As one of eight children, seven of them girls, and having been born only a few minutes after daughter number five, I might have grown up with an inferiority complex. Though I did have insecurities about how my peers saw or felt about me, I never once considered the possibility that I was unwanted or not needed or was regarded as extra by my parents in any way. I knew I was here on earth for a reason, a purpose, and according to a plan that was bigger than myself.
It has been such a blessing in my life to know that my Heavenly Father loves me and has a plan for me that can lead me back into His presence. Knowing this, how could I doubt for one moment that I was born to the right family, at the right time, in the right place, regardless of the abundance of daughters my parents already enjoyed? When I received my patriarchal blessing at the age of sixteen, I was not at all surprised to learn that this knowledge was a special gift that had been bestowed upon me from birth.
The giving of patriarchal blessings is a tradition in the Mormon Church just as it was in biblical times. (Two examples in the Old Testament are in Genesis chapter 27 when Isaac blesses Jacob and chapter 49 when Jacob reveals to his sons what their futures held.) The term “patriarch” refers to the male head of the family as well as a characteristic of a man who is older or higher in rank. Amongst Mormons, patriarchal blessings are given by a man who has been called as a Patriarch [an office in the Melchizedek Priesthood] for a particular geographical area of the Church. Generally, the Patriarch will not have met the recipient of the blessing beforehand and depends solely on inspiration from the Holy Ghost to guide him. He lays his hands upon the head of the individual he is to bless and speaks aloud the words that he is inspired, through fasting and prayer, to say. An audio recording is made and typed up, who then mails the written blessing to the recipient to keep near at hand for guidance and encouragement throughout their lives. These blessings are also kept by the Church and can become a precious part of family history records.
A patriarchal blessing includes information regarding a number of things that are important to us as Mormons/Latter-day Saints, not the least of which is learning of our personal lineage in the House of Israel.
“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 . . . (Robert K Wagstaff, “When Should I Get My Patriarchal Blessing?,” New Era, Aug 2009, 10–12).
We also look to our blessings for guidance which is specific to that particular individual as well as information regarding our personal gifts, such as my gift of knowledge. These are not the words of a fortuneteller, but that of a wise man who, through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, says what the Lord would have us know about ourselves as we are now and as we can become in the future. This is a sacred event; specific contents are shared with only close family members.
My husband and I requested that our developmentally disabled son be given his patriarchal blessing at age twelve as his challenges in life made it very difficult for us to know how to best help him. This request was granted and his blessing has done much to guide us in knowing what to expect and what to prepare him for. We have also been very comforted to know what blessings we can expect him to receive in this life and the next. It has made a very difficult job of parenting him a much more do-able one.
My personal blessing, for which I am so very grateful, also gives me much comfort, direction and guidance through the storms of life. It helps to keep me on course by reminding me of—
1. Who I am—a much loved daughter of God
2. Why I am here—to learn what I need to know in order to regain His presence
3. The blessings I can expect to receive in this life as well as my responsibilities
4. The glorious gifts set aside for me in the next life if I am faithful in my obedience to His commandments
I know that God chooses faithful servants to seek His counsel in the giving of these precious blessings and that the words spoken in my blessing and that of others are personal scripture that can lead us and guide us towards the ultimate goal of living again in the presence of God.
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For more official Church information about patriarchal blessings, you can read the following on lds.org:
James E. Faust: Patriarchal Blessings
Patriarchal Blessings (index entry)
Boyd K. Packer: The Stake Patriarch