I Hated My Patriarchal Blessing

Patriarchal Blessing

I was psyched to get my patriarchal blessing when I was 16. I’d read snippets of my parents’ blessings and had been told that my sister’s blessing had yielded some fascinating extra-doctrinal nuggets about the pre-mortal life.

When the day came, I went to my patriarch’s home. He was a wizened old man—liver-spotted hands, cotton-candy white hair in a half-halo around his otherwise bald head. He shook my hand, my parents’ hands, and sat me down in a wooden kitchen chair in his living room. Ceramic figurines and floral couches made the scene seem unexpectedly mundane. “This is my personal scripture blessing,” I remember thinking. “Shouldn’t it be a little more…mystical?”

And then the blessing started. I remember listening as the patriarch rattled off what seemed like a laundry list of formalities. Authority, lineage, a few familiar promises, and then he was wrapping it up.

I opened my eyes, and we were done. What just happened? The patriarch shook my hand again, said that he’d pass along my blessing when he had finished transcribing it, and ushered me out the door.

“It’s fine,” I told myself. “When you get the text copy of the blessing, you’ll find all kinds of cool insights and personalized doctrine and a coded message from Heavenly Father.”

When the blessing arrived in the mail in a plain manila envelope, I ripped it open and excitedly read the text. Then I read it again, somewhat less excitedly. Then once more, desperately.

My blessing was a tremendous disappointment. It did not seem to contain information about my spiritual gifts or powers. It did not relate to me or my personal attributes. Beyond naming my lineage and giving a few generic benchmarks for spiritual success, it was scanty on me.

No pre-earth hijinks, no promises of earth-life adventures, no sneak peeks into post-earth voyages. I felt like my blessing had basically been a patriarchal Mad Libs. Worse, the indistinct sentences didn’t even seem to be about me, functioning mainly as broad, sweeping sentences aimed at the general population.

(Church noun) is very important for members of the Church.”

The scriptures are available so that man may be (adjective).”

You’re probably expecting a story about how my blessing has eventually turned true, about how I’ve been humbled by its insights, and how in the end, the Lord winked at me through my blessing.

But I’ve been ordained to the Melchezidek Priesthood, my mission has come and gone, I found my dream girl and married her in the temple, I’ve held leadership callings in the Church—and my blessing still feels more like a brief collection of Gospel buzzwords than personalized scripture.

I still take it to the temple with me, in hopes I can squeeze some spiritual juice from it, that maybe in a certain temple somewhere I’ll finally get handed the Rosetta Stone to translate all the vague impartiality into deeply personal doctrine.

My blessing stands stoically silent, still unwilling to yield any extra insight. In my pursuit of truth, however, I’ve learned a few things about the Gospel:

1. Not Everybody Gets the Same Liahona

Lehi finding the LiahonaLong-time members of the Church have heard the story of the Liahona so many times, I think we could each build one from scratch. And as a doctrinal principle, it’s a fascinating subject: The Lord occasionally sends breath-taking examples of divine, personalized revelation and guidance to His children when they stand in need.

But the existence of the Liahona raises another question: why aren’t we always given Liahonas? Why didn’t every wandering Alma, Moses, or pioneer captain receive such a straightforward gift?

James E. Faust, in a 1980 BYU Devotional, gave the following insight into patriarchal blessings:

“…[A] person should not expect that the blessing will detail all that will happen to him or her, or be an answer to all questions. The omission of the blessing of a great event in life such as a mission or marriage does not mean it will not happen. My own blessing is short and is limited to perhaps three quarters of one page on one side, yet it has been completely adequate and perfect for me… From that short blessing I learned something about my responsibilities and my labors in establishing the kingdom.”

For me, the most significant word in this quote is the word “something.” Then-Elder Faust learned something, not everything about his coming responsibilities. And for him, that was enough. If we learn only one thing from our blessings, that can be enough. We may not feel like we’re holding a personal Liahona, and that’s okay—sometimes all you need, and all you get, is a still, small “something” to lead you along.

2. But Everybody Gets “Something”

girl reading her patriarchal blessing online
Now Patriarchal Blessings can be obtained online

If, like me, you’ve received a patriarchal blessing and are frustrated by its lack of personal insight, it might be time to take a step back and look at it from a wider view. By receiving a patriarchal blessing, you’ve already received something. You’ve participated in a unique element of the restored Gospel. You’ve allowed someone to fulfill their calling. And, if nothing else, you’ve received a description of your lineage.

Perhaps your tribal lineage is significant to you, perhaps it isn’t. Whether you appreciate it or not, you got it—and you got it in the only way you could. Julie B. Beck in 2006 said,

“Your lineage is important. It means that you are included in the promises given to Abraham that through him all the nations of the world would be blessed. Your lineage is a ‘blood relationship.’ That makes you literally ‘children of the prophets’ with a noble birthright. That is why we often say that you are ‘youth of the noble birthright’ and belong to a royal, ‘chosen generation.’”

No matter the remaining content of your blessing, no matter how you feel about the tone or timbre of the blessing, when all else fails, you’ve been granted an overarching insight into your personal purpose in the government of God. And that matters.

3. Fighting Against Destiny

path laid out by patriarchal blessingHere’s a scriptural spoiler: nobody beats God. Nobody foils the Plan. Nobody escapes the purposes of our Heavenly Father. If you’re a good guy, that’s comforting. If you’re a bad guy, that’s terrifying. If you’re a member of the Church who’s received their patriarchal blessing, you’re probably on the right track.

