“Allow the Lord,” he said, “to lead you on your journey of spiritual discovery.”
Prayer, fasting, scripture study, obeying the commandments and following the guidance of inspired prophets and apostles are all steps one can take to “allow the Lord to lead you on your journey.”
Each of those actions invites the Lord to become one’s guide to spiritual discovery.
In ancient days, God provided the Book of Mormon prophet Lehi with the Liahona to give spiritual instructions and clarify the direction for his family to travel, on condition of their faith and obedience. It proved to be a priceless gift during their journey.
Today, Latter-day Saints can receive their own divine guiding gift — even a personal “Liahona” — by receiving their patriarchal blessings (see “Your Patriarchal Blessing: A Liahona of Light,” President Thomas S. Monson, October 1986 general conference).
A patriarchal blessing is a blessing bestowed by an ordained patriarch, given by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood and through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. It includes a declaration of one’s lineage — along with sacred statements about the life of the recipient that includes blessings, gifts, promises, admonitions and warnings.
Revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants states, “it is the duty of the Twelve … to ordain evangelical ministers, as … shall be designated unto them by revelation” (Doctrine and Covenants 107:39).
The Prophet Joseph Smith explained: “An Evangelist is a Patriarch … . Wherever the Church of Christ is established in the earth [organized into stakes], there should be a Patriarch for the benefit of the posterity of the Saints, as it was with Jacob in giving his patriarchal blessing unto his sons” (see “Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith,” compiled by Joseph Fielding Smith, page 151; and “Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith,” page 140).
The Church News recently sat down with President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, to discuss the gift of patriarchal blessings — along with what members can do to prepare for, and then utilize, this unique gift of guidance.
A patriarchal blessing, said President Ballard, is “wonderful and appropriate.”
“In the world that we are living in today, the youth need to be blessed by the Lord in any way they can be,” he said. “The world is getting more and more difficult. Lucifer is raging in the hearts of the children of men. So just to know that a member of the Church, who is worthy and can be recommended by his or her bishop, can receive a blessing under the hands of a stake patriarch is a very significant thing.”
Stake patriarchs, he added, are remarkable priesthood leaders.
“They are men generally of vast experience. They are spiritually insightful and carry a tremendous responsibility when they lay their hands on the head of someone to pronounce a patriarchal blessing.
“The Spirit of the Lord is with them. They haven’t got any counselors. They don’t have anybody standing with them. They stand alone and they place their hands on the heads of our people and pronounce blessings from our Heavenly Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, which is a very, very precious opportunity for members of the Church.”
President Ballard said he is often asked how a person can best prepare to receive a patriarchal blessing. He offers this gentle yet straightforward answer:
“Be thoughtful and ensure that your own life is in order. If there’s something going on in your life that you ought not be doing, let’s straighten that out so you can sit under the hands of the stake patriarch and be worthy to receive whatever Heavenly Father wants to bless you with.”
President Ballard is also sometimes asked when a person should receive his or her patriarchal blessing.
“When they are ready,” he answers. “They are ready when, spiritually, they can feel comfortable to have the stake patriarch bestow upon them a blessing, according to the will of our Heavenly Father.”
Parents can also help their children prepare to receive patriarchal blessings, he added.
Mothers and fathers can first help their sons and daughters understand the purposes of patriarchal blessings. They need to know that their blessing is not “some kind of fortune-telling experience.”
Beyond that, there is no set list of guidelines or rules.
“I think children should be prepared by their parents, spiritually. The recipient needs to be worthy and spiritually in tune so that the patriarch can be blessed to have heavenly inspiration,” counseled President Ballard. “When we do our part, the stake patriarch can have the Spirit of God to give the blessing that the Lord wants us to receive.”
So how can one best utilize their own patriarchal blessing — and how often should they be read?
Again, President Ballard offers guidance grounded in common sense and principles of personal revelation.
“People ought to turn to their patriarchal blessing when they have a spiritual need and when they desire reassurance. If they are going through an issue in their lives, it is a great time to read their patriarchal blessing.
“I think it’s healthy to read a patriarchal blessing anytime.”
The 93-year-old Apostle recently read his own patriarchal blessing. He still finds guidance and inspiration in a blessing that was bestowed upon him decades ago.
“A patriarchal blessing,” he said, “is ‘spiritual encouragement’ to strive for the important objectives of life. Getting through life is not an easy deal — and a patriarchal blessing is a wonderful thing to have. It is a comfort.”
A seasoned stake patriarch’s observations
President Ballard’s friend and fellow Apostle, the late President James E. Faust, once called a patriarchal blessing “a star to follow” and an “anchor to our souls” to be enjoyed across eternity.
David Sperry, patriarch in the Sandy Utah Willow Creek Stake, has performed his calling for over a decade and has given almost 600 patriarchal blessings.
While he has provided many patriarchal blessings, they are never commonplace. Each one, said Brother Sperry, is a reminder of God’s love for His children — and His desire to guide and direct them.
“The most difficult patriarchal blessing for me is the next blessing I am giving,” he said.
He typically bestows blessings to members of his stake on Sundays and in the peaceful environs of his own home. While most of the members he serves are young people he has given blessings to members as old as 89.
Brother Sperry echoes President Ballard’s counsel to first prepare spiritually for a patriarchal blessing while also learning about the purposes of such a remarkable divine gift.
From his own experience, he has discovered several things people can do to best utilize their patriarchal blessings. “First, I would recommend that you use it once you receive it,” he said. “Don’t simply put it away in a drawer or hope chest and never read it again.”
While measuring the worth of patriarchal blessings, Brother Sperry points to Doctrine and Covenants 88:33: “For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.”
He also encourages recipients of patriarchal blessings “to have faith in the promises that have been made to you” even while drawing upon continual prayer and heavenly inspiration to understand the words found in one’s blessing.
It is also important to be spiritually attentive to key directions and themes found in one’s patriarchal blessings.
Brother Sperry said power is also found in learning the blessings and responsibilities of one’s declared lineage. In declaring lineage, the patriarch identifies the tribe of Israel through which the person will receive his or her blessings.
Finally, Brother Sperry encourages Latter-day Saints to utilize their blessings throughout their lives to find truth and personal clarity amid a noisy world filled with disparate, divisive messages.
Just as Lehi and his family once discovered divine guidance while traveling in the wilderness with faith and hope, Latter-day Saints can discover guidance by listening to the Lord — including His encouragement and direction found in one’s patriarchal blessing.
9 things to know about a patriarchal blessing
- Members can review the scriptural mandate for the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to oversee patriarchal blessings (see General Handbook 18.17 and Patriarchal Blessings in Gospel Topics).
- Members seeking a blessing can visit with their bishop or branch president (see General Handbook 18.17 and 18.17.1).
- Members can request a copy of their blessing online (see General Handbook 18.17.2).
- Members can request a copy of blessings of their ancestors.
- Bishops and branch presidents can review who has received a blessing in their unit to assist those who may not have received a blessing (see Member Information in Leader and Clerk Resources on ChurchofJesusChrist.org).
- A blessing applies to more than just mortality, but it is also not intended to be the be-all and end-all of personal revelation in a member’s life (see Gospel Topics on Patriarchal Blessings).
- View resources and pointers for identifying and studying the gifts of the Spirit (see Gospel Topics on Spiritual Gifts).
- View resources and pointers for studying the assignments and birthrights of the different tribes of Israel (See Gospel Topics on Abrahamic Covenant).
- Ideas for including your patriarchal blessing in your regular scripture study (see Gospel Topics on Patriarchal Blessings).