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Lesson 11: The Father as Patriarch

“Lesson 11: The Father as Patriarch,” Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part B (2000), 96–104

“Lesson 11: The Father as Patriarch,” Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part B, 96–104

Lesson 11

The Father as Patriarch

The purpose of this lesson is to strengthen our understanding of the father’s role as patriarch in the home.


  • Show visual 11-a, “The Lord expects fathers to lead their families.”

President Spencer W. Kimball said: “The Lord organized [His children] in the beginning with a father who procreates, provides, and loves and directs, and a mother who conceives and bears and nurtures and feeds and trains[, and children who] come to love, honor, and appreciate each other. The family is the great plan of life as conceived and organized by our Father in heaven” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1973, 151; or Ensign, July 1973, 15).

  • What does President Kimball name as the father’s responsibilities?

“The title father is sacred and eternal. It is significant that of all the titles of respect and honor and admiration that are given to Deity, he has asked us to address him as Father” (Father, Consider Your Ways [pamphlet, 1973], 2).

  • Sing “O My Father,” or read the words (Hymns, no. 292; or Gospel Principles, 350).

During the Savior’s mission on earth, He spoke of His Father often and in a sacred way. The scriptures show that He knew His Father, because He talked with Him and did His will (see Mark 14:36). We should follow, and teach our children to follow, the Savior’s example of respect and honor for His Father.

  • How can we show respect for our Heavenly Father? for our earthly father?

A father who holds the priesthood should live worthy for his children to call him the sacred name of father. If he does so, he will be prepared for eternal fatherhood. Each of us has the power to experience joy with our family throughout eternity.

A Father Is Patriarch of His Family

Heavenly Father has designated the husband or father as the head of the household—he is the patriarch of the family. We are especially blessed as members of the Church because we have the priesthood to help us be effective patriarchs.

Each family in the Church is a kingdom or government within itself. The father is the head of that government; he is the highest authority in the home and presides over all family functions. (See Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. [1939], 286–88.) Concerning this matter, President Joseph F. Smith wrote: “It sometimes happens that the elders are called in to administer to the members of a family. Among these elders there may be presidents of stakes, apostles, or even members of the first presidency of the Church. It is not proper under these circumstances for the father to stand back and expect the elders to direct the administration of this important ordinance. The father is there. It is his right and it is his duty to preside. He should select the one who is to administer the oil, and the one who is to be mouth in prayer, and he should … direct the administration of that blessing of the gospel in his home” (Gospel Doctrine, 287).

The Lord wants the father to bless his family members, not just rule over them. To do this a father must use his priesthood righteously to bless each of them. Eldred G. Smith, emeritus Patriarch to the Church, told about a woman who came to him seeking a special priesthood blessing. He said:

“When I asked her why she wanted a special blessing, she refused to tell me. I learned from her that her husband was a member of the Church and held the Melchizedek Priesthood, so I spent considerable time trying to teach her the principle of priesthood order, where the father in the home should bless the members of the family. [I asked her to] go home to get her blessing from her husband instead of from me.

“Sometime later she returned to my office, refreshed my memory of this experience, and said she [had] left my office very resentful. …

“She said the reason she refused to tell me why she wanted a blessing was that she wanted the blessing because there wasn’t the proper relationship between her and her husband, and then I had sent her home to get a blessing from her husband. So naturally she was a little bit resentful.

“Then she added, ‘That was one of the finest things that ever happened.’ She said she went home, she prayed about it, she thought about it, and then finally she mustered enough courage to ask her husband for the blessing. Of course it shocked him, but she was patient; she let him think it over a bit, ponder about it, and pray about it; and finally he gave her a blessing. Then she added, ‘There has never been such a fine relationship in our home in all our lives as we have had since he gave me that blessing’” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1965, 115; or Improvement Era, June 1965, 534).

The home is the place for the family to progress—both together and individually. To encourage this progression the father should always preside in the home with love, wisdom, gentleness, understanding, and patience. As the patriarch in the home, the father should be the guiding example. Faithful and obedient fathers who lead their families in righteous living on earth will help them be worthy to live together in the eternities.

As patriarchs in our families we should treat our wives and children with the utmost respect.

President N. Eldon Tanner said, “As a man realizes that he is the earthly father of a spirit child of God, he cannot help but feel keenly his responsibility to nurture that child with all the tender loving care possible” (“Fatherhood,” Ensign, June 1977, 2).

The scriptures contain many stories of fathers who were good patriarchs. Alma the Younger gathered his sons together and gave each one his counsel and blessing (see Alma 35:16). King Benjamin taught his sons to understand the scriptures (see Mosiah 1:2). Before Adam and Lehi died, each blessed his children (see D&C 107:53; 2 Nephi 3:1–25; 2 Nephi 4:1–11). Through the power of the priesthood these prophets fulfilled their patriarchal responsibilities to their families. Through our priesthood we too can be righteous patriarchs in our families.

Meeting Basic Family Needs

As the patriarch of his family, a father is responsible to help family members meet their needs. First, everyone has physical needs such as food, shelter, and clothing.

  • What other basic needs do our families have? (List the following ideas on the chalkboard as they are mentioned.)

