My non-descript and utterly predictable patriarchal blessing

I’ve heard a lot of people get up in sacrament meeting and say it was no accident that they were asked to give a talk on a particular topic because that topic was one that they had always struggled with or had been struggling with recently.  I haven’t been asked to speak in sacrament meeting since I moved into my current ward.  Incidentally, I moved into my current ward a little more than five years ago.  My husband has spoken in this ward a couple of times, but I haven’t, and since they no longer have husbands and wives do tag-team sacrament meeting talks, I think that as long as we stay here, I am safe from ever having to give a talk again.  We live in a very large ward, where people are always moving in and seldom moving out, so there are always plenty of people to talk in sacrament meeting without having to ask old Rebecca J to dust off her scriptures and wing it for ten minutes.

Being fairly indifferent to the matter of speaking in sacrament meeting, I don’t take offense or feel slighted or anything like that.  My theory is that the bishopric(s) see that I’m constantly wrangling these four demon-possessed unruly children and also that I’m always looking tired and/or angry, and they think, “We may need her husband, because he’s got the priesthood and organ-playing ‘skillz,’ but if we ask this woman to do one more thing, she’s either going to die or kill us all.”  And that’s why they stuck me in the library and why they don’t ask me to speak in sacrament meeting.  It’s not just compassion; it’s also smart management.

Really, my life isn’t so difficult; I just make it look that way.  (I’m sorry, but it’s a gift.  It can’t be taught.)

I was thinking, though, that if I ever did get asked to speak in sacrament meeting, assuming that there’s some cosmic reason behind the opportunity, I would probably get asked to speak on patriarchal blessings.

When I was a Laurel, my Young Women president told me that I should get my patriarchal blessing.  I got called in for an interview with my bishop, and he said, “I understand you want to get your patriarchal blessing.”  I said, “Do I?”  He said, “Isn’t that why you’re here?”  I said, “You tell me.”  Well, probably I didn’t say, “You tell me,” but I do recall the whole thing being a little odd, and while I left with a recommend for a patriarchal blessing, I did not end up calling the stake patriarch to schedule an appointment because I didn’t actually want a patriarchal blessing.

I wasn’t trying to avoid getting one, but I do remember thinking I couldn’t be bothered to make that phone call and maybe I wasn’t really ready for a patriarchal blessing–whatever it means to be “ready” for a patriarchal blessing.  I don’t know.  I guess I thought you had to be “spiritual” or something, and “spiritual” was something I was definitely not.  I didn’t dislike church, particularly, at that time, but neither was I some kind of fanatic who went out and got special blessings.  I guess you could say I felt unworthy, but I think it was more that I was apathetic.  Also, patriarchal blessings had always struck me as having a kind of mystical power, and not being a mystical person, that scared me.  I guess I did feel unworthy.  But I was also lazy.

I was active in church during college, but I think that was mostly due to the fact that I was the only Mormon at a Baptist college, and I was living out this perverse need to be contrary.  (I’m not ashamed of it, I’m just saying.)  I don’t recall the subject of my patriarchal blessing ever coming up.  I think everyone assumed I already had one.

My older sister got her patriarchal blessing at 14.  I don’t know when my younger siblings got theirs.  I never asked.  I had a profound lack of curiosity about patriarchal blessings, despite the fact that I considered them mystical, and ordinarily mystical stuff interests me, even if I’m not willing to participate in it.  But again, there was the unworthiness.  And the laziness.

So fast-forward, after college:  I was 24 and I was serving in the Relief Society presidency in my singles ward.  I was a pillar of the ward, actually; I had a testimony and everything.  I’m not saying this to boast.  I just need to clarify that I was going through a period of optimism and non-jadedness at that time.  Okay, maybe I’m boasting a little bit.  I admire my younger self greatly.  But boasting is not the point; I’m just setting the stage.  I was in Sunday School, see, and we were talking about patriarchal blessings that week–what they were, why they were important, etc.  The teacher said it was like a road map for your life.  People were talking about what their own blessings meant to them, how they had helped them make critical decisions in their lives, blah blah blah, and since it was a small class and everyone was sharing, I felt like people expected me to share something, too.  So I shared that I didn’t actually have my patriarchal blessing, that I hadn’t ever gotten one.

I want you now to imagine a collective gasp of horror that filled the room upon this revelation.  That, followed by a chorus of You haven’t gotten your patriarchal blessing?  But you just have to have a patriarchal blessing!  It’s a road map for your life!  Your life! And I’ll be honest with you, I was a little bit embarrassed.  I mean, here I was, non-jaded and a pillar of my ward community–they were letting me serve in the Relief Society presidency, for the love of Mike, and I did not even have my patriarchal blessing.  Well, now that I thought of it, what was I waiting for?

So I got myself a new recommend (seven years after getting the first one), and this time I actually made the appointment with the stake patriarch.  I thought this was going to be good, because it seemed like it was so good for everybody else, and I was kind of excited about it.  I was very curious about what it would say.  A blessing just for me.  All for me.  Me me me.  A road map, no less.  FOR MY LIFE.  I was very, very interested in how it would turn out.

So I met with the patriarch, and he asked me some questions about what I was doing with my life, if I was going to school, if I was working, my plans for the future, etc.  I told him I was out of college but planning to attend graduate school in the near future, having been accepted to a couple of MFA programs in creative writing.  He asked what I planned to do with that degree.  Oh my, how I hated that question.  Not that he asked it in a snide or otherwise offensive manner, but I really didn’t know what I was planning to “do with it”; it just seemed like the thing to do because it was the thing I was good at, and also, I was young and single and if there’s ever a time to pursue a completely worthless graduate degree, it’s while you’re young and single and have nothing to spend money on but the fruits of your own narcissism.  I couldn’t very well admit that, of course, so when I hesitated to answer and he asked if I was planning to teach, I said, “Ah…I’m considering it”–even though I wasn’t considering any such thing.  I just felt like I had to look responsible, since I was there to get a Very Important Blessing, and I wanted to appear worthy.  And not lazy.

