Within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints there is this really cool tradition where members get something called a patriarchal blessing. These blessings are very specific blessings, unique to each person who receives one. Patriarchal blessings can contain personal counsel and warnings, as well as promises to us if we are obedient to God’s commandments.
Who Can Receive A Patriarchal Blessing
Anyone who is a member of the Church can get a patriarchal blessing as long as they are baptized, and worthy. To be worthy, a member will need to be following the commandments, and also continue to keep their baptismal covenants.
Members generally wait until they are either teenagers or adults to request to receive their patriarchal blessing. However, as long as the member in question has a recommend from their bishop (which is required for all members, regardless of age or status), they may receive their patriarchal blessing.
To get a patriarchal blessing, a member of the Church will put in a request with either their bishop or branch president. After being interviewed and found ready and worthy, their bishop or branch president will give the member a recommendation. Then the member can schedule a meeting with the patriarch.
Who Can Give A Patriarchal Blessing
Patriarchal blessings have to be performed by a very specific person: a patriarch. However, in the scriptures, there are three different types of patriarchs mentioned. The three types are fathers of families, ancient prophets, and stake patriarchs. Only stake patriarchs bestow patriarchal blessings. A stake is an organized group of congregations, like a diocese in Catholicism.
Stake patriarchs are members of the Church, who are very spiritual, knowledgeable servants of God. The office of patriarch is very special in that patriarchs are ordained, not set apart. This means that patriarchs are patriarchs for life. This office is a permanent calling (unless the patriarch behaves in a way that would make them unworthy).
What Do Patriarchal Blessings Talk About
One of the most important parts of every patriarchal blessing is a declaration of lineage. There are 12 tribes of Israel, and a person will learn which tribe they belong to through their blessing. Depending on which tribe you are declaired to be descended from (either literally, or adopted in), you will have special tasks and responsibilities.
Being adopted into a tribe does not exactly involve an adoption process like when someone adopts a child. Joseph Fielding Smith said the following about this matter in his book, Doctrines of Salvation:
Every person who embraces the gospel becomes of the house of Israel. In other words, they become members of the chosen lineage … The great majority of those who become members of the Church are literal descendants of Abraham … Those who are not literal descendants of Abraham and Israel must become such, and when they are baptized and confirmed they are grafted into the tree and are entitled to all the rights and privileges as heirs.
So those who are not literal descendants are automatically adopted in when they are baptized and confirmed a member of the Church.
There are 12 tribes of Israel. As I said above, when you receive your patriarchal blessing, you will learn which tribe you belong to. Many people today belong to the tribe of Ephraim, and they have a responsibility to spread the gospel and to be leaders and teachers in the Church. It has been suggested that because of the nature of Ephraim’s task, it makes sense for members of his tribe to be made known first in these latter days of the earth.
As for the other 11 tribes, there isn’t as much knowledge about their specific responsibilities. We can make some guesses based on the scriptures, especially from the blessings Jacob gave to his sons, but fewer members of those tribes have been recognized in these modern times than of the tribe of Ephraim, and secondly, Manasseh.
Personal Counsel and Warnings
Your patriarchal blessing can be thought of as scripture specifically for you. In other words, your blessing has counsel and warnings from God that is just for you. Every blessing is different. Some blessings may go into great detail, while others have hardly any mention of personal counsel. Many blessings may address, to some extent, your education, profession, spouse, children, and/or other future blessings (or current blessings depending on when you receive your blessing). Depending on how detailed your blessing is, you may be able to get a pretty good idea of what your life can be like if you are righteous and align your will with God’s will.
Another part of this council can be personal warnings. These warnings may be about future trials. The warnings may be about current trials. Your warning counsel can be blunt, or vague.
Gifts and Talents
A patriarchal blessing may address spiritual gifts and talents you possess, or ones you will be given opportunities in the future to possess. Spiritual gifts include traits like being receptive to truth, being able to teach with the spirit, or having the gift of tongues. In contrast, an example of spiritual talent is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, who have all been blessed with beautiful voices that they use to spread the gospel all over the world.
Your patriarchal blessing may describe ways in which you can use these gifts and talents to build up the kingdom of God. Just like with personal counsel found in your blessing, spiritual gifts and talents can be stated directly, or elusively.
Promises and Blessings
Patriarchal blessings may address blessings and promises you have been given by God. This part of a patriarchal blessing can be confusing because these blessings and promises are predicated on our faithfulness. If we don’t uphold our own promises, our Heavenly Father is no longer bound to hold up His.
Many blessings that are mentioned may only be able to come through our faithfulness. For example, by following the word of wisdom, we will be blessed with good health and good judgment. This example is pretty straightforward, but not all blessings and promises are.
As I mentioned, this can be a confusing area for members because they are told about blessings and promises in their blessing, yet they don’t see them clearly in their life. However, it’s important to remember that patriarchal blessings are linked to an eternal timeline, not an earthly one. Here’s an example I’ve made up to show this idea: Someone is promised in their blessing that all their family members will accept the gospel. However, they are very confused when a particular family member dies without accepting. But our blessings and promises extend to the next life, and they can be fulfilled in the next life.
Our Patriarchal blessings can be likened to a roadmap. But just like actual road maps, they won’t tell you when you’re going to run out of gas, or when a rock will fly up and crack the windshield. Your patriarchal blessing will not give you a play-by-play transcript of your life. Your patriarchal blessing will not tell you every blessing, promise, talent, or word of advice that you’ll need or come by in your life. Many people may be confused or even afraid if their patriarchal blessing doesn’t mention something in particular, like say marriage. But patriarchal blessings are not all-inclusive, nor are they meant to be.
Sharing Your Patriarchal Blessing
Patriarchal blessings are extremely personal in nature, as well as being tremendously spiritual. So attempting to gain personal revelation from another person’s blessing is nonsensical. There can be times, however, when a person may feel prompted by the spirit to share a very, very small part of their blessing with others. But even in these circumstances, most people still tend to be quite vague.
Generally, though, patriarchal blessings are things kept close to our chest, so to speak. It would not be wise for people to compare and contrast their blessing with another’s blessing. The spiritual nature of the blessing deems it not appropriate to share one’s blessing with others. I’d like to note, however, that members have been told that it can be appropriate to allow immediate family members and your spouse to read your blessing if you so desire.
The takeaway from this section is that your blessing will contain personal revelation to you from God. I imagine it may be quite offensive to our Heavenly Father when people overshare without feeling a spiritual prompting to do so.
In conclusion, Thomas S. Monson made this statement about patriarchal blessings in a session of the October 1986 General Conference:
Your patriarchal blessing is yours and yours alone. It may be brief or lengthy, simple or profound…Your blessing is not to be folded neatly and tucked away. It is not to be framed or published. Rather it is to be read. It is to be loved. It is to be followed. Your patriarchal blessing will see you through the darkest night. It will guide you through life’s dangers.