Most of us are used to reading something once and then never taking it off the shelf again. In rare instances, if it’s a particularly beloved book, such as How To Kill a Mockingbird, Harry Potter, or Horton Hears a Who we may make a rare exception and revisit it several times. Generally; however, we are accustomed to moving on to the next literary adventure without thinking much about what we read before.
Perhaps our approach to reading should change somewhat when considering our patriarchal blessing, one of the few official documents in the known universe written specifically for you. Nonetheless, if we’re being honest, the vast majority of us probably don’t read our blessings enough.
I, for one, am oftentimes more inclined to browse through the latest news headlines than read a blessing I can practically quote word for word. It can be far more enticing to read a story about whales in the Great Salt Lake, a rare spherical cloud spotted in Japan, or even General Authorities depicted as Disney characters than a sacred text we believe to be personalized instruction from Heavenly Father directly to us. We want something new, exciting, and entertaining.
Nevertheless, we know that reading our patriarchal blessings “frequently” truly is an important and worthwhile use of our time. They have been promised by Prophets and Apostles of days modern and past to “…give each recipient a vision for his or her future as well as a connection with the past…”, be “…personal scripture to you…”, and “your passport to peace in this life…[and] Liahona of light to guide you unerringly to your heavenly home.” I daresay we might find them more beneficial than the latest headline that grabs for our attention.
There are several ways we can make reading our blessing both an uplifting and engaging experience. Here are 5 suggestions for how you can spice up your patriarchal blessing reading. Hopefully they can assist in making it a regular habit that will continuously direct your life for good.
1. Remember Where It Came From
There are many faithful members who feel that their blessing doesn’t contain anything personalized or specific to them. This can cause real pain and hesitancy to ever want to read it. They cringe when someone stands at the pulpit glowing about the marvelous source of direction and inspiration their blessing provides.
While it is certainly true that one blessing may contain more eloquent language, outline remarkable and clear-cut promises, or have greater overall length than another, it is important to remember the wise words of President Thomas S. Monson. He said,
“Your patriarchal blessing is yours and yours alone. It may be brief or lengthy, simple or profound. Length and language do not a patriarchal blessing make. It is the Spirit that conveys the true meaning.”
Indeed, the “length and language” of a blessing are in all reality quite trivial to the true meaning and integrity of a proper patriarchal blessing. One need not worry too much about those aspects of the blessing but rather allow the Spirit to further instruct them what they need to know in the precise moment they read it. Regardless of the specific content of our blessing, we can read it knowing that it is God’s blessing to us— “a personal revelation from your Heavenly Father,” which does make it incredibly unique.
2. Read Your Blessing Every Day for a Week
Try reading your patriarchal blessing every day for 7 days. However, in fulfilling this challenge, it is not enough to merely skim through your blessing for a couple of minutes each morning and call it good. Start each time with a prayer, asking Heavenly Father to teach you what He wants you to learn.
After your prayer, it is important to read your blessing slowly. I’ve noticed that oftentimes when I read my blessing (because I have read it dozens of times), I almost subconsciously skim over and even skip many of the lines until I finish in just a couple short minutes. It takes a focused, deliberate effort to go through your blessing sentence by sentence, word by word. But I promise it pays off.
In addition to reading slowly, try to consider your life and how you’ve seen it reflected in your blessing. From practicing this, I have been surprised to realize that certain lines have indeed come to pass. I’ve also seen certain promises be fulfilled. Or, I rember areas where I can improve so that a blessing or promise will be realized.
3. Understand Your Lineage
Every blessing given includes a declaration of the person’s lineage, identifying which tribe of the 12 tribes of Israel one belongs to. As stated in the Old Testament Seminary Student Manual, “knowing your lineage is important because each of the tribes of Israel has been given particular blessings and responsibilities.” Indeed, one priesthood manual, The Kingdom of God, called it “…the most important element of [a] patriarchal blessing.”
Studying and understanding the significance of which tribe you are descended from may help you gain a better understanding of some of the roles and responsibilities which you have been entrusted while here on Earth. Those descending from Ephraim, the most common tribe of Latter-day Saints, are given the responsibility to “bear the priesthood, take the message of the restored gospel to the world, and raise an ensign to gather scattered Israel.” Likewise, those of Manasseh have been charged with assisting in this great work.
Other tribes, though less common, may also carry unique responsibilities. One interesting story referenced in Gayla Wise’s book, The Power of Your Patriarchal Blessing, tells of a man who was from the tribe of Zebulun. In Hebrew, Zebulun means “exalted abode.” The man went on to become a talented brick and stone mason, helping to build the Nauvoo Temple, as well as other sacred church buildings in Provo including the old Tabernacle (pg. 57).
Lastly, it is important to remember that each member of the Church is considered a descendant of Abraham and entitled to all the blessings and promises contained in the Abrahamic Covenant. Regardless of which tribe identified in your blessing, as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Lord has given much and expects much from you.
4. Thoroughly Annotate Your Blessing
One exercise I found particularly helpful when trying to gain greater meaning and understanding from my blessing was by marking specific phrases and sentences which I found important. I created, for example, 3 columns with the headings “Who Am I?”, “Promises,” and “Admonitions/Counsel.” By breaking my blessing down in this way I found it much easier to navigate. I also saw how the different elements therein combined to give me a clearer picture of myself as an individual.
Obviously, there are many different ways to annotate your blessing, so be creative. You may consider trying to identify different themes, impressions you’ve received, connect phrases with different scriptures or the words of Church leaders, etc. Get out your colored pencils, make a few copies of your blessing and have at it!
5. Ponder As You Read
Often while I read my blessing, the benefit for me isn’t in the actual words. Instead, inspirational moments of pondering accompany my reading. Sometimes as I read, I stop midway through as I reflect on something that a word or phrase had triggered me to think about. I feel the spirit teaching me far more than words on a piece of paper ever could.
This explains how each time we read our blessing, despite it being committed to memory, we can discover new and important truths. The Holy Ghost is ever ready to inspire us with additional revelation which will guide our daily lives.
President Russell M. Nelson famously declared in a recent General Conference address that “…in coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.”
Prayerfully pondering the contents of our patriarchal blessing can serve as an excellent catalyst for receiving the essential influence of the Holy Ghost into our lives that he speaks of.
News Worth Reading
Our patriarchal blessings can be a great source of direction and guidance in our lives if read with the appropriate spirit and mindset. As aforementioned, regardless of the specific content inside our blessing, you can rest assured that it is God’s intended blessing for you here on Earth. Beloved former Prophet for the Church Thomas S. Monson may have said it best in a General Conference address given over 30 years ago:
“Your blessing is not to be folded neatly and tucked away. It is not to be framed or published. Rather, it is to be read. It is to be loved. It is to be followed”
Sure sounds like great news to me.