I think that was my first mistake.  My second mistake was when he asked if there was any particular issue that I wanted guidance on.  Now, I was not particularly full of angst at this time, but I’m sure if I’d thought about it long enough, I could have come up with an issue or two to get guidance on.  The only thing that was really springing to my mind was Heavenly Mother.  I was mostly at peace with the whole Heavenly Mother business; that is, I was at peace with not knowing anything about Her (or Them, or Whoever), and I didn’t spend much time or energy worrying about it the way I once did.  The truth was, I had taken a tremendous leap of faith to reconcile myself to the fact that I was never, ever going to get satisfactory commentary on such mysteries in this life.  Yeah, I know, it’s not a real inspiring story of faith–not up to Joseph Smith standards or healing-cows-on-the-plains standards–but I had worked really hard to get to that point; it was what had allowed me to move on with my religious life and embrace the gospel at long last.  I was really not keen on taking a step backward and admitting that it still bothered me, at least a little bit.

So when he asked if I had any issues, I just shrugged and said, “Not really.  Surprise me!”  Okay, I may or may not have said, “Surprise me!”  That was certainly in keeping with the spirit of my actual remarks, though, and I know I was thinking it.  If I’m to be perfectly honest, I have to admit that I was testing God here.  God and the stake patriarch, too, maybe.  If this blessing was really important, if it was really supposed to be a road map for my life, then I really wanted to know what God had to say to me that He thought I should know–not what I thought I should know.  I know, it almost sounds like it was about faith, rather than a lack thereof, when I put it that way.  But that’s neither here nor there.  My point is that I was not as forthcoming with the patriarch as I could have–maybe should have–been, and I will always wonder how much difference it would have made if I’d simply told him what was really on my mind.

You see, I got my patriarchal blessing, and let’s just say I was underwhelmed.  I continue to be underwhelmed to this day.  Now, there’s nothing wrong with my patriarchal blessing.  It’s fine.  It’s nice, even.  It basically tells me to keep the commandments, which is always good advice.  In my (quite extensive, I assure you) research for this post, I read some e-articles and a lesson from the Young Women manual about patriarchal blessings, and from those (extensive) readings I learned that some people have certain promises in their patriarchal blessings and that it’s important to bear in mind that those promises are not necessarily to be fulfilled in this life.  Apart from thinking that it would be funny to put that little disclaimer in the fine print on your blessing’s hard copy, I also thought I must be pretty lucky on this front because my patriarchal blessing doesn’t promise anything particular, so I have no cause to be impatient or disappointed.  Score one for me.

The only problem with my patriarchal blessing is that I thought it would tell me something about myself that I didn’t already know.  I wanted to be surprised–but I wasn’t.  In retrospect I think that this must have been wisdom on God’s part.  (Him being God and all, what else would it be?)  As I get older, I realize that I don’t actually like surprises all that much, so asking for one then was asking for that which I ought not, and we all know how God feels about that sort of thing.

When I think on it now, I realize that what’s in my patriarchal blessing is exactly what I’d expect God to say to me, which is to say, not much.  Which is not a bad thing, actually.  It used to rub me the wrong way, but these days I’m more inclined to believe that God is just letting me fly under the radar–exactly the way I like it.  After all, to whom much is given, much is required, and I’ve got enough going on without some pesky blessing-attendant-upon-my-faithfulness to worry about.

I jest, but…not really.  Where once I thought the take-home message was “you’re not that special, get over yourself,” I now think the take-home message is “life’s not that complicated, get over it.”  The former was kind of off-putting.  The latter is exactly what I needed to know then as well as now, and fifty years from now I’ll probably still be trying to ram it through my thick skull.

The road map analogy is apt.  In real life, I get annoyed when people try to give me directions with too much detail.  It’s confusing.  I like to stick to street names and compass directions.  In fact, I’m sure that if I’d just waited a few more years to get my blessing, the patriarch may very well have said, “You know what?  Just Google it.  It’ll be faster.”  Yes, God certainly knew what He was doing when He told me what I needed to know instead of what I thought I wanted to know.  Just as I allegedly thought it should be.

And I didn’t even have to speak in sacrament meeting to gain that valuable insight.  That’s what I love about being me.

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Comments

  1. Rebecca, you are always a joy to read.

    I find it interesting that you were seen as really odd by your ward for not having had your blessing by 24. I guess I just have little sense for at what age most people get them. Was your sister more unusual, at 14, or were you, at 24, for example? I would have guessed she was, but it sounds like I might be wrong. Also, I wonder if it’s easier for getting your patriarchal blessing to slip through the cracks than, say, going to the temple, since I don’t think it’s recorded anywhere on your membership record (or at least not anywhere visible to lowly clerks).

  2. I think 14 is probably more unusual than 24, but for someone who grew up in the church, 24 might be more unusual than, say, 17–but who knows? There’s no set age, and like you said, no visible markers (aside from a post-blessing glow, perhaps?)–so I don’t have any idea what the “typical” age is, and I reckon most people don’t. I wasn’t surprised to learn I was the only one in the room who didn’t have one yet (aside from the newly baptized members), but I was surprised that it should be a source of so much scandal. ;)

  3. Rebecca, fwiw, my mother’s PB is three paragraphs – and says, essentially, nothing profound or unique.

    My mother is one of the most naturally spiritual people imaginable. I’m convinced God just didn’t know of anything that she absolutely had to hear to stay on course – that her PB could have read, “Keep doing what you’re doing, honey,” and it would have been perfectly appropriate.

  4. I want to briefly come out of lurking and say that I really, really love reading things that Rebecca J writes.

  5. Rebecca,
    I had a vision while reading your post: You will have 14 kids, but will loss a hand in an auto accident when the first is still in diapers. There was also some bad news, but I thought I would e-mail to you. Better late than never to get your road map.

  6. Rebecca,
    My blessing is very bland. Originally felt unimportant, but really……. I’m kinda bland. So it really does fit me, and I’m comfortable with it. I feel like the Lord knows me because it fits me. Not too specific, doesn’t mention greatness, but it mentions love. That’s all I need. Loved reading this. Appreciate your honesty and candor. =)

  7. Rebecca-
    My blessing (as well as my siblings) are very detailed and unique. I think you have a point in saying that perhaps it’s better not to know–some of my siblings have had real issues with life not meeting the expectations of grandeur outlined in their blessings.

    On the other hand, my father is a patriarch now and I can assure you none of his blessings are basic. They are are very personal and distinct. It may be that if you asked a few others who got blessings by that patriarch, they would all be pretty bland. I do have a testimony that all patriarchs are inspired, especially after watching my dad get called to the job, but I can tell you all my kids are going to my father, NOT the stake patriarch now. NOT ALL PATRIARCHS ARE CREATED EQUAL.

