This lesson can be found here.

When I was younger, Patriarchal blessings were always something that seemed so full of wonder.  I would hear people reference them, and speak of certain things “making sense” or as a roadmap to their lives.  I thought of them more like turn-by-turn navigation instructions from a GPS rather than a starting point-to-destination (with whatever road you want to take) mindset.

In the “Note” at the beginning of the manual, it says some may have their patriarchal blessings.  Well, I’m pretty sure my Deacons don’t have it, but the ages for receiving a Patriarchal Blessing are all over the map.  I received mine when I was 18, my friend received his when he was 14, my brother when he was 14, my dad when he was 18, my mom later in life, and everywhere in between.

That being said, there’s a few different ways this lesson can be structured.

The first would be good detailed discussion on the preparation of receiving a patriarchal blessing (for those who haven’t).  This could work in any class, where the boys could be teaching the boys.  Those who have received it could talk about what to expect, the experience of receiving it, and what it means in their lives.

The second way would be for those who have received their blessing.  It would be a great opportunity to talk about how to use the blessing, a deeper discussion of what they mean, and learning how to value it.

The Manual

–         What exactly is a patriarchal blessing?

From the August 2009 New Era:

President Harold B. Lee (1899–1973) described a patriarchal blessing as a “[paragraph] from the book of your possibilities.”2 As your patriarch places his hands on your head, you will find that your blessing will usually include:

A statement of the authority of the patriarch. Blessings are given by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood and through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost.

A declaration of lineage. Each member of the Church inherits spiritual blessings and responsibilities through one of the twelve tribes of Israel. By inspiration from the Spirit, the patriarch declares the tribe through which you will receive these blessings. This lineage is not determined simply by your race or nationality. Members of the same genetic family can be from different tribes of Israel. This lineage often has to do with your responsibilities in the Lord’s kingdom. Many members of the Church are of the lineage of Ephraim, Manasseh, or Judah, which are the most common tribes of Israel at this time in our progress of preaching the gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people.3

A personal blessing. In this portion of your blessing, you will receive inspired and prophetic statements about your life. Your blessing may also include various accomplishments to be realized, promises the Lord has for you, and admonitions and warnings to help protect you from harm or adversity. Your blessing will not include every event that will happen to you, but it will include those that you need to be especially mindful of. If fulfilling a mission is not mentioned, it does not mean that you cannot fulfill a mission. It may indicate only that fulfilling a mission is something God feels you can do without special emphasis in your patriarchal blessing.”
Those are the 3 basic things of the patriarchal blessing.  Notice the pattern of all priesthood ordinances involving blessings– First, a statement of the authority of the blessing.  Second, the declaration of what the blessing will be.  Third, a personal blessing for the individual.  Whether this be a blessing on the sick, a blessing of comfort, a baby blessing, an ordination, or an ordinance, they all follow this same procedure (Sacrament blessing is the exception)

My Father-in-law is a Stake Patriarch, and he has said that the purpose of a patriarchal blessing is to only give one’s lineage.  The personal blessing is all extraneous, meaning that the blessing would still stand as valid and be recorded, even without the personal blessing.

When you go to the MTC, as they’re looking over your immunizations and final paperwork, they ask you if you’ve received your endowments/garments, and if you’ve had your patriarchal blessing.  I’ve heard stories, probably apocryphal, of missionaries who’ve received their blessing at the MTC, and the story has always ended with the blessing portion being less personal than from your own stake’s patriarch.  Take it for what it’s worth.

The lesson includes a 12 question quiz here.  I always give the quizzes orally in my class, because the boys always participate.  It also helps you focus on the areas that the boys might not be familiar with, and give appropriate teaching when necessary.

The lesson goes through and examines each of the questions in detail with supporting quotes from church authorities.  While I usually shy away from reading church leaders quotes, patriarchal blessings are something that is more modern than our scriptures have.  I would caution very little use of the quotes, though, and more teaching from the heart and from your experiences.

Here’s my commentary on the questions:

1. One purpose of a patriarchal blessing is to tell you what the Lord expects of you. (True.)

However, I would add that it’s not a GPS.  It won’t give you turn by turn directions.  It will, however, tell you “If you head northeast at 45°, you will get to this point.”  There will be ups and downs, hills and valleys, detours for construction and long stretches of land with perhaps no houses in sight.  But if you deviate from going 45° northeast, you’ll miss it.

