About 600 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, a prophet named Lehi took his family and departed into the desert wilderness in obedience to the voice of the Lord. One morning Lehi received an unexpected but wonderful gift. His son Nephi writes about the experience.
And it came to pass that as my father arose in the morning, and went forth to the tent door, to his great astonishment he beheld upon the ground a round ball of curious workmanship; and it was of fine brass. And within the ball were two spindles; and the one pointed the way whither we should go into the wilderness” (Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, 1 Nephi 16:10).
Another Book of Mormon prophet named Alma writes that the ball was called the Liahona and that it was a compass prepared by the Lord. He also says that the Liahona pointed the way that they should go in the wilderness and that it worked for them according to their faith.
(See Alma 37:38-40.) In other words, they had to exercise faith in Jesus Christ in order for the Liahona to tell them the direction they should go in order to find the promised land.
President Thomas S. Monson, then Second Counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints explains that the Lord provided the Liahona for Lehi and that He also provides direction for us in our day but in a different form.
The same Lord who provided a Liahona for Lehi provides for you and for me today a rare and valuable gift to give direction to our lives, to mark the hazards to our safety, and to chart the way, even safe passage – not to a promised land, but to our heavenly home. The gift to which I refer is known as your patriarchal blessing. Every worthy member of the Church is entitled to receive such a precious and priceless personal treasure.
Just as Lehi and his family had to exercise faith in Jesus Christ in order to reach their promised land, we must exercise faith in Christ to obtain divine direction for our lives. We must first believe that the patriarch has the authority to give us the blessing, and then we must exercise our faith to obtain the blessing. After receiving the blessing, we must follow the counsel given.
President Monson continued by quoting instructions from the First Presidency to stake presidents about patriarch blessings in a letter dated June 28, 1958.
Patriarchal blessings contemplate an inspired declaration of the lineage of the recipient and, when 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 for the accomplishment of such life’s mission, it being always made clear that the realization of all promised blessings is conditioned upon faithfulness to the gospel of our Lord, whose servant the patriarch is.
Who is this patriarch that has the power to see the future and the authority to bestow such blessings? The Lord gave the responsibility for calling patriarchs to the Council of the Twelve Apostles. President Monson explains that from his “own experience I testify that patriarchs are called of God by prophecy.”
The office of patriarch is an ordained office in the Melchizedek Priesthood. It is an office of blessing rather than of administration. Patriarchs carry the responsibility to remain worthy of revelation from God. President Monson describes the men who are called as patriarchs.
Patriarchs are humble men. They are students of the scriptures. They stand before God as the means whereby the blessings of heaven can flow from that eternal source to the recipient on whose head rests the hands of the patriarch. He may not be a man of letters, a possessor of worldly wealth, or a holder of a distinguished office. He, however, must be blessed with priesthood power and personal purity. To reach to heaven for divine guidance and inspiration, a patriarch is to be a man of love, a man of compassion, a man of judgment, a man of God.
That is a wonderful description of the men I know personally who are patriarchs. Patriarchal blessings are sacred gifts or loving letters from Heavenly Father to His children. Garry H. Boyle, a man who currently holds the office of patriarch, lists six ways that we can get more from our patriarchal blessings.
1. Read your patriarchal blessing often. [Study it to bring] into remembrance your connection to God as His child and your intersection with His great plan of happiness, with its duties and promised rewards. Reading it often will bring you back to your roots and faith.
Pondering your blessing also demonstrates a respect for sacred things, your interest in planning your future in accordance with God’s will, and your desire to receive further personal revelation, as well as put you in tune … with God. Just like reading a scripture, pondering it becomes a lightning rod for more inspiration.
2. Understand who can interpret your blessing. Discovering the interpretation of your blessing is your responsibility, and an exercise in receiving revelation…. Your blessing may have symbols or hidden layers yet to be discovered….
3. Share and discuss your blessing with your spouse. … God designed marriage in much the same way [as He designed our eyes]. God’s plan of a marriage between a man and a woman provides two distinct perspectives with the overlap being a focus on God. We marry partly based on what we feel this person can bring to our lives, and soon find that neither they nor we are perfect. Studying each other’s blessings together strengthens our bonds and develops common focuses, reminding us of the potential we saw in that person and the potential within ourselves.
4. Remember your gifts and make goals to use them often. Gifts are like muscles; they need to be used before they will grow strong and benefit those God has put in our path (see Doctrine and Covenants 46:8-12, 26, 29). God encompasses all gifts, and we must seek for the gifts we need to become like Him. We may read about our gifts and talents and ask for additional ones, but to make them a part of our very being, we must use these gifts often. Therefore, look for opportunities to use your gifts for the benefit of others and you will become more Christlike.
5. Use your blessing to learn about the Abrahamic covenant. A deeper understanding of God’s covenant promises will increase your understanding of your role as an heir of the covenant he gave Abraham and your motivation to work for His promised blessings….
6. Look for the mission and genealogy ties to your tribe. Knowing the tribe you come through will provide you with a mission. Part of that mission is to seek out the living and the dead that are part of the covenant people. God promised Abraham that his seed would have the opportunity to accept the covenant God made with him. There are many past generations that have not had that promised opportunity and are waiting for you to discover their genealogy and do their temple work. Another part of your mission is to pray and look for the descendants of your tribe that God will place in your path. Preparing a holy people as Abraham did is essential to prepare a people for Christ’s second coming.
I received my patriarchal blessing many years ago, and I read it often enough that I almost have it memorized. I cherish this loving letter from Heavenly Father that “deals with spiritual gifts, celestial goals, divine promises and rewards, and various temporal blessings and principles intended to support [my] spiritual development” (Boyle). I have relied on the promises given in my blessing during difficult times, and I have marveled at the counsel given many years ago that helps me today. I am immensely grateful to have this great gift from God.