Faith, Magic and a Patriarchal Blessing

Patriarchal blessings are wonderful things. They are especially wondrous when received at a young age. The promises in them almost seem magical because the idea of righteous living as a cause and effect of fulfillment of those promises is usually not understood at a young age. There is nothing magical about the blessings, just as magic is not really a part of our faith, or is it?

Magic is something that Walt Disney brought to my world when I was a young lad. I grew up in Southern California in the 1960’s when Disneyland was new and exciting and full of promise. We watched it grow over the years and visited the park almost as often as we visited the beach. Those were the days of the E ticket ride, when the Matterhorn bobsleds were the hottest thing.

The magic for me was found in the Carousel of Progress and the beautiful city of the future depicted in the scale model under glass. It was only there from 1967 to 1973 – the years in which I moved from childhood to the responsibilities of youth. It was in the Carousel of Progress that I caught the excitement of technology and the role that it would play in my life.

A promise of what could be

Every time we visited Disneyland and the Carousel of Progress during those years, I couldn’t wait to go upstairs after the show to see Progress City one more time. I don’t know why I found it so fascinating. It seemed to evoke in me something that was akin to revelation. I could just see myself growing up in a world of technology and taking advantage of it to bless others.

The world is so full of promise to a ten year old child, especially one that was born in a day that computers were just beginning to come about. I have been blessed all my life to work in the world of technology and have watched it do so much to bring about that vision of what I saw and felt when I stood in fascination viewing Progress City. How exciting and how marvelous!

When I received my Patriarchal Blessing at age fifteen, that feeling returned. I felt once again that I was looking upon a whole new world about to be created – only this one was spiritual. It was a world of service in the Kingdom of God, of being a missionary, of marrying in the temple and in participating in the priesthood councils of the church. What an awesome feeling it was!

Warnings in the blessing

I treasure my patriarchal blessing. Since we grew up in the same stake, my wife and I both received our blessings from the same patriarch. I recognize similar phrases in our blessings, but of course they are completely different. My sister and I received our blessings on the same day and again, while they are similar, there are major differences between the promises therein.

I think the most important distinction between them is the counsel and admonition to fulfill my role as a priesthood bearer in the church. My blessing contained several warnings, almost dire in nature, that I needed to be very careful about the consequences of sin and that the adversary desired to thwart me in fulfilling my mission in life. I was warned that the devil is very real.

I have pondered the warnings in my blessing many, many times over the years. I have especially been impressed by the statement that I will live in the day of the restoration of all things, both the good and the evil. That phrase has sunk deep into my heart as I have witnessed so many terrible things that evil men have done and are doing in our day. Opposition to the Lord’s work is real.

Gifts of the spirit

When I was younger I used to marvel at the promised gifts of the spirit contained within my blessing. I remember fasting the day I went to see the Patriarch because the Bishop said it would help the Patriarch to be inspired as he pronounced the blessing upon me. I was impressed at the time and I have been impressed every time I have read the blessing that he was indeed inspired.

I know that promises in Patriarchal blessings are conditional, but I am sometimes amazed as I have witnessed the fulfillment of those promises as I serve in the Kingdom of God. Gifts that I thought were reserved only for those who served in the highest councils of the church have been manifest in my life through what I considered simple priesthood service – magnifying a calling.

The most dramatic fulfillment of the promises of my patriarchal blessing has been when I have fulfilled assignments to speak or teach in the church. There is no doubt that this is the work of the Lord when he inspires me with ideas to share and sometimes words and phrases that come to my mind as I speak or write. I know my own abilities and I know when God enhances them.

Faith is not magic

I started this essay with an introduction of magic for a good reason. I believe in magic. No, I’m not referring to the kind of hocus-pocus magic that is sleight of hand or smoke and mirrors. And I certainly don’t believe that there are those who really can cause things to happen by magic. That just doesn’t cut it for me. God uses natural means to bring about his purposes on earth.

I believe in the kind of magic that Walt Disney created. He was passionate about building an environment where good things could happen. Whatever you think of the corporate environment that is Disneyland and Disneyworld today, I maintain that the original dream of Walt Disney lives on when little children open their eyes in amazement at what can be found in his creations.

I believe that Walt Disney was inspired and that the passion for his dreams was God given. I have wondered if Walt had been a Mormon what his patriarchal blessing would have included. Perhaps in addition to his gifts being mentioned, there would have been warnings to exercise faith in his life’s mission and to not be dissuaded by men who could not see what he had in mind.

For private interpretation only

I feel the same way about my patriarchal blessing. It contains promises of gifts and a life’s work that I have only glimpsed in rare moments when the Lord grants me just enough of that vision to inspire me and to move me on in the right direction. Patriarchal blessings are sacred and private and should not be publicly discussed or compared, probably because it detracts from our faith.

