The Power of Patriarchal Blessings

by Truman G. Madsen
Meridian Magazine

In the heritage of the House of Israel we receive and give patriarchal blessings. As Karl G. Maeser taught, "a paragraph from the book of our possibilities."

I want to refer to three other patriarchal blessings besides your own that were given for you and should be as clearly written in your aspirations as any specific promise or counsel from your own personal blessing.

Before I do, may I mention that I have known many patriarchs in the Church and have had the privilege of counseling with them. Most recently, as a stake president, I have had the association of Brother Bruce R. Clark who has been a patriarch for more than 20 years. He has taught me that the anguish and the initial shock of such a call is overwhelming - the responsibility of not only giving a blessing but knowing that every word of it will be recorded and that for the rest of the person's life it will be sought after, and probed, and prayed over, and that, therefore, he is in effect speaking scripture.

He, among the many whom I have talked to, was not surprised at his call. It's one of the interesting common elements in the lives of most of our patriarchs that at some point in their lives there is a premonition, a whispering - "this calling will come to you." I even know of one case where the General Authority surprised a brother by meeting with him on a Sunday morning before stake conference, and said, "Do you know why you're here?" The man replied, "Yes." "Are you willing?" "Yes." "Sit down." And he put his hands on him and ordained him a patriarch. He knew in advance.

Three Special Patriarchal Blessings

One blessing I have in mind that reflects your past, which all patriarchal blessings sooner or later do, is section 86 of the Doctrine and Covenants. It's a reference to the great parable of the tares and the wheat. And you live in a generation where the tares are winning - the tares getting "tarier" and the wheat getting "wheatier." And the contest is real. It says:
"For ye are lawful heirs according to the flesh, and have been hid from the world with Christ in God . . . Therefore, blessed are ye if ye continue in my goodness," ['continue' means you didn't just begin in his goodness in this world] - Blessed are ye if ye continue in my goodness, "a light unto the Gentiles, and through this priesthood, a savior unto my people Israel."
That is your first patriarchal blessing in the Doctrine and Covenants.

Now another.

Brother Crawford Gates wrote a magnificent pageant called "Visions of Eternity" which is his musical arrangement of the section we call 76, sung and performed where it was first commissioned at Ricks College [BYU-Idaho]. We have it on video and audio, and I have occasionally played it for my stake family and said: "Look at those young people and listen to their music. And then ask yourself if their faces aren't different than some of the rock groups you see on television."

It says, of you, among other things:
"And [they] who overcome by faith are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true."
And then there are verses that have so many alls and everys it is incomprehensible:
"Wherefore, all things are theirs, whether life or death, or things present, or things to come, all are theirs and they are Christ's, and Christ is God's. . . . [Therefore] they shall overcome all things."
And now the last one. These are verses in D&C 84. Listen to this promise.
" . . . whoso [receiveth] . . . these two priesthoods" - the Aaronic and the Melchizedek, and it also applies to the sisters because they receive the blessings through these two priesthoods - ". . . and magnify their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit . . . They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God." [verse 34] Wherefore, ". . . all that [the] father hath shall be given unto [them]." [Verse 38]
All. There is that word again. All. Now brothers and sisters, one of the patriarchs I knew told me this story. He said that he has given (let's say) hundreds (I think it is thousands) of blessings and he has come away from those with two convictions which apply to everyone, whatever their differences.

Two Things Learned by One Patriarch

The first is that in every case when he has given a patriarchal blessing, he has known that the Lord our God loves this person. He has felt it. He has yearned to transmit it. And he has stated it often: "You are beloved of God." That has been true even when he has sensed under inspiration that the person is not fully worthy and perhaps is even involved in deception and some self-deception because of transgression. He still feels the love of God.

The other is that in every case he has felt, and most often said that the person has a lifetime mission for which he or she was prepared before the foundations of the earth. Now, let's see, how far back do we go in our memory? We have amnesia. We don't know our name, rank and serial number from before. We have our own given names in this world. But a patriarch is sometimes gifted to see earlier than that and to speak of that prior world. It is real. We were loved and carefully nurtured there. And we were sent at this time and in these circumstances and perhaps to the very families we are in, however traumatic some of the experiences are, because the Lord knew that is what we needed to experience. That exactly defines our lifetime mission.

"More patriarchal blessings are not fulfilled than are, because . . ."

Another patriarch whom I greatly honor whose name was Winslow Farr Smith said to me:
"You know, more patriarchal blessings are not fulfilled than are."
And that struck me. I did not like to hear that. He said:
"Because [finishing his sentence] the persons do not fulfill the conditions, and then the promises fail."
See, the glory of it is the Lord never, ever breaks a covenant, he never breaks his word. But we, being free, can do so.

Now in summing up and in closing, to paraphrase one paragraph from President Lorenzo Snow's Patriarchal Blessing:
The Lord has reserved a number of choice spirits out of all the creations of God [I remind you that the creations of God are extensive and even, by our reckoning, numberless] . . . Out of all those creations he has selected a group of choice spirits and has kept them in the Spirit World in order for them to come into the Church and the world in this last dispensation - that they may receive the testimony of Jesus Christ; that they may receive the eternal and everlasting priesthood; that they may build up the kingdom of God unto him and prepare themselves and the world for the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Brothers and sisters, you are among those. You are in the time when the very most valiant will be needed in the final struggle; you are equipped amidst those who are faltering and failing and who have not even comprehended the beginnings of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I bear you my witness that the Lord Jesus Christ lives; that He loves you; and that a patriarchal blessing is His message to you in His time.

He wants you to serve him at your best. He wants you to rise to the majesty of your privileges which always involve responsibilities. He wants you to avoid the vipers that are in the world today, and live close to Him.

And He promises that He will be with you, and be before you and ahead of you, in the unfolding of your life.

(edited by David Van Alstyne)

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