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Understanding, fulfilling your patriarchal blessing

Published: Saturday, May 15 2010 12:28 p.m. MDT

Our patriarchal blessings are very personal and very sacred. It is an amazing privilege and a priceless opportunity to receive individualized instruction, comfort and promise, through a choice servant of the Lord who has been ordained for just that purpose. I sincerely hope I can respect the sacred nature of our patriarchal blessings as I share some personal experiences with my own, in an effort to help others better understand and fulfill theirs as well.Like many people who grow up in the LDS Church, I got my patriarchal blessing during my teen years. I confess that at age 16, I was a bit more interested in hearing about what I could look forward to in regards to marriage, than I was in finding out how I could better serve the Lord in building up his kingdom. The pursuit of romance was much higher on my list of priorities than paying attention to admonitions about studying the scriptures, or preparing for any future that included words such as "trials and tribulations," or "obedience to the will of the Lord."I was thrilled when the patriarch finally spoke of finding someone who would take me to the temple and to whom I would be sealed. My yet-to-be-born children were even mentioned. It was very wonderful and gratifying. It was also the moment when the tears finally flowed.The other part of my blessing that really touched me at the time, and stood out in my memory and heart afterward, was the part where my parents were mentioned. The words spoke of our love and caring for each other, and of how their home would always be a place of peace and security to me.The unfortunate side of this is that those two high points for me eventually became the only points. It happened gradually and unintentionally. So much of the rest of what was said to me, recorded and given to me on paper, seemed a bit generic, unexciting and non-specific. I am ashamed to say I lost interest.Don't get me wrong. It was a wonderful spiritual experience to receive my patriarchal blessing and I cherish the memory. But I was so young and naive at the time, that overall — I just didn't get it. Not really. And for most of my life following, I didn't make a serious effort to do much of anything about that.Thirty-seven years later, I think I'm finally starting to get it. It has been an amazing journey, I truly feel compelled to share what I've learned.Have you ever felt frustrated when you were trying to share with a friend the energy and excitement of a sensational concert or show you recently attended? You know, that great musical number with the climactic notes that washed over you like a physical force and gave you chills? No matter how many gushing adjectives you use to try to communicate the power of THAT moment, you usually have to give up and just say, "Oh, you should have been there!" The magic was past, and efforts to relive it are futile.That's how I felt about my own patriarchal blessing for many years. I felt the Spirit so strongly when the patriarch's hands were placed on my head, and I heard him say the words. Reading it later was a bit of a letdown. Somehow the process of hearing the words uttered for the first time was the pinnacle, and everything else was downhill from there.I'm not proud of this, but it was how I perceived things for a long time. I found myself reading it less and less often, and failing to appreciate it and understand it when I did read it. That was one reason it sat unread, in assorted drawers or boxes, for months and years on end.Then some of those "trials and tribulations" that had been mentioned starting coming my way. You'd think that would have been sufficient motivation for me to return to the words of my wonderful patriarchal blessing, and open my heart and my eyes to what was there for me. It didn't work that way. Even though I never lost my testimony, and I never stopped coming to church, the nature of my trials and tribulations caused me to feel that I had somehow been "betrayed" by my patriarchal blessing.My temple marriage ended in a divorce. Just prior to that event, while he was serving as our bishop, my beloved father died at age 51. My mother died several years later, closely followed by my older brother, who was my only sibling.After 10 years and three children, my marriage ended badly. All my immediate family members were gone before I hit 40. The haven and sanctuary that was my parents' home, was no more. What good was my patriarchal blessing now?I had other priesthood blessings through the years that certainly brought me strength and comfort, but I had lost faith in the one that seemed to me to matter the most. So much so, that I actually physically lost my only copy of it. For years, I didn't miss it enough to even do anything about it.A personal battle with depression finally motivated me to write to the Church History Library and request another copy. How grateful I am that the church keeps such meticulous records! Otherwise, I never would have been able to obtain that copy of my patriarchal blessing — something that is now a major focal point of my life. Soon, I had this precious possession in my hands once again.About this same time, I found some excellent therapists who helped me begin on the path of healing from some old wounds — wounds I had allowed to fester for far too long. I began reading some excellent books about the power of positive thinking and positive affirmations. A few of them had belonged to my father years ago. I was a bit embarrassed that I had never read them before, but very grateful that I still had them.A gifted naturopath helped me overcome some health problems that were connected to some of my emotional struggles. I counseled with my bishop, and made a serious effort to have more meaningful prayers and scripture study. I made CDs of some of my favorite uplifting music, and listened to them as often as I could. Things began to improve in my life. And then — I began anew to regularly read my patriarchal blessing.It was thrilling to discover meaningful passages that I had forgotten were even there. Issues I was currently struggling with were addressed specifically and beautifully. Admonitions that hadn't meant anything to me before now suddenly made sense. But still, I was not yet having the powerful spiritual experiences I had been hoping for. I pondered this dilemma, and was inspired to try something.I had recently composed a list of positive affirmations that I was saying out loud to myself every morning — sentences such as, "I have faith in God, and He has faith in me." I also printed out scriptures of counsel and comfort, personalized them, and then read them out loud to myself.Saying these words with energy and conviction, for my own ears and heart to hear, was gradually having a palpable effect on me. I was finding more joy in everyday life, dealing with my problems with more optimism, and finding new depths of personal spirituality I hadn't experienced before.I suddenly realized that I could be applying these methods of personal improvement