Patriarchal Blessings

I consider my patriarchal blessing to be my personal scripture.  It is Doctrine and Covenants Section 139.

Several sections of the D&C come from church members asking the Prophet Joseph Smith this vital question. “What is the mind and will of the Lord for me and my life.”  That is what a patriarch blessing is all about.

  • Patriarchal blessings reveal the will of the Lord for you
  • Patriarchs have the gift of prophecy and revelation
  • Your patriarchal blessing might unveil your spiritual gifts, talents, skills
  • A patriarch isn’t a “fortune teller”
  • A patriarchal blessing may offer guidance
  • It may contain promised blessings
  • It may include warnings and admonitions
  • It may identify potential strengths and weaknesses
  • It is a comfort
  • It may give assurances
  • It is both personal and sacred
  • It declares your lineage in the House of Israel
  • It is the Lord’s will from an eternal, not mortal, perspective
  • Sometimes promised blessings are for the hereafter
  • Only you are entitled to interpret your patriarch blessing
  • The recipient should come prepared to receive the blessing
  • The promised blessings are predicated on faith and righteousness

My Father’s Experience

My father grew up in Ogden, Utah.  About 1935, his Sunday School teacher made arrangements with the Stake Patriarch for all her students to receive their blessings at the same time.  Weeks later, the teacher handed out the blessings to her class.

The teenagers immediately started comparing blessings. Those with the longer blessings taunted those with shorter blessings.

One shy girl’s blessing was only a few lines. Basically, it said that she belonged to the tribe of Ephraim, and she would come forth in the morning of the first resurrection and receive a crown of glory. The girl was devastated.

The patriarch agreed to come to the class to ease the situation. The patriarch described the purpose of blessings.  He added that when he placed his hands on this girl’s head, it was revealed to him that she would be so in tune with the Spirit throughout her life that she did not need any counsel from him. (Those teenagers who taunted her with their longer blessings were silenced.)

My Bishop/Stake President’s Experience

Growing up in Orange County, California, my favorite bishop and then stake president, shared this experience publicly a dozen times. He grew up in rural Ogden, Utah.  Around 1935, he received his blessing from his Stake Patriarch who was an uneducated farmer.  The blessing specifically promised that he would be the father of “many children.”

Before and/or during WWII, he was injured in such a way that the doctors opined that he could never have children.

On his way home from the Europe, he consulted several specialists in New York City.  They all agreed.  He could never have children.

Because of the change in circumstances he requested and received permission for a second patriarchal blessing.  This time, the Stake Patriarch was a college professor.

The language of the blessings was vastly different. However, the substance was the same. The patriarch was fully aware of the circumstances. Nevertheless, he promised that the recipient would father many children.

The promise was fulfilled, and I became friends with several of his kids.

My Personal Experience

I received my patriarchal blessing when I was 16 years old.  The patriarch didn’t know me or anything about me.  He didn’t ask me about myself before he placed his hands on my head and pronounced the blessing.

The predominant words in my blessing are “study,” “teach,” “knowledge,” and “wisdom.” It said the Lord’s plan for me was to “teach His children.”

I have served in teaching callings in the church throughout my life, starting before my mission. These include: Gospel Doctrine, Seminary, Priesthood, and Gospel Essentials. I have also been a Law School professor. The patriarch could not have described my future life more accurately.

David O. McKay’s Experience:

In 1887, David O. McKay received his blessing near his 14th birthday.

“Thou art in thy youth and need instruction….  Thou shalt see much of the world, assist in gathering scattered Israel, and also labor in the ministry.  It shall by thy lot to sit in council with thy brethren and preside among the people and exhort the Saints to faithfulness.”

After the inspired blessing, the patriarch counseled David, “My boy, you have something to do besides playing marbles.” Young David told his mother, “If he thinks I’m going to stop playing marbles, he is mistaken.” His patient and wise mother tried to calm him down as she explained the significance of the blessing.   (Morrell, Highlights in the Life of President David O. McKay, p. 26)

Spencer W. Kimball’s Experience

President Kimball received his blessing when he was 11 years old. It promised, “You will preach the gospel to many people, but more especially to the Lamanites.” When he was called to serve as an Apostle, he spearheaded the church’s Lamanite ministry. (Korea Area Conference, 1975; Conference Report, p. 39)

Blacks and the Priesthood

The one thing patriarchs have is common is the spirit of prophecy and revelation.

In 1978, the First Presidency and Twelve received the revelation extending priesthood and temple blessings to all men, regardless of race.  President Kimball announced the change in June of that year. It became Official Declaration 2 in the Doctrine and Covenants.

Before the revelation and announcement, patriarchs in the U.S., Mexico, and Brazil started giving blessings to men of African descent promising that they would receive the priesthood, serve missions, and marry in the temple.

One stake president was so concerned that he sent a copy of one such blessing to President Kimball seeking advice.  President Kimball returned the blessing.  He simply wrote on it, “A fine blessing.”

(See: Edward L. Kimball, “Spencer W. Kimball and the Revelation on the Priesthood,” BYU Studies Quarterly, Apr. 2008, pgs. 30-35)

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