Patriarchs and Matriarchs

The Amidah, a prayer that is central to Jewish worship, invokes the memory of three significant men known as the patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In some reformed Jewish congregations, the matriarchs—Sarah, Rebekah, Leah, and Rachel—are also mentioned. (See “Full Text of the First Blessing of the Amidah,” on myjewishlearning.com.)

The word “patriarch” appears only four times in the King James Version of the Bible, referring to King David (Acts 2:29), Abraham (Hebrews 7:4), and the twelve sons of Israel (Acts 7:8-9). It is a translation of the Greek word patriarches (πατριάρχης), meaning “father-leader,” from pater (πατήρ) “father” and archo (ἄρχω), meaning to lead or to initiate.

At the end of Israel’s life, he gathered his twelve sons and gave each of them a personalized blessing (Genesis 49:1-28). In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Lehi also blessed and counseled his children. (See 2 Nephi 1, 2, 3, and 4:3-12.) We learn from modern revelation that Adam also blessed his posterity (Doctrine and Covenants 107:42-53). Those blessings indicate that these fathers were invested in the happiness and growth of their children.

Sister Elaine S. Dalton admonished fathers to be involved in the lives of their children:

Today’s popular culture tries to erode and demean your eternal role as a patriarch and father and minimize your most important responsibilities….

Be present in your daughter’s life. Let her know your standards, your expectations, your hopes and dreams for her success and happiness. Interview her, get to know her friends…. Be an active part of her life.

Love Her Mother,” General Conference, October 2011

Mothers are also responsible to provide proactive leadership in their homes. Elder James E. Faust taught:

Every father is to his family a patriarch and every mother a matriarch as coequals in their distinctive parental roles.

The Prophetic Voice,” General Conference, April 1996

This past Monday, President Russell M. Nelson emphasized that point at the funeral of Donna Edith Smith Packer:

She is a true matriarch, a saintly mother of 10 faithful children and a righteous, ever-growing posterity. Donna’s loving kindness has blessed the lives of others around the world and beyond.

President Nelson remembers Sister Donna Packer as a ‘mother, sister, saint and daughter of the living God’,” Church News, 14 March 2022

Today, I will strive to be a good patriarch in my home. I will make the effort to be involved in my childrens’ lives, to better understand their goals and challenges, and to provide meaningful encouragement and advice to them.

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