walking around by myself. Very simple academic skills the other boys accomplished easily were too difficult for me. As a teenager, I was once asked by one of the other boys to spell the word gas, something I could not do. With a record of nothing but failure, I began to feel that I must actually be stupid, just as people had been implying for some time, and were now actually beginning to say about me.

“I ‘graduated’ from high school only because this seemed the simplest way for the school to rid itself of the problem of trying to educate a student they judged to be incapable of learning even the simple third-grade skills of reading.

“Strangely enough, my first contact with the truths of the restored gospel came when I was fourteen years old and attempted to read one of the books I found in the family bookcase. I had come across a Book of Mormon that belonged to my mother, who had been baptized a member of the Church in the rural south of Tennessee many years before. But, because of her isolation from other Church members, she was never taught much about the gospel and soon drifted away, so she was lacking in the knowledge and desire to teach her children the gospel contained within that Book of Mormon.

“I struggled through the testimony of Joseph Smith, reading only the simple words, and skipping the big words that I did not understand. It is not surprising that, at times, I read without any meaning at all, but for some reason a spirit came over me and I was convinced that what I was attempting to read was true. What I was able to read gave me a desire to know more about the Church, so that next Sunday morning, I hitchhiked across town to attend the Mormon Church. This was the beginning of an eight-year period I spent in accumulating a testimony of the gospel, sufficient that I finally … entered the waters of baptism at the age of twenty-two.

“Now that I was a member of the Church and had embarked upon the path to celestial exaltation, I was no longer content with my lack of personal development and achievement. I wanted to grow as an individual in worth and usefulness in his kingdom, and to do this, there was much I had to learn, including learning how to read.

“I then did as we have always been counseled to do when making decisions and plans that will affect our eternal progress—I turned to the Lord for his guidance, and it was given to me in a patriarchal blessing in which I was told:

“‘You are choice in the eyes of God, as was Paul of old, a chosen servant who has been given the power and ability to accomplish a good work. Continue in your search for knowledge and pray for wisdom that you might glorify your Heavenly Father with your intelligence.’

“If the Lord thought I was capable of learning, then I could learn! But I realized that this blessing was not to be taken for granted, that it would not be fulfilled automatically, without further thought or action on my part. The fulfillment of this blessing, as it is with all patriarchal blessings, was predicated upon my worthiness and being willing to do those things necessary to bring those blessings about.

“I now had the faith that with the Lord’s help I could learn if I would but apply myself, and this I did, studying from 6:00 A.M. until midnight, six days a week.

“I spent three hundred dollars on a set of records that contained the letters of the alphabet in basic terms. I spent night after night memorizing the alphabet, sounding out the letters, so that I could teach myself to read and write. I was still unable to spell very well, but I could read by breaking the words down phonetically until I understood them.

“Full of confidence in my new-found ability to read and spell, I enrolled in Ohio State University. I attempted to take notes as the professors lectured, but I was having difficulty in being able to spell the words sufficiently so that I could record them. I was still breaking nearly all my words down phonetically and, as a result, I was able to record only a small portion of the professors’ lectures in my notes. And without accurate and complete notes it was impossible for me to study and adequately prepare for the examinations, so again, my academic attempts ended in failure, and I was forced to drop out of the University.

“I was discouraged and began to doubt my ability to achieve academically, but I had been given a blessing and a promise that I could learn. So, realizing that the fulfillment of that promise rested solely upon my faith and works, I continued to work on my spelling and reading improvement.

“Taking the Lord at his word, that he would bless me if I did my part, I enrolled at Ricks College. I never missed completing my home teaching, and faithfully attended to all the responsibilities delegated to me by the Church—and studied eighteen hours a day. I still had to work at my reading, but I could now recognize words immediately, whereas before I had to break them down. When I went to take a test, I’d memorize every word in my notes, so I could spell them during the test. By the time I left Ricks, I could read well and was an honor student, graduating with a 3.6 grade-point average!

“I now hold a B.A. degree from Brigham Young University, having completed my desired studies with a 3.2 average.

“The promise of the Lord, ‘that I had been given the ability to accomplish a good work’ has been fulfilled, as will the other promises made to me in my patriarchal blessing, if I but have faith in him, and work to bring about the fulfillment of those blessings” (Dorvis Rodgers, “You Shall Glorify Your Father in Heaven with Your Intelligence,” in Margie Calhoun Jensen, When Faith Writes the Story [1973], 34–37).

This person was prepared and obedient; as a result, his patriarchal blessing was a source of guidance and comfort to him. We should exercise the same faith in reaching for the blessings promised us in our patriarchal blessings.

Challenges

Prepare yourself to receive your patriarchal blessing if you have not received it.

If you have received your blessing, read it frequently and strive to live worthy to receive the promised blessings.

Additional Scriptures

Teacher Preparation

Before presenting this lesson:

  1. 1.

    Ask a member of the class who has received a patriarchal blessing to share his testimony of the guidance and blessing it has been in his life. (Caution him that a patriarchal blessing is personal and should not be read to others. For the same reason, he should not be very specific about the promises and instructions given him in the blessing.)

  2. 2.

    Assign another class member to tell what he did to prepare to receive his patriarchal blessing.

  3. 3.

    Assign class members to present any stories, scriptures, or quotations you wish.