I’ve been pondering where I am in life and so have been reflecting on my patriarchal blessing. Is the order of the things listed in the blessing understood as chronological? For example (I’ll be vague) a section regarding higher education and income precedes the section on marriage. Would this imply marriage will come after my professional career starts?
The short answer is that events and blessings described in a Patriarchal Blessing are not necessarily in chronological order. Proving that assertion is not so easy as I could not find anything on LDS.org which discusses the sequence of blessings at all. I did find two quotes which hint at this answer, first from a Priesthood manual:
Elder John A. Widtsoe taught that some of these blessings may not come in this life: “It should always be kept in mind that the realization of the promises made may come in this or the future life. Men have stumbled at times because promised blessings have not occurred in this life. They have failed to remember that, in the gospel, life with all its activities continues forever and that the labors of the earth may be continued in heaven” (Evidences and Reconciliations, arr. G. Homer Durham, 3 vols. in 1 , 323).Lesson 10: Patriarchs and Patriarchal Blessings, Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part A
And one from President Packer:
“Sometimes someone will worry because a promise made in a patriarchal blessing is not yet fulfilled. … That does not mean that the blessing will go unfulfilled. It is well to know that things happen in the Lord’s due time, not always in ours. Things of an eternal nature have no boundaries. From the premortal existence to our existence beyond the veils of death, our life is an eternal life.” —President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “The Stake Patriarch,” Ensign, Nov. 2002, 45.
To me, both of these quotes hint that blessings mentioned in any part of the lesson may not come in this life. Since I couldn’t find anything direct, I also did an informal survey of people I know, asking them to look at their blessings and tell me whether the events and blessings described therein were in chronological order (if they could tell). The results of that survey concur with my conclusions: most responded that the events and blessings mentioned in their patriarchal blessings were not in chronological order. However, some said they were and still others said they couldn’t tell. So, I think from this we can conclude that the events described in your blessing are not necessarily in chronological order (though they could be). You should prayerfully study your blessing, as it is yours alone and only you will be able to receive guidance in interpreting it. Follow the counsel you receive related to that, and when unsure, do your best to follow the commandments and revelations of God.
Now, there’s another reason I feel confident that a blessing is not necessarily in chronological order. The example you give in your question relates to whether marriage will come after education and the start of a career. Let’s look briefly at the counsel we’ve been given about that. The best example I found was this quote from a BYU devotional by Elder Wirthlin in 1994 called “Choose the Right“:
Don’t Delay Marriage
And to you returned missionary elders, let me remind you of your responsibility to seek and find a worthy eternal companion. This is a sacred obligation. Marriage is nothing to rush into, but neither is it to be overly delayed or unduly postponed. After you complete your mission, you are charged with the responsibility to diligently prepare for temple marriage and for the duties of serving as a husband and father.
Countless students at BYU, and likely in many other Church venues, have heard a variation on this counsel over and over. The Lord has commanded us to get married. The gospel teaches us that this is a crucial step toward exaltation (see D&C 131:1–2, also The Family: A Proclamation to the World). No doubt you want to follow this path. The thing I like about Elder Wirthlin’s message is that he points out the timing – not rushed into, but not overly delayed. Counsel with the Lord and he will help you make those choices which will lead you to marry the right person at the right time. Don’t worry about whether it’s before, during, or after you’ve finished your education and started your career. Worry that you are seeking and following the Lord’s counsel. When the Lord tells you it’s time, it’s time.
Perhaps this quote will also help you to ponder on the timing of these major events in your life. It comes from an April 2007 Ensign article entitled “Three Messages to Young Adults“.
Unless you understand what your future can hold with respect to family, it will be difficult for you to make wise decisions affecting your future. Family is everything. It overshadows all other relationships and decisions.
Regardless of the comparative timing of these events, work now to gain an understanding of your future “with respect to family” so that your choices will lead to the greatest blessings for you and them.