More on Patriarchal Blessings

This post is a continuation of the previous post about the Patriarchal Blessing I received on Sunday. It is mainly directed at Alan, who gave me some profound food for thought in his comment on that post, but I hope others will be able to benefit/contribute as well.

I have thought a lot about what you said, about the discussion thread on BCC, about what the Church has said, and about what I learned about PBs. And I'm sort of torn (big surprise--it must be so annoying to read such an indecisive blog!).

On the one hand, I want to do what Heavenly Father wants me to do; the trick, of course, is realizing what that is. But I did realize that, while the Patriarch is only a mortal, flawed man, I am certainly nothing more than that! In fact, it is the Patriarch, not me, who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood, who has this calling, and who has a kind of "special access" to revelation as such. I, on the other hand, have so much at stake that it would be difficult to suggest my interpretation of the Spirit isn't influenced by the outcome I want, which is not necessarily what Heavenly Father wants. While it may be argued that the Patriarch has his own biases, they are probably less intrusive than mine because of the nature of his calling. After all, what would be the point of PBs in the first place if we thought individual revelation superceded a Patriarch's revelation? If I can't trust a Patriarch's vision of God's plan for me, how could I trust my own to be closer to the truth?

Also, I went into this knowing that, first, the PB is completely conditional on my faith and obedience, and second, the PB takes the eternal into account, meaning that some of its promises may not be fulfilled during this life. When I read, Alan, of your grandfather and his non-participation in a Missouri temple's construction, I had a thought. Maybe your resurrected grandfather will help to build a Missouri temple during the Millenium. Or, maybe he left some funds to the Church that went directly to helping build the St. Louis temple. I just don't know, and perhaps it's better for me to err on the side of faith. Ultimately, I don't think I can simply accept the parts I hoped for and disregard the parts I didn't desire as much. Again, if I had gone in with that pick-and-choose attitude, I wouldn't have gone in at all.

So, here comes the other hand, as always. There was a conversation that the Patriarch and I had prior to the PB itself.

He asked me about something, I told him, and it was later brought up in the blessing. This made me wonder if it had something to do with the fact that he had discovered it before. My guess is that it would have come up whether I had told him or not, but I'm not completely sure. Maybe it would have come up either way but our talk just brought it to the front of his mind. I don't know. But there was also a point in our pre-Blessing conversation when we asked what my plans for the future were. I said, "Um...neuroscience, maybe brain surgery," dodging the mission issue. He looked up; I continued trying to block. "College, of course, hopefully somewhere warm." His eyebrows raised; defeated, I added, "And probably a mission," then went on with some other plans. (I now, unfortunately, don't remember if I mentioned the possibility of a family--too bad the discussion beforehand isn't recorded!--but if I did, it would have been a maybe.) He clarified, "So you do plan to serve a mission?" Here I was, this clean-cut, stereotypically stalwart Mormon young man, unsure of his mission? This was, in hindsight, the point where I should have brought up "my challenge." How I regret my cowardice in not doing so! How much confusion it might have spared! Instead, I said, "I think so, yes," to which he said, "Well, you have plenty of time to make up your mind."

Later, my full-time mission was brought up. Is this because he was trying to cement my decision? I don't know. He didn't just tell me, "You will serve a full-time mission," he delivered counsel uniquely applicable to serving a full-time mission. Yet my unsurety of going on a mission (for reasons discussed in the previous post) had been brought up beforehand.

So I find a part of me wondering, as Alan asked, Would he have brought up marriage and family if I had told him of my homosexuality? Did he bring up this dream of Mormon life to make sure this undecided young person would take the Church's "track" of mission-->BYU-->marriage-->children-->so on? Had he thought I was straight (and, at least previous to the PB, I believe he did), this sort of action might be seen as 'making sure this fence-sitter didn't wind up living with his girlfriend in Miami in five years.' The mission and family goal probably would be the ideal objective to persuade the average young, undecided Mormon (which I seemed to be) to follow.

Prior to my PB, I have thought that the Church's general plan for its youth may not necessarily be the same as Heavenly Father's specific plan for me. Yet, the PB is saying they are quite similar, apparently. In any case, the fact of the matter is that the mission and family parts of my PB comprised a significant segment--if not majority--of the Blessing, so I don't think that he just "threw it in" to sway my future plans.

I sorely regret passing by the window of opportunity that the conversation presented me with to enlighten the Patriarch about my nature, but I can't take that back. Accordingly, I am now left to ponder what did happen, and frankly, it probably isn't best to ponder the "What ifs" of the Blessing or the circumstances.

