In the Latter Day Saint movement, a patriarchal blessing (also called an evangelist's blessing) is a blessing or ordinance given by a patriarch (evangelist) to a church member. Patriarchal blessings are modeled after the blessing given by Abraham to each of his sons prior to his death.
Before Joseph, Sr. died on September 14, 1840, he ordained his eldest living son Hyrum Smith to succeed him as Patriarch to the Church. From that time forward, Hyrum gave patriarchal blessings until his own death on June 27, 1844.
A person is informed of the tribe of Israel to which they belong. This is done to acknowledge the fulfillment of the Church doctrine that through baptism members become part of the house of Israel. Additionally, it is believed that each tribe differs slightly and a person may come to understand the unique circumstances of his or her life better by knowing to which tribe they belong. The differences between the tribes are generally acknowledged to arise from the differences in the blessings Jacob pronounced upon his sons and Joseph's sons, Ephraim and Mannaseh.
A patriarchal blessing is usually pronounced upon a member only once. In certain rare circumstances, a person may receive permission to receive an additional Patriarchal blessing. Usually permission is only granted in cases where the original blessing failed to mention the tribe to which the person belongs.
The blessing is usually performed in the home of the Patriarch or of the person seeking the blessing. In general the only other people present are very close family members such as parents or the person's spouse. The Patriarch places his hands on the seated person's head and speaks the blessing aloud. A recording of the blessing is made at the same time. Transcribed copies of all blessings are stored in Church records and are considered by the church to be revelation.
Members receive a copy of their blessing, and are advised to consult it throughout their life. Since members of the Church consider the blessings to be direct revelation from God, they are advised to treat their blessing as sacred and not share them casually with others.
Any member found worthy and spiritually mature by their priesthood leader may receive a patriarchal blessing. Individuals who have been members from childhood generally ask to receive their Patriarchal blessing as adolescents.
According to former Church President Ezra Taft Benson, "A patriarchal blessing is the inspired and prophetic statement of your life’s mission together with blessings, cautions, and admonitions as the patriarch may be prompted to give." (Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, May 1986, pgs. 43-44).
Although they may not be ordained patriarchs, every Latter-day Saint father that holds the Melchizedek Priesthood can pronounce blessings upon one of his children or his spouse as necessary. Such blessings do not reveal the Tribe of Israel to which a person belongs. The Church encourages families to create their own records of these blessings, but does not admit them into the official Church archives in Salt Lake City as they would a blessing from an ordained Patriarch.