    BTW–I have several amazing sentences in my blessing about our heavenly mother–they are quite beautiful and comforting. Since they apply to you as much as to me, I can certainly email them to you if you’d like.

  8. Two comments:

    1. Not all patriarchal blessings are particularly fun to live with. You could have gotten something more interesting, but maybe in a bad way. Those “road maps”, especially the really detailed ones, can easily turn into a list of opportunities and blessing missed.

    2. If you ever really feel short changed, go get another one. Don’t know how this works, but I’m pretty sure it can be done if one nags enough. (The person who told me you can have a “re-do” is REALLY naggy.)

    2.5. Don’t get me wrong, p. blessings are rad, but often father’s/husband’s/bishop’s/whoever’s blessings often kick their trash. (Comment in honor of the June Ensign cover article).

  9. Mine is bland and short- not even filling up a page. I was kind of disappointed when I got it, but you’ve helped me see the error of my ways. I may now celebrate my bland, short blessing. :)

  10. I like the insight that “life’s not that complicated, get over it”.

    I also enjoyed your writing.

    I know no one here cares a bit about reasons why my patriarchal blessing is special to me personally, but there’s something that will always be special/sentimental simply because it was given to me by my grandpa.

  11. O – My understanding is that patriarchal blessing re-dos are discouraged, but even if that weren’t (isn’t) the case, I don’t particularly want a re-do. I mean, what if I got something weird or awful the second time around? ;)

    SBK – My husband got his patriarchal blessing from his uncle, so his is very long and detailed. I think it certainly makes a difference if the patriarch knows you. I also think, though, that it makes a difference if you know the patriarch. My current stake’s patriarch passed away quite recently. He was in our ward, and while he didn’t know much about me aside from the fact that I was Sister J, but I admired him tremendously and I often wished that I could have had a patriarchal blessing from him. I believe that not all patriarchs are created equal (even if they’re all inspired), but I also think that my admiration for this particular person would have made whatever he said to me more meaningful–which may be a sad commentary or not, but it just goes to show that the whole business is subjective.

    Bob – Well, my first is out of diapers and I still have both my hands, so that must be one of those not-necessarily-in-this-life promises–which is cool with me.

  12. I cannot relate to this at all. Mine is very specific. It says for example, “you will study ants from the species Tetramorium caespitum and find great joy in their emergent behavior” It also says on “Enjoy hummingbirds and forget not to fill the feeder lest ye and thy garden be smitten with Cylindrocladium box blight” It also gives strange advice yet to come, “If you should ever find yourself trapped on one of the moons of Saturn alone and forgotten, forgive those who have left you trapped in a time not of your choosing and look to the robot hunters of Sigma-alpha-tau.” Whatever.

    Anyway thanks for this very nicely written post. It got me to drag mine out and think about it. Some great stuff is actually there.

  13. Thomas Parkin says:

    You’re funny. ~

  14. Steve P–we must’ve had the same patriarch, because mine says the exactly the same thing, with one difference. It says “Do not worry if you are called upon to sacrifice a friend on one of the moons of Saturn. Even as Abraham and Isaac learned much from their experience on Mount Morai, so you and the left-behind one will learn much. Also, he will deserve it.”

  15. Oh no.

  16. I love you guys.

  17. Margaret FTW!

  18. Thomas Parkin says:

    I know we’re not supposed to talk openly about our patriarchal blessings. But I do feel inspired to share MCQ’s blessing. This came into my hands when he left it on the pew after Sacrament Meeting. I think it’s quite spiffy, and I’m hoping he will trade his blessing for mine – even though mine has all those uncomfortable parts about not coveting my neighbor’s wife nor anything else that is my neighbor’s.

    MCQ’s Blessing:

    And you will find a fortune –
    though it will not be the fortune you seek.
    But first, first you must travel
    a long and difficult road – a road
    fraught with peril, uh-huh, and
    pregnant with adventure. You shall
    see things wonderful to tell.
    You shall see a cow on the roof of a cottonhouse,
    uh-huh, and oh, so many startlements.
    I cannot say how long this road shall be.
    But fear not the obstacles in your path,
    for Fate has vouchsafed your reward.
    And though the road may wind, and yea,
    your hearts grow weary,
    still shall ye foller the way,
    even unto your salvation. ~

    (HT: Coen Bros)

  19. Still thinking about this . . .

    I remember in high school a friend and I shared our blessings. We really had had the same patriarch and we were astonished to find almost the same blessing. But there were some differences, and I remember one in particular (the patriarch knew neither of us from Adam) cut right to the heart of who we are and who we turned out to be. Maybe small things carry a lot of weight in these blessings and you might not be as ordinary as you think :)

  20. I love _Oh Brother Where Art Thou_.
    Seriously, when I contemplate my dad’s PB, given to him by his cousin when Dad was eleven years old, I am a bit in awe. Dad was told that he would be an ambassador for the Lord (which could apply to any missionary, but Dad has been an ambassador in so many countries that the word seems precisely descriptive) and that he had the gift of tongues. I wonder if he would have pursued linguistics without that particular pronouncement. It is a real gift. I saw one of Dad’s former students–also a linguist–last week. He said, “Your father changed my life, you know.” There are so many people in so many countries who would echo those words.

  21. One year for Christmas I made pocket-sized, laminated copies of our patriarchal blessings for me and my husband.

    Somehow my mother-in-law saw them (we were at their house for the holidays) and she was shocked to see that my patriarch had also given her a patriarchal blessing many years earlier (and in St. Louis where I got mine in AZ). If I remember correctly, there was some similar language in both blessings, but they were still very different.

    I don’t know if there’s much meaning there, but it was a strange little twist of fate that we had had the same patriarch many years and states apart.

  22. Whew, Thomas, I’m so glad it was you that found my blessing and not some stranger. Feel free to share it whenever you are so prompted.

    The longest, most impressive and detailed PB I ever saw or heard of was given to my missionary companion. It told him that he would be a leader in the highest levels of the church. I used to secretly envy him this very impressive and detailed “roadmap of his life.” He left the church soon after returning from his mission and has never been back.

  23. My sister and I got our blessings from the same patriarch. I read hers a few years ago and was suprised at how similiar there are. Made me feel a little less special…

  24. My patriarch was repetitive and verbose. My husband’s patriarch was to the point. As a result his is less than a page and mine is three pages.

