A patriarchal blessing is a very unique and remarkable privilege that can come to the faithful members of the Church having sufficient maturity to understand the nature and the importance of such blessings. These privileged blessings are a powerful witness of the mission of the Lord Jesus Christ in bringing exaltation to each of us.
Like many blessings, they should be requested by the person or by the parent of the one desiring the blessing. The responsibility for a patriarchal blessing rests primarily upon the individual and the immediate family.
Our testimonies can be strengthened and fortified and our lives given greater purpose every time we read and reread our patriarchal blessings. By their very nature, all blessings are qualified and conditional, regardless of whether the blessing specifically spells out the qualification or not. Each blessing is given upon the condition of the faithfulness of the recipient of the blessing.
We now have stakes of Zion in a great many countries of the world, and most stakes have at least one patriarch. This growth greatly extends the privilege of receiving patriarchal blessings to many people in many lands.
I wish to pay tribute to the faithful men holding the great calling and ordination of patriarch. They are often among the most humble and faithful of our brethren. These chosen men live lives that entitle them to the inspiration of heaven. Patriarchs are privileged to impart blessings directly rather than just solicit blessings in behalf of the individual, for the patriarchs are entitled to speak authoritatively for the Lord. The office of patriarch is one of the great priesthood offices of the Melchizedek Priesthood. The patriarchal office is one of blessing, not of administration or of counseling. It is a sacred, spiritual calling that usually will last for the remainder of the patriarch’s life. Our patriarchs give total devotion to their callings and do all they can to live in faith and worthiness so that each blessing is inspired.
When moved upon by the Holy Spirit, the patriarch makes an inspired declaration of the lineage of the recipient together with such blessings, spiritual gifts, promises, advice, admonition, and warnings as the patriarch feels inspired to give. It is in essence a prophetic utterance.
Patriarchal blessings should be read humbly and prayerfully and frequently. A patriarchal blessing is very personal but might be shared with close family members. A patriarchal blessing is a sacred guideline of counsel, promises, and information from the Lord. However, a person should not expect that the blessing will detail all that will happen to him or her or be an answer to all questions. The omission from the blessing of a great event in life such as a mission or marriage does not necessarily mean it will not happen. My own blessing is short and is limited to perhaps three quarters of one page on one side, yet it has been completely adequate and perfect for me.
President Heber J. Grant tells of the length of a patriarchal blessing he received: “That patriarch put his hands upon my head and bestowed upon me a little blessing that would perhaps be about one third of a typewritten page. That blessing foretold my life to the present moment.” (James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Bookcraft, 1965–76, 5:152.)
Elder John A. Widtsoe had the following to say: “It should always be kept in mind that the realization of the promises made may come in this life 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 earth may be continued in heaven. Besides, the giver of the blessings, the Lord, reserves the right to have them become active in our lives as suits his divine purposes. We and our blessings are in the hands of the Lord, but there is a general testimony that when the gospel law has been obeyed, the promised blessings have been realized.” (Evidences and Reconciliations, Bookcraft, 1960, p. 75.)
This was well illustrated in my father’s patriarchal blessing. He was told in his blessing that he would be blessed with “many beautiful daughters.” He and my mother became the parents of five sons. There were no daughters born to them, but of course they treated the wives of their sons as daughters. Recently when we had a family reunion, I saw my father’s granddaughters moving about tending to the food and ministering to the young children and the elderly, and the realization came to me that father’s blessing had been literally fulfilled; he has, indeed, many beautiful daughters. The patriarch who gave my father his blessing had spiritual vision to see beyond my father’s mortal life. There was a disappearance of the dividing line between time and eternity.
The patriarch has no blessing of his own to give; the blessing is the Lord’s to give. God knows our spirits; he knows our strengths and weaknesses. He knows our capabilities and our potential. Our patriarchal blessings indicate what the Lord expects of us and what our potential is. Our blessings can encourage us when we are discouraged, strengthen us when we are fearful, comfort us when we sorrow, give us courage when we are filled with anxiety, lift us up when we are weak in spirit.
Elder John A. Widtsoe stated: “Every father, having children born to him under the covenant, is to them a patriarch, and he has the right to bless his posterity in the authority of the priesthood which he holds” (Evidences and Reconciliations, p. 72).
The First Presidency has issued the following policy statement:
“‘Certainly we should give new and additional emphasis to the role of the father in giving blessings to children in the family. We think we should generally leave to the ordained patriarchs in the stakes the responsibility of declaring lineage in connection with an official patriarchal blessing, but still we could leave unlocked the door so that any father who felt inspired to pronounce the lineage in connection with a father’s blessing he was giving to his children should not be prevented from doing so.
“‘We should urge and encourage fathers to give a father’s blessing to their children on such occasions as their going into the military, or away from home to school or on missions and on other appropriate occasions.’
“A father’s blessing may be recorded [and preserved] in family records, but [in contrast to a blessing given by one of the ordained patriarchs] it is not to be preserved in the archives of the Church.” (General Handbook of Instructions, 21, p. 50.)
Adoption into the House of Israel
There are many coming into the Church in this day and time who are not of the blood lineage of a specific tribe of Jacob. No one need assume that he or she will be denied any blessing by reason of not being of the blood lineage of Israel.
Paul makes repeated references to adoption into the house of Israel through faith: “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” (Rom. 8:9.) And again: “Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises” (Rom. 9:4).
King Benjamin refers to the faithful as “the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters,” thus being able to be “spiritually begotten … through faith,” and thus coming into the family of Christ through a spiritual birth (Mosiah 5:7).
It really makes no difference if the blessings of the house of Israel come through lineage or through the spirit of adoption. Elder John A. Widtsoe stated, “Whether this lineage is of blood or of adoption does not matter” (Evidences and Reconciliations, pp. 72–77).
In Abraham we are told, “And I will bless them through thy name; for as many as receive this Gospel shall be called after thy name, and shall be accounted thy seed, and shall rise up and bless thee, as their father” (Abr. 2:10).
Joseph Smith taught that when “the Holy Ghost falls upon one of the literal seed of Abraham, it is calm and serene; … while the effect of the Holy Ghost upon a Gentile, is to purge out the old blood, and make him actually of the seed of Abraham. That man that has none of the blood of Abraham (naturally) must have a new creation by the Holy Ghost.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 149–150.)
Think of all we may lose if we do not stay in the course the Lord wants us to be in and to which the Lord may have called us before the foundations of the world! As the Lord told Saul, you are chosen vessels unto him, to bear his name “before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). Seek to live worthy of the blessings pronounced upon you by the patriarchs and by your own fathers.
I received my own patriarchal blessing when I was but a boy of 12. From that short blessing I learned something about my responsibilities and my labors in establishing the kingdom.
I pray that we will live worthily and seek the blessings that are promised us by the Lord through our family patriarchs and through our ordained patriarchs, and that we will strive to help conditions and circumstances so that these great promises can be realized.