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Cover image via Gospel Media Library.
In Part 1 of this fireside given in the Paris Visitor’s Center we explored: “the question of lineage; why is it important? How does the patriarch know? Why do different members of the same family sometimes have different lineages? Is there such thing as patriarchal priesthood? Why are Patriarchs ordained to this office in the Melchizedek Priesthood, instead of being set-apart? It can be read HERE.
In this Part two, Patriarch Serge Bamy and I will explore “Do I have a divine mortal mission? With a blessing that seems short on details or seems so very general, how would I find any sense of mission if I had one? What is the connection of a patriarchal blessing to the patriarchal authority of the temple and its ordinances? How do patriarchal blessings fit into the coming of Elijah and the sealing power?” How does President Nelson’s recent emphasis on the gathering of Israel having anything to do with my blessing?
For the privilege of “peeking” through the veil of forgetfulness, an attitude of gratitude can deeply influence the way such knowledge affects our mortality:
“Those who ask for a patriarchal blessing … must ask with fervent desire, accompanied by prayers, to become, thanks to the blessings, more completely happy in their lives and more perfectly useful in the work of the Lord … (J.A WIDTSOE, Evidences & Reconciliation)
President Benson instructed, “A patriarchal blessing is the inspired and prophetic statement of your life’s mission together with blessings, cautions, and admonitions as the patriarch may be prompted to give. Young people, receive your patriarchal blessing under the influence of fasting and prayer, and then read it regularly that you may know God’s will for you.[i]
President Monson, with vivid imagery explained, “A patriarchal blessing is a revelation to the recipient, even a white line down the middle of the road, to protect, inspire, and motivate activity and righteousness. A patriarchal blessing literally contains chapters from your book of eternal possibilities. I say eternal, for just as life is eternal, so is a patriarchal blessing. What may not come to fulfillment in this life may in the next.[ii]
So, asks Elder John H. Groberg, “What is your mission in life? What does God expect you to accomplish during your sojourn here upon the earth?”[iii]
To Abraham, God promised: “I will give the priesthood to your seed for eternity” – Exaltation. That promise, through birthright then descended to Jacob or Israel who then blessed Joseph as the birthright son since Ruben had lost his birthright. Jacob then, in similitude of Father in Heaven took Ephraim and Manasseh, Joseph’s sons, as his own sons and passed the birthright to Ephraim. The Joseph Smith translation adds this in the blessing to Joseph, hence to Ephraim and Manasseh,
“For thou shalt be a light unto my people, to deliver them in the days of their captivity, from bondage; and to bring salvation unto them, when they are altogether bowed down under sin.” Genesis 48:11
The Guide to the Scriptures adds,
“Ephraim received the birthright in Israel. In the last days, his right and responsibility is to hold the priesthood, to carry the message of the restored gospel to the world, and to raise a banner to gather scattered Israel. ” “In the last days the tribe of Manasseh will help that of Ephraim to gather Israel scattered » (Deut 33:13-17)
The patriarchal manual includes: “As Joseph saved the family of Jacob, the tribe of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh will gather and then gather all the peoples to the ends of the earth”
To which President Nelson prophetically stated, “It is a necessary prelude to the second coming of our Savior (R M Nelson, Oct 06)
This gathering was signaled by the sounding of the trumpet on the day of the “Feast of the Trumpets” when Moroni delivered the trumpet to Joseph Smith as the instrument of the gathering then placed in the hands of Ephraim and Manasseh. With church membership at only .2% of the world population our individual sharing responsibility would be nearly 1,000 each. Add ancestral responsibilities of 20,000 for each active adult and the mission seems impossible!
With all that is at stake in the eternities with the possibility of inheriting all the powers, capacities, and knowledge of our Father in Heaven, mortality must be a thorough vetting of our passions, desires, and our real nature, under all circumstances. So necessarily, our individual mission must be equal to the proffered eternal opportunity, even though seemingly impossible.
In the Hollywood version, the key to accomplishing the impossible wasn’t some superhuman hero but rather the skillful combination of the training possessed by a team of individually talented but also individually fallible people. For us, the stakes are eternal life or death, divine power or eternal damnation, etc. The setting combines the consuming passions of mortal appetites and ambitions with the distorting power of an evil enemy, making the mission beyond impossible.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, you agreed to face memory loss, identity loss, a weakness for chocolate, a lost ability to fly, a gradually developing ability to think, blindness to all but physical materials, a controlling desire for attention, recognition, curiosity, entertainment, etc. You agreed to grow up under all those limitations AND face a powerful, unseen enemy with a huge army that is dedicated to your distraction from your potential, your misery, as well as your destruction. They know how to use your weaknesses against you. They have weapons and armies, skilled in traps, and bait. AND since they are invisible, they have recruited mortals posing as friends and idols to get you hooked on anything from candy to fame.”
Fortunately, in sending us, Father also sends special protections and unseen assistance that is part of His perfect devotion to our becoming all that we really want to be. He will never disavow us!
Part of the process includes facing the same evil, self-centered motivation that Father deals with in eternity, children seduced by the “dark side.” This enemy targets, those with testimonies of Christ[iv], with the goal of inducing misery and destruction.
