The following is taken from Daniel Tyler, "The Gospel Principles: Priesthood", Juvenile Instructor 13/10 (15 May 1878): 112-113.
In tracing the history of the patriarchal priesthood, we find much difficulty. There is no doubt that it commenced with Adam. Moses says that God blessed Adam and Eve. In the 3rd chapter of Luke, 38th verse, it says Adam was the son of God, hence we find the first patriarchal blessing on record in the first chapter of Genesis, which is given jointly to Adam and Eve.
This blessing does not differ materially from those of later date, only in this, that Adam being the first man of whom we have any record, is placed at the head and given dominion over all the earth, including the beasts of the field, the fowls of the air and every living creature, as well as the fruits of the earth. Whereas, the blessings of his descendants divide the earth and all things pertaining thereunto among his faithful offspring. For instance, Abraham was promised the land of Palestine and all the surrounding countries, which would probably include the entire eastern hemisphere. Jacob appears to have had North and South America added, and transferred it to the branches of Joseph, as shown in a former article on the Book of Mormon.
It may be asked, if the earth is to be divided and given to the offspring of Abraham, what will become of those nations of different lineage if they obey the gospel? It would look hard and unjust to debar them of an everlasting inheritance, to which these blessings referred; especially since the gospel is to be preached to every creature.
Before explaining this matter, I will say that all the nations of the earth sprang from the three sons of Noah - Shem, Ham and Japheth. The Israelites sprang from Shem, the Negroes from Ham and the Gentiles from Japheth. Yet none but the descendants of Shem were promised land enough to pitch a tent upon - in allusion to the ancient mode of living in tents, instead of houses as we do now. Canaan, the oldest son of Ham, was to be a servant of servants to the descendants of Shem and Japheth, and as such he would need no landed property. Japheth was to dwell in the tents of Shem, or, as we would now say, live on Shem's homestead, farm or inheritance. You will find this statement verified by reading the 25th, 26th and 27th verses of the 9th chapter of Genesis. To the ignorant this would look hard; but St. Paul, who was the Apostle to the Gentiles, tells them how they became heirs to the promises. He says, in substance, if not in word, that as many as were baptized into Christ became Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. Scripture shows that the Jews were broken off because of unbelief and the Gentiles were grafted in.
The ancients esteemed their patriarchal blessings very highly, and well they might when we consider, as already shown, the extent of their magnitude. Even Esau, the brother of Jacob, who, so far as we have any account, never labored to accumulate anything, but depended solely upon hunting for a living, wept bitterly when he heard that his brother Jacob, who had always been faithful and had taken care of his father's property, had, through the stratagem of his mother, obtained the first blessing of his father, which he supposed belonged to him by birthright. And, when his father, Isaac, told him he could not recall what he had done, although he had given his brother the blessing, in the agony of his soul, Esau exclaimed, "Hast thou but one blessing, my father? bless me, even me also, O my father."
This story, which is a true one, should teach a moral to all Latter-day Saints, both old and young - it shows that those who are more worthy and less assuming will have their rights. We all get just what we live for, and no more.
Of the office of patriarch, as we understand that important position in the priesthood, we know but little that occurred in the days of the ancient apostles. There is no doubt the records of their blessings and most of their other gospel writings were destroyed during the apostasy and persecution of the church.