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Every Mormon can receive a patriarchal blessing once in his lifetime. This usually is done when the person is a teenager. A patriarch is set apart within each stake of the Mormon Church to give these blessings. The practice arises out of the blessings given by the Old Testament Patriarchs, such as Jacob, to their children (see Genesis 48-49). Before receiving this blessing, the individual must be interviewed by a bishop to determine that the person is worthy and that he or she understands the nature of patriarchal blessings. The blessing is considered highly personal, and Mormons are counseled not share their blessings with people outside of family members. The actual reception of the blessing is generally preceded by a period of prayer and fasting by both the patriarch and the individual.
The blessing is given through the laying on of hands, and is recorded. A written transcription is sent to the member from the Church, and a copy is kept by the Church. A patriarchal blessing's primary purpose is to declare the recipient's lineage within the House of Israel and what blessings and responsibilities are his in this life. It can also reveal talents and strengths which the person should develop during his life. Often, individuals receive guidance about weaknesses or temptations they may face. Sometimes, but not always, prophecies may be made regarding the person's life. Other blessings are promised which are contingent upon the faith and obedience of the recipient.
Elder Richard D. Allred stated, “I can testify to you that these blessings are inspired and are personal revelations to the recipient. Patriarchal blessings are a guideline or similar to a road map that indicates the paths that may be traveled and destinations that may be reached if we stay within those paths. They may bring comfort and joy and encouragement when we have need to look, to listen, and to feel of the contents of these blessings so that we may go forward on life’s journey, not alone, but with the accompanying Spirit of our Father in Heaven" (Ensign, Nov. 1997, 27).