Into this swirling mortal whirlwind, we are given a divine mission to fulfill, a divine purpose that contributes to the growth and progress of members of the family of God. Elder Groberg taught, “God, our Father in Heaven, does have a specific mission for all of us to fulfill and perform while we are here upon this earth.”[v]
The key to discovering our mission is bound up in the means our Father uses to do His work among us. “… God worketh by power, according to the faith of the children of men…if there be one among you that doeth good, he shall work by the power and gifts of God that come by the Spirit of Christ… unto every”[vi] As in Hollywood’s Mission Impossible, the individual gifts and capacities given us, create the key to the solution and thereby an understanding of the mission we each have.
To everyone is given a gift![vii] They are spread throughout humanity so that we need each other to succeed, “That everyone may be profited thereby.”
Perhaps there is a key here. We can learn from the Prophet Joseph’s struggle to obtain spiritual gifts. By the end of his life, Truman Madsen estimated, that Joseph had obtained around forty spiritual gifts. But in the beginning, Father instructed him in their acquisition by focusing him on his first gift:
“This is the first gift that I bestowed upon you; and I have commanded that you should pretend to no other gift until my purpose is fulfilled in this; for I will grant unto you no other gift until it is finished…” DC 5:4 [viii]
Perhaps we could call them our starter gifts, those given in our patriarchal blessing. It or they become both the key to our life’s mission as well as the portal to all other gifts we might righteously pursue.[ix]
Elder Hales counseled, “To find the gifts we have been given, we must pray and fast.”
Often, patriarchal blessings tell us the gifts we have received and declare the promise of gifts we can receive if we seek after them.
I urge you each to discover your gifts and to seek after those that will bring direction to your life’s work and that will further the work of heaven.”[x] Two purposes are noted: 1) give direction to your personal life’s work and 2) to further the work of God in bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. Moses 1:39
“Usually, blessings are added as the spirit may indicate, to meet our special requirements in life for our comfort, success, and strength. Our special needs may be pointed out; special gifts may be promised us; we may be blessed to overcome our weaknesses, to resist temptation, or to develop our powers, so that we may the more surely achieve the promised blessings…”[xi]
- Special requirements for
- Blessings to:
- overcome weakness,
- resist temptation
- develop powers
So, one might take the written blessing and submit it to a simple analysis that could help see relationships between principles, chart paths and sequences, understand weaknesses, or discover strengths, gifts, and the conditional promises of more.
After understanding the promises and responsibilities associated with lineage, draw three columns: Blessings; Conditions/Warnings; Gifts. Then extract from the blessing those things as they arise in the context of the blessing. If a blessing is conditional, then enumerate it on the same line with the condition. If a blessing is without a condition, list it separately on its own line and the same with a warning or conditions. Then list the gifts. Some blessings may be gifts and of course, all gifts are a blessing but there must be a way to recognize those blessings that are specifically a spiritual gift needing development.
Using the scriptures, become conversant with the language that God and His prophets used to talk about spiritual gifts. Begin with the longest list in DC 46. There are sixteen gifts listed here.
13…to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God…
14…to believe on their words…
15… differences of administration…
16…to some to know the diversities of operations, whether they be of God…. 17… the word of wisdom.
18…the word of knowledge,
19… faith to be healed;
20… faith to heal.
21…the working of miracles;
23…the discerning of spirits.
24…to speak with tongues;
25…the interpretation of tongues.
27… to discern all those gifts…
29…to have all those gifts, that there may be a head
30… it is done even as he asketh.
Then search the Topical Guide for gifts of the Spirit. Here are ten.
The Brethren are often helpful in identifying spiritual gifts. Here, for example is a classic talk given my Elder Marvin J. Ashton listing another seventeen often overlooked gifts.
the gift to calm others
the gift of asking;
the gift of listening;
the gift of hearing and using a still, small voice;
the gift of being able to weep;
the gift of avoiding contention;
the gift of being agreeable;
the gift of avoiding vain repetition;
the gift of seeking that which is righteous;
the gift of not passing judgment;
the gift of looking to God for guidance;
the gift of being a disciple;
the gift of caring for others;
the gift of being able to ponder;
the gift of offering prayer;
the gift of bearing a mighty testimony; and
the gift of receiving the Holy Ghost.
Then among all the gifts are a few that are essential and should be possessed, developed or sought prayerfully to obtain. Here are three that are mentioned in the scriptures or by the prophets: Discernment, Prophecy, and Charity.
Elder Groberg then added:
2. that we can, here and now in this life, discover what that mission is; and
3. that with His help we can fulfill that mission and know and have assurance—here and now in this life—that we are doing that which is pleasing to our Father in Heaven.
Joseph Smith indicated that we must have a continual assurance that our course in life pleases God. (Lectures on Faith, 7) This assurance is promised in multiple ways but that given through the patriarchal blessing is among the first and most easily accessed.
Perhaps you have noted that it is God’s way of doing things when working with us humans. He promises, then gives signs to help us maintain faith in those often-delayed promises. The rainbow was one such sign by which people could measure the consistency and reliability of God’s covenant promise.
