Our bishop spoke to the young women at their special personal progress evening this past Wednesday. His job requires him to travel most of the time (many days each week). He talked to the girls about his travel bag (a leather computer carrying case on steroids) that he always has with him. He went through all the items that he carries in it and talked about each item and how it helped him be prepared. He pulled out a number of things (like show and tell) that he had: A fresh copy of The Book of Mormon for sharing; copies of the Articles of Faith; his personalized copy of the last General Conference edition of the Ensign; the special edition of the Ensign on Christ (for sharing), his personal journal, a separate scripture journal, his laptop, his own scriptures; the list went on and on. His talk was full of the Spirit. I loved it. One item he pulled out that moved me so deeply was a tattered, well-worn envelope full of the Patriarchal Blessings of his wife, his children and his mother. He said that he studied the blessings often so that he could seek to help fulfill any blessings that were promised to himself of any member of his family. The Spirit was so strong to me at this point in his talk, it caused me to reflect on my own Patriarchal Blessing.
I received my blessing just 24 days after I turned 16. My brother, Kirk, received his blessing the same day. Our Patriarch, M. Gerald Neuffer, lived 100 miles away, not too many blocks from our stake center in Columbia, Missouri. In those days a Patriarchal Blessing was often thought to be very private and very individual. Neither my Mom or Dad came to it, and when Kirk got his blessing, I waited outside the room, as did Kirk when I received my blessing. A friend of ours from the Rolla Ward, Doug Law, was also with us. He had come to be set apart for his mission to France. We often economized our 200-mile-round-trips like that.
I have always been moved by one particular line from my blessing that refers to you children. It starts by talking about my marriage then it goes on to my family: "If you remain faithful and seek after the things that are spiritual and if you keep about you those companions that believe as you believe you will find a choice daughter of our Father in Heaven to be your companion for eternity (yep<--the word 'yep' was not in the original blessing), one that you can take to the Temple of the Lord that you can love and cherish (yep, yep) and together you will have a family that will be a blessing to mankind." Wow. What does that mean, to have a family that will be "a blessing to mankind?" I've thought about that a lot for the past 35 years.
Our family is large. We have, as Mom used to call it, "shear numbers." We can and should strive to do everything we can to bless each other and bless others. To start with, and I know all of you do this, when someone in our family is in need, like Julie Ann, for example, and her health, or, Melissa in her employment, or Lucas in his career path, or Mitchell with his ears, or whomever, we should keep them in our fervent prayers, praying that blessings will come to each person according to our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. But further, our family is kind of like the children of Israel. We first went through "the gathering" and now, we are in the stage of "the scattering." The Lord scattered the Children of Israel so that they could be a blessing to the entire earth--to all mankind. We have been, I believe, purposely scattered about to various locations so that we can have diverse experiences, use our talents and gifts and bless other people the Lord wants us to bless.
Consider these thoughts: Ten of our immediate family have served missions and have had the opportunity to bless lives in Germany, Japan (2 missions), South Africa, Ukraine, Brazil, California (2 missions), Philippines and Chile. Some of us have been blessed to bless others by living or studying in foreign countries--Turkey, Israel, Dominican Republic, Mexico, the British Isles. Now we are all blessed to be a blessing to others in diverse areas: In Virginia, Massachusetts, Washington, California, Utah, Idaho and Colorado. Of course it seems like it would be much more fun if we were all gathered on Plum Creek Lane and each of the homes there belonged to our family. That truly would be fun--but we certainly could not bless as many people.
We will all have the opportunity to bless others in diverse places at diverse times in diverse situations. The Lord will put us in contact with specific people that we have been called to bless, kind of like being on a mission, but taking the idea of "mission" as being "life." Sometimes we will bless them with our words, sometimes with our experiences, sometimes with our physical labor, sometimes with our minds, sometimes with the priesthood, always with our love--but we will be able to bless people far and wide. We should constantly be thinking about ways that we can be a blessing to others--it should be our modus operandi. Shall we not all rally to be "a blessing to mankind?"