But if Heavenly Father explicitly explained everything that was going to happen to us, I think our natural reaction would to either become complacent, thus nullifying the blessing, or to “kick against the pricks.” We’d wrestle with fore-ordination and pre-mortal promises, trying to combat the feeling that we had no freedom of choice, that everything was already set in stone.

In a way, a vague blessing can be an affirmation of agency. A blessing with limited insight could be a testimony-builder that our Heavenly Father believes in our integrity and perspective enough to let us walk forward with limited road signs.

In the end, though, finding meaning in and gaining a testimony of our patriarchal blessings is really an extension of our own testimonies. I was disappointed by my blessing; disappointed by the setting, disappointed by the length, and disappointed by the lack of obvious insights.

That being said, the pursuit of finding truth in my blessing has led me to reflect on my own path, my own fore-ordination, my lineage, the nature of revelation, and the ways God speaks to me.

And wasn’t that the point all along?

Sam’s a Utah resident and churro aficionado. In addition to writing for MormonHub, Sam enjoys TV comedies without laugh tracks, sports without commercial breaks and pizza without pineapple.

  • Gale Boyd

    My patriarchal blessing was also short and non-specific, but I was 18 when I received it and had only been a member of the Church for two years. As a young adult, I remember being jealous of others who had received such detailed blessings, but I now realize I just wasn’t ready to receive information about my astonishing and wonderful adventures that lay ahead. I have received line upon line as the years have progressed in many priesthood blessings. Had I been told in my original Patriarchal Blessing the things I know now, I would have been blown away and terribly confused.

  • Julie

    What a faith-destroying and damaging title. When my husband and I saw this, the title suddenly made me start questioning if I should feel the same as the title implied as I have a short patriarchal blessing. it almost started planting a few seeds of doubt that were not there. This was my experience and I hope this doesn’t fall on deaf ears. It is real and painful to have a blog post plant a seed of doubt that can grow (hopefully not, but as a writer, one never, ever can tell where these kinds of titles about hating your patriarchal blessing can lead). I’m sure it was well meaning but it doesn’t inspire faith or promote confidence in wonderful patriarchs who are called by God in one of the most important significant callings of their life. It is not man-made. It is inspired. Please don’t publish things that tear down faith or at the very least, cause some to find a bone to pick with their patriarch or create a wedge or a stumbling block.

    Please consider that this title (obviously click bait-ish/sensationalized) is not something we should ever say. Why? Because it is not from a patriarch. It is from Heavenly Father. This is His blessing to each of us.

  • P.A.

    You get the blessing you need, not the one that will feed your ego best. Some people just don’t need a lot of guidance, others do.

  • Karen

    I’m so glad I saw this article. It made me feel a lot better. My blessing didn’t even include my lineage! No lineage!
    It was seriously about 3/4 a page long. I felt so disappointed. Who’s blessing doesn’t even have their lineage?
    I seldom read it.
    I’ve had to come to the conclusion that God just wants me to walk by faith.

    • Gale Boyd

      You can write to the Church if your lineage is missing. Or speak with your local leaders. That needs to be fixed.

    • John H

      You should surely have a ammendment from your patriarch, lineage is mandatory. And a patriarch can do an extra blessing to resolve the lineage.

  • Elizabeth Ouellette

    Thank you. I always cringe when people gush about their blessing. I did not have a positive experience and the patriarch was soon “retired’l Mine is very short, double spaced with large font. One page. My husband’s is three pages, single spaced small font. his blessing actually talks more about his wife (I’m assuming me) then my own blessing. I used to be very hurt by it. I felt like I wasn’t special or not significant enough to even have a proper blessing. However, after carefully examining mine and my spouses I’ve reached a few conclusions. Many blessings and instructions in long P.B are very general and apply to everyone. I guess I didn’t need to be told in a paragraph form to read my scriptures daily or two paragraphs telling me to serve in the temple. I usually don’t need a lot of instruction in other matters. I also feel that God had been able to get the message across to me in other ways outside of a PB that have been a great source of spiritual comfort.

  • I have to remain anonymous in this case

    Specifics might not always be so great.

    I know someone whose blessing had such specifics in it, that it was scary. And they came to pass exactly as foretold. And they did not follow the guidance. And life has been — uhmmm — shall we say — disappointing to horrible as a result. And they can look at that blessing and kick themselves every day.

    I think, had they not had such very pointed and specific insights, at least some of the guilt would be less. Life might not have been better but ….

  • Nisile Batengas

    I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your insight. I must admit, I was laughing quite a lot while reading. In fact I don’t think it should have taken me 20 minutes to dinish reading it. Having said that, your concern might mean the rest of us who received a two sided sheet of the patriachal blessing might be because we really need reassurance and to really trust the Lord and believe Him in his blessings, that he found it necessary to repeate more than once a certain instruction. Or maybe we are susceptible to following the wind and therefore need a firm reaffirmation so we would not just go with the flow of the world. All in all, the Lord is very aware of us and our personalities. And He knows if we will listen or not when the time comes. Thank you again for making me see the humorous side of the Lord.

  • Kristy Johnson

    Thanks so much for writing this. I too had a very plain, generic blessing. As a new member of the church and 19 years old I had heard all the wonderful things that your blessing could hold. Nope not mine. Now I’m in my 50s and I also served a mission, married in the temple and raised my kids to see them do the same. I’ve learned that some people really need direction and some of us don’t. It’s all good but I bet I haven’t read that blessing in 20 years.