Hey guys, so in the last episode, we went over the significance of the Abrahamic Covenant for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In order to understand today’s episode about patriarchal blessings, it is important that you understand the blessings that were promised the great patriarchs of old. So if you haven’t seen that yet, check it out. As for the rest of us: Let’s jump in.
Alright, so recall with me the Old Testament patriarch, Abraham. God made promises to Abraham and his descendants, which are known when grouped together as the Abrahamic Covenant. These promises were renewed with Abraham’s son, Isaac, and Isaac’s son, Jacob. Jacob was renamed Israel and became the father of the 12 tribes of Israel. In Genesis, we read that before Jacob died, he blessed his sons and two of his grandsons, and told them “that which shall befall you in the last days.”
Today, Latter-day Saints believe that as you accept the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, you become adopted into the family of Abraham. As such you become an heir to the promises made to Abraham and his posterity. The purpose of a patriarchal blessing is to declare the tribe of Israel through which you will receive the blessings made to Abraham. It’s a declaration of lineage — whether that lineage is by blood or by adoption doesn’t matter. John A. Widtsoe wrote, “In the great majority of cases, Latter-day Saints are of the tribe of Ephraim, the tribe to which has been committed the leadership of the Latter-day work.” And similar to the blessings Jacob declared for his sons, inspired counsel and opportunities for future blessings are also declared to you in your patriarchal blessing. So here’s how it works:
A congregation of Latter-day Saints is called a ward. A group of wards is called a stake, led by a Stake presidency. Within each stake is one priesthood holder (usually one who is more advanced in age) who holds the office of Patriarch. It is his responsibility and calling to give one patriarchal blessing to any member who desires one. Through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, the Patriarch declares your lineage and pronounces other blessings you will have the opportunity to receive throughout your life or after this life. There might also be warnings or other counsel given as well. Promised blessings may have to do with any range of subjects. Education, occupation, marriage, family, etc. — whatever the Patriarch is inspired to pronounce.
Now, to be clear, the blessings outlined in your patriarchal blessing are conditioned upon your faithfulness. Karl G. Maeser described these blessings as “paragraphs from the book of one’s possibilities.” The book True to the Faith makes another important point: “…you should not assume that everything mentioned in your patriarchal blessing will be fulfilled in this life. A patriarchal blessing is eternal, and its promises may extend into the eternities.”
It’s also worth mentioning that just because something isn’t mentioned in your patriarchal blessing doesn’t mean it’s a blessing you’ll miss out on in your life. For example, if your blessing doesn’t mention anything about you getting married, that doesn’t mean you’re never going to get married.
A patriarchal blessing is considered to be a revelation from God as inspired by the Holy Ghost, for you, the recipient. In this sense, a patriarchal blessing can be considered a type of personal scripture for your life. Now, similar to scripture, being inspired by the Holy Ghost does not mean that God is using the patriarch as a sock-puppet.
“Necessarily, since patriarchs are but men, they are subject to human frailties. Their manner of speech and thinking is reflected in their blessings. Different men express the same idea in different words. The Lord does not dictate blessings to them word for word … Nevertheless, if the patriarch lives worthily, he is sustained by the power and authority of his calling, and will pronounce blessings intended for us.”
If you are a Latter-day Saint interested in receiving a patriarchal blessing, start by talking to your bishop or branch president. They’ll get you set up. There is no minimum or maximum age requirement for those seeking a patriarchal blessing. The Church’s handbook, which is available for anyone to read, teaches that as long as the member is “of sufficient age and maturity to understand the significance and sacred nature of the blessing” then they’re good to go. Personally, I received mine when I was 16. Patriarchal blessings are usually given in the church building or in the home of the patriarch. It’s not a big public event. Usually, only the recipient and a few close family members will be present.
The patriarch makes a recording of the blessing so that exactly 2 transcripts can be made. The recording is then deleted, one transcript goes to you, and the other goes to the archives of the Church in case you lose yours and need another copy. Latter-day Saints consider patriarchal blessings to be sacred. They’re not meant to be shared publicly. They’re meant to be a source of inspiration and guidance for the recipient, throughout their life.
If you want to learn more about this subject, check out the resources in the YouTube description of this video. We’ve also had a stake patriarch on our show before, so go check that out if you’d like, and have a great day!
- “Patriarchal Blessings,” from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism: https://bit.ly/3n8T6bP
- The Church’s “gospel topics” essay on patriarchal blessings: https://bit.ly/3n7OjaJ
- “Understanding Your Patriarchal Blessing” Ensign (April 2017): https://bit.ly/3eRJkY7
- What the Church’s handbook has to say about patriarchal blessings: https://bit.ly/3uojFN6
- “Patriarchal Blessings” in Guide to the Scriptures: https://bit.ly/3ehPnWD
- “Patriarchal Blessings: Inspired Guidance for Your Life,” Ensign (Feb. 2015): https://bit.ly/3vHrDkF
- “Children of the Covenant,” by then Elder Russell M. Nelson: https://bit.ly/2R7Cl4M
- “Abrahamic Covenant,” from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism: https://bit.ly/3sWSoQg
- The Church’s “gospel topics” essay on the Abrahamic Covenant: https://bit.ly/3tH7pH5
- “Abrahamic, covenant of,” in the Bible Dictionary: https://bit.ly/3xeIOf3
- “Abrahamic Covenant,” in the Guide to the Scriptures: https://bit.ly/3axoWtI