To avoid confusion, we must learn to see patriarchal blessings not as a destination, but as a doorway to more revelation.
God has made it abundantly clear that He knows more than we do. “My thoughts are not your thoughts,” He explained, “for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8–9). Jacob added that the “depths of [His] mysteries” are “unsearchable,” and “it is impossible that man should find out all his ways” (Jacob 4:8). We do not “comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend” (Mosiah 4:9). God, however, has encouraged us by dropping hints that He knows “all the hidden mysteries” and “the wonders of eternity” (Doctrine and Covenants 76:7–8). These mysteries and wonders are the “secret things” that “belong unto the Lord our God” (Deuteronomy 29:29). And yet, God also wants to reveal and unfold His mysteries to us (Daniel 2:28; 40:3). . . .
Not a Destination, but a Doorway
To treat your [patriarchal] blessing as a mystery of God means to consider it as a doorway to more revelation. Your blessing is not meant to be the only communication you ever receive from God. Receiving a patriarchal blessing is not a destination that you work toward and then check off your list. The text itself is not intended to answer every question you will ever have. Rather, it is an invitation to ask Him for more light and understanding. . .
. . . Your blessing comes from God, and “that which is of God is light.” God promises us that with His light, we can receive more light, “and that light groweth brighter until the perfect day” (Doctrine and Covenants 50:24). If you assume that your patriarchal blessing is the end of the conversation, then you may incorrectly expect it to provide answers to every problem you encounter. However, if you treat your blessing as the beginning of a lifelong conversation, as the doorway to further enlightenment, you will turn to it for guidance and direction that extends beyond the specific words on the page.
What You Will Find
As a mystery of God, your patriarchal blessing has room to be ambiguous and open-ended. Each individual encounters a wide range of experiences, concerns, confusions, frustrations, and hopes. Because a patriarchal blessing does not address every situation, some individuals end up feeling considerable pain when their lives differ from their expectations and Latter-day Saint cultural norms. Such ambiguity may cause you to believe that your blessing offers no honest interpretation that squares with your lived experience. You may feel either that your life has gone terribly awry or that your blessing represents a case when prophecies fail (see 1 Corinthians 13:8).
At its root, however, your patriarchal blessing is an invitation for you to draw closer to the Lord. He taught that if you will “ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things” (Doctrine and Covenants 42:61). Diligent seeking is a continual process that may yield only “here a little and there a little” (2 Nephi 28:30). But the Lord seems to extend no other invitation more often than some version of His pleading with us to ask, seek, knock, and draw near unto Him—each paired with the promise that we will receive.1
Implications for Understanding
Approaching your blessing as a mystery of God prompts three specific implications for how you comprehend its promises. First, because your blessing is an invitation to additional revelation, the length of your blessing is not relevant to its meaning or significance. Speaking of his own patriarchal blessing, Church President Heber J. Grant observed that the patriarch “put his hands upon my head and bestowed upon me a little blessing that would perhaps be about one-third of a typewritten page. That blessing foretold my life to the present moment.”2 President James E. Faust noted that his “own blessing is short and is limited to perhaps three quarters of one page on one side.” “Yet,” he remarked, “it has been completely adequate and perfect for me.”3 It does not matter if your blessing is long or short, so long as you heed its invitation to turn to God for additional guidance throughout your life.
Second, to treat your blessing like a mystery of God means understanding that its interpretation belongs to the Lord. “As the blessing was given through the inspiration of the Lord,” Elder John A. Widtsoe explained, “so its meaning will be made clear by the same power; and its fulfillment will be in His hands.”4 “It is the Spirit that conveys the true meaning,” President Monson echoed. “Your patriarchal blessing is yours and yours alone.”5 And President Boyd K. Packer taught that “except for members of the immediate family, we should not permit others to read our blessing nor should we ask others to interpret it. Neither the patriarch nor the bishop can or should interpret it.”6 The interpretation instead belongs solely to the Lord, and the blessing is an invitation to draw nearer to Him and an offer to give you additional light and truth.
Third, because God is the one who reveals His will for you, the content of other people’s blessings is of no use to you. Sometimes rumors circulate that someone’s blessing suggests some event of global significance, such as a looming worldwide conflict or the return of the lost tribes or a timeline for the Second Coming. The counsel contained in patriarchal blessings, however, is directed toward specific individuals and not the entire Church. The Lord will not send a message to His Church or a warning to the world through a patriarchal blessing.