    I do think patriarchs have certain phrases and ways of saying things that they repeat form blessing to blessing.

  25. I seek the collective wisdom of the BCC community: I lost my only copy of my patriarchal blessing a few years ago. Should I try to get another copy somehow?

  26. Russell, if you decide to get another copy, the “somehow” is to write to: Patriarchal Blessings, Church History Library, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 15 East North Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84150. Give your full name and birthdate, and, if you remember, the name of your patriarch, what stake you were in when you got it, and at least an approximation of the date. There is no charge for copies; requests must be sent by mail (no email or phone requests; people living close enough can walk in).

  27. That’s an amazingly lengthy post for describing something that’s nondescript!

  28. esodhiambo says:

    Loved this.

  29. Emily U says:

    I’ve always thought the last calling on earth I’d want (if I were male) would be stake patriarch. Imagine the pressure to provide road maps for people’s whole lives! I know the words are supposed to be inspired, but it’s still a human saying them and what if he’s having a bad day… No wonder blessings can be “non-descript and utterly predictable.”

    Incidentally, when I got my blessing the patriarch asked what I wanted to be when I grew up (I was 15). I said an optometrist. During the blessing I was certain I heard him mention optometry, so when I got the hard copy months and months later (or so it seemed) I immediately scanned for the word “optometry.” It wasn’t there. My first thought was that my memory was mistaken, then I was sure the patriarch had reconsidered what he’d said and edited himself. It’s probably the former, but man, I should have become an optometrist!

  30. Bro. Jones says:

    The major thing that lead me to investigate the church was reading a friend’s patriarchal blessing–it was simply amazing. After joining the church, I had the opportunity to have the same patriarch give me my blessing…and it was pretty plain, like what the OP describes. Not a testimony-shaker by any means, but yeah, I doubt my blessing will convert anyone.

    Also, my wife has been pretty nonchalant about getting her blessing. (We’re still childless and she works full-time: she’s terrified about getting a 30-minute lecture on quitting her job and taking up motherhood.) She’s gotten like 3 or 4 recommends for the blessing but we always move to a new house before she calls the patriarch.

  31. Jennifer says:

    My PB seemed pretty bland to me also except for one specific warning given which ended up saving my life. Would my life still have been saved without that warning? Probably, but it was there for whatever reason and makes a cool story to tell.

    I also got to read my mom’s blessing once and it fit her exactly, even though she also thought hers was generic. Maybe they seem like no big deal to the owner just because they fit them so well.

  32. When I was 12 years old I was absolutely certain I needed to get my patriarchal blessing to find out who I was supposed to marry. I was an odd child, but I always thought that in order to progress I’d have to find my wife asap. I didn’t tell anyone that my purpose in obtaining the blessing was to find out who I should marry, but I scheduled the appointment right away.

    So I get the blessing and the patriarch talks about my mission, education, the temple, teaching my children and others, to prepare to be of service, etc.; but he never mentions a wife. He never even mentioned getting married! I was disappointed by my blessing to say the least.

    So, I have felt that the Lord seriously held back on me so that I wouldn’t obsess over that detail and use the blessing as a Magic 8 Ball. I learned something about how the Lord gives line upon line through the experience and my Patriarchal blessing has actually become more holy and a true blessing to me because of what it didn’t contain.

    By the way, my wife had a revelation that she was supposed to marry me that was very specific before we even started dating (and she never told me about it so that she wouldn’t manipulate the relationship), so God still took an active role there, just not when I was 12 and a sign seeker.

  33. Mine’s a haiku
    Brother Zack, Damnation and hellfire await thee, lest ye repent oft.

    It’s perfect.

  34. T. Mauery says:

    When I was a missionary, one of my companions shared what he thought was an important omission to his patriarchal blessing. It never mentioned anything about having children. He was very concerned that he was sterile, and that he wouldn’t be able to have kids.

    Of course, I tried to explain that just because it’s not in the blessing doesn’t mean it won’t happen, but he didn’t seem to accept that. He got transferred, I got tranferred, and almost a year later we ended up in the same zone again.

    Unfortunately, he wasn’t there for long, as he got involved with a lady in the area, and she got pregnant. This made me really sad, because he was a really good guy. On the other hand, he obviously wasn’t sterile.

  35. That should also go in the fine print: “Just because I haven’t mentioned children doesn’t mean you’re sterile.”

  36. My grandfather was a patriarch. He gave me my PB when I was 11 or 12 as he was dying of cancer. I was the last of the grandchildren (and the only one of my siblings) to get a blessing from him.
    I love my blessing. There are a few lines in it that have given me great confidence as I make decisions (like who to marry) and serve in the church.
    But mostly I love that it’s from my grandfather, that and my old worn copy was typed up in the little back room of their tiny old house on an old manual typewriter and signed by him.

  37. I’ve always been a little lukewarm on the idea of clinging to specific phrases/predictions in PBs. But I can’t deny the remarkable nature of my own blessing. I was new to the area and met the stake patriarch for the first time the day of my blessing. On the drive home, my dad wept openly at the realization that this stranger had just been moved by the Spirit enough to pronounce a blessing. That still sticks with me, even if nothing in the blessing itself is particularly earth-shattering.

    Thanks for this, Rebecca. A wonderful post.

  38. Jennifer in GA says:

    I would say that mine falls in the ‘fairly non-descript’ category, although I will say that the meaning of several things said has changed over the years, depending on the situation (and all interpretations have been very valid ones).

    I remember being very jealous (at the time) of my friend’s blessing. It was about six pages long, and extremely detailed (one of the things it said was that she would marry and her husband would become a mission president-hasn’t happened yet, thought). She was living in a different stake when she received her blessing, and I though maybe my patriarch didn’t “know” me well enough, and that’s why mine was considerably shorter.

    Fast forward to two years ago, when I was back in the ward I grew up in attending the funeral of a family friend. The patriarch who gave me my blessing came up to me, called my by name and we proceeded to have a lovely conversation, in which he mentioned that he remembered when I came to receive my blessing from him.

    This brother has got to be in his mid-to-late 80′s now, and he served as the stake patriarch for almost 30 years. I was astonished that he remembered me, let alone details of when I received my blessing, given that he hadn’t seen me in almost 14 years and that he’s probably given thousands of blessings in his lifetime.

