Patriarchal Blessings
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“Patriarchal Blessings,” Tambuli, Apr. 1988, 33

Patriarchal Blessings

Have you ever wondered what Heavenly Father expects of you in this life? We know that we are here to prove ourselves worthy to return to our Heavenly Father. We know that through the life, death, and resurrection of the Savior, we have been shown the path to travel. But does Heavenly Father provide some special guidelines for us as individuals?

Yes he does! Heavenly Father has made it possible for each of us to receive personal revelation to help us know what he expects of us. This revelation can be given to us in a patriarchal blessing. A patriarchal blessing identifies a person’s talents, lineage, and potential. It can motivate, guide, and give warnings, counsel, and comfort.

Patriarchal blessings are spiritual road maps that can only be understood by the Spirit, so they should be read prayerfully. They are given to allow glimpses of our eternal existence from a divine perspective. The personal blessings described there will help us appreciate who we really are.

A patriarchal blessing is given by a man ordained as a patriarch. At least one man is ordained as the patriarch for each stake of the Church. His one responsibility is to be spiritually prepared to give patriarchal blessings to worthy members of that stake. The blessings he pronounces are so important that copies from all over the world are kept in the Church Historical Department.

Promised blessings vary from person to person according to need. Sometimes it may even seem that the blessings promised could not ever be fulfilled, but we need to remember that our Heavenly Father sees things from a different perspective than we do. For example, Elder Thomas S. Monson, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, tells this story:

“Several years ago a patriarch gave a blessing to a teenage girl … who lived in Poland. In the blessing he felt impressed to promise her that she would marry in a temple of the Lord. He hesitated to give that promise, for there was absolutely no way for her to leave Poland allowing her to marry in a temple. But he responded to the whisperings of the Spirit and gave the girl the promise.

“After giving the blessing, the patriarch came to my office and asked, ‘Did I do the right thing?’ I indicated that a man always does the right thing when he responds to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit. He said, ‘But I have bestowed a promise which cannot be fulfilled.’ I replied, ‘Let us trust in the Lord with all our hearts …’ Within a period of two years, a pact was signed between Poland and Germany that permitted those of Germanic origin to return to West Germany. That lovely teenage girl moved to Germany where she would be free to go to the temple of the Lord when the time came for her marriage.” (Scandinavian Area Conference, August 1976, page 10.)

When to Obtain a Blessing

Any significant experience in life is more meaningful if we are prepared for it. Because members of the Church normally receive only one patriarchal blessing, this sacred experience should come at an appropriate time and in the proper way. Elder Eldred G. Smith, Patriarch to the Church, has given the following counsel: “It is strongly recommended that a blessing not be given to anyone under twelve years of age, but the age depends entirely upon the maturity of the individual. The blessing should come at a time when the individual has a desire to do the Lord’s work and to be of service to others.” (Instructor, February 1962, page 43.)

Youth often obtain a patriarchal blessing during the middle or later teenage years, as they begin to seriously ponder decisions about the course of their lives. (Of course, patriarchal blessings are for all ages whether or not one is born in the Church or is a convert.)

Preparing to Receive a Blessing

When you desire and feel worthy and prepared to receive a patriarchal blessing, you are then interviewed by the bishop or branch president. If he believes you are prepared, he will issue a recommend for the blessing. An appointment is then made with the patriarch. If there is no patriarch serving locally, other arrangements can be made through the stake or mission president.

At the time of your patriarchal blessing you can make this event an even more personal time for you and/or your child as you seek the Lord’s direction in fasting and prayer. You may want to read the account of Jacob’s patriarchal blessings to his twelve sons, especially the blessing to Joseph. This reading will help you become more familiar with the kind of language used in blessings.

How to Benefit from a Blessing

Fulfillment of a patriarchal blessing depends upon your worthiness to receive its blessings and benefits. The Lord can promise the blessings, but he cannot force you to receive them.

A patriarchal blessing is a personal blessing from the Lord. Obeying the Lord’s commandments and studying the gospel help one better understand the meaning of the blessing.

You would be wise to make a copy of your patriarchal blessing for regular reference and a copy to be stored safely in the family files. As you gain in maturity, regular, prayerful readings of this great blessing will bring added levels of understanding. On the other hand, this sacred and personal record should not be passed around or discussed too freely. It is intended primarily for the use of the person who receives it, but may be shared with family members at appropriate times.

Reviewing our patriarchal blessings can be particularly helpful during difficult times, reminding us how much our Heavenly Father loves us. “Sit down and read your patriarchal blessing,” urges Elder Smith, “when you are disturbed, distressed, discouraged, and not satisfied with your life. To read your patriarchal blessing sometimes gives you courage and brings you back to where you started from and gets you in the right pathway again.” (Address given at the Salt Lake Institute of Religion, 30 April 1971, pages 6–7.)

Photography by Philip S. Shurtleff

“Jacob Blessing Joseph,” painting by Harry Anderson