Needing help with a memory

Needing help with a memory September 13, 2018


Rembrandt van Rijn patriarchal blessing
“Jacob Blessing Ephraim and Manasseh” (Rembrandt, 1656)
Wikimedia Commons public domain image


Many, many years ago, before my mission, somewhere around 1970-1971 when I was a freshman at BYU, I began to attend the regular (weekly? monthly?) Sunday evening meetings somewhere in Provo of a group that, if I’m not mistaken, was known simply as “The Group.”  It was, I think, loosely intended to help people coming into activity in the Church from drug backgrounds, or something like that.  I really enjoyed its meetings because they were so unconventionally Mormon, and perhaps because something in the atmosphere of the discussions was reminiscent to me of my upbringing in 1960s California.  I found the meetings exciting; they were a high point of my first period of residence in Utah Valley.


Anyway, on one of those nights, we had a speaker who told a story that has stayed with me ever since.  (I would be hard pressed to recall anything else very specific from the meetings, but this was different.)


He was an elderly man.  I was seventeen or eighteen, of course, so just about everybody above thirty seemed elderly to me in those days, but I think that he was around ninety years old.  Obviously, he’s long gone by now.


He was an ordained patriarch, and that’s where the story comes in.


He told of being ordained a patriarch.  He was shocked and intimidated by the calling.  He had, if I’m remembering correctly, never even received his own patriarchal blessing, and there were no manuals or instructions.


For a lengthy period of time, though, nobody asked him for a blessing.  So he began to think that maybe this wouldn’t be so bad, after all.  Maybe he would have the honor of being a patriarch without ever actually needing to give a blessing.


But then a boy in his stake — which I vaguely think may have been out somewhere in rural Utah; for some reason, the southeastern part of the state sticks in my mind, though I may be wrong on that — made an appointment to receive a patriarchal blessing under his hands.


He was terrified.  He wasn’t sure what to do or that he could do it.


He began to study the scriptures, in Genesis and elsewhere, that would give him some sense of what he was to do and what a patriarchal blessing should be like.


In the end, he actually wrote a “blessing” out and memorized it, so that he would be ready when the boy came.


When the time arrived, he put his hands on the boy’s head and was just about to begin reciting the “blessing” that he had prepared and memorized.


But then he felt impelled to open his eyes.


And here’s the crucial part:


On the wall opposite him, he saw words, written in light.  He sensed that he was to read them aloud.  As he read a sentence or a phrase, it would disappear and be replaced by another one.


In the end, he had read off a complete patriarchal blessing — entirely different from the one that he had written out.


This, he said, had never happened to him again.  But he didn’t need it to happen again.  He knew that the Lord would sustain him and that he had no cause to fear or to be concerned.


Well, perhaps you can understand why that story impressed me so deeply.


The trouble is that I’ve entirely forgotten the name of the speaker.  I’ve wanted to find it out for many years, but I have no idea how to do so.  Curiously, again many years ago but after I had moved back to Utah and joined the BYU faculty, I came across something that made me exclaim “That’s him!”  I told myself that I needed to make a note of his name.  But, incredibly, I didn’t do it.  And now I can’t even remember what it was that I had found, let alone how to find it again.


If this story or this person rings a bell with anybody out there, though, I would love to learn more about him and, if possible, about it.


For one thing, the idea of the words of light appearing, and then disappearing to be replaced, reminds me very much of some accounts (e.g., David Whitmer’s) of the translation of the Book of Mormon.


But it’s an interesting account in its own right.  And I’ve remembered it for decades.


Help would be greatly appreciated.



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