There are 12 thoughts on “The Practice and Meaning of Declaring Lineage in Patriarchal Blessings”.

  1. Thank you for an informative and well-written article. I have a few thoughts to share. First, you say “Abraham’s posterity is as numberless as the sands of the sea”. Some researchers at the university of Hawaii estimated the number of grains of sand in all the beaches and deserts of the earth at roughly (very roughly) 7.5 x 10^18 grains of sand. The number of people to have ever lived on the earth is estimated at just 105 billion (10.5 x 10 ^10). So, he hasn’t gotten there yet!
    I take exception to your conclusion that “I have none of his [Abraham’s] DNA.” If you look at a much larger chunk of your pedigree the picture changes quite dramatically. Each individual does not appear just once.
    Mathematically, it is very simple. Your number of ancestors exactly doubles each generation. If you go back just 64 generations you have precisely 18,446,744,073,709,551,616 (or 1.8 X 10^19) names on the last row of your pedigree chart. If each generation averages 25 years that would take you back 1600 years—or about the year 400 AD. The world population in 400 AD is estimated at just 205 million people. This means that if every man, woman, and child living in the world in 400 AD was in that row of your pedigree they would each appear an average of 87,800,000,000 times.
    The number of rows on your pedigree back just 64 generations is 2.4 times the number of grains of sand in the entire world!
    Abraham was born about 4,000 years or 160 generations ago. The number of rows on your pedigree back 160 generations would be 1.46 X 10^48—a truly mind-boggling number.
    My point is that even though an ancestor lived thousands of years ago, they still can be a significant contributor to your DNA because they may appear in your pedigree many times more than all the grains of sand on earth. You can probably toss in all the stars in the heavens as well!

  2. Thank you Brother Anderson for tying together so many interesting aspects of this central gospel topic. The idea of ancestral lineage touches every aspect of our church membership. This is a subject I have wondered about ever since, many years ago, encountering B.R. McConkie’s teaching, you referenced, that in our premortal existence members of the house of Israel acquired a ”talent for spirituality” and that the “believing blood” flows in their veins.

    Some add’l thoughts:
    In Oct 2020 Gen Conf, Pres Nelson taught his current understanding of lineage in a Patriarchal blessing, “Each faithful member may request a patriarchal blessing. Through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, the patriarch declares that person’s lineage in the house of Israel. That declaration is not necessarily a pronouncement of his or her race, nationality, or genetic makeup. Rather, the declared lineage identifies the tribe of Israel through which that individual will receive his or her blessings.” (Let God Prevail, footnote 16). You expanded my understanding of this basic teaching.

    You left unaddressed how the doctrine of foreordination fits into the puzzle of lineage. Alma 13 and Pres Eyring’s talk, several years ago, “Man Down” seem to me to indicate that there was a group entitled to special blessings (because of their premortal choices.) This group was then foreordained & held in reserve to come to earth during this critical time. The Gospel Principles manual still states, paraphrasing, that “God chooses the time & place where each person will be born.” So while the genetic makeup of the world’s population is diluted from Abraham forward (obfuscating the gathering and identification of “Israel”) there still seems to be a group of foreordained spirits coming down, assigned by God, some to LDS homes, some assigned elsewhere, all foreordained for their specific purpose.

    Pres. Nelson’s reminder that members of the House of Israel are simply those, “who let God prevail” in their lives fits nicely with your idea that we “become, by [our] choices, literally the Lord’s people in literal covenant Israel.” (pg. 232)

    Thanks for your fine article. I enjoyed it very much.

  3. Well written. Excellent. It is interesting to think about the possibility of common ancestry, but it doesn’t seem like actual ancestry would absolutely be needed for the gathering of Israel as suggested here – a reawakening of Israelite identification. “Ite” identification in the Book of Mormon doesn’t seem to have been all genetic.

    Here’s another interesting ancestry bit, tying Jesus to David.

    https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.bbc.com/news/magazine-19331938.amp

  4. This is a straightforward denial of Pauline theology in Romans 11, of Article of Faith #10, as well as the formal, official LDS theology of the D&C 68:15-21, 84:18, 107:16-17,69-70,76, which argues strictly for actual, lineal descent, and the privileges which accompany it – and this is strongly backed up by genetics:
    Michael F. Hammer, et al., “Y Chromosomes of Jewish Priests,” Nature, 385/6611 (Jan 2, 1997): 32-33; Hammer, et al., “Extended Y chromosome haplotypes resolve multiple and unique lineages of the Jewish priesthood,” Human Genetics, 126/5 (Nov 2009): 707–717, online at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2771134/ .

    Andersen is correct to quote the 2001 Gospel Dcotrine OT manual: “All Church members are the ‘seed of Abraham,’ which means we are his descendants. [But t]hose who are not literal descendants of Abraham and Israel must become such,” i.e., by being grafted in (Jacob 5, Romans 11).

