Patriarchal Blessing Lineages

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Sometimes here at BCC we do requests. And a reader recently asked us if we could do a post on what patriarchal blessing lineage assignments are supposed to mean. Good question–and I don’t feel confident that I have a handle on an answer. But what I can do is frame the question somewhat and then let our readers flesh things out in the comments. So here we go:

First, a little biblical history. The nomadic tribe-based Hebrews we read about in Judges were for a short time united in a kingdom, with three successive kings: Saul, David and Solomon. Saul didn’t seem much like what we think of as a king, but progressively with David and then especially with Solomon they gained a capitol, a palace, a temple, engaged in foreign affairs, and had pretty much all the trappings of kingship. But after Solomon’s death the kingdom fractured into two: a northern kingdom called Israel, and a southern kingdom called Judah (including Jerusalem). The southern kingdom was nominally comprised of two tribes: Judah and Benjamin (which basically had been absorbed into Judah), and the northern kingdom of the remaining ten tribes. The original tribe of Levi did not receive a land inheritance (other than the levitical cities), so that its priestly members could live throughout the land, so Joseph (the dominant tribe in the north) was basically bifurcated into two representing his sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, to keep the tribal number at ten. The Twelve Tribes according to their inheritance of land in Palestine were as follows:

  1. Reuben
  2. Simeon
  3. Judah
  4. Issachar
  5. Zebulun
  6. Dan
  7. Naphtali
  8. Gad
  9. Asher
  10. Benjamin
  11. Ephraim (son of Joseph)
  12. Manasseh (son of Joseph)
  13. Levi (no territorial allotment, except a number of cities located within the territories of the other tribes)

Eventually the northern kingdom ran afoul of the great world power at the time, Assyria. In the second half of the 8th century B.C. over a 20-year period several thousand Israelites were taken captive to Assyria and resettled there. (The entire population was not taken captive, and some escaped to the south as refugees, such as, presumably, Lehi’s ancestors.) What happened to these people? Quite honestly, they were probably just absorbed into Assyrian society (and not allowed to maintain a continuing identity and relationships as were the Jews in the later Babylonian captivity). But a passage in 2 Esdras 13 of the Apocrypha portrays them as maintaining coherence as a group:

 40 Those are the ten tribes, which were carried away prisoners out of their own land in the time of Osea the king, whom Salmanasar the king of Assyria led away captive, and he carried them over the waters, and so came they into another land.

41 But they took this counsel among themselves, that they would leave the multitude of the heathen, and go forth into a further country, where never mankind dwelt,

42 That they might there keep their statutes, which they never kept in their own land.

43 And they entered into Euphrates by the narrow places of the river.

44 For the most High then shewed signs for them, and held still the flood, till they were passed over.

45 For through that country there was a great way to go, namely, of a year and a half: and the same region is called Arsareth.

46 Then dwelt they there until the latter time; and now when they shall begin to come,

47 The Highest shall stay the springs of the stream again, that they may go through: therefore sawest thou the multitude with peace.

There has been ample speculation about the fate of the Lost Ten Tribes in both Jewish and Christian sources, which exploded in the 17th century. Mormonism has its own folklore on the subject, such as folk beliefs that the Ten Tribes are living at the north pole or at the center of the earth. Exotic folk beliefs aside, most Mormons believe that the Ten Tribes still exist in some identifiable fashion, as seems to be suggested by the opening words of the 10th Article of Faith: “We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes. . . .”

It is a common feature of patriarchal blessings to declare the tribe from which the person receives the blessing descends. The overwhelming number of such assignments of lineage are to Ephraim, with substantial numbers being assigned to Manasseh (especially in central and south America and the Pacific Islands), and Jews are generally assigned to Judah. Historically other assignments were relatively rare, but in recent years they have been becoming more common; I believe that assignments to every one of the Twelve Tribes have been made by patriarchs.

What does the lineage assignment mean? Opinions on this subject differ widely. To some it is referring to literal genealogical ancestry; to others, adoptive ancestry; to others, it is a metaphor or symbol of inclusion within the House of Israel, while still others see the different tribes as representing different responsibilities in building the Kingdom of God in the last days. While the idea of literal ancestry was strongly held in the 19th and early 20th century, my sense is that that view is receding, because it just plain doesn’t make a lot of sense. I’ll try to explain the problem with that view.

