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Patriarchal Blessings

by William James Mortimer

If a Latter-day Saint has lost their Patriarchal Blessing, they may write Church Headquarters and request another copy.  Your Bishop can give you the necessary information.

The practice of a father blessing his sons and daughters can be traced from earliest times. Adam, as the first patriarch and father of the human race, blessed his son Seth, promising that "his posterity should be the chosen of the Lord, and that they should be preserved unto the end of the earth" (D&C 107:42). Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob blessed their children, opening up a vision of their inheritance and their destinies (e.g., Gen. 28:4; 49:3-27).

Each family in the Church, and the larger family that is the Church, perpetuates this heritage. Members have the right to go to the stake patriarch for a Church blessing. Stake Patriarchs are ordained wherever the Church is organized that all may have this privilege.

Patriarchal blessings are given by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood which "is to hold the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the Church" (D&C 107:18).

When God covenanted with Abraham that through his posterity all the families of the earth would be blessed, he promised "the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal" (Abr. 2:11). The scope of these promises, both here and hereafter, is outlined in modern day scripture:

Abraham received promises concerning his seed, and of the fruit of his loins…which were to continue so long as they were in the world; and as touching Abraham and his seed, out of the world they should continue…. This promise is yours also, because ye are of Abraham, and the promise was made unto Abraham [D&C 132:30-31].

An essential part of a patriarchal blessing is a declaration of lineage. The patriarch seeks inspiration to specify the dominant family line that leads back to Abraham. The majority of modern blessings have designated Ephraim or Manasseh as the main link in this tracing, but others of every tribe of Israel have also been named. Whether this is a pronouncement of blood inheritance or of adoption does not matter (see Abr. 2:10). It is seen as the line and legacy through which one's blessings are transmitted. Thus the blessings "of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" are conferred.

In addition, as the patriarch seeks the spirit he may be moved to give admonitions, promises, and assurances. Individual traits of personality and strengths and weaknesses may be mentioned. Against the backdrop of the prophetic anticipation of world events, individual roles and callings may be named. One's spiritual gifts, talents, skills, and potentials may be specified with their associated obligations of gratitude and dedication. Karl G. Maeser described these blessings as "paragraphs from the book of one's possibilities" (Alma P. Burton, Karl G. Maeser: Mormon Educator, p. 82 [Salt Lake City, 1953]).

It is continually taught in the Church that the fulfillment of patriarchal blessings, as of all divine promises, is conditioned on the faith and works of the individual. Typically, blessings close with such a statement as, "I pronounce these blessings upon your head according to your faith and your diligence in keeping the commandments of the Lord."

The practice of giving patriarchal blessings is a constant reminder of the honor and glory of family: that one is not alone and that every person stands on the shoulders of those who have gone before. They prompt those who receive blessings to "look unto Abraham, your father," (2 Ne. 8:2) to "do the works of Abraham" (D&C 132:32; cf. John 8:39), to be willing to be "chastened and tried even as Abraham" (D&C 101:4), and to recognize that Abraham's willingness in offering up his son was "a similitude of God and his Only Begotten Son" (Jacob 4:5). In short, the command to honor one's father and mother does not end with death, nor with the unfolding growth of the human family.

All patriarchal blessings are recorded and transcribed; copies are preserved in official Church archives and by the recipient. They are held sacred by those receiving them.

In the history of Israel, as of the Latter-day Saints, the moving appeal of these blessings is incalculable. They open many doors to self-awareness. They have inspired men and women of renown, as well as those in the most obscure and remote places, to lose themselves in a realization of mission; to serve and give in the spirit of consecration. They have been a strength amidst the tests and temptations of life, a comfort in the darkness of bereavement and loss, and an anchor in stormy days, a "daily help in all the affairs of life" (Widtsoe, p. 74).

(See Basic Beliefs home page; Church Organization and Priesthood Authority home page; Priesthood Organization home page; Priesthood Ordinances home page)


Widtsoe, John A. Evidences and Reconciliations. Salt Lake City, pp. 72-77.


The First Presidency said: “Patriarchal blessings [are] an inspired declaration of the lineage of the recipient, and also, where so moved upon by the Spirit, an inspired and prophetic statement of the life mission of the recipient, together with such blessings, cautions, and admonitions as the patriarch may be prompted to give. … The realization of all promised blessings is conditioned upon faithfulness to the gospel of our Lord” (letter to stake presidents, 28 June 1957; quoted in Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], 558).



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Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 3, Patriarchal Blessings

Copyright © 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company