2. You need to receive only one patriarchal blessing in your life. (True.)

According to McConkie, a letter was circulated in 1948 stating that “all such blessings are recorded and generally one such blessing should be adequate for each person’s life”1 While I wouldn’t bring it up in class, my mind now starts working.  If the First Presidency had to issue a statement in 1948 that “generally” there only needed to be one, this must mean that more than one was being given during one’s lifetime.  Thus, the church wanted to end that practice.  Second, what does “generally” mean?  Notice that the phrasing leaves the room open for a possible second blessing.  What would this be for?  What circumstances would merit another patriarchal blessing?

3. A patriarchal blessing declares your lineage. (True.)

According to my father-in-law (who frequently speaks on the subject in his stake), this is the purpose of the patriarchal blessing.  The blessing is something that a worthy father, through faith, could give to a child with faith.  However, this begs the question of “Why.”  Why would the declaration of lineage be important?

“This lineage often has to do with your responsibilities in the Lord’s kingdom. Many members of the Church are of the lineage of Ephraim, Manasseh, or Judah, which are the most common tribes of Israel at this time in our progress of preaching the gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people23

So basically the lineage declares our responsibilities and blessings.

4. The only difference between a patriarchal blessing and a blessing your father might give you is that they are given by different people. (False.)

The patriarchal blessing is recorded on church records.  There will be a copy of the patriarchal blessing forever.  The father’s blessings are not recorded by the church.  They can give the same blessing as a patriarch.

5. Unless the patriarch knows you personally, he cannot give you a very detailed blessing. (False.)

Well this goes against what I said earlier (about the MTC rumors), but it’s a shade of grey.

6. You must be at least nineteen years old to receive a patriarchal blessing. (False, but you should have one before you enter the mission field.)

Again, this would be a good opportunity to find people from all ages (from late in life to early in teenage years) and ask them what reasons they had behind getting their blessing when they did.  For me personally, I knew it was something you did before your mission.  However I had friends get theirs right when they got into high school for some guidance.  Perspective is a great benefit here.

7. You must have a recommend from your bishop to receive a patriarchal blessing. (True.)

Why?  While worthiness does play a part, what’s the bigger picture?  Is one prepared to receive it? Are they mentally and spiritually mature enough to receive it?

8. Fasting can help prepare you to receive a patriarchal blessing. (True.)

Anyone who has gotten a patriarchal blessing knows that both the patriarch and the receiver fast.  Fasting does a great job of humbling the individual and preparing them to receive guidance.  This can also be applied to any spiritual experience desired.

9. Any of your friends should be able to read your patriarchal blessing if they want to. (False.)

When my friend in high school got his, he gave it to me to read (probably because he was excited about it).  Not only do I not remember anything, but I would equate the feeling to reading a legal document.  There were lots of words, but no meaning.  However, to him, it meant a lot.  My parents have read mine, and my wife has read mine.  That’s it.  Why?  Because it’s something very personal to me.  It’s not secret.  But the meaning it has to you wouldn’t be the same to someone else.

10. Studying your patriarchal blessing frequently can inspire you to live a better life and to reach your goals in life. (True.)

Yes.  I knew people who read theirs weekly while I was on my mission.  I wish I would have.  I’d always heard about people reading their blessing once a year or once every 6 months and finding something different.  So I thought that’s what I should do (so I always find something new).  However, it really needs to be consulted frequently, and prayerfully considered.

11. You cannot always tell how your patriarchal blessing will be fulfilled. (True.)

Yes.  Like I said, it’s a very broad roadmap that is contingent on righteousness.  It’s not a GPS, with turn-by-turn navigations that show you exactly where to go and what to do in every situation.

12. Your patriarchal blessing will come to pass regardless of what you do. (False.)

From the manual, “blessings a patriarch gives are conditional. They come to us on conditions of our obedience to God and his laws. As with most blessings from the Lord, we must live worthily to receive them.”

I think this is a very good lesson, and one that can help dispel some myths about patriarchal blessings that some youth have.  I’m not one for object lessons, but it might be good to bring both in for a bit more hands-on (even though just about everyone knows what a GPS is).

Resources

March 2004 Liahona, “About Patriarchal Blessings.”

March 1982 New Era, “The Message: Patriarchal Blessings.”  James E. Faust.

The Beginnings New blog has the Young Women’s perspective on the coordinating lesson in the YW manual here.


[1] Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966], p. 558

[2] See Dallin H. Oaks, “Patriarchal Blessings,” Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, Jan. 8, 2005, 8.

[3] Robert K Wagstaff, “When Should I Get My Patriarchal Blessing?,” NewEra, Aug 2009, 10–12

Advertisements