My most famous Mormon ancestor was Thomas Grover, who was my great, great, great grandfather (on my mother’s side). He was a member of the Nauvoo High Council and served for a time as a bodyguard to Joseph Smith. A few of you are extended cousins of mine and also descend from him; most of you do not descend from him. He lived recently enough in the past that that kind of genealogical distinction makes sense. And my guess is that people have just assumed you can think in the same way about the biblical patriarchs; I might be descended from one, and you from another.

But we know from modern population genetics that when we’re talking about that kind of time depth, our near-term genealogical view of things simply doesn’t work anymore. If Ephraim had descendants that survived to today, then pretty much everyone on the planet is a descendant of Ephraim (excluding some limited areas where reasonable mixing does not occur, such as say Australian aborigines). And if he did not have descendants that survived to today, well, then obviously no one alive today is a descendant of Ephraim. Saying this person descended from Ephraim and this person didn’t no longer makes any sense given our modern understanding of population dynamics. (This is why the old “one drop” rule, as we now know, was ridiculous; everyone, even Brother Brigham, has “one drop.”)

Here’s another way to look at it. Imagine if we had the knowledge to complete a massive pedigree chart going back to the time of the biblical patriarchs. How many ancestral slots would there be at that time depth? If we assume 25-year generations, then over 100 years a child would have 16 ancestral slots on the pedigree chart. (E.g., a baby born in 2000 had two parents born in 1975, four grandparents born in 1950, eight great grandparents born in 1925 and 16 great, great grandparents born in 1900.) So how many slots would there be in the year 1800? 32, right (16 +16)? No, the slots increase geometrically, not arithmetically, so the answer is 256 (16 x 16). So if the patriarchs lived circa 1900 B.C. (a total guess just for illustrative purposes), the number of pedigree chart slots at that time depth for our baby born in A.D. 2000 would be something like 16 to the 38th power (16 ^ 38) (the 38 reflects 19 centuries before Christ and 19 after). That number (using an internet exponent calculator) works out to something like 5708990770823839524233143877797980545530986496. Since that is way, way, way more than the total number of people who have ever lived on this earth, how can that be possible? The answer is common ancestry. There are that many slots at that time depth on the pedigree chart, but they’re not all unique names; the same name is probably going to appear kajillions of times on the pedigree chart. And if the 12 patriarchs all had descendants that survived until today, then each of those patriarchs is going to fill many, many slots on that pedigree chart for our hypothetical child.

In the 19th century, a lot of Mormons were fond of the notion that Joseph and our other prophets were descended from Jesus himself. Well, if Jesus had descendants that survive to today, then that would have been a true belief, but it also would have been utterly meaningless, as we would all be descendants of Jesus.

So, with that framing, what do patriarchal blessing lineage assignments mean to you?

Comments

  1. As always, Mark E. Petersen is the definitive resource:

    http://www.ldslastdays.com/default.aspx?page=talk_patriarchs.htm

    The real answer: nobody knows. Ephraim is the tribe of the restoration. It’s symbolic with occasional nods to obvious ethnicities.

  2. This is excellent — I don’t necessarily have an answer to what they mean in an objective sense, and I have some thoughts about what they mean to me personally (I value them), but this is a really informative summary of the concept of the Twelve Tribes and the population genetics problem associated with taking too literal a belief in being a descendant of one particular patriarch (but not all the others, which, as you note, if there are living descendants of any of them, all human beings are among those descendants).

  3. Aaron Brown says:

    Kevin, are Australian aborigines truly an exception to the rule? I’ve heard claims in both directions and I’m genuinely curious.

  4. Aaron Brown says:

    I think patriarchal blessing lineage assignment is a vestigial trait of 19th Century Mormonism. It makes no sense in the modern church, except to the extent that we choose to give it meaning. Which I guess we do, symbolically, whatever that might mean.

  5. Kevin Barney says:

    I don’t know, Aaron, I just wrote that without actually looking at anything. The only point is that the math is one thing, but there can be real world bottlenecks that affect things.

  6. JSJ preached a little on physical blood changes upon conversion, which we don’t teach today but which clearly influenced the patriarchal blessing process and how we view lineage today:

    “14. Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory, that we may be sealed up unto the day of redemption.”—Ephesians, 1st chapter.

    This principle ought (in its proper place) to be taught, for God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what He will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them, for the day must come when no man need say to his neighbor, Know ye the Lord; for all shall know Him (who remain) from the least to the greatest. How is this to be done? It is to be done by this sealing power, and the other Comforter spoken of, which will be manifest by revelation.

