President Harold B. Lee bore a beautiful testimony in his home ward recently and told of attending a funeral where the grown children of the deceased mother participated on the program. A daughter gave her mother’s life history. Then a son paid a tribute to his mother and closed by saying, “I would now like to tell you what the Lord said to my mother.” He read a paragraph from her patriarchal blessing. President Lee wondered how many of us have the faith to believe that the Lord does speak to us through the patriarchs.
Have you ever taken the time to find out what your Heavenly Father has to say especially to you? Do you have the faith?
As a church we have the priesthood and authority through which special blessings are given. As descendants of Abraham of old we are entitled to all the blessings promised him and his posterity. But there are other things we should know about ourselves. Only the Lord knows what our true lineage is, what is in store for us, what we should guard against, how we can serve, what our particular mission in life is, what we can be blessed with if we live true and faithful. These things we can learn through a patriarchal blessing given by proper authority and finally recorded in Church archives.
Reading the scriptural accounts of various kinds of blessings given down through the ages, it is marvelous to note the outcome of lives so blessed. The situations people required blessings for anciently are some we experience today.
Grandfathers today have been known to gather their families about them and, as family patriarch, give them a father’s blessing as a last effort before death. The blessing that old father Jacob gave to his grandsons (the sons of Joseph of Egypt) just before he died is remarkable. “Guiding his hands wittingly,” he placed the right hand upon the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand upon the head of Manasseh, who was the first born. And he said, “God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day,
“The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth. …
“In thee shall Israel bless, saying, God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh: and he set Ephraim before Manasseh.”
And so it was that the blessing and prediction was made by Jacob that the younger brother “shall be greater … and his seed shall become a multitude of nations.” (Gen. 48:14–20.)
Then Jacob went on to bless each of his twelve sons and to point out the paths of their future. Then he said, “All these are the twelve tribes of Israel: and this is it that their father spake unto them, and blessed them; every one according to his blessing he blessed them.” (Gen. 49:28.) And if you want fascinating reading, read Genesis 49 [Gen. 49] and note the kinds of promises and predictions made regarding these now-famous twelve tribes of Israel.
Later, Moses, the prophet whom “the Lord knew face to face,” blessed the posterity of these sons. He took each tribe of the children of Israel and asked God for certain favors in their behalf. For instance: “And this is the blessing of Judah … Hear, Lord, the voice of Judah, and bring him unto his people: let his hands be sufficient for him; and be thou an help to him from his enemies.” (Deut. 33:7.)
Of Joseph, Moses said many things by the power of God. He spoke about the precious things of heaven and earth and the fulness thereof that Joseph would be responsible for. Then Moses said, “… let the blessing come upon the head of Joseph, and upon the top of the head of him that was separated from his brethren … he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth: and they are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh.” And Moses died. Read Deuteronomy 33:14–17 [Deut. 33:14–17] for more details.
One of the warmest moments concerning blessings in the scriptures is described when Lehi gathers his grandchildren around him to bless them before he dies. Recorded in the Book of Mormon is the blessing he gives the sons and daughters of Laman. In part he says, “Wherefore, if ye are cursed, behold, I leave my blessing upon you, that the cursing may be taken from you and be answered upon the heads of your parents.
“Wherefore, because of my blessing the Lord God will not suffer that ye shall perish; wherefore, he will be merciful unto you and unto your seed forever.” (2 Ne. 4:6–7.)
Today we are seeing the fulfillment of that blessing, with Lamanite families coming into the Church, growing in the gospel, filling missions, holding the priesthood, contributing to society.
Choosing a wife was an important step in biblical times just as it is today. Yet how many of you young men received a father’s blessing before you went forth to choose an eternal mate? And brides, which of you have had the great comfort of a father’s blessing when you married? It is something to consider seriously for those of you who have not made the choice, and all of you for the children you’ll someday have who will also look for marriage partners. Such a blessing is a special bonus for being members of this church and can give a quality to marriage well worth having. People need all the help they can get at such a time!
When Abraham and Isaac decided Isaac needed a wife, a servant was sent forth to Nahor with the promise that an angel of the Lord would go before him. The servant was to ask for water of the first virgin who came to the well. If she answered that she would also draw water for the camels, this was the girl the Lord had chosen for Isaac. And Rebekah was this girl. She took the servant home to her family and he explained what was wanted. Before Rebekah left to join Isaac as his wife, she was given a blessing to this effect, “… Thou art our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of millions, and let thy seed possess the gate of those which hate them.” This delightful story is found in Genesis 24 [Gen. 24].
Now when Jacob, the son of Rebekah and Isaac, was going to find a wife, his father gave him a blessing. “… Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan.
“Arise, go to Padanaram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother’s father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother’s brother.
“And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people;
“And give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham.” (Gen. 28:1–4.)
I know a family where a father gave a blessing to his son who had been elected to an office at school. This is a family to whom living the gospel is a blessing itself and a personal privilege as well as a duty. Here was a chance for the son to be a light unto the world as a student leader. With the blessing he was given extra and important strengths, and he felt sustained in his new activity.