To Be Wanted and Loved

We can satisfy our family members’ need for love and acceptance by showing them affection and telling them we love them. Elder Loren C. Dunn gave us an example of this need:

“I recall a stage play that recently was made into a movie. It dealt with parents whose only child, a son, returned from military service. The father and son had never been close. It was a situation in which both father and son loved each other but were unable to find ways to express themselves, and therefore hostilities arose because each thought the other did not like him. …

“The high point of the play came when the boy said to his father something like this:

“‘Dad, I always resented you when I was younger because you never told me that you loved me, but then I realized that I had never told you that I loved you either. Well, Dad, I’m telling you now: I love you.’

“For one electrifying moment the father and son embraced each other as the pent-up love and appreciation of years came flooding out” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1969, 22–23; or Improvement Era, June 1969, 52–53).

  • Why should we tell family members we love them? How else can we show them they are wanted and loved?

To Have Self-Esteem

We can help our family members build self-esteem by praising their achievements. We can teach them that they are God’s children and help them develop their talents. All these things help them build confidence, a positive self-image, and a feeling of worth. Parents should constantly look for ways to praise and encourage their children. Children, in turn, should regularly express thanks to their parents. One father said: “I spend my family home evening time praising my children rather than criticizing them. I’d rather tell them what I’ve seen them do that’s right than what I’ve seen them do that’s wrong” (quoted by George Durrant, “A Gift from Heaven,” Ensign, Mar. 1971, 7).

To Have a Purpose in Life

Everyone needs to feel that life has meaning. We can help family members fill this need by teaching them the gospel. Everyone needs to know that earth life is to help us grow and become more like God. We must teach our children that our purpose on earth is to find peace and happiness and to prepare ourselves to return to our Father in Heaven.

To Have Self-Discipline and Be Able to Work

Brother Glenn E. Nielson, president of a large oil company, was once asked what teacher influenced his life the most. He replied: “My father … taught me the joy of work well done. He taught me how to put more hay on my pitchfork and to step forward as I pitched it into the hayrack, and he would add, ‘All work is easier and lighter if you step into it rather than away from it’” (Church News, 25 Mar. 1978, 2).

The benefits of learning to work are illustrated in the following story: “Two elderly neighbors one day were [talking] about their lives and those of their children. John’s oldest boy was just finishing college and had been on the honor roll through all of his studies. Jim’s boy had just been convicted of a serious crime and sent to the state [prison]. Jim and John had lived side by side and been good neighbors during their sons’ growing-up period. Their boys had played together and had gone to school together. Jim, in discussing what had happened, stated, ‘The whole difference between our sons’ lives was that you kept a cow, John. I recall that when the boys were playing, your boy would leave early so that he could milk and feed the cow. By keeping that cow you taught your boy to accept responsibility’” (1967–68 Priesthood Study Course: Aaronic Priesthood—Adult, 35).

Each of us should give our children work to do. We should also give them the freedom to work out the problems that come with work; we should not do their work for them but should help them successfully complete their tasks. (See lesson 15, “Sharing in Family Work.”)

Meeting Family Members’ Spiritual Needs

Fathers who hold the priesthood have the right and responsibility to bless their family members with priesthood leadership and to perform for them appropriate priesthood ordinances. Fathers can lead and bless them in the following ways:

  1. Preside in the home.

  2. Conduct personal interviews with their children. (President N. Eldon Tanner said that his father interviewed him when he was a young man: “He told me how important the priesthood was and what was necessary for me to do to be worthy of that priesthood. He was the best friend I had” [in Conference Report, Oct. 1978, 58; or Ensign, Nov. 1978, 41].)

  3. Give blessings of comfort to their wives and children (Melchizedek Priesthood bearers only).

  4. Administer to the sick in their families (Melchizedek Priesthood bearers only).

  5. Receive revelation and inspiration for their families.

  6. Hold family prayers morning and evening.

  7. Call on family members to pray and bless the food.

  8. Hold family home evening every Monday night.

  9. Encourage family members to participate in missionary work, family history research, and temple ordinances.

  10. Be a good example and keep the commandments.

  11. Create a feeling of love and understanding in the home.

  • Ask the assigned priesthood holder to bear his testimony of the joy of being part of a close, loving family.


In the Lord’s plan, husbands and fathers are the heads of their homes and the patriarchs of their families. Thus a father should develop a relationship of love, trust, and cooperation with his wife and children and should be concerned about the welfare of each family member. The following questions will help him discover how he might improve:

  1. Do I really take time to be concerned about my family?

  2. Do I show respect for my family members’ thoughts, desires, property, and so on?

  3. Do I recognize that each member of my family is an important individual?

  4. Do I tell my family members I love them? Do I show them my love?

President N. Eldon Tanner explained, “It is a joyous privilege and blessing, and a heavy responsibility, to be the father and the patriarchal head of a family, with the challenge to teach and prepare its members to go back into the presence of their Heavenly Father, where the family can continue to enjoy eternal life together” (Ensign, June 1977, 2).


Husbands and fathers: Understand your responsibility as patriarch in your home. Discuss this with your wife during the week, and gain her support in helping you fulfill your duties. Honor your father; he remains your patriarch even after your marriage.

Young and unmarried men: Honor your priesthood. Prepare yourself to be a righteous patriarch in your home. Honor your father; he is the patriarch of your family.

Additional Scriptures

Teacher Preparation

Before presenting this lesson:

  1. Read Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood, Part A, lesson 12, “The Father’s Responsibility for the Welfare of His Family.”

  2. Prepare to have the class sing at the beginning of the lesson “O My Father” (Hymns, no. 292; or Gospel Principles, 350).

  3. Assign a priesthood holder who has a close, loving family to bear his testimony of the joy he feels in his family.

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