In my office and calling as a stake patriarch, I am honored to bestow patriarchal blessings upon members of the Church. One of the reasons we are given a patriarchal blessing is to know through which tribe of Israel we will be receiving our blessings in this life. An official church publication noted that knowing your lineage is the “most important part of your blessing.
Abraham, who was born almost 4000 years ago, was one of the ancient patriarchs, and a steadfast prophet who made covenants with the Lord. Abraham, with his wife Sarah, is always regarded as the founder of the covenant race and the father of the faithful. For his righteousness he was promised many blessings by the Lord. His son Isaac, and grandson Jacob, made the same covenants with the Lord (Genesis 26:1–4, 24).
Jacob’s name was later changed to Israel, and as patriarch to his family, he blessed his twelve sons (Genesis 49:1-28). One son, Joseph, possessed the birthright, which included a double inheritance of property in Canaan. Joseph brought his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, to Jacob for their blessings. Jacob adopted Ephraim and Manasseh as his own sons (Genesis 48:5), and then blessed them (Genesis 48: 15, 17-22). Because Joseph had a double inheritance, he gave one inheritance to Ephraim and the other inheritance to Manasseh. All of these sons (and two adopted sons) of Jacob became the heads of the tribes of Israel.
The stake patriarch declares the lineage of the members receiving their patriarchal blessings through one of these tribes.
In these latter days, the Abrahamic covenant was restored through the prophet Joseph Smith (Doctrine and Covenants 124:58). When we are baptized and given the gift of the Holy Ghost, we then become members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and heirs to all the blessings declared in the Abrahamic covenant. That we receive the blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in our lives may be declared to us again in our patriarchal blessing, and also in the temple.
Receiving an endowment in the temple seals members of the Church to the Abrahamic covenant. President Russell M. Nelson has said, “The ultimate blessings of the Abrahamic covenant are conferred in holy temples. These blessings allow us to come forth in the First Resurrection and inherit thrones, kingdoms, powers, principalities, and dominions, to our ‘exaltation and glory in all things’ (Doctrine and Covenants 132:19).” This covenant would be everlasting (Abraham 2:9-11). One stake patriarch even explained, “The covenant God made with Abraham is renewed with you.”
As members of the Church, the exact blessings in the Abrahamic covenant have been conferred upon us, and these blessings are eternal in nature. Because of our patriarchal blessings and our experiences in the temple, we know the blessings conferred upon Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob should be important to us. But, when asked what some of the blessings of this covenant are, most of us would struggle to answer. As we liken the scriptures unto ourselves (1 Nephi 19:23), then some of our blessings in the Abrahamic covenant can be summarized with a brief explanation as follows:
1. Abraham’s posterity will be numerous, even innumerable (Doctrine and Covenants 132:30)
This is probably the best-known blessing given to Abraham. He was promised that his descendants would be as the dust of the earth (Genesis 13:16), and as numerous as the stars in the heavens (Genesis 15:5). In our mortal existence we may be blessed with many children, grandchildren, and so on. But in the eternal sense, as we progress and become like unto our Heavenly Father, we will ultimately rule and reign over “worlds without number” (Moses 1:33-35). Our own spirit children will populate and dwell upon these worlds.
2. Abraham will be blessed to receive and live in a promised land (Abraham 2:6,19)
When commanded by the Lord to flee the land of Haran, Abraham was told he would live in a land chosen by the Lord (Genesis 12:1). Did this mean a country or region on the earth? To Abraham and his covenant children the Lord gave the land of Canaan (Genesis 17:8). Later the Lord gave other promised lands to the descendants of Joseph as their inheritance, which is the Americas (3 Nephi 15:13).
There is also an eternal interpretation of a “promised land” in the covenant. When the earth is renewed and receives its “paradisiacal glory' and celestial kingdom stature, those who dwell there will have inherited a promised land. What eternal “land” has the Lord designated for us? Our promised land is the celestial kingdom, and if we are faithful, we will inherit exaltation (Doctrine and Covenants 88:18-20).