    However, Elder Widtsoe was clearly wrong to say: “Those who reject the gospel, whether children in the flesh, or others, forfeit the promises made to Abraham and are not children of Abraham.” Why? Because the Abrahamic Covenant is an unconditional covenant, a distinction frequently lost on the LDS community, but something which St Paul did not forget (Romans 11). Worst of all Andersen foists supersessionism on the Saints:
    Steven Epperson, Mormons and Jews: Early Mormon Theologies of Israel (Signature Books, 1992) –published Temple University dissertation; Epperson, “Some Problems with Supersessionism in Mormon Thought,” BYU Studies, 34/4 (1994), 125-136.

    Moreover, the Prophet Joseph Smith sent Apostle Orson Hyde on a special assignment to the Holy Land, and in 1841, on the Mount of Olives, Orson Hyde carried out that assignment: He knelt in a prayer of dedication (which can be found in both Hebrew & English today on Mt Olivet) to the final gathering of the Jews, and to the building of their final temple in Jerusalem. It is official LDS theology that literal Israel be gathered, a fact demonstrable in our time.

  5. This was IMO a great article, a scholarly paper that included some scientific and mathematical support. I read Chang’s 1998 paper years ago and added two more articles supporting his thesis.
    (1) The Royal We
    The mathematical study of genealogy indicates that everyone in the world is descended from Nefertiti and Confucius, and everyone of European ancestry is descended from Muhammad and Charlemagne
    STEVE OLSON MAY 2002 ISSUE The Atlantic

    (2) Humans Are All More Closely Related Than We Commonly Think
    Humanity’s most recent common ancestor and so-called genetic isopoint illustrate the surprising connections among our family trees
    By Scott Hershberger on October 5, 2020 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN

    • It all sounds fun, and it seems as likely that we are all descendants of 13th century Genghis Khan, who has at least 16 million descendants alive today: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/article/mongolia-genghis-khan-dna#:~:text=An%20international%20group%20of%20geneticists,16%20million%20descendants%20living%20today.
      The problem is that Joseph Chang did not actually say what Andersen claims he says. Chang himself comments: “… the model studied here is too simple to be directly applicable to the evolution of mankind as a whole. In such complicated situations, the results sound a note of caution: if the logarithmic time to CA’s [common ancestors] seems patently implausible, then at least one of the assumptions of the model, such as the random mating assumption, must be causing a great deal of trouble. … Perhaps a relatively homogeneous population lacking discernible structures (geographic or otherwise) that interact strongly with reproduction would be a promising candidate.” Chang, “Recent Common Ancestors of All Present-Day Individuals,” Advances in Applied Probability 31/4 (December 1999): 1003–1004.
      Indeed, endogamous people such as the Jews are so stringent in their behavior that their priests (cohens) can still be distinguished genetically within the group: Michael F. Hammer, et al., “Y Chromosomes of Jewish Priests,” Nature, 385/6611 (Jan 2, 1997): 32-33; Hammer, et al., “Extended Y chromosome haplotypes resolve multiple and unique lineages of the Jewish priesthood,” Human Genetics, 126/5 (Nov 2009): 707–717, online at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2771134/ .
      All that quite aside from the fact that official LDS theology likewise distinguishes that priestly lineage among the Jews (D&C 68:15-21, 84:18, 107:16-17,69-70,76).

  6. A great example of the valuable scholarship the Interpreter Foundation supports. Thank you for this very thought provoking article.

  7. I love the sentiment expressed in this article and appreciate the careful way in which both current and past thinking is handled. I think that there has long been a persistent current in Israel, both ancient and modern, which wants to see a privileged bloodline selected by God and singled out for blessings. The Book of Mormon quite clearly teaches against this notion and turns it on its head. Alma 3:19 notes that “Now I would that ye should see that they brought upon themselves the curse; and even so doth every man that is cursed bring upon himself his own condemnation.”, and of course the converse is taught clearly as well.

  8. Being of the Family of Israel probably has more pre-mortal and Eternal significance than mortal significance. Jesus said, “I came unto mine own, and mine own received me not” (D&C 45:8) This implies that He was of the family of Judah before He came. Also, as far as we know, there is only one organization that exists in the Celestial Kingdom and that is the family. The main purpose of the Temple is to Eternalize families. In mortality we are organized and known not only by our family but by our profession, our location, such as city and state etc, our ward or stake, and many other organizational memberships. It appears that in the Celestial Kingdom everything is organized by families, and our family affiliation therefore takes on much more significance. As you quoted Elder Oaks, “A declaration of lineage is representative of larger and more important things… This declaration concerns the government of the kingdom of God,”

Add Comment

Your email address will not be published.

 characters available

All comments are moderated to ensure respectful discourse. It is assumed that it is possible to disagree agreeably and intelligently and comments that intend to increase overall understanding are particularly encouraged. Individual authors are given the option to disallow commenting or end commenting after a certain period at their discretion.

Close this window

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This