  39. Great post, Rebecca.

    I had the opposite experience. I certainly didn’t expect much from my patriarchal blessing, which I got at 21 after years of inactivity, and it seems to demand a lot of me in terms of living the gospel and the kinds of church service I’ll perform. I’ve never remotely felt I could live up to it. It’s ended up feeling more like a condemnation of my inadequacies than anything else, and has sometimes even been a source of despair.

    I can relate to MCQ’s missionary comp (#22) who was told he’d be a leader at the highest levels and ended up leaving the church.

    I think we need a whole new way of looking at patriarchal blessings. I just don’t know what that way might be.

  40. StillConfused says:

    My patriarchal blessing was cool in that it specifically said that i would be recognized in my field of work. So no need to be a stay at home mom for me. My blessing says so.

    My daughter’s blessing bothered me though. Her patriarchal blessing said that she will always struggle with finances. Seriously! This is a gal who graduated college at 19 managing her own finances etc. But since then, she has taken this “struggling” mentality.

    I think it should be illegal to give negative thoughts in patriarchal blessings.

  41. John Taber says:

    I was fourteen when I got mine. My father (then bishop) and I had talked about it a bit, but when he ordained me a teacher he felt I was more than ready.

    So I got my blessing, four pages single-spaced, that seems to skip over some things*, can seem overwhelmingly vague, and doesn’t even mention lineage. I went back about a year later for an addendum to get that, and the second blessing reads like a conventional one-page blessing, but does say to read the first blessing often (something I haven’t been that good at.)

    But over time, I’ve come to understand both blessings better, especially as I’ve come to recognize parallel symbolism in the Standard Works, as well as “outside” literature. I’m sure, in time, more of that will come.

    (*Case in point, the main blessing jumps from mission, to marriage, to children. I finished my mission in 1994, married in 2004, and don’t have children as of yet.)

  42. My PB has actually been the single event that has kept me active in the church and it really is the source of my belief in a God who knows me. I was a little nervous about getting it, but when I heard it I was blown away, because the patriarch used verbatim the language that I used in my own prayers and actually answered several of the very personal concerns I had been praying about. I have never had a similarly powerful spiritual experience either before or after.

  43. “My PB has actually been the single event that has kept me active in the church and it really is the source of my belief in a God who knows me… My PB has actually been the single event that has kept me active in the church and it really is the source of my belief in a God who knows me.”

    Me too. I got my PB at 28. I think getting my PB was the single most spiritual thing that has ever happened in my life. I’ve never felt anything in the temple, and never had any really spiritual experiences, but I swear, when I got my PB it was like there was a direct door to heaven open – during the blessing I felt like if I opened my eyes we’d probably see the heavenly hosts right there in the room.

    I’d never met the partriarch before, he’d never met me and knew zip about me. We were having fertility issues and I’d had multiple miscarriages, but hadn’t talked about them with anyone. I was shocked when the patriarch started giving the blessing and it very specifically said Heavenly Father knew the desires of my heart, and that my husband needed to give me a healing blessing – it even gave instructions for the exact words my husband should say when giving the blessing. When the blessing was over we (the patriarch, his wife, my husband, and I) were all crying. (And my husband doesn’t cry.) We followed the instructions, and nine months later we had a healthy baby girl. It is the miracle I cling to when I have no faith left.

  44. Mine was really awesome in content and feels tailor-made for me, and part of that is probably due to the fact that the Patriarch knew me from the time I was 3 years old. It also essentially said it was required for me to go on a mission, and that I have a questioning mind (those who have read my stuff at Mormon Matters would probably agree).

    When my best friend got hers, it said her children would eventually become responsible citizens, which alarmed her because she was worried they would be mentally challenged (she did a lot of work with the autistic). I comforted her with the thought that it could mean they would just be juvenile delinquents.

    My mother’s (that she got as an adult convert) is very short and says she will be alive still when the second coming happens, so watch out, folks. She’s 82 now.

  45. I love my patriarchal blessing. I recall hearing two specific things in my blessing that aren’t in the printed version. I chalk it up to two possible things: 1) the veil was so thin and I wasn’t supposed to hear those things or 2) the patriarch was mistaken and those things aren’t true.

    My husband’s blessing is fairly generic too. I chalk up the difference between our two blessings to the fact that my blessing was the twelfth the patriarch had ever given and his blessing was somewhere between the hundredth or two hundreth.

  46. Beautiful stories! Thanks for opening the conversation so well, Rebecca.

    Hawkgrrl, I think the general interpretation of the promise that someone will be alive when the 2nd Coming happens is that the 2nd Coming will happen individually for each of us–whether or not we’re still in our mortal bodies. Too many people got that promise and died before the Rapture, so somebody had to re-interpret. I think patriarchs grow in their abilities, and it does help if the patriarch knows us individually.
    Bruce and I were talking about this post yesterday. (He caught me reading something called “My Non-descript and utterly Predictable Patriarchal Blessing” and figured that I had latched onto an anti-site, so I turned the computer over to him for his own reading.) I love my Patriarchal Blessing, but frankly, blessings I’ve received from my husband at particular times of need have become more precious to me than the blessing I received from my sweet grandfather when I was twelve.

  47. I received my PB at age 41, even though I’d always been active. As a kid I just figured I already knew the roadmap — mission, college, wife, children — didn’t need to “waste” my blessing being told those things again. I read my wife’s blessing, and it seemed kind of generic, and I thought she was pretty special, so again, I didn’t feel an impetus to get mine.

    Going through a mid-life evaluation (“crisis” is too strong a term), I felt I was ready for my blessing. I went fasting and humble in a way I rarely am. The blessing was long and somewhat specific, and it was almost as though my wife and I were being blessed together. More important than the words, though, was the feeling. I really felt like I was getting a glimpse of eternity and my place in it. My wife and I left clinging to each other.

    I know the PB is for one’s whole life, but just like any other once-in-a-lifetime event, I think it is significantly affected by one’s frame of mind/spirituality at the time. Age 41 was a good time for me to go. Maybe even the right time.

    I gotta’ say my ward family sure gave a reaction when they found out. I was even serving in the bishopric. Can you imagine?!

  48. Mine is actually quite beautiful, but it has nothing at all to do with my life (the promises are biologically impossible). I would forego the beautiful but alien promises for the next life in favor of the most mundane reassurance that this life is on the right track. But there’s not a single phrase that I can by any stretch of the imagination twist into any applicability.