3. All the nations of the earth will be blessed through the seed of Abraham (Abraham 2:11)
The Lord promised Abraham that through his descendants “shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of eternal life” (Abraham 2:11). Abraham was promised that kings would be among his descendants, or “seed” (Genesis 17:6). Even the Messiah, the “King of kings” (I Timothy 6:15) would be an earthly descendant. Christ has blessed all nations of the earth through the offering of His Atonement.
As with all the covenants we make with the Lord, there are obligations placed upon us, and we are called upon to do our part. One responsibility is to serve in the temple. By the hand of Melchizedek, Abraham received the priesthood (Doctrine and Covenants 84:14), and he was promised that his posterity would have the right to the Priesthood until the end of the world. This promise, which has been extended to us today, is fulfilled by those who have received this same priesthood through the restored gospel. As heirs to the priesthood through the Abrahamic covenant, they administer the saving ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the sacrament, and the ordinances of the temple.
The dead are invited to come unto Christ, and the Abrahamic covenant blesses families on both sides of the veil. The greatest blessing of the covenant is found in celestial, or temple marriage. Through the priesthood, we, the posterity of Abraham today, perform temple ordinances for both the living and the dead. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ we may receive all of the blessings of eternal life. Our duty is to receive these ordinances for ourselves, and then help our ancestors and others receive them in our temples.
4. Abraham’s seed would bear the ministry of the gospel and the priesthood to all nations, sharing the blessings of the gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal (Abraham 2:9-11)
Through the Abrahamic covenant, the Lord has a message for all of us who have received the gospel and are therefore Abraham’s seed. The message could be said to be: I promise you the blessings of the priesthood that lead to exaltation with eternal increase, but in exchange you must take my gospel to every family in every nation in all the world so that they, too, can receive the same blessings of the priesthood.
The Lord has asked us to “do the works of Abraham” (Doctrine and Covenants 132:32). “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him” (Genesis 18:19).
We are not only asked to carry the gospel message to the world. As descendants of Abraham we pass on the truths, responsibilities, and promises of this covenant to our own children. We must teach the gospel to our families and be living examples for them to follow. Teaching the gospel is one of the primary responsibilities of the covenant people, and if we fail in this, we may place the entire covenant in jeopardy in our lives.
The next time you read your patriarchal blessing, be thankful to be a covenant child of Abraham, and to be included in the house of Israel. Be grateful to be a member of one of the tribes of Israel. This part of your blessing is a reminder that you are the seed of Abraham, and that you do receive all the blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
This includes family, the priesthood, the temple ordinances, temple marriage, the sacrament, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ. These are our greatest blessings, and in the Abrahamic covenant the Lord asks that we share these blessings with the world.
Truly, the statement revealing our lineage in Israel, is the most important part of our patriarchal blessing.
1 Patriarchal Blessings, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, (1979), 2
2 Topical Guide and Bible Dictionary, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, (1969), 601
3 Come Follow Me - For Individuals and Families 2021, 29
4 See also Genesis 28; 35:9-13; 48:3-4
5 See also Doctrine and Covenants 110:12
6 True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference, (2004), 112
7 Russell M. Nelson, Thanks for the Covenant, BYU Speeches November 22, 1988
8 Russell M. Nelson, Special Witnesses of Christ, Ensign, April 2001, 7
9 See also Genesis 17:7
10 Garry H, Boyle, A Loving Letter from God: Your Patriarchal Blessing (2015) 36
11 See also Genesis 13:14-16; 22:16
12 See also Genesis 12:2; 15:8
13 See also 3 Nephi 16:16; Ether 13:8
14 The Pearl of Great Price: The Articles of Faith 1:10, (1979), 61
15 See also Genesis 17:16
16 Introduction to Family History Student Manual (2012), “The Abrahamic Covenant”, chapter 8
17 S. Michael Wilcox, “The Abrahamic Covenant,” Ensign, January 1988
18 S. Michael Wilcox, “The Abrahamic Covenant,” Ensign, January 1988