When I was younger, I took my Patriarchal blessing back to the Patriarch with a desire to have him explain it to me. He was gracious and kind and took a long moment to read through it again before handing it back to me and saying, “I see nothing missing and nothing that needs to be explained.” With that he offered me a piece of fruit and escorted me to the door of his home.

I left frustrated but have since come to appreciate the wisdom of this patriarch’s response to my request for greater understanding. I got the same response when I asked my college advisor at Rick’s College for help in understanding my blessing. He looked at it as a favor to me but was clear that if I wanted to understand anything more I would need to get it from the Lord in prayer.

Summary and conclusion

I am certain there are times when each of us feels a desire to receive some personal guidance and direction in our lives that is not being met by advice or counsel from friends, parents or leaders. That guidance can come from our patriarchal blessing. Coupled with righteous living, scripture study, fasting and prayer, the Lord can and will reveal our life’s work to us if we ask faithfully.

And that’s the real key to understanding our blessings. The promises contained therein should be motivating and invite us to exercise faith to realize their fulfillment. I have seen it happen again and again as a natural result of accepting priesthood assignments and magnifying callings. The Lord sent each of us here with special gifts that can help build His kingdom when He needs us to.

Faith is not magic and promises in patriarchal blessings are not guaranteed. They will not come to pass just as natural consequence of living. We must seek their fulfillment and do all within our power to qualify for the gifts and blessings promised. A trust in the Lord’s timetable for us is especially needed as we grow older and wonder if certain promises will ever be fulfilled.

6 comments for “Faith, Magic and a Patriarchal Blessing

  1. S.Faux
    December 21, 2008 at 11:30 pm

    Thanks for this magical essay. We are given a large set of tools, but we need to determine for ourselves how to use those tools. I love the wisdom of your Patriarch. He was willing to check things over and then conclude nothing was missing. The onus is on us as recipients to read, study, ponder, and pray. The purpose of Patriarchal blessings is NOT to spoon feed us, but rather to provoke us to prepare. There is a difference.

  2. KingOfTexas
    December 22, 2008 at 1:46 am

    Tim This is funny. Well not really funny. Until three months ago I thought everyone in the church had some and most of the gifts. I had been given and shown many of these gifts. I quit going to church because I lost some of these things and thought everyone would know that I was unworthy. I thought everyone would know every lie I told and every dishonest thing I did. I just knew everyone would know every unclean thought. One of the reasons I came back to church is I just didn’t want to sin any more. I have temple work I am supposed to do and I need to get a Patriarchal blessing. Like you I think I will be here in the restoration too and I don’t want to mess things up. Now I know some truths and I am concerned I may have missed some things I should have done. The post has been a help.

  3. Tim Malone
    December 22, 2008 at 9:57 pm

    S.Faux: Indeed, preparation is a requirement to fulfill our mission in life. How I wish I understood that at a younger age, when I just did not have the vision of what a good education could do for me. I chose the vocational route, and while it has served me well, I have regretted not having been prepared for some promises in my patriarchal blessing. My family legacy of being educators will have to be carried on by my sister, who teaches in Arizona.KingOfTexas: It probably would not shock you if I state that MOST of the members of the church do not understand or seek after gifts of the spirit. The gift of discernment that you refer to is more likely to be given to a Bishop, but is not always the case. I know what the scripture in D&C says about the bishop having the right to all these gifts, but trust me, it is rare.Yes, many members do enjoy some gifts of the spirit, and some members enjoy many gifts of the spirit, but they are all related to both righteousness and faith. So many do not ask for gifts that are available, simply because they lack the faith or frankly, the desire. That is sad to me.I'm sure you realize now that even if others could discern your state of worthiness, what would that matter in a church where we are all sinners and in need of the mercy and grace of Christ? God bless you in your quest to fulfill your life's mission. Patriarchal blessings can provide much hope and guidance no matter what our chronological or spiritual age.

  4. Papa D
    December 26, 2008 at 5:32 am

    As always, Tim, thanks. I understand the issues others mention when questioning or downplaying Patriarchal Blessings, but when I read my own, my wife’s and my children’s (those who have received them already) and compare them to each other and the ones of which I am aware from the same patriarchs, I am astounded at the uniqueness of each of them – and at how perfectly they describe each person who received one. I also believe in the kind of magic you describe, and I am grateful for my exposure to it – especially in my and my wife’s Patriarchal Blessings. It’s amazing how, when read together, they address one “entity” – the “one” we were, are and will be.

  5. Dan and Wendy
    December 28, 2008 at 6:45 am

    Tim, Great post as usual. I love how at different parts of my life certain parts of my patriarchal blessing has stood out more, and I seemed to receive a better understanding than what I previously had.

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