In the October issue of the LDS magazine, the Ensign, one of Mormonism’s leaders writes on patriarchal blessings, a topic that is not commonly addressed in its pages. In the LDS Church, people receive a patriarchal blessing only once in their lifetime. Mormons treasure them, believing that they give them individualized direction for their lives.
Elder Shayne M. Bowen, the author of the article, focuses on the thought that the patriarchal blessing will reassure people that they are truly part of Israel. He writes: “Everyone who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a descendant of Israel either by bloodline or adoption.” The patriarchal blessing will tell the person which one of the 12 tribes they are belong to. (Over the years, a few former Mormons have given me copies of their blessings. In each case, they were told that they were members of Ephraim.) A little known fact is that, at one time, the LDS Church taught that a person’s blood would literally change into Jewish blood at their conversion to Mormonism.
I was surprised by how much time Bowen spent on this aspect of the blessing. His second emphasis, however, did not surprise me. Sprinkled throughout his article is the thought that everything in the blessing is contingent on a person’s worthiness and obedience. One example: “If you magnify your callings and receive all of the ordinances offered by our Father in the temple, you are entitled to all the promised blessings – the inheritance.”
This emphasis didn’t surprise me because it is so evident in the individual patriarchal blessings that I possess. After reading Bowen’s article, I reread those blessings. They are dramatic proof that one of the biggest words in Mormonism is “if”. Absolutely everything is contingent on their obedience. Following are just a couple of examples from them.
“May you also realize that your Heavenly parents love you, they too desire that you will so live that you will be worthy to come back into their presence to dwell with them throughout eternity. In the great plan of the gospel they have given to you your free agency to come to this earth where, if you do not keep their commandments then they lose you as their child and you can no longer dwell with them.”
“May you realize that all of these blessings are predicated upon your obedience to the principals of the Gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
By now you might be seeing why I put a question mark in the title of this blog. Are patriarchal blessings really blessings at all? The idea that you have to be worthy to qualify for a blessing goes against the very meaning of “blessing” which most dictionaries define as a special gift or favor from God. In Mormonism, however, there are no such blessings that are gifts. Each blessing is like a patriarchal blessing – it is deserved and merited.
Here then is another example of why we need to tell Mormons about God’s underserved blessings. They need to hear that God doesn’t lose them if they don’t keep the commandments. They need to be told that they can still dwell with God even though they haven’t obeyed the commandments. They need to hear about Jesus who kept the commandments perfectly for them. They need to hear the message of God’s greatest blessing: free and full forgiveness in Christ.
Friends, please join us in telling them that.