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Macbeth and My Patriarchal Blessing

Rusty - February 22, 2006

My favorite of Shakespeare’s plays is the tragedy Macbeth. The play’s main character, Macbeth, Thane of Glamis encounters three witches who hail him as Thane of Glamis, Thane of Cawdor and King. This of course confuses Macbeth and he asks the witches to explain themselves whereupon they immediately disappear. At that moment he receives word that the former Thane of Cawdor has died and Macbeth is now Thane of Cawdor. Gripped by the reality of the witches’ prophesy he stumbles through the Great Question. The same Great Question that the writers of Back to the Future had to deal with along with anyone who has been informed of future events. The question is:

Do I have to make the prophesied outcome happen or will it just happen?

Macbeth’s didn’t have to do anything to become Thane of Cawdor, it just happened. Unfortunately the heavy persuasion from his wife and his lust for power compelled him to murder the king, an act which eventually led to him becoming king and fulfilling the witches’ prophesy. But the Great Question is did Macbeth have to murder the king or would something else have happened to cause it to be so?

On a macro scale the Great Question could be applied to prophesy in general… but today I’m not so interested in exploring that direction. I’m more interested in personal prophesies, our patriarchal blessings. These are future events that rely on and have meaning only for the individual.

One example from my PB is that it says I will be spared the plagues and sicknesses that will be prevalent in the world (up to this point in my life I’ve interpreted this as a “physical health” promise). It doesn’t give me any instruction as to how to fulfill this, there are no reminders of the Word of Wisdom, it just tells me of a future blessing.

Now I understand the need to live the commandments, to obey the Word of Wisdom, to not swallow gasoline and all that stuff. Fine. But to what extent do I need to watch what I eat? In other words, do I need to murder the king? I can wear out my days exercising and eating right (checking every label) to make sure this portion of my PB is fulfilled but is that what the Lord intended? And if that’s the case then really it should be in everyone’s PB because pretty much anyone that does that will have few health problems.

On the other hand, can I eat whatever I want, whenever I want it, exercising whenever I feel like it (my current habit)? How much do I have to care for this promise to still be fulfilled?

For now my answer has been “Follow the Spirit.” It’s worked so far, but of course I’m only 28 so I have little experience avoiding plagues and sicknesses. I imagine it won’t matter at least until I’m 29.


  1. I’d say you should take a middle road. You don’t have to suddenly become one of those people who count every calory and scrutinizes every single ingredients list. That’s extreme. Ignoring your health and eating whatever you want whenever you want would also be extreme. “Moderation in all things.” Also, just ignoring your health seems… unwise and ungrateful. Unwise because God has given us the Word of Wisdom and the knowledge of nutrition and to ignore His word is never a good idea. Ungrateful because it’s like a child who gets his parents to promise to take him to Disneyland, then runs wild and breaks all the family rules and still expects to have the coveted trip because “You promised!”

    Comment by harpingheather — February 22, 2006 @ 5:37 pm

  2. I think you’re right HH, and that’s kinda what I’ve been doing (though a little more on the “eat whatever I want whenever I want” side of things).

    I want to clarify, though, that this thread isn’t really about diet and my eating habits, I only used that as an example. I’m more interested in other people’s takes on this Great Question.

    Comment by Rusty — February 22, 2006 @ 5:47 pm

  3. My opinion is the “middle ground.” We shouldn’t try to make sure prophesy is fulfilled, but we shouldn’t undermine it, either. If we live reasonably, it will happen. If we don’t live reasonably, it won’t.

    I don’t apply this to patriarchal blessings because they (or at least mine and my family’s) all state that they are conditional on obedience. I don’t expect individual blessings from mine to be fulfilled unless I’m living the attached principles upon which those blessings are predicated. Usually, if it’s not obvious, the Spirit can fill us in regarding which principles are attached to which blessings.

    Comment by Ariel — February 22, 2006 @ 6:40 pm

  4. Good point Ariel. I think that most of the blessings or the “future” contained in the blessing is predicated on obedience to the gospel. A friend of mine was told specifically that he was going to serve a mission etc., but he messed up a couple of times and ended up not going. He was actually a recent convert.

    Another friend of mine died in a plane wreck (he was the pilot). His wife was reading his PB shortly after. She said that there were some things in the blessing that had been puzzling to them. After he died, they became clear.

    I have to imagine that there are many things contained in our patriarchial blessings that will happen regardless of what we do.

    So, I think that we should be faithful and follow the spirit. I think that whatever happens will happen. It’s all in Gods hands…

    Comment by Ian Cook — February 22, 2006 @ 7:03 pm

  5. Why ask a bunch of strangers. A novel thought might be to ask your patriarch.

    Comment by Stealtharachnid — February 22, 2006 @ 7:19 pm

  6. You never discuss anything related to the gospel with people who aren’t in your line of authority? I think that’s sad. I enjoy the discussions on the bloggernacle, and find them quite valuable.

    Comment by Ariel — February 22, 2006 @ 8:09 pm

  7. I’m pretty sure my patriarch has passed away. Even if he hasn’t it wouldn’t matter because he doesn’t have the authority to interpret what that means for me and my life — I do. And I’m with Ariel, I enjoy discussing these things with my bloggernacle friends and find it valuable.

    Usually, if it’s not obvious, the Spirit can fill us in regarding which principles are attached to which blessings.

    This is true Ariel. The Spirit is good for a lot of hole-filling.