    There are two Comforters spoken of. One is the Holy Ghost, the same as given on the day of Pentecost, and that all Saints receive after faith, repentance, and baptism. This first Comforter or Holy Ghost has no other effect than pure intelligence. It is more powerful in expanding the mind, enlightening the understanding, and storing the intellect with present knowledge, of a man who is of the literal seed of Abraham, than one that is a Gentile, though it may not have half as much visible effect upon the body; for as the Holy Ghost falls upon one of the literal seed of Abraham, it is calm and serene; and his whole soul and body are only exercised by the pure spirit of intelligence; while the effect of the Holy Ghost upon a Gentile, is to purge out the old blood, and make him actually of the seed of Abraham. That man that has none of the blood of Abraham (naturally) must have a new creation by the Holy Ghost. In such a case, there may be more of a powerful effect upon the body, and visible to the eye, than upon an Israelite, while the Israelite at first might be far before the Gentile in pure intelligence.

    The other Comforter spoken of is a subject of great interest, and perhaps understood by few of this generation. After a person has faith in Christ, repents of his sins, and is baptized for the remission of his sins and receives the Holy Ghost, (by the laying on of hands), which is the first Comforter, then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God, and the Lord will soon say unto him, Son, thou shalt be exalted. When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and his election made sure, then it will be his privilege to receive the other Comforter, which the Lord hath promised the Saints, as is recorded in the testimony of St. John, in the 14th chapter, from the 12th to the 27th verses.

    HC: Vol III Ch. 25 (emphasis added)

  7. Of course, genetically we are all the seed of Abraham at this point.

  8. Angela C says:

    About a year ago our Stake Patriarch spoke on this, and since I’ve heard a Stake Patriarch opine on it decades ago, I could see a change in trend (or else just two different people with two different opinions). It definitely used to be viewed as a literally descent from a specific ancestor. It is now viewed more as your sorting hat implies, a lineage that symbolizes your specific “mission” in this and your eternal life. Ephraim (it was explained) is viewed as the missionary arm, the ones to restore the gospel. I mean, that’s a pretty convenient view for sure given that nearly everyone has been assigned to Ephraim.

    My daughter is hoping for Slytherin. Should I be worried?

  9. I suspect that Australian Aboriginies have been interacting with the rest of the world for long enough that their DNA has spread into most of our family trees in one of the 29 trillion, trillion, trillion spaces. But there are genuine bottlenecks in places like New Guinea, the Amazon, and other places where small populations have lived for very long times without outside contact.

  10. Ryan Mullen says:

    I tried to explain these population dynamics to some relatives this past weekend and failed spectacularly. They got hung up on the real world bottlenecks you describe (“What about an isolated tribe from Iceland?”) and so rejected the whole argument.

    I met David Stewart (of cumorah.com) years ago and he mentioned that he tracked patriarchial lineages online from people who’d volunteer that info. I recall him saying that the tribe of Dan is overwhelmingly from Ireland.

  11. eponymous says:

    I have a friend whose father was declared of Judah, his younger brother was declared of Asher and he was declared of Benjamin. Upon that revelation we both concluded that bloodline has nothing to do with it, at least not with the significance most want to consider. They’re all sons of Abraham / Jacob. We’re all adopted into the covenant relationship. I’ve come to believe the tribe has some reflection that the individual must seek out in their own explorations of scripture and prayer to seek the significance the Lord would have them understand.

    Otherwise it’s like the name in the temple. The one you’re supposed to know. I thought there was something unique to that until I worked as a temple worker for a few years and understood how the names really work. That one is important but I’m not convinced there is any deeper meaning.

  12. The only name that counts in the temple is the name of Jesus Christ.

  13. eponymous says:

    Agreed Steve.

    I will say this, my father is a Patriarch, and I’ve bounced this question of what the lineage means around with him several times. What I can say is that I’m certain the lineage does not come by rote thinking on the part of the Patriarch if they are in tune with the Spirit which they should be but I’ll accept that there could be exceptions. While there is some common language that might creep into a Patriarch’s blessings if they’re not careful, the lineage is one of those items that only comes through inspiration. It has a meaning. I believe I know what it means for me but I couldn’t tell someone else what theirs means.

  14. marcella says:

    Eldred G. Smith said this “Many of us are a mixture of several tribes of Israel, and so it is the right of the patriarch to declare that line through which the blessings of Israel shall come.”