    The circumstances are totally different, of course, but when I hear Jane Manning James’s plaintive “Is there no blessing for me?” I think of my patriarchal blessing.

  49. Ardis, you just made me cry. On a Wednesday! Very different circumstances, but parts of my blessing were not only unfulfilled but seemed rather mocked for part of my life–when Bruce and I were dealing with some really hard teenager issues. My blessing had said that my home would be a place where the Spirit of the Lord would dwell and radiate and bless all who entered, who would say, “The Lord has surely blessed you and blessed your home.” For a time, I hated the words themselves because they were so untrue. My home was Hell. But, at a new season and with new responsibilities in my life, I am reclaiming those blessings. I wonder if there might also be a new season awaiting you when the blessings–and greater ones than those mentioned in your PB–will be fulfilled. Jane’s weren’t fulfilled during her lifetime, and Linda King Newell received them on her behalf in 1978. That experience was important enough to Linda that she told about it at MHA during her discussion of _Mormon Enigma_.

  50. Ardis, have you ever looked into getting a different patriarchal blessing? I had a friend who had a huge crisis of faith over the fact that her pb seemed to have nothing to do with her life. She found out that she could get another one if her bishop gave her the go-ahead.

  51. You can get what is called a “continuation of blessing” rather than a second blessing (semantics!) but they’re very difficult to get. Most bishops and stake presidents have not heard of them; even when they have, they’re not supposed to issue recommends except under extraordinary circumstances.

  52. Great post, Rebecca, and a bunch of great stories.

    I’m at the point in my life where my PB has more history than future, and it’s interesting to read now in retrospect. First off, there are a few promises made that I have apparently reneged on, my fault only, and I can see where I dropped the ball. On the other hand, there have been some promises made that in retrospect, have been fulfilled in interesting ways. And also a lot of it is bland, and some language is very similar to my wife’s blessing, who got hers from the same patriarch. But she also has a number of very specific things that make it uniquely hers.

    But the biggie for me is that it tells me to get enough sleep to avoid the ills of this life, and that’s the one I have ignored, apparently, to my own peril. I have averaged probably only 5 1/2 hours per night for most of my life, way below the national averages, and even farther below the recommended amounts. I won’t catalog the entire list, but enough body parts are in trouble that even though I’m still in pretty good shape in a lot of ways, some stuff is going south before due time. My knees, especially, have suddenly turned on me, in a vicious and cruel manner.

  53. An interesting fact I picked up from one of the patriarchs that gave a couple of my kids their blessings. He recorded his blessings with a tape recorder, and then typed them himself. He said that he often remembered things that came into his mind, but didn’t get spoken during the blessing, so he added them into the typescript. He said that he felt good about that, because until he sealed up the blessings that he had done to send to SLC, he could always remember them, and the thoughts and words that accompanied them. However, the moment he sealed that envelope, he could no longer remember them at all. So for him, the revelatory process was not just a one time in the moment kind of deal. I thought that was cool.

  54. My mother is one of the most naturally spiritual people imaginable. I’m convinced God just didn’t know of anything that she absolutely had to hear to stay on course – that her PB could have read, “Keep doing what you’re doing, honey,” and it would have been perfectly appropriate.

    Hm. Seems to me that the corollary would then have to be that people w/ longer patriarchal blessings are less spiritual, and I doubt that is what you want to imply, friend. :)

    I think Rebecca’s post captures the truth — they are individual, and we don’t have to apologize for what they are, but seek to discover why they are what they are.

  55. Kristine says:

    “Seems to me that the corollary would then have to be that people w/ longer patriarchal blessings are less spiritual”

    Well, maybe it’s not what he meant, but I think there could be something to it. Mine is very long and quite detailed, and I’ve often thought that is because I am so spectacularly bad at getting inspiration in the usual everyday ways.

  56. Steve Evans says:

    If that corollary were true, mine would be War & Peace. As such it is only 15 pages long with facsimile drawings, so rest easy, Bloggernacle!

  57. Aaron Brown says:

    Mine is a bit unusual. It says, “All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy.” Over and over and over. For pages. I wonder what that means. My name isn’t even Jack.

    AB

  58. I guess my point is that I don’t think generalizations can be made about patriarchal blessings, their length, their level of detail, etc. I hear everyone sharing their personal perceptions about their own blessings, but I don’t think any of them hold for anyone else. That’s part of the whole point in my mind — they are personal. And figuring them out requires revelation. I tend to think that they require time, too, and that, just like scripture, what once meant one thing can end up having layers of meaning over time and with the Spirit’s help — whether specifically in the words, or at a more meta-level, like Rebecca seems to have come to feel.

    What I once thought about certain parts of my lessing take on new meaning as I face new challenges and situations.

    I loved how Rebecca just seems to say, ‘yeah, this was good for me, and that’s just another testimony to me that God knows me and loves me and knows what I need.’

    And for whatever reason, some of us will need or have long, 15-page books for blessings (hehe, Steve), and others of us will have three paragraphs. :) Seems to me we don’t need to apologize or be afraid of either end of the spectrum, ya know?

  59. AnnaKaye says:

    I got my blessing when I was fourteen (actually it may have been the day before my fourteenth birthday); the actual experience of getting my blessing was fabulous. Then the transcript came through, and it was startlingly generic. I remember reading it and feeling so confused about the disparity between the two, but I didn’t really think of it again for a while.

    My sister received her patriarchal blessing a few years later from the same patriarch. Being a more faithful journal-keeper than I am, she went home that night and wrote down many specific things she’d heard. Then her transcript came and . . . they weren’t in there. The patriarch had taken them out (incidentally leaving our blessings practically identical). My father called and complained, and the patriarch sent an amended transcript with a few of the specific things my father had asked about, but who knows what else was lost? And anything the venerable patriarch took out of my blessing is completely lost now, I suppose as a fitting punishment for the fact that I didn’t keep a journal . . .

    According to our stake president, the patriarch is allowed to edit things after the blessing — and, in fact, he’d edited things out of the stake president’s daughter’s blessing as well! So there wasn’t anything we could do. But it is still a pretty bitter memory for me.

    My husband’s blessing is actually more meaningful to me; a significant portion of it is about our marriage and family, and I hold those parts very dear.

