Faith and blaming the victim

I remember several discussions where someone asked why it is that sometimes blessings are effectual and other times they aren’t or why sometimes prayers get answer and other times they don’t. My typical response is that it is a matter of faith. If you bless someone to be healed and they aren’t, there are several possibilities: 1) You lack the faith and don’t have the gift of healing; 2) you were actually not trying to heal but were trying to be prophetic. Alas, you lacked the faith to have the gift of prophecy; 3) the person you blessed lacked the faith to be healed. The common response is that these possibilities aren’t acceptable because it is essentially blaming the victim. Yep, it is. So what?

I like Peter. He sees the Lord on the water and after Jesus tells them not to be afraid, Peter (and I can just imagine what is going through his head) responds:

Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. (and he gets this Calvin cartoonish grin on his face)

He walks for a little bit, but things start to get a little out of hand and he begins to sink. Peter knows where to turn and the Lord lifts him up to safety. Jesus doesn’t hesitate to get his jab in though:

O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?

The scriptures are replete with examples of people attempting the miraculous; but, lacking the faith sufficient to the task, they fail miserably. Joseph Smith was a big fan of the weighting the results of faith over outward exercises. After the miraculous healings at the river the following was recorded:

Brother Joseph, while in the Spirit, rebuked the Elders who would continue to lay hands on the sick from day to day without the power to heal them. Said he: “It is time that such things ended. Let the Elders either obtain the power of God to heal the sick or let them cease to minister the forms without the power.” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt. pg. 254-255. emphasis in original)

What is wrong with blaming the victim? I confess that I lack faith. There was a time when I had much more. My testimony is greater now. I definitely know much more. But faith is different than belief or knowledge. Faith is the relationship of trust and love we have with Jesus Christ. And just like any relationship, it is dynamic. What would have happened if while an adolescent you asked your wealthy uncle (with whom you never talk) to borrow his Porsche for a date. Response: No. What type of relationship do you need to walk on water? Or to heal cancer? I don’t know, but I have seen it before.

We shouldn’t feel guilty about lacking the faith to heal. We shouldn’t feel guilty that our prayers go un-answered. There is a significant amount of humility to be gained in