President Harold B. Lee taught that “a patriarchal blessing is a sacred document to the person who has received it and is never given for publication and, as all patriarchal blessings, should be kept as a private possession to the one who has received it.” Clarifying that a rumor about his own blessing was “incorrect and without foundation in fact,” President Lee continued, “I have learned, in some instances, that those who have heard of these rumors are disappointed when I tell them they are not so. They seem to have enjoyed believing a rumor without substance of fact. I would earnestly urge that no such idle gossip be spread abroad without making certain as to whether or not it is true.”7 You should not waste a single minute of your life worrying about the rumored contents of someone else’s blessing.
Lessons from Other Learners
You are not the first child of God to wrestle with His will in a patriarchal blessing. In order to understand His thoughts, you will almost certainly need to change your own. A promise in your blessing may contradict your personal knowledge or the counsel of trusted advisers. You may simply be unable to wrap your head around promises that will only make sense in a different time or setting.
Changing How You Think
Makenna Myler expected her patriarchal blessing to say something about running. She loved running and imagined herself competing in the Olympic Trials one day. As she prepared to receive her blessing, she recalled, “I thought for sure it would say something big about my destiny, like I’m [going to] be able to change the world with running.” Instead, the blessing was totally silent on the topic. There was no counsel about running whatsoever. She was “really confused” and “didn’t quite understand why God didn’t have running in the plans for [her].”
As Makenna continued training—thousands of hours and miles—she continued to wrestle with her blessing’s lack of direction about running. She felt a need to run; she wanted to be an example; she wanted to influence people. She met other Latter-day Saint athletes who mentioned that the topic of running was in their blessings, and she began to wonder, “Maybe I’m not supposed to be running.” She experienced moderate success, but the Olympic Trials seemed a long shot and she felt she was not fast enough. “In my mind, the faster you were, the more people would listen to you,” she stated. “If you’re credible, the more you can help people. And I thought that the only way to do this [was] to go to the Olympics and be on a national and world level.” Her physical training and spiritual wrestling persisted for more than a decade.
Makenna competed in high school and college, but then her pathway toward professional running seemed to end. She married and continued running. While nine months pregnant, she ran a mile in five minutes and twenty-five seconds, and a video of her accomplishment went viral! It received more than a million views and significant coverage in both social and traditional media. Makenna’s running and her motherhood were influencing millions. “When that mile happened and that video when viral, and people wanted to talk to me,” she understood that “God’s plan is different than you think it’s going to be.” She had desired to be an example and an influence among runners, but she “ended up being able to connect with even more people than [she] ever would have in [her] own little circle.” The following year, she did compete in the trials for the Tokyo Olympics and landed a contract as a professional runner.
Isaiah described God’s ways and thoughts as being “higher than” ours (Isaiah 55:9). Or as Makenna put it, “He just connects the dots differently than you would.” She also discovered how to think differently about her role in making things happen. “I learned that you get to take action into your own hands,” she noted. “He is not going to tell you, and that was a big switch for me.” On further reflection, she observed that, through her wrestle, she had “grown closer and relied more on God” than she ever had in her life. She learned that He wants us to “engage in hard, good work which brings us closer to Him.”
Like Makenna, you may need to change how you think about the promises in your blessing. You may discover that something you desire will come to pass in an entirely unexpected way. You will learn that your own actions are important in fulfilling the conditions of God’s promises and opening the doorway to additional insight. You may be led to marvel, as she did, “Who would have thought God’s plan is so different than what you think it’s going to be?”8
1. See 1 Nephi 2:16; 10:19; Alma 40:3; Doctrine and Covenants 6:7; 88:63; Ephesians 6:18–20. 2. Heber J. Grant, quoted in James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, (1971), 5:152
3. James E. Faust, “Your Patriarchal Blessing,” New Era, Nov. 2005, 5.
4. John A. Widtsoe, “What Is the Meaning of Patriarchal Blessings?” in Evidences and Reconciliations: Aids to Faith in a Modern Day, (1943), 1:76
5. Thomas S. Monson, “Your Patriarchal Blessing: A Liahona of Light,” Ensign, Nov. 1986, 66.
6. Boyd K. Packer, “The Stake Patriarch,” Ensign, Nov. 2002, 43.
7. Harold B. Lee, “Admonitions for the Priesthood of God,” Ensign, Jan. 1973, 105.
8. Makenna Myler and Morgan Jones, “What Might It Mean When Your Patriarchal Blessing Doesn’t Mention Something You Hoped It Would?” LDS Living, Aug. 28, 2021; Makenna Myler, email to Keith Erekson, Dec. 30, 2021.