The number 40 was symbolically significant to ancient Hebrews. In scripture it is mentioned 146 times and can represent ‘a long period of time’. For example, Moses lived 40 years in Egypt, then 40 years in the wilderness when he led his people out of slavery. The Saviour fasted for 40 days after being tempted by the devil, etc. For the Saints in the Cook Islands, many have indeed waited a long period of time to receive their patriarchal blessing – and in April 2023, 40 members received their blessings. Several miracles were evident around this special week.
Earlier this year, when leaders of the New Zealand Auckland Mission planned to visit the remote island country of the Cook Islands for the district’s semi-annual conference, they invited the Auckland New Zealand Harbour Stake Patriarch, Steven Stebbings, to join them to provide an opportunity for members there to receive their patriarchal blessing.
Patriarch Stebbings and his wife, Kathy, who is also his scribe, arrived in the country during a torrential rainstorm. One might have thought that would discourage people from venturing out . . . it did not. Two young elders happily gave up their car for Patriarch Stebbings and Sister Stebbings to use while they were on the island. The missionaries were more than happy to use bikes for the week.
The Saints came in that heavy rain . . . they came with hearts full of gratitude and excitement for what was about to happen. They came to listen to and feel the love of their Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. They came to learn more about their potential and the blessings the Lord has in store for each of them. The people kept coming – the Spirit was strong, and the Stebbings experienced the sweet joy that comes from serving the Lord.
Patriarch Stebbings is used to giving about four blessings a week; he anticipated he’d interview and bless 15-20 people, so he was more than surprised that 40 members aged 12-74 came in from the outer islands to Rarotonga to receive their blessing.
Sister Stebbings said they started working early each morning and worked long into the night – and through their exhaustion, the Lord sustained and strengthened them to be able to accomplish all that they did.
The experience began in February 2023 when Elder Doneal White and Sister Claudia White arrived in the Cook Islands to serve a mission where there was no Stake Patriarch. In an early morning seminary class, they heard that 14 students told their teacher they had not received their patriarchal blessings. Wheels were set in motion and soon thereafter Patriarch Stebbings was authorised to travel to the Cook Islands to provide the desired blessings.
Elder and Sister White said they had prayed the Stebbings there – to the Cook Islands, and the timing was perfect – with a district conference during that time, and it was school holidays – plus a national youth soccer tournament the following week had brought in two groups of members for the tournament – and they could receive their blessings.
Patriarch Stebbings said patriarchal blessings are given to worthy members of the Church and contain personal counsel from God. “This blessing is intended to be like a road map that helps guide a person through their life,” he said.
“As a patriarch, I have no blessings to give,” Stebbings said. “When I place my hands upon a person’s head, I receive inspiration and revelation for them by the power of the Holy Spirit, which then becomes their blessing.”
“These blessings are not to be neatly folded away and forgotten, and they’re not to be framed or published,” Stebbings said. “It is to be read, followed and loved, and it will see a person through their darkest nights, and will guide them through all of life’s stages.”