There are examples of fathers giving blessings to their sons at moments of leadership opportunity in the scriptures too. In 1 Chronicles 29:22 we are told that when Solomon was to become king after David, he was anointed unto the Lord in a special ceremony of “great gladness.” [1 Chr. 29:22] But before that he was given a father’s blessing by David in which he was counseled to “be strong and of good courage, and do it: fear not nor be dismayed: for the Lord God even my God, will be with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee, until thou hast finished all the work for the service of the house of the Lord … and all the people will be wholly at thy commandment.” (1 Chr. 28: 20–21.)
A beautiful lesson can be learned about Church calls and service before God by reading about the appointments of both Saul and David and the blessings given to them. The Lord didn’t know these men for the great deeds they had already done. David was a shepherd boy with little experience. Saul was a Benjamite, the smallest tribe of Israel, and as he told the prophet Samuel when he came at the command of the Lord to find Saul, “… my family [is] the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin … wherefore then speakest thou so to me?” (1 Sam. 9:21.)
These two were chosen for their service power, their potentiality to list to the Lord, to obey, to be magnified.
In 1 Samuel 10:1–9 we learn that Samuel “took a vial of oil, and poured it upon his [Saul’s] head, and kissed him, and said, Is it not because the Lord hath anointed thee to be captain over his inheritance?” Then Samuel told Saul of signs that would occur when he left, including his meeting a company of prophets. “And the Spirit of the Lord will come upon thee,” continued Samuel, “and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man.” Then the account goes on to tell us that when Saul had “turned his back to go from Samuel, God gave him another heart.” [1 Sam. 10:1–9]
Following in the footsteps of Moses, taking over his command, would be one of the toughest tests anyone could meet. This was the lot of Joshua, chosen to succeed that powerful leader. In Deuteronomy 34:9 we learn that Joshua was “full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him: and the children of Israel hearkened unto him. …” [Deut. 34:9]
What did the Lord say through Moses to Joshua that helped him grow into a man whom the Israelites would hearken to? In Numbers 27:23 we are told that Moses took Joshua and “laid his hands upon him, and gave him a charge,” [Num. 27:23] and this charge is recorded in Deuteronomy 31:23 [Deut. 31:23].
Many of us have had the blessing of having been healed by the power of God from serious illness. One precedent for this, in addition to the miracles Christ himself performed, is the story recorded in Acts 9 concerning Saul of Tarsus [Acts 9]. You remember that Saul was on his way to Damascus when he was blinded by a powerful vision of the Lord. Ananias, a disciple of the Lord, received instructions from God to go to Saul and heal him because he was needed for the Lord’s work. In Acts 9:17 the scriptures say, Ananias, “putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.” [Acts 9:17]
There are, of course, many, many incidents in the New Testament of healing and of the Holy Ghost being given by the laying on of hands by those with authority, of cripples walking when commanded to in the name of Jesus Christ, of people speaking in tongues and being inspired to certain action by servants with authority from God. Today there are similar incidents on record. In your own family there are probably examples where the elders have been called in to administer to the sick with consecrated oil and the laying on of hands. And those who have not been appointed unto death have been healed.
Sometimes the administering elder is inspired to reveal important information. This was so in the case of President George Albert Smith. When he was thirteen years old, he was very ill, and the family felt that if he lived very long at all, he would be a sickly person. At this time a family friend, Zebedee Coltrin, who happened to be a patriarch in another stake, came to visit. He gave a blessing to Brother Smith. This was not a patriarchal blessing, but it was recorded by his mother, and when recently discovered it was turned over to the Church Historian’s Office. Some marvelous statements were made concerning his future.
“… and thou shalt be wrapt in the visions of the heavens, and thou shalt be clothed with salvation as with a garment, for thou are destined to become a mighty man before the Lord, for thou shalt become a mighty apostle in the Church and kingdom of God upon the Earth, for none of thy father’s family shall have more power with God than thou shalt have, for none shall excel thee.”
Now this was a remarkable promise, and a daring thing for a man to say to young George—unless he were speaking under inspiration. You see, the father of this sickly child was John Henry Smith, second counselor to President Joseph F. Smith. George’s grandfather was George A. Smith who had been first counselor in the first presidency to Brigham Young. So if this blessing were to be fulfilled, George Albert Smith would have to become president of the Church someday long after that blessing was given. And we all know that the day came when indeed he was sustained as president and prophet of the Church.
There are certain special situations when blessings can make a dramatic difference in a person’s life. There are times when the comfort of placing oneself in the care of the Lord is the only way. A mother-to-be is often given a blessing before she goes to the hospital to give birth to the infant. That new infant is given a name and a father’s blessing shortly after. Students or youth going away from home to work are greatly helped in the new and challenging experiences when given a father’s blessing. Teams pray before a game. Speakers ask the Lord’s help. Committee members, manual writers, individuals draw close to the Lord by fasting and praying as an expression of need for his blessings of guidance and success in their efforts.
Blessings are a vital part of our lives always. We ask for them. We count them. We earn them. We thank God for them. It seems that the faithful children of our Heavenly Father since the beginning have enjoyed a richer life when they have called upon God in a simple, sacred gesture of faith. If we care about his blessings for us, we should find out what he has to say especially to us.