    My friend is still trying to figure out why his mother’s PB said that she would live a long life (she died at age 28 with four kids). I’m also trying to figure out why some people’s PB’s say that the millennium will come in their lifetimes. I certainly don’t have any answers. The only answers I can possibly have are for my own PB.

    Comment by Rusty — February 22, 2006 @ 9:27 pm

  8. Mine says some interesting things also… things that still cause me to question the inspiration of the patriarch. It all comes down to faith. There was a reason it was said, and if not, God will make it up to us.

    Comment by Ariel — February 22, 2006 @ 11:20 pm

  9. That’s it; when the bird flu hits, I’m staying with Rusty.

    Comment by NFlanders — February 23, 2006 @ 12:11 am

  10. Rusty, eat drink and be merry, my friend, for tomorrow you’re 29.

    Comment by David J — February 23, 2006 @ 2:17 am

  11. Mine tells me that if I am required to learn a foreign language on my mission, it would come easy to me.

    My first area in Stamford England was fairly easy, but Birmingham was much more difficult.

    Maybe my next mission?!

    My thoughts….keep the commandments and let the chips and PB blessing fall where they may.

    Comment by don — February 23, 2006 @ 2:22 am

  12. don, that’s hilarious! Mine was given to me after I received my call, and so the patriarch blessed me to learn the Portuguese language (Brazil). Well, it was sitting out one day on my desk, and at that time I was dating a nosy girlfriend, and she came over before I got home from class, and just waited for me in my room. She picked it up and started reading it (to my horror!) and when I came through the door she told me it was amazing that the patriarch “prophecied” where I would go and what language I would learn.

    I never told her that I received the blessing after my call. tee hee.

    Comment by David J — February 23, 2006 @ 9:57 am

  13. Oh, Rusty, you’re missing out! You haven’t lived until you’ve kicked back on a hot Saturday evening with an ice-cold glass of gasoline. ;-)

    Just skip the Cherries Jubilee for dessert.

    Comment by Chad Too — February 23, 2006 @ 12:11 pm

  14. I think you have to work for it, and in ways that go beyond simply being obedient. My PB blessed me that I would be “successful” in my education, but that doesn’t mean that simply being faithful in keeping commandments ever would bring me good grades. Perhaps the blessing that a PB is bestowing is that we will have the knowledge necessary in order to make its promises come about. In other words, a blessing of good health may just mean that you will have the knowledge or capacity to live a healthy lifestyle.

    Comment by Eric Russell — February 23, 2006 @ 3:27 pm

  15. Eric, that’s a good point. I take my school-related blessings to mean that I will have the ability to do what they promise, and outside circumstances won’t prevent it. (Like, I trust that if I plan to graduate in a normal amount of time, I’ll have the ability to do the work, and the world isn’t going to blow up before then and prevent me from graduating.)

    Comment by Ariel — February 23, 2006 @ 6:05 pm

  16. Won’t you die or something if you say the name of the Scottish play?

    Don, yeah, you made me laugh out loud, too.

    Stealtharachnid, we’re not strangers, we’re all friends. Hell, we’re almost family.

    I can see me coming up to you in the hall at church and saying, “stealtharachnid, how ya doin’?”

    Some of these names just slay me. I’m thinking Spiderman. Totally off topic, but I’m punch drunk this morning.

    ON TOPIC: My patriarchial blessing promises me that I will always have lots of good friends and that I will have money and the privilege of sharing it. So far, so good.

    Comment by Anonymous — February 24, 2006 @ 7:57 am

  17. I don’t know about the friends part, but I sure could use some of the money sharing part!

    Comment by don — February 24, 2006 @ 1:07 pm

  18. I’m with Eric’s comment on this one.

    I heard a really good talk on “seeking out” the blessings of our PBs. She told the story of two people and their blessings. One of a guy a century ago who had all sorts of promises but squandered them all. Another of her son who, so far, gained something in his blessing because he sought it out and worked for it.

    Not that EVERY belssing can be achieved by seeking them out, but it is important to do.

    Comment by Bret — February 24, 2006 @ 4:49 pm

  19. Perhaps a fuller understanding of the Great Question can come from a deeper understanding of the nature of prophecy. I’ve found that many people (i.e. members of the Church) assume that the Spirit offers insights into some concrete idea of the future or foretells destiny. However, I’m not totally convinced of this. Maybe when a person prophesies (and being a hopeless sinner I’ve not had much opportunity to do much prophesying myself) he or she doesn’t see a clear picture of some concrete future; maybe it’s more of a vague glimpse instead of a most-likely outcome.

    I guess that what I’m getting at is that maybe there isn’t as much of a need for individuals to have an extremely unique and personal insight into future events. That’s hard for a lot of people to accept –that the Spirit may not offer quite that much personally catered guidance for every facet of their lives. Seen in that light, maybe the fallacy is placing too much importance on the Great Question to begin with. Maybe the purpose of a patriarchal blessing or a general prophecy was never to foretell down-to-the last-detail specifics in the first place.

    So when you ask yourself if the prophecy will come to pass whether you work towards it or not, perhaps you should consider if you were even meant to ask that question in the first place. In other words, if you’re expecting a specific event to happen in a prescribed way, maybe that’s not how it was ever meant to be taken.

    Comment by Anonymous — February 27, 2006 @ 5:22 pm

  20. It isn’t rocket science.
    So perplexed you all are.
    All blessings are predicated on personal righteousness, and good judgement.
    If I move next to a toxic waste fill after getting by PB. I die early in life.

    Comment by Stealtharachnid — March 18, 2006 @ 10:42 am

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