I still remember the day I was called to be a patriarch. The stake president came and sat on the stand just before I began conducting sacrament meeting. After the closing song, he asked if my wife and I would meet with him.
After meeting with both of us alone, he had us sit together and said, “Bishop Boyle, the Lord and President Packer have called you to be the patriarch of our stake. I have in my hand a letter signed by President Packer authorizing me to extend the call based upon this interview.” When I remember that conversation, it still evokes powerful emotions. The fact that the Lord and President Packer would think I was worthy of such a call filled my eyes with tears of awe and gratitude.
At the same time, I found myself unable to breathe. As I was gasping for breath, several thoughts ran through my head; after all, my experience receiving and using my patriarchal blessing was not exemplary.
I had already received my mission call when I scheduled an appointment to visit my patriarch. It was like an unwritten tradition of my Latter-day Saint peers. I did not appreciate the blessing’s value or significance, and so receiving it was a thing of duty rather than desire. I knew little of the Abrahamic covenant, gifts of the spirit, or what I hoped to find in my blessing. A couple of statements in my blessing touched me deeply, but many of the blessings seemed commonplace in our culture, such as finding a daughter of God to take to the temple. It wasn’t until much later that I understood how few people in the world would have that privilege, and I began to appreciate its significance in God’s plan of happiness.
Although I read it from time to time, it was not with real intent. This may have been partly because I felt that there was an error in my blessing. It was not until, as a patriarch, I had the task of breaking up a stream of revelation into sentences and paragraphs that I realized that it wasn’t an error at all. I was misinterpreting it because of the context of the paragraph it was in as the concluding sentence. It was a true statement that should have been part of a new paragraph, and I would have learned that if I had asked God for the interpretation.
Thoughts like these caused me to wonder why the Lord was calling me at that time.
I quickly recognized that, beyond working on a couple of under-developed spiritual gifts, I needed to increase my spirituality and knowledge of patriarchal blessings if I were to accept the call. My wife and I raised the standards of our lifestyle, including what we read, watched, listened to, and even how we decorated our home. I capitalized on my professional experience working at a research lab by researching everything that I could about this new call and its purpose.
From these experiences, I offer the following suggestions on benefits we may be missing from this wonderful personal counsel from God.
1. Read your patriarchal blessing often.
Studying your patriarchal blessing brings into remembrance your connection to God as His child and your intersection with His great plan of happiness, with its duties and promised rewards. Reading it often will bring you back to your roots and faith.
Pondering your blessing also demonstrates a respect for sacred things, your interest in planning your future in accordance with God’s will, and your desire to receive further personal revelation, as well as put you in tune, or on the same channel, with God. Just like reading a scripture, pondering it becomes a lightning rod for more inspiration.
2. Understand who can interpret your blessing.
Discovering the interpretation of your blessing is your responsibility, and an exercise in receiving revelation. “Not even your patriarch should interpret it” (see "Patriarchal Blessings," True to the Faith, (2004), 111–13).
Your blessing may have symbols or hidden layers yet to be discovered. All scripture can have additional significance as one’s life changes. Come to understand your blessing so that you can set your goals based on the opportunities and tasks God wants you to accomplish.
Some members have said that all the elements of their blessing have been fulfilled. But even then, you should ask the Lord “What more can I do?” All blessings are tied to obeying commandments and receiving ordinances; evaluate how you are doing on your covenants. Making covenants is how we invite God’s involvement into our lives with its sanctifying power.
3. Share and discuss your blessing with your spouse.
The separation of our eyes provides two distinct pictures or perspectives, which the brain compares. It finds and uses common areas to merge the two pictures into one larger picture, using important cues not available in the separate pictures. The brain does not place a judgment or priority on the two views until they are merged, and then it refocuses both eyes on what is important.
God designed marriage in much the same way. God’s plan of a marriage between a man and a woman provides two distinct perspectives with the overlap being a focus on God. We marry partly based on what we feel this person can bring to our lives, and soon find that neither they nor we are perfect. Studying each other’s blessings together strengthens our bonds and develops common focuses, reminding us of the potential we saw in that person and the potential within ourselves.
Some promises in our blessing should be looked upon as goals that God knows we need to accomplish in order to achieve our exaltation. Exaltation has been described as a family affair, so we must learn to communicate a clear picture of our two perspectives without prejudice, merge upon our celestial goals, and use our combined view to safely return to God’s kingdom with our families.
4. Remember your gifts and make goals to use them often.
Gifts are like muscles; they need to be used before they will grow strong and benefit those God has put in our path (see Doctrine and Covenants 46:8–12, 26, 29). God encompasses all gifts, and we must seek for the gifts we need to become like Him. We may read about our gifts and talents and ask for additional ones, but to make them a part of our very being, we must use these gifts often. Therefore, look for opportunities to use your gifts for the benefit of others and you will become more Christlike.
5. Use your blessing to learn about the Abrahamic covenant.
A deeper understanding of God’s covenant promises will increase your understanding of your role as an heir of the covenant he gave Abraham and your motivation to work for His promised blessings. Studying the lives of the great patriarchs and the challenges of their families will put your trials into perspective as part of your development within the great plan of salvation. What you learn from the life of Abraham will increase your faith and courage to fully embrace God’s covenant. The resulting commitment and the promises and gifts in your blessing will strengthen you against the powers of darkness. You are Abraham’s descendant as declared by God in your blessing and you can live as valiantly as he did.
6. Look for the mission and genealogy ties to your tribe.
Knowing the tribe you come through will provide you with a mission. Part of that mission is to seek out the living and the dead that are part of the covenant people. God promised Abraham that his seed would have the opportunity to accept the covenant God made with him. There are many past generations that have not had that promised opportunity and are waiting for you to discover their genealogy and do their temple work. Another part of your mission is to pray and look for the descendants of your tribe that God will place in your path. Preparing a holy people as Abraham did is essential to prepare a people for Christ’s Second Coming.
Cherish your blessing as a gift from a loving Father, and another testament of the restoration of the gospel through Joseph Smith. Remember that your loving letter from God deals with spiritual gifts, celestial goals, divine promises and rewards, and various temporal blessings and principles intended to support your spiritual development. Your blessing should also support your family’s spiritual development. Prepare your children to understand the value of a patriarchal blessing, to have a strong desire to know the will of God, and to recognize the feeling that attends spiritual experiences. I challenge you to rediscover your blessings and duties and to look forward to the promised rewards.