  15. “many of us are a mixture of several tribes”

    To be more accurate according to population genetics: every single one of us is a mixture of all of the tribes of Israel, assuming that each of the Patriarchs has any living descendants today.

  16. I never really put much stock in my lineage. It doesn’t really seem to be a meaningful category for me personally. But I really like what was said in the OP about the tribes basically being all mixed in with the entire world population. To me that is significant in that every last one of us is one of god’s covenant people and that the restoration of the tribes could therefore more broadly be seen as the reconciliation of every human being with deity. I think that’s a nice evolution of and conclusion to the tribalism of the distant past.

  17. Good work, Kev. I think lineage is one of several tropes that are meant to link us together in one of many holy ways. It’s meaning lies in how we honor each other as believers perhaps.

  18. Kevin sneaks in a “Patriarchal Lineages, Ranked” without Scott or Steve noticing.

  19. I never understood Patriarchal Blessings……what is the purpose, who started it, does it really do any good, etc.

    Frankly, I believe Patriarchal Blessings are pointless. Too many members use it the wrong way.

    I received my blessing at sixteen. I was not ready for it but my Bishop pushed for me to get it. When I met my spouse, he had just gotten his blessing ( he was inactive most of his life and just reactivated when we met). The Patriarch who did my blessing years earlier before my spouse was still Patriarch and did my spouse’s blessing.
    I compared our two blessings…….they were exactly word for word. So I talked to some other members my age who I knew, told them what I discovered, and asked if they would take my blessing and compare it to theirs, as they had same Patriarch. I said I did not want to read theirs but wanted to know if there were any differences.

  20. Sorry, hit wrong button and comment sent before conclusion.
    All our blessings were *exactly* the same word for word. This has bothered me for over thirty years.
    I read my deceased parents blessings, from a different Patriarch, and what a difference.

    I have asked for permission to get a new blessing, telling the reason why, and have been denied.

  21. I have long wondered what Richard Bushman’s take on lineage and patriarchal blessings in general is. He served (serves) as Patriarch of the Manhattan stake.

  22. Hey there, cousin–another Grover descendant here. I’ve ordered copies of some ancestors’ patriarchal blessings in preparation for a family reunion in Nauvoo, and especially liked the instances of people with multiple blessings over several decades, including two or three different lineages.

  23. Steve S says:

    I find it interesting and perhaps very relevant that the Kingdom of Israel was often simply referred to as Joseph or Ephraim, being the predominant tribe.

    Seeing that the majority of declared lineages today are Joseph (primarily Ephraim) I believe that this in essence means we represent the northern kingdom or the lost 10 tribes as a whole. Perhaps there is a reason that specific other tribe names are occasionally declared, maybe assigned to a specific role in the kingdom in this life, but I think being declared of Joseph – Ephraim and Manasseh – is a way of generically representing the 10 tribes, and perhaps separating Manasseh out is also significant as the BofM has many prophesies related to the descendants of the Nephites/Lamanites (which similarly to most of the world becoming the seed of Abraham, it seems as if generally almost all those converted with primary ancestry native to the Americas belong to this group).

    I believe the prophesy (D&C 133:26-34) of a specific group representing the 10 tribes gathered in from the North has already been fulfilled – with the influx of converts from Northern Europe who came and made up a large portion of the membership in Utah and laid the foundation for full work of the gathering of Israel from every nation, kindred, tongue, and people (D&C 77:11) in these last days. And perhaps they were just as literally the descendants of Ephraim/10 tribes as the rest of us with no particularly unique claim to a literal blood connection (as Israel is to be gathered from all nations), but it seems this early group of pioneers were called and chosen to lay the foundation of this marvelous work. Just my take.

    And then with the Jews to be gathered we will once again have the Kingdoms of Ephraim and Judah.

  24. Very interesting, thank you. Maybe it’s more like regular genetics; we all have genetic material from all tribes but some genes are dominant and some are recessive, which could explain why children from the same family are in different tribes.

  25. wondering says:

    Great post! A couple of related points.

    1. The number of genes is finite, as is the number of chromosomes and the way they combine. So it’s likely that we have many many literal ancestors in those kajillions of pedigree slots from whom we’ve received no genetic contribution whatsoever.

    2. Arguing about whether Native Americans are “literal” descendants of Lehi doesn’t make much sense either. If Lehi was a real person with real descendants, he lived so long ago that nearly all Native Americans would have him as a literal ancestor.