to the way that I read my patriarchal blessing. I began reading it out loud with feeling and purpose. Instantly the words seemed to hit me with much more strength and clarity than they had before. My mind didn't start to wander halfway through (as it sometimes had a tendency to do), and new layers of meaning began to be revealed each time I read.This went on for some time before it struck me that what I was reading to myself was from the perspective of the patriarch who was pronouncing the blessing — of course. I was saying the words of someone else, talking to me... It occurred to me that I should apply the "liken the scriptures" principle to the reading of my blessing. After all, these words are like scriptures to me from my Heavenly Father. Many of the passages in my blessing — words that my Father wanted me to pay special attention to — actually had come directly from the scriptures.In order to fully make my point here, I have carefully selected a few words from my blessing to share in the context of this article. For instance, instead of reading "You will be able to discern the whisperings of the Spirit which will warn you of the dangers you will encounter," I read, "I will be able to discern the whisperings of the Spirit which will warn me of the dangers I will encounter."The moment I employed this method of reading, the words of my patriarchal blessing brought tears of joy to my eyes for the first time since that marvelous day I received it back in 1972. It was really personal now. It was mine. I cannot possibly communicate how empowering and encouraging that was.I felt little jolts of electricity as each promise become more real to me than it had been before. I began to include pleading for fulfillment of these promises in my personal prayers, as I committed to doing my part. I experienced new depths of emotion as I read and prayed now, and I felt much closer to my Savior.I continued reading in this way, until several months later, when I had another epiphany. Almost everything I was reading was in the future tense. In other words, it wasn't happening now — but it might happen someday. "For heaven's sake," I thought to myself, "I'm over 50 years old! No doubt I'm more than halfway through my allotted time on this planet. I need some promised blessings right now, not years from now! What are we waiting for?"At that moment I began reading my blessing in first person AND present tense. It was as if two loving and reassuring arms were tenderly embracing me, as I heard myself saying with conviction, "I am able to discern the whisperings of the Spirit which warn me of the dangers I encounter, and teach me in light and truth. 'I am virtuous and pure; one of integrity and truth; I keep the commandments of God which makes me able to understand more perfectly the difference between the things of God and the things of men, and my path is leading with that of the just which shineth brighter and brighter unto a perfect day.'"All those times I had read that sentence before and thought I understood it, were now, to my mind, like a few baby steps across the kitchen compared to a single leap to a the top of a majestic mountain on a brilliantly clear morning. A new and broader perspective was opened up before my eyes. I ALREADY WAS receiving these promised blessings. It was happening right now! The Holy Ghost bore witness to me that this promise, and many others, were being manifested in my life every day, and I hadn't seen it for what it was.Certainly I hadn't arrived at any state of perfection in terms of always being "one of integrity and truth," but I had come a long way from where I had once been, and I was sincerely trying. I immediately knew that my Heavenly Father was pleased with my progress toward the goal that He had set for me, and I suddenly knew it was attainable. It doubled my desire to hold tighter to the iron rod, and rejoice in being able to taste of the sweet fruit that was, even now, manifesting itself in my life.Then, as I struggled to find a way to read the words about my parents in the present tense, I realized that the home they are in now — in heaven — is still potentially my home, too. Wherever they have been before, or dwell now — that place was, and will be, a haven of peace and security for me. I also finally understood that I was fulfilling this part of my blessing here and now — by providing my own children and grandchildren a haven of peace and security in my home, the way that my parents had for me. Grateful tears fell when I began to grasp just what that meant.I continue to have marvelous spiritual experiences as I read and reread my patriarchal blessing — out loud, first person, and present tense. If anything felt awkward or presumptuous to say in that manner at first, I kept it in the future tense until the Spirit guided me to a better way to "liken" that section more accurately to my present circumstances.With that guidance, I even found a way to find comfort and promise in the part of my blessing that speaks of my marriage and temple sealing. Only a year after my divorce, a choice man came into my life, and I soon remarried.I am deeply grateful for the strength, guidance, and inspiration that I now receive from my patriarchal blessing. I also understand a little better, one more reason that things like family scripture study, singing hymns in church and at home, and bearing our testimonies are so effective in teaching us, comforting us, and protecting us from temptation.There is a certain tangible power in saying and singing things out loud. When our spoken words come from our Heavenly Father, his Only Begotten Son, their appointed servants, and their inspired followers, that power is greatly multiplied and becomes a mighty force for good. It is a gift beyond our comprehension. And it is available to any of us, if we seek to be worthy of it, and strive to use it righteously.I sincerely encourage you to make your own patriarchal blessing more real and meaningful to you than it has been before. Find a quiet place and read — out loud and with conviction — about what your Heavenly Father has in store for you.As you prayerfully, humbly, and consistently continue to do this, you will find the desire and the courage to overcome and eliminate those things in your life that may be preventing you from being worthy of the fulfillment of your blessing. You will come to recognize and rejoice in the times when the promises there become a reality in your life. You will be better able to discern the whisperings of the Spirit as you are guided toward your role in fulfilling the purposes you were sent to this earth to accomplish.Saying the words of your own patriarchal blessing — out loud and with conviction — will increase your faith in what they say, and in the one from whom they came. It will invite the Spirit to bear witness to you that your Heavenly Father loves you, and that he will always support and sustain you as you seek to receive, and be worthy of, all the promised blessings that are coming from him specifically to you.


Allison Young-Herron is from Bothell, Wash.

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