To Adam, God confirmed his standing with an ordinance as He did with Abraham.[xii]
Our temple ordinances, though proprietary and sacred are God’s symbolic language through which He personally reassures, reveals, partners and promises. The Egyptian hieroglyphs representing the Abrahamic covenant contains symbols that help us see the connection of our patriarchal blessings to these “confirming” symbols.
In Facsimile 2 of the Book of Abraham which serves as the center of the whole book’s chiasm[xiii], the right side up figures represent heaven while those upside down represent earth.
Turning the bottom over, we can see the panel with figures numbered from 5-7. This panel is the pictorial representation, using Egyptian theological symbols, of the covenant of Abraham detailed in chapter 2:7-11.
Figure 7 is particularly interesting as interpreted by Joseph Smith:
“Fig. 7. Represents God sitting upon his throne, revealing through the heavens the grand Key-words of the Priesthood; as, also, the sign of the Holy Ghost unto Abraham, in the form of a dove.” Pearl of Great Price, Abraham 2
Even though the hieroglyphs use Egyptian symbols representing the Osiris theology, they are appropriately borrowed to illustrate the Abrahamic Covenant. Hieroglyphs may be interpreted and used by whoever wrote the document to which they are attached so unless the reader uses the attached document they can be misinterpreted. The attached document is the Book of Abraham.[xiv]
Without discussing the “grand Key-words of the Priesthood” or the “sign” or the original meanings of the hieroglyphs in the Osiris theology, it can be noted that one of them shown is a sort of compass. The confirming nature of signs used in covenant ordinances since the beginning of time, helps us recognize that God is furnishing Abraham with the promise of an instrument of direction by which he can have an actual assurance that his course pleases God.
This confirming instrument is one beautiful link between the patriarchal ordinances and our patriarchal blessing.
The blessing serves as a sort of personal Liahona that may not indicate each step we should take or the exact decision we should make at each crossroads, but it does keep us headed in the right direction if,
“And it did work for them according to their faith in God; therefore, if they had faith to believe that God could cause that those spindles should point the way they should go, behold, it was done; therefore they had this miracle, …wrought by the power of God, day by day. Nevertheless, because those miracles were worked by small means …They were slothful, and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey” Alma 37:40-41
With faith, prayer and consistent re-reading of the blessing, one not only gains insight in one’s choices but also reassurance that their course in life pleases God, including a progressively unfolding understanding of one’s mission in life.
Elder Scott encouraged, “Oh, how I would encourage you to weave deeply into the fabric of your soul the recognition that your life now is a part of a much bigger plan the Lord has for you…. What you decide to do now will affect how well you fulfill that divine, personal plan He has for you.”[xv]
In all of the search for our individual mission through which we can feel we have contributed to the welfare of mankind, we should remember that there is a mission to which we have all covenanted before leaving our home.
During His last great trial, knowing the vast and eternal scope of what He was doing, Christ prayed,
“I pray for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” John 17:20-21
Our unity determines how believable His saving message is to a world addicted to the appetites of the natural man, for the rest of Father’s children, our brothers and sisters!
A Patriarchal blessing then,
- is for those who are part of the chosen people, his obedient children through whom the Lord realizes his earthly purposes
- describes a way to go that builds on the Gospel
- describes milestones to be achieved by personal efforts
- it gives us the power, if we want to use it as a guide, to achieve these promises as we go through life
We happily made covenants, before leaving Father, surrounded by the very people with which we work, eat, play, and sometimes avoid. We are joint saviors as we work to become joint heirs.
As Elder Anderson summarized it simply by saying that we are Saviors and gatherers of the elect from the four corners of the earth and on both sides of the veil.[xvi] Our patriarchal compass, a personal Liahona, makes that impossible mission not only possible but fulfilling and joyful in partnership with Him!
[i] Ezra Taft Benson CR April 1986, Ensign 16
[ii] Thomas S. Monson, Oct 86
[iii] JOHN H. GROBERG of the Seventy, May 1, 1979 • BYU Devotional
[iv] Revelation 12:17
[vi] Moroni 10:7, 17-18, 25
[vii] DC 46:11
[viii] See Meridian article: https://latterdaysaintmag.com/the-lords-first-gift-our-mission-made-possible/
[ix] See Meridian article: https://latterdaysaintmag.com/the-lords-first-gift-our-mission-made-possible/
[x] Elder Robert D. Hales (Gifts of the Spirit, Ens Feb 2002).
[xi] Widtsoe, John A., Evidences and Reconciliations.
Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1960.
[xii] See Meridian Articles https://latterdaysaintmag.com/sabbath-a-sign-or-a-token/
[xiv] There is, of course much controversy over the Book of Abraham because of the uncertainties created by missing originals but we do have the “translated” book and it was received in at least the same way as the Book of Mormon. For more information see, https://mi.byu.edu and search for “Book of Abraham. Or, see, https://www.fairmormon.org/search with the same search
[xv] Richard G. Scott, “He Lives,” December, Nov 1999.