  26. whizzbang says:

    I know a few people from a few different tribes but their life doesn’t seem to be any different from mine. We all, hopefully, believe the gospel and try to live it as best as we can. I don’t see any of us better or different than others just because we come from a different tribe. It’s not like people from Benjamin are better clerks than others or Issachar play better sports or Reuben are all the leadership.

  27. My daughter at age 14 received her pat. blessing from a very spiritual stake patriarch. She is now 26. No blessings have been alike that we’ve come across in the stake. Her blessing is her and is true to what has transpired down to the details and order of things. It has been a testimony to me that God knows His children well and as individuals. My pat. blessing is nothing like hers. Mine is really me. I’d rather have her blessing (!) but no I’m different–and it is unique to who I am.
    Yes, know that there have been and probably are patriarchs who are on “automatic”. My hometeacher was a patriarch, mission president and a bishop. In Mexico, he had met a patriarch that was doing them all alike but I can’t remember if the Church intervened or not. I think they did.

  28. P.S. My comment was for EG.

  29. DrPsyPhi says:

    In a similar vein, I’ve always found D&C 15 and 16 a fascinating phenomenon. (On the topic of repeated, personal revelation).

    On the main topic (what does lineage mean in a world where everyone is family), I do wonder about the social impact of promulgating the idea, for example, that “technically we’re all Jewish.” I image that concept would be meant with some objection in certain quarters, which begs the question, why, if we’re all Abraham’s seed and (probablisticly) kids of Judah and some harlot (I want to say Tamar?)?

    It seems that inherent (familial) identity (or ethnic or tribal or genetic) _means_ something to us still, despite being vacuous from technical, empirical grounds. Perhaps it’s about being an heir. I’d say the other ordinances (baptism and sealing) are sufficient for establishing heirship, perhaps that’s why they are essential ordinances and PB’s aren’t. Still, I don’t mind getting (literally) extra blessings. It’s nice to have that extra copy of the will around with some reassuring words that you haven’t been disinherented, I suppose.

  30. Michael says:

    I’ve been asked this question, and had a thought hit me that seemed correct at the time.

    Someday there will be a big family reunion for all the children of our Heavenly Father. Having a declared tribe means you have a place at the table, that you belong.

    Of course, we meet about every week at the table of Christ, and we have a place at that table too.

  31. Whoa, DrPsyPhi, you want to be careful about calling Tamar “some harlot.” Check your Genesis.

  32. On Judah and “some harlot”- https://rsc.byu.edu/archived/story-judah-and-tamar

  33. fuddyduddy says:

    @EG and @jill:

    I don’t know whether this was a uniform church policy or just local practice, but years ago, my mission president told me that when he was stake president, one of his responsibilities was to briefly read through each patriarchal blessing just to ensure that the patriarch is still pronouncing fresh, unique, inspired blessings and not falling into rote patterns. My MP shared this as part of a zone conference talk on patriarchal blessings in hopes of increasing our appreciation for the blessings–his take was that every blessing he had read as SP had been unique.

    YMMV, of course. But now I’m just really curious whether that was local practice or churchwide policy.

  34. If you look at how the office of patriarch came about, you find that Joseph may have been just a little jealous of Brigham for coming up with the idea of “patriarchal blessings” first and so elevated his own father to patriarch over the whole church. The lineage stuff came along later and developed its own sort of mythology and internal logic.

    Frankly, lineage doesn’t make a lot of sense in today’s world, as the OP suggests. We’re all probably descended from all 12 of the sons of Jacob. Lineage, I have concluded, belongs in the same category as all those promises in patriarchal blessings about the recipient living long enough to go back and build up Jackson County. Most of those people are dead now.

  35. The Other Clark says:

    British Israelism. That’s where this all comes from. (Not the modern white-supremacist kind, but the 19th Century, Englishmen-are-Ephraimites strain.)

    Evidently, the Church thinks enough of this tradition that they continue to insist that declaration of lineage is the most essential part of the blessing.

    As for the roles each tribe plays, Genesis 49 is the authoritative source, with additional insights on Ephraim, Manassah, and Levi in the D&C (Sec 13, 110, and 133, primarily).