  60. jjackson says:

    It makes a HUGE difference if the patriarch knows you. For a long time I’ve engaged in a practice (heretically I suppose) of comparing as many PBs as possible. If the patriarch has a relationship with the “blessee” it’s likely to be about three times as long as another blessing from that same patriarch.

    If that relationship doesn’t exist, a rather remarkable relationship can be found in the blessings given. They are quite likely to be VERY much the same as every other blessing given by that patriarch, especially if they’ve been operating for a while.

    My mission president was called as a patriarch, so I was really anxious to talk to him about it. He was quite forthcoming about the fact that there were reasons that leaders are to periodically review the blessings being given. It’s to ensure that the patriarch isn’t saying wacky things or cranking out carbon-copy blessings. Both of which happen much more often that I would have thought before I started spending some time looking into this. My M. Pres. says that trying to operate as a patriarch has shaken his faith as much as anything in his life ever has, and I got the impression that he now struggles with the very idea of patriarchal blessings as they now are in the church.

    It is increasingly difficult for me to view my own PB as the personally prophetic “road map” that I believed it to be when I received it. There’s a lot of good advice in there. Anyone would do just fine with the same blessing. (And, really, if they were a youth during the same decade as me in the same stake as me, they HAVE been doing just fine with the SAME blessing)

  61. My patriarch went on and on about blogging and commenting on blogs – fortunately, since blogging didn’t exist at the time, he cut all that stuff out of the written copy.

  62. On a more serious note, when I was a teenager, at a time when I was feeling especially insecure about my future, I felt a strong desire to get the patriarchal blessing. I fasted and prayed pretty intensely about it and shared all of my insecurities and worries during those prayers. I have to say that during the course of the blessing, every single concern/worry I had expressed in my prayers was addressed.

    I should add that I was a bit worried too, beforehand, that I might get a patriarchal cursing instead of a blessing. I really wasn’t quite sure what would be said. But all I felt during that blessing was immense love from my Heavenly Father. I felt so happy and could not stop smiling during the blessing. Sorry if that sounds ridiculously corny – but that was what it was like for me.

    These days when I read my patriarchal blessing, I tend to read much more between the lines and see the warnings a lot more clearly than I did back then. There are parts that now seem a bit ominous, in some ways. But at the time it was one of the most immensely and purely positive spiritual experiences of my life.

  63. jjackson – love your comment. “It is increasingly difficult for me to view my own PB as the personally prophetic “road map” that I believed it to be when I received it.” I had my doubts, even at the time, that a PB was somehow like a direct letter from God, although as I said before, mine is very well designed to me. But now I kind of think that you could make almost anything your personal spiritual roadmap and not go wrong. I mean that in a kind of “everything is holy” and “liken scriptures unto ourselves” way.

    PBs are also going to be problematic because when you get one, you are probably in a somewhat superstitious state of mind – like when you open a fortune cookie or if you read your horoscope.

    And if you get a PB when you are a teen, you are still under the impression that the world revolves around you and that you are so doggone unique and special and have such an important life mission. At that age, you kind of need to feel that way on your journey to adulthood, to counterbalance the sneaking suspicion than you are just an awkward pimply freak like everyone else.

  64. I didn’t know my patriarch, but my parents were friends with him. He didn’t ask me any questions before my blessing, just a “hi, how are you doing” which was mostly directed at my parents, who had driven me there- I think I was 15.

    In the blessing, the patriarch went on and on about how blessed I was to have such good parents, and how their parenting was inspired and I should be grateful… Which would have been great, except that behind closed doors my parents were extremely abusive to myself and my siblings.

    I had also gone into the blessing fasting and praying that the patriarch would say something about whether God loved me, something I really wasn’t certain was the case (again, due to the abuse). He didn’t say a word about it. I was crying by the end of my blessing, and I’m sure everyone thought I was feeling the Spirit, but really I was just hurt. It shook my testimony, and these days I just try not to think about it.

  65. I received my PB when I was 17. I also suspect (but don’t remember) that things said were not transcribed. Even so, it has proven a valuable touchstone for me, and it set me up for powerful experiences the next couple of months, both on a Church/Family history trip ranging from Missouri to Fayette, and on one of the first youth handcart treks. In fact, one of the most remarkable experiences I’ve ever had with personal revelation came during Sunday quiet time on the trek, as I wrote in my journal about a site we’d visited on the previous trip.

  66. My blessing say’s that I am a special son of my heavenly father, is the term “special” simply a generic term or is it used frequently in PB’s? Thank you very much.

  67. I massacred the language in my prior post, but you all know what I meant.

  68. Ted Lee says:

    When I got my PB, the Patriarch asked me if I had any questions? Being the studious Asian American kid, I asked, “What should I go into for my education?” as I was about to embark on college.

    My PB then told me that I would have the opportunity to get as much education as I desired in whatever I decided to go into.

    On another note, while I was in the MTC, one of the missionaries in my district kept bragging about how his PB said he was going to be twinkled. I still disbelieve his boastings to this day.

  69. We were encouraged not to get our PBs too young as this was becoming increasingly common in church, so being the immature person I am, I interpreted young as anything under 20. As it turns out, I waited until I was in my late 20s and already married. It was a decent blessing, but still left me wanting more (i’m greedy that way). It’s rather short (1 and a half pages). and 2 things struck me. One was that my patriarch changed a word — in my blessing it said something about being able to discern “scriptures” but in the typed up version it’s changed to “holy writ.” I liked this change because I felt it broadened the playing field. For example, can BCC be considered holy write? Maybe sometimes! :-)

    The other thing that was weird was that I was told to get rid of the “excess baggage” in my life. I remember being shocked because I didn’t know that Heavenly Father would use sort of a slang term like that. It sounded a little new age! But I guess the point is, that HF can use any kind of language and say anything He wants to get the point across.

  70. I cannot thank you, Rebecca J, enough for this post. Lyke, srsly. I can drone on about how complicated my life is right now, and by extension (or in some ways because /of/) my relationship with the church, so I have yet to get my Very Important Blessing. I’m 19 and don’t see it in my near future, just because I don’t think I’m ready to hear it yet and I’m, well, lazy. Even the chit-chatting with Bishop involves effort, so I’m down for the count.

    But this gives me hope! I want my ROAD MAP, but further down the road. And now I know I can, that there isn’t a magical number where I’m too old to read the directions.

