In Mormon tradition, a "Patriarch" is a man, usually retired and often quite old, to whom young people go for their "patriarchal blessings." This is done just once for each person. The person being blessed sits in a chair, usually in the patriarch's living room or study. The patriarch lays his hands on the person's head, closes his eyes, and utters the blessing. A clerk records the blessing, and a printed transcript is later given to the person who has been blessed. Another copy of the transcript is also sent to church headquarters in Salt Lake (Historical Department, Patriarchal Blessings section).
The blessing is very formulaic. It usually begins with a statement on the order of "Brother/Sister Whatever, you have been blessed with a wonderful family..." then reveals into which of the tribes of Israel the person was born (or adopted). This is almost always the tribe of Ephraim, though an occasional Manassah or Judah comes up. Then come the promises and admonitions. The gist of most blessings is roughly "If you do what you're told to do, you'll be blessed -- but if you do what you're told to do and you're still not blessed, it's your own fault."
The LDS Church's first patriarch was Joseph Smith, Sr. -- the father of the founder. Some of the blessings he gave were quite fanciful.
My Patriarchal Blessing
Below is the text of my own patriarchal blessing, with names and dates removed, and with my commentary in italic.
A BLESSlNG given by __, Patriarch, upon the head of __, son of __ and __
Brother __, humbly I place my hands upon your head and in the authority of the holy priesthood and my calling I give unto you a patriarchal blessing. This blessing will be an inspiration to you and it will serve to protect you from the designs of the adversary if you abide by the counsel given. [The "adversary" is Satan, the personification of disobedience. So obedience to the counsel given would protect me from disobedience. Until I realized that *obedience* is the real adversary.]
Dear Brother __, you are indeed a choice son of our Heavenly Father. You advanced under His direction in your premortal life and filled positions of responsibility there. You came into this world committed to a life of service to His children. You are of noble parentage and ancestry. You are of the lineage of Joseph through his chosen son Ephraim. As such you are entitled to the blessings that are in store for the righteous descendants of these great men. You came richly endowed with precious gifts which you must use in furthering God's work in the earth. [This paragraph reflects the insidious doctrine that blessings can be inherited from long-dead ancestors. The idea that I am descended from Ephraim is just silly.]
Honor your priesthood always. Do nothing that would ever bring discredit to it or your good name. Resolve in your heart that you will always be a good man and live an exemplary life.[I did so resolve, as most men do, in the church and out.] I bless you, dear brother, that you may go forward in your service, assuming many responsible positions and if you keep yourself humble you will fill these positions with honor and become a true leader in God's kingdom. You shall associate with many who are in high places and your advice and counsel among the brethren will be felt and honored and respected. [Most young men get their blessings before going on their missions; I waited until after I returned. When this blessing was given I had already been a zone leader, counselor in a branch presidency, and a stake officer, so this part of the blessing was a safe bet.]
I bless you that you will become a wise and prudent father. Go forward with determination that you will build a home where the Spirit of the Lord will always be present. Maintain a spirit of unity and the children assigned to you will bless your home and bring honor to you and your good wife as you live and teach the standards of the church. [I consider myself a wise and prudent father, more so since leaving the church. My children are terrific.]
Seek not for riches but for wisdom and the riches of eternity will be yours, riches far greater than any of the material things of life. You shall not want for these material things but you shall have enough and to spare that you may be an instrument in the hands of God in ministering to the needs of others who are less fortunate. [Good advice. I didn't seek riches, I've ministered to others, and I received the promised wisdom. The riches of eternity remain to be seen.]
I bless you with health and long life and much happiness. You shall find this happiness to the extent that you dedicate your life to service. [So far, so good. I'm healthy and happy, and it's been a long life already.]
Learn your duty with regard to salvation for the dead and apply yourself in this service. As you do this you will meet with success and become a savior to your kindred dead. [I devoted a lot of my youth to genealogy and temple work, time I could have used better. I'm still devoted to family history, but not in order to get my dead ancestors baptized as Mormons.]
Go forward in your studies. [Soon after getting this blessing I returned to BYU for four years of graduate study.] Learn well the scriptures that apply in your life and light and knowledge will flow unto you and help you to withstand the trials that come to you. [The more I studied the "scriptures", the *less* divine they seemed.] I bless you, dear brother, that as you go about your duties, even if you go into the armed services of your country, you shall have strength to resist evil and continue to be a missionary among God's children on earth. [The patriarch knew I was facing the Vietnam draft, but he didn't know that I saw the *war* as the evil to be resisted. Like Clinton and Quayle, I avoided the draft. And I did survive to be a missionary again: Stake Mission President, no less.]
I seal you up to come forward in the resurrection of the just and to go forward with your companion [I was already engaged to be married] to a glorious exaltation and to eternal life and eternal increase. You shall stand at the head of a numerous and righteous posterity. All of these blessings are yours if you continue to be humble and faithful and I seal them upon you in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. [I stopped being humble and faithful, so I suppose I'll never have a planet of my own. Darn.]