  36. (I tried posting this once and it didn’t take; apologies if this becomes a duplicate)

    Kevin, a natural extension of this principle would seem to apply to “literal descendants of Aaron,” which D/C 68 tells us are entitled to be bishops (at least male firstborn desecendants). Aaron lived over 3,000 years ago. If he had no descendants, section 68 is meaningless. If he had 1+ descendant(s) then every firstborn male member of the church is entitled to be a bishop. I’ll try raising this point next time I need to wreak havoc in HP group.

    To answer about the personal importance I attached to lineage, I would stay the most important impact has been on my mission. I am from ephraim (no surprise). I served with hispanics, most of whom are manassah. Knowing these two facts gave me an added sense that I was literally serving my brothers. So whether the lineage was literal or not, it influenced me for the better.

  37. eponymous says:

    Fuddyduddy,

    Ask any patriarch and they will tell you that the Stake President is supposed to regularly review the blessings given. It’s standard Church policy. I don’t know that they read them all but a random selection review at a minimum is required.

  38. What it means to me is that we are ALL, every one of us on the face of the earth, brothers and sisters, literally. Therefore, “whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do you even unto them”. The golden rule takes on much greater meaning when you realize everyone you meet is related to you.
    James Russell Uhl

  39. I have a question to ask Kevin privately but have lost his email.

  40. Clark Goble says:

    Lineage seems a very odd concern for contemporary people. Why should the oldest son matter? Yet for the ancients on up through the late modern era it was of prime concern to many. As others note from a genetic perspective it seems silly when you get very many generations away – especially if there is sufficient mixing. Contra some – it’s doubtful everyone is related to Abraham given the relatively recent global travel and quite a few blocks from intermingling. But give it an other century or so and it’ll undoubtedly be true. A prophetic promise fulfilled but one which with modern knowledge seems rather unimportant.

    The bit about Joseph is hard to make sense of. Unlike some I’m loath to discount it. Joseph honestly thought there was some connection. Yet we know so little about spirituality and the connection between a body and spirit that it’s hard to even know where to start. Perhaps there was a genetic difference that was passed along. Perhaps it’s all really about just getting organized in the last days. Who knows?

    Personally while I can’t make sense o fit I’m more than willing to continue it. And, if inspiration is tied to it, I’m fine being told my lineage whether that relates to some gene manifestation, some promise, or something tied to my spirit.

  41. My brother who was adopted from China was given the lineage Naphtali, not Ephraim like the rest of our family. I thought it was interesting since he had been sealed to us in the temple as a baby. You would think he would be adopted into our tribe.

  42. DrPsyPhi says:

    sba–I did check Genesis, I rest assured that it was Judah’s mistake ;) The sobriquet is his, but, nonetheless, all of us (and we have it on the same authority, even the Lord in the case of Rahab) are descendants of harlots.
    I think the point of this post and thread is to get past a bit labels like “son of a whore” and “son of a prophet” at least in a certain sense (the sense of “are we not all beggars, or are we not all children of Adam and Eve?”)

    Coincidentally, since my last post, I came across this germane passage in Romans 9:
    “For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel.”

    As we hold the tension between “we’re all related, and we’re all descended from all the tribes” and “patriarchal lineages mean _some_thing,” I’m reminded of the tension between “being sealed” (generally) and “being sealed to my family” (particularly). In other words, does it matter exclusively that I have my ordinances done and am part of the big old family of God connected (sealed) in a great chain from Adam to Zed, or is there great eternal importance to _my_ particular family–that I’m sealed to my spouse, my parents, my children, etc.? I think there’s some parallels with patriarchal lineage. If I’m in the kingdom of Israel, does it matter where? Or is there some important significance to my tribe? Similarly, does it matter what my callings are (if tribes and patriarchal blessings are more like assignments?) At some level much of it might not matter, in other ways, there may be meaningful differences…

  43. Dave K.

    Bishops will soon be selected based on a DNA test. No setting apart required.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cohen_Modal_Haplotype

  44. So, can tribes truly be “found” if they are no longer distinct? I appreciate some of the hypothesis in the posts, but it seems rather anti-climatic and metaphorical/symbolic as opposed to “literal”.

    I don’t like the fact that patriarchal blessings (which I consider to be very personal) are being read by SPs without permission. My patriciarch typed up the blessings himself. Rumors were his wife did it as well. For a time there was a short-lived calling in the ward to support him, but it didn’t last. I would HATE that calling . . . and (because I’m a green-eyed monster) feel particularly jealous every time I read something cool someone else got. I don’t know how they do it.

