Dear 100 Hour Board,
Recently I have started dating somebody who I have connected with like nobody before her. She has a past with partying and immorality but decided to leave it behind and repent. I have spent my whole life avoiding that scene and am willing to accept her as she is because she seems to have sincerely left her past in the past. My problem is that my patriarchal blessing states "you will one day have the blessing of take a young woman, who has kept herself worthy, to the temple." So I know this is something that I ultimately need to discuss with the lord. But I have been thinking on it lately and am unsure as to how to read that promise. I assumed it meant that my wife would be a virgin when we married, could it simply mean that she has kept herself worthy enough to repent and be ready come to the temple now that she has changed?
-The guy who is often confused
Patriarchal blessings can be confusing, despite how much insight they're meant to give our lives, so it's understandable why you might be having trouble with this. It also seems like a question we can't answer for you because ultimately, how you interpret your blessing is between you and God. No one else has the authority to receive revelation for you, nor do we know why the patriarch said what is on your blessing. But no matter what, I hope you find peace on this. It might help to pray or fast; I've found both of these things comforting specifically when dealing with patriarchal blessing questions.
Worthiness can be hard to define, especially when talking about someone who has "kept themselves worthy." Sometimes in a church context, worthiness seems like a purity that once you lose it, you can never regain. But worthiness, in its strictest definition, is "possessing worth or excellence of merits." It seems like it could be something developed over time that can fluctuate (just like any other virtue). For example, in the case of the temple, someone might have had a time when they weren't worthy to go to the temple.
But if they're repented and are currently worthy, they may have gained their worthiness back with full merits, even if they didn't have it all the time. In that way, they could be interpreted as having kept their worthiness. It's kind of like how Jesus commanded us to "be ye therefore perfect, even as [our] father in heaven is perfect." (Matthew 5:48) Worthiness, like perfection, isn't necessarily a set of qualities that someone has to meet fully because nobody really can. It's more about developing that worthiness and progressing towards who we hope to become, not keeping a characteristic pure and untouched. We were expected (and meant) to make mistakes in life, but they don't make us any less worthy than before.
This might sound silly, but the movie Thor is a good example of worthiness to me. Thor wields his hammer Mjolnir, which he can only use if he is worthy. At the beginning of the movie, he can wield his hammer and enjoys full worthiness. But because of his arrogance, he loses worthiness and can no longer use it for much of the movie. Once he develops character a good and just king needs, he is again worthy to wield Mjolnir and is allowed to return to his homeland, Asgard. Inside, he always had the potential of "worthiness" but making better choices allowed him to fully access it. He could lose his access to worthiness, but he could also regain it just as strong as it was before.
In addition, I know how emotionally taxing interpreting a patriarchal blessing is. There are some things in my blessing I've had trouble with before, and some I still don't understand. Patriarchal blessings are very personal. Nobody can determine what it means except for you. Not your parents. Not your friends. Not The Board. It's all between you and God. Now might be a good time to pray and spend time thinking about how to interpret this and whether it's right for both of you to marry.
Not only that, but it might be helpful to reflect on your own what worthiness means to you. Think about your relationship with your girlfriend and whether she's someone who you get along with well and would like to marry. One of my roommates freshman year always consulted her patriarchal blessing and prayed about her boyfriend, whether she was "worthy" enough for him. She never got an answer and thought that she never measured up, and as a result, she broke up with him freshman year because she felt that God told her she wasn't good enough since she didn't get a wholehearted, patriarchal blessing-aligned "yes" right away.
But they still cared about each other a lot, and they ended up getting back together and getting married a few months ago. It was hard for her to date him without receiving an answer from God, and she worried a lot about whether marrying him was part of her plan or a fulfillment of her blessing. But they're happy, they seem to really love each other, and that seems like something needed in a temple marriage. At the end of the day, as long as who you're marrying is someone who shares your values, maybe that's what matters.
There will always be time to reflect and interpret your patriarchal blessing, but if marrying her feels like a good choice, maybe it will be okay. Again, though, this is all between you and God.
Echoing the other writers, we can't interpret your patriarchal blessing for you. Everyone else has already pretty well addressed the aspect of what it means to be worthy, so I'm going to focus my response on the other part of your question: how to make sure your interpreting your blessing correctly. These are going to be just basic tips, but I've found that simple reminders can sometimes be useful.
- Does it feel right? When reading over that line in your patriarchal blessing, which interpretation do you have a stronger gut feeling that it's right? This can be a hard question to find an answer to, but even asking it can be helpful. Still going along these same lines, also try to envision both outcomes, and take note of which brings you more peace. The point of these exercises is to study the matter out in your mind.
- Pray to God to know. Pour out your heart to Him to know what your blessing means. If it doesn't seem as though you get an answer immediately, continue with what you're doing, at least until you get a definite answer it's the wrong choice.
In her October 2016 conference talk, Sister Reeves shared an experience:
A few months before President Boyd K. Packer passed away, general priesthood and auxiliary leaders had the precious opportunity of having him speak to us. I have not been able to quit thinking about what he said. He shared that he had searched backward throughout his lifetime, looking for evidence of the sins that he had committed and sincerely repented of, and he could find no trace of them. Because of the atoning sacrifice of our beloved Savior, Jesus Christ, and through sincere repentance, his sins were completely gone, as if they had never happened.
It's up to you to interpret your own patriarchal blessing. But it's my opinion that when someone is worthy, that's what matters. God doesn't remember sins we've repented of, so why should we?
I wouldn't think that keeping yourself worthy has to mean that you've never been unworthy at any time. Repentance has more power than that. If you like who she is now, try not to let her past be the deciding factor. However, if you end up feeling like God is guiding you towards not marrying her, it's important to seek to understand that revelation.
Good luck! May God be with you as you make these big decisions.