My aunt counseled me that confusion is of the Adversary. "Perhaps he is trying to twist this beautiful, spiritual experience into something that only confuses you more than you already were. You want [as Alan pointed out] all the answers now, you want to see how it works out now, but that's just not how faith works. We have to take the step of faith into the dark before the lights come on. 'Lean not unto thy own understanding,'" she quoted, worried that my logic-based style of thinking is interfering with my ability to trust that the Lord sees the end from the beginning.

I did feel the Spirit during the Blessing. If there were parts when I did not, who's to say that I didn't cause that with my own feelings of doubt, confusion, or fear (my aunt also reminded me that fear and faith cannot coexist, and that fear is of Satan, not Christ)? Again, I have to give the benefit of any doubt to God--I think it would be better for me to err on the side of faith. Yet, I don't especially want to go through the "unnecessary and misdirected struggling" that often accompanies MOMs.



Alan said...

I'm flattered that I was able to give you something to think about. Some real good stuff here. And I don't want to monopolize so I will step back and see what others have to say first.

Scott said...

I've probably got more to say than I can dash out before I have to leave work, but I wanted to get a few thoughts down while they're fresh on my mind.

First, it would be interesting to browse through the Church's archives of patriarchal blessings and see how many (percentage-wise) don't mention missions (for young men), marriage, children, etc.

That's the expected path for every active member of the Church, and I would be surprised if very many PBs don't point people in that direction, simply because the patriarch is going to fervently believe that that is the right path for nearly every person he blesses. Unless he receives a very strong impression that those things are NOT in the blessee's future, I would think they're going to be standard-issue.

Second (and Alan already alluded to this in his comment on the last post), the patriarch is going to speak through the filter of his own experiences.

I had this conversation with a friend who had pretty much decided that he was going to date guys and try to find one he could spend the rest of his life with, and whose sole remaining hangup was the fact that his PB said that he would marry a woman.

When I give a priesthood blessing, I'm not sure I ever get specific words inserted into my mind. When I do feel inspired, the inspiration comes in the form of impressions and vague thoughts, and it's up to me to figure out how to translate those into language.

Imagine a patriarch giving a blessing to a young man who is gay--but he doesn't know it. He receives an impression of a loving spouse, children... a beautiful, happy home. As far as he's concerned, that can only mean one thing: temple marriage (to a woman, obviously), multiplying and replenishing, etc.

But isn't it possible that the message was mis-translated, and that the spouse was actually a loving, caring man, and the children adopted? I think that's a very real possibility, myself.

In earlier posts you've discussed the fallibility of our leaders--the prophets and apostles--and yet it appears that at this point you're unwilling to allow your patriarch to be just as human (and thus subject to mistake and misinterpretation) as they are.

Yes, the patriarch is called to bless us, and he has authority to call upon inspiration to give us special insight into our path and the choices we should make. But I still believe that personal inspiration through the Holy Ghost trumps everything. Many consider their patriarchal blessing as a sort of personal "scripture"--revelation specifically to them--but we don't read any scripture without relying on the Holy Ghost to help us interpret its meaning, do we?

There's my two cents. Well, maybe more like one cent for now. I'll pay the balance later. :)

Frank Lee Scarlet said...

Thanks for taking the time to help me with this stuff.
@Alan: I'm curious to hear what you think of my thoughts thus far?
@Scott: Thank you for the insights. I guess my only hesitations about your explanations are these:
1) My PB gives specific counsel about specific circumstances on my mission. If it were just, "You'll go on a mission," that would be one thing--I could see how that might be just "standard issue"--but the advice was specific enough that it seemed the Patriarch really foresaw a situation in an age-19 full-time mission where I would need that counsel. Or did he see something that resembled it? I'm not sure.
2) I had also wondered if perhaps the marriage he saw was actually a gay marriage, but the Patriarch, in a separate sentence, specifically said that I would go to the Temple to organize an eternal family. As yet, this can't be done with a man, so I'm now wondering how specific the Patriarch's revelation was. (And I've often thought that a PB differed from a regular Priesthood Blessing in that the revelation is a little more specific--not that the Patriarch is infallible, but that the Blessing he gives is a special one because the revelation he receives is less vague (?).) Did he see *a* marriage and assume wife and Temple because of the lens of his experience, or did he specifically see me and my wife in the Temple? That, now, is the question before me, it seems.