One of my favorite games to play with my friends as a child was “MASH.” We would write out MASH (mansion, apartment, shack, house) at the top of any scrap of paper we had, then in between giggles we would come up with the names of our future husbands (usually whoever we had crushes on at the time), how many kids we could possibly have (from 1 to 1,000), what careers we might end up with (anything from artist to astronaut), and other “important” facts about our lives that would then be determined by a chance elimination based on a random number.
It was fun to predict our futures this way when we were kids, but as adults, we know better than to plan our lives around MASH results. Yet, sometimes even adults treat their patriarchal blessings the way they treated their MASH games as children—as a way to predict their future. Then we get frustrated when it seems that our future “isn’t coming true.” In a letter to stake presidents in 1958, the First Presidency explained, “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” (President Monson 1986 general conference address, “Your Patriarchal Blessing: A Liahona of Light,” emphasis added).
Here are a few things to think about if you feel like your patriarchal blessing isn’t “coming to pass.”
1. Be open to different interpretations.
Elder Packer once shared in October 2002 general conference, “It has been said that a patriarchal blessing is a ‘[paragraph] from the book of your possibilities.’ If we read our patriarchal blessings, we will see what the spirit of prophecy has held up to us as to what each of us can become.’”
Sometimes we think that the way we interpret a specific part of our blessing is the way it must and always will be, but that’s not necessarily the case. Think about your favorite book. No matter how many times you read it, once you have different experiences or a different perspective, doesn’t your interpretation of parts of the book change? Maybe you relate to a different character more or you finally understand how that other character would have made such a poor decision. We have different perspectives and life experiences at different parts of our lives that can influence how we interpret parts of our blessing as well—which is why we need to rely on the Lord for interpretations and answers to the messages He has given us through the patriarch.
2. Remember that the blessings are what’s promised, not the timing.
And both the blessings and the timing are not promised without a condition of obedience and faithfulness. Sometimes blessings that we expected earlier in life come later, and sometimes blessings that we don’t expect to come until we are older we suddenly realize are being fulfilled now. I’ve experienced both firsthand—having to wait and unexpectedly recognizing what I felt was an “early” fulfillment of an opportunity that had been promised me.
More often than not, however, it is the unfulfilled blessings that we worry about: marriage, missions, callings, children, etc. When you feel like the timer is up on those blessings and that if they haven’t come by now they’re never going to come, you may want to step back and remember this beautiful reminder from Elder Packer, “Sometimes someone will worry because a promise made in a patriarchal blessing is not yet fulfilled. For instance, a blessing may indicate that a member will be married, and they do not find a companion. That does not mean that the blessing will go unfulfilled. It is well to know that things happen in the Lord’s due time, not always in ours. Things of an eternal nature have no boundaries. From the premortal existence to our existence beyond the veils of death, our life is an eternal life.”
(For a really interesting article on this topic, check out “How Does God’s Time Really Work?”)
3.Carefully study your Patriarchal Blessing regularly, and maybe even attempt to memorize it, to help achieve the blessings promised.
How do you know if a promise is being fulfilled if you can’t even remember the promises? There have been many small moments when phrases or blessings or warnings in my patriarchal blessing have been evident, but I wouldn’t have recognized them if I wasn’t familiar with my blessing and it’s specific wording and phrases. In fact, it was because of a very specific phrase in my blessing that I received confirmation to marry my husband. That was my only answer, and I’m sure I would have missed it if I wasn’t familiar with the things that had been promised to me in my blessing.
I love the way President James E. Faust illustrated this idea, “A patriarchal blessing from an ordained patriarch can give us a star to follow, which is a personal revelation from God to each individual. If we follow this star, we are less likely to stumble and be misled. Our patriarchal blessing will be an anchor to our souls, and if we are worthy, neither death nor the devil can deprive us of the blessings pronounced. They are blessings we can enjoy now and forever.”
The visual of my blessing as a star helps me remember that it’s something I’m always looking to for help, not something I’m moving through and then casting aside when it’s “complete.” Use this guiding star and remember what you’re ultimately working towards and the fulfillment of blessings and promises will be more evident to you.
4.Pick a blessing to work towards.
If your blessing tells you you’ve been given a specific talent, look for ways to use that talent. If you’ve been told you have a strong testimony that with strengthen others, make sure you’re working on your testimony and sharing it. If you’ve been told you have a gift for music, practice singing or composing or learn to play an instrument. And remember, a talent doesn’t necessarily mean it’s something that you are good at right away. Don’t feel guilty or frustrated if you aren’t there yet or if it doesn’t come easily. However, the sooner you learn about and begin trying to develop these gifts and the more you can rely on Heavenly Father for help, the more easily they will come.
As President Faust once shared, “Our patriarchal blessings indicate what He expects of us and what our potential can be. Remember the parable of the talents in the New Testament—the Lord won’t force us to receive the things we’ve been promised. He has only told us they are available to us. Find ways to help the Lord fulfill your blessing.”
5.Don’t treat your blessing like a checklist.
While some very specific pieces of some blessings may be fulfilled, there are always other pieces that you can continue to work for. A patriarchal blessing is not a checklist. I like to think of it as an outline that is constantly being filled in. Blessings or warnings that I thought I didn’t need to pay much attention to anymore have frequently resurfaced in a different form. It has taught me to never disregard or ignore any part of my personal “spiritual roadmap.” As President Monson once put it, “Your patriarchal blessing is to you a personal Liahona to chart your course and guide your way.”
For more information about the purpose and appropriate treatment of patriarchal blessings, visit lds.org.