    In response to a previous comment, Richard Bushman was interviewed by Dan Witherspoon on the Mormon Matters podcast about his work as a patriarch and the directions he was given in that calling re: tribal assignments, etc. I found his perspective to be rather blurry, administrative and academic as compared to other patriarchs in the church, but was appreciative of his personal honesty and openness to the processes and policies. He mentioned (if I remember correctly) that assigning tribes outside of Ephraim was discouraged as modern members could be adopted into Ephraim and should be used with high discretion. Multiple non-Ephraim blessings would be flagged. I think he also mentioned reviewers (SP and SLC).

  45. Good choice of image. This exact point annoyed me to no end (as a mathematician) reading that Salazar Slytherin — who supposedly lived a thousand years ago — had exactly one heir.

  46. chanson – I think you’re forgetting that “heir” and “descendent” are not synonyms. It makes perfect sense for Slytherin to have only one heir, in spite of having plenty of descendents. Only one of those descendents was willing and desirous to carry on what he’d begun – removing the muggleborns from the school.

    To give another example, look at Queen Elizabeth. She has 17 descendents (4 children, 8 grandchildren, 5 great-grandchildren), but only one heir to her throne, Prince Charles. Charles, in turn, has four descendents but one heir, William.

    Circling back to the topic, I think grammar and precise word choice matters in the gospel. Salvation and exaltation are often used synonymously, but salvation (being resurrected) will be granted to all through God’s grace while exaltation (one’s final degree of glory) hinges on our choices. So while we may all be descendents of all of Jacob’s sons, perhaps we are the heir of the one declared our lineage?

  47. Scott Roskelley says:

    Brigham Young said that Joseph was a “pure Ephraimite”, but Ugo Perego through investigation of Joseph’s DNA discovered that he was old irish and a descendant of Niall of the 9. My ancestry is both from old england, and spain with many crypto and sephardic jews mixed in. I was declared to be of the tribe of Manasseh and an institute director told us once that Ephraim is the leadership tribe, and this was why all of the quorum of the 12 and first presidency were from the tribe of Ephraim. It hurt my feelings, that I was only worthy of a lesser lineage but I am over it now. An elder in our mission who had a black father, and white mother was quite disturbed by his patriarchal blessing because he was declared to not have a lineage of any tribe. Darius Grey was declared to be of all the tribes except one. The lembda carry confirmed cmh – so can they serve as a bishop by right of lineage with no counselors required? In my opinion british-israelism is racist and dead if you really believe galatians 3.

  48. @ Jill: Thank you.

    I have wondered why, if Patriarchs blessings are reviewed from time to time, ( which I did not know until this post) the Patriarch who did my blessing and so many others was not released, and a new Patriarch called. Maybe he was getting some dementia. He was old when I saw him, even older when my husband saw him. Maybe his last name had something to do with it ( very prominent church last name).

    The other members who compared blessings for me were also disturbed by the discovery.

    The lineage thing did not bother me so much.
    I have different European, Native American and Middle Eastern ancestors. I feel to this day the Patriarch who did my blessing was not inspired…..rote blessings to all.

    Thanks again Jill. :)

  49. @ fuddyduddy……thanks to you too. :)

    I missed your comment and just saw it.

    I am going to keep trying for my husband and myself to get new blessings.

  50. Listen, I’m the first one to honor and praise our pioneer ancestors, but we have to realize that being a “bodyguard to Joseph Smith,” is not all that unique. If you were a man and lived in Nauvoo with the prophet, guaranteed you served as his “bodyguard,” at some point. I have a dozen or so ancestors who have the exact same claim to fame (almost typed clame). I’ve read it in all of their histories. Its one of those things that sounds like a cool piece of ancestral trivia, until you learn that everyone’s grandpa and their dog were the prophets bodyguards. I’m sure everyone’s grandpa was a great man with unique experiences and uplifting stories. Probably even their dogs had wonderful characteristics and spiritual gifts. But serving as a bodyguard to Joseph Smith is not one of them. Not trying to attack anyone personally, call me cynical, I just find it trite. I apologize, had to get that off my chest, pet peeve rant over. Next on the list – so you can trace your ancestry back to Adam? Your an idiot.

  51. “Your an idiot” is a deliciously ironic phrase.

  52. EG- you most definitely should have the opportunity to receive another blessing, as do others in this situation. This happened to me 30+ years ago and my leaders came to me and made the offer for me to receive a new blessing.