Due to my own Patriarchal Blessing fiasco, I am especially fascinated by those who still believe in them.
Sadly, my son does.
The other day while tucking my children in at night I noticed his written blessing sitting on a table in his room and my gut sank.
I confess… I read it later and it disappointed me. It was actually a step up from a mere sermon like my last PB, but it was still void of any specific inspiration or anything that couldn’t be said about any boy his age in the church.
You will serve a mission..blah, blah…
You will make God happy by your unwavering faithfulness…yada, yada…
You will serve in callings..blah, blah…
You will be an example to your family and friends because you will be so incredibly Mormon… etc.
Long ago, Mormon fathers were able to give their own sons a Patriarchal Blessing.
So, what sort of things would I want say to my son as his father? Things that he’d pay attention to and constantly revisit as if it were a patriarchal blessing?
I think I’d first try to focus on the things that are truly unique about him, things that set him apart from other 14 year old boys. My son has always had a verbal gift. He can talk openly about subjects that would make other 14 year old boys blush. He’s also quite a public speaker and performer. I’d encourage him to focus on these strengths, to be proud of them and to develop them. That stands in direct contrast to the Mormon impulse to overly worry about weaknesses and to try to make those “weaknesses become strong” in order to maintain “worthiness.” That’s a horrible way to approach personal enrichment in my opinion. People who achieve a sense of happiness and excellence do so by engaging in high flow activities….things they can excel at. I think weaknesses tend to take care of themselves when time and energy are focused on such endeavors that address personal strengths.
I’d try to not make his blessing self-serving. So much of anyone’s patriarchal blessing is just a long-winded spiritual masturbation session. By that I mean it serves the church itself, the one bestowing the blessing, not the individual. Everything points towards setting the person up to be a committed church member….”You will serve in leadership callings”, “through your example others will have their testimonies strengthened”, “You will find a sweet daughter of our heavenly father to take to the temple.” These are all generic commandments given to any 14 year boy that set them on a path of church dedication if followed. While I’d love to advise him to be kind, loving and obedient towards his parents, those are the type of self-serving comments I’d avoid.
I would, however, encourage him to nurture his relationship with his sisters as a lifelong goal. I don’t have that sort of relationship with my siblings and yet I believe it serves people well who do. I’d encourage him to make unconditional love be the foundation of that relationship… encouragement like they are members of the same team rather than competitors….and acceptance like they are hosts of safe havens rather than righteous judges of one another.
I’d also suggest that most life answers already lie within him and that there’s no need to look outwardly for direction guidance and comfort. When I left the LDS faith, the thing I feared greatly was having no source of well-being and direction…after all, I’d lost the Holy Ghost. But as I reflected on those former “spiritual” experiences and on my new-found atheistic leanings I had to discover where those experiences and feelings came from if not from God. If I was the only part of the equation that existed they came from me. I had learned and nurtured the ability in Mormonism to work myself into a “burning bosom” frenzy and also to calm myself through prayer before a major life event. I still have those abilities and it’s actually more effective and rewarding to be free to adapt and alter the techniques rather than to follow a formula. YOU are the God of your soul.
Like any good Mormon kid, my son has an overactive conscience and a deep sense of guilt. I’d encourage my son to lighten up and to not be afraid of mistakes.
I’d tell him to learn about his heritage and to be proud of where his fore bearers came from, but to not let it define or restrict him. He’s neither restricted nor entitled by his ancestors.
Like most firstborn children, my son an ingrained sense of responsibility that just seems to escape the younger ones. I can trust him and he’s rarely disappointed me. I’d encourage him to leverage that ability to gain trust and respect for powerfully good things.
And lastly because I see so much of my 14 year old self in my son, I’d advise him to have the courage to find his own path in life, free from the expectations and regulations of his current surroundings. I’d want him to not be afraid of disappointing his parents, but to unsure he won’t disappoint his 40 year old future self by taking the easy predetermined life path that is set before him today.