  71. Kristine says:

    “For example, can BCC be considered holy writ?”

    Um, no way. Something that _rhymes_ with writ, maybe…

  72. Ronan is going to be so delighted, Kristine, that you think of him as the Holy Brit.

  73. I went to my blessing with specific questions that I wanted it to answer. It is not as clear in the written version as it was as it happened, but the patriarch tried to close the blessing before all the questions got answered. I could tell he was doing that, and asked in my mind (silent prayer?) “what about x?” He reopened the blessing and answered that question, then tried to close again without addressing something. The blessing finally closed in a sort of a rush, addressing my remaining question as almost an afterthought.

    Two things stand out most to me: first, it tells me many times to “be of good cheer.” I am not normally a cheerful person, so I need that advice. The other is that it tells me the blessings are condition on the choices I make and the influences I go by. I think I need that advice even more.

  74. When I was 19 my mother died of cancer. Several months later I was going through some papers and found her PB. I was so excited and felt that I would find answers and insights. Imagine how shocked I was to read one of her promises was that her “senior years” would be her most rewarding in mortality and that she would enjoy being a grandmother. Funny, my mother often talked about how she looked forward to being a doting g-ma. My mother died at age 48 (hardly senior) and had no married children and no grandchildren. For years afterward I struggled with my faith and even now do not place much faith in PB’s.

  75. Perry Shumway says:

    Interesting that we place so much stock in whether our PBs do or do not provide adequate road maps, in spite of the fact that each of us is entitled to personal revelation, irrespective of whether our PBs seem valid. Surely there is more than one way to get heavenly direction?

    I’m reminded of the widespread misinterpretation of Section 58, based on which many conclude that God doesn’t want us to bother him with trifles. In fact, it’s just the opposite. The prophet was besieged with recent converts (EVERYONE was a recent convert at that time, right?) begging him for individualized revelations. Section 58 is God’s way of explaining that the saints were empowered to go to Him directly for such revelations, that they didn’t have to solely rely on Joseph, or anyone else, to know God’s will concerning their lives.

  76. jjackson says:

    Leeann, #74.

    Just watch as others begin the mental gymnastics that it takes to justify the content of the blessing as being prophetic. Hopefully they aren’t callous enough to just pull out the old “well, it IS contingent upon faithfullness”

  77. Sometimes, years or decades later, the bland statements in our PB will be read and very different meanings will come into our minds. Let us not be hasty in thinking we already have the one and only meaning to a bland statement.

  78. Elphaba says:

    I’m 33. Never had mine. Maybe some day, maybe when I’m 41.

    I with with my fiancee now husband and some of the things in his scared me. As he’s an officer in the Army about to be deployed, they really scare me.

    It did help that his mentioned children “in this life” when we dealt with infertility. We have one daughter, and my pregnancy was awful. A blessing given to my by my husband during that pregnancy meant more to me than anything a stranger could have said.

  79. Terrakota says:

    I live in Russia, and until recently we didn’t have patriarchs. Once they were assigned, the Area President gave a talk on the PB during a conference. He said that the singe most important thing that a PB contains is our lineage – that we belong to one of the tribes. Once he anounces that we are from the tribe of ______, he could’ve stopped right there. Nothing in the blessing is more important than to know that we belong to the House of Israel, because then we are heirs to all the blessings.

    I serve as a patriarch’s assistant, that is I type the blessings, and I have no doubts in patriarchs’ divine calling. But all patriarchs have difference language skills, different favorite words, different personalities, different ways in which they approach their task, and that will undoubtedly reflect in the blessings. And, also, how can a human give some 1000 absolutely unique blessings? Not going to happen.

    I personally love my blessing. I prayed and waited for years that I could have it. And I travelled half the world to get it. The patriarch didn’t know anything about me, and yet the blessing is very personal, as if he had known me very well. I humbly wanted the blessing to be very long and detailed, and it was. As with all other blessings, sometimes we get what we ask for, and sometimes we don’t.

    I also know a woman who received a very, very short blessing, which she humbly accepted, while she really wanted more. Well, her blessing got lost, and her second one was a very long one. I also know a girl, who has received a blessing three times, all got lost, and she will receive it for the 4th time now. God really has a way of working things out.

  80. anonymous for this one says:

    OK Steve P hit this right on the nose for me. I love Oh Brother Where Art Thou. Also, my sister and I got our blessings from a Patriarch we had never before seen. They have the same number of paragraphs, covering the same topics, in the same order. We only lived in that Stake a few months, but in college DS got a roommate from the same Stake and roommate’s blessing had the same number of paragraphs, covering the same topics, in the same order. Funny thing though, as the 40+years have gone by since college, the not so subtle differences between the blessings have been perfectly reflected in our lives. The Lord knew, and the Patriarch was inspired to say things with many layers of meaning that fit each of us and would continue to increase in applicability as years passed. During my actual blessing I had one particularly clear understanding of one particular part. This kept me from making an inappropriate early marriage.

    Twice, when new in a ward, I have been set apart for a calling and the Bishop has quoted a line from my blessing verbatim. Again, it makes me feel like the Lord wants me to know for sure (again) that He knows me. And hawkgrrrl, mine says my children would bring me eternal happiness, but that didn’t stop a couple of them from detouring through delinquency on the way.

    Our first 3 children, and number 5, got their blessings from a beloved Patriarch we had known for their whole lives. The blessings were personal and beautiful. I was needlessly apprehensive when child #4 went to a new Patriarch in a new Stake. His blessing was so right on it took my breath away.

    Child #7 was spooked by PBs in general. She hates the story of the guy who was told he would get to work on a Temple, but never does. His work is in one of the Utah Tabernacles that recently became a Temple. She finally got her recommend and made her appointment. One day prior, the Patriarch died. It took her about a year to make another appointment, and another Patriarch died a week before the appointment. She said that she would never get a blessing because she didn’t want the responsibility of killing another nice old man. Just before her mission she finally did get her blessing, and she was just overjoyed that the Patriarch did not die.

    My Dad is 81 and his blessing says he’ll see the 2nd coming. His Mom’s blessing said that too and she died decades ago. I had a high school friend who died before many of the wonderful promises of his blessing could be fulfilled. We don’t see the end from the beginning and time is nothing to the Lord. My personal evidence is strong that the veil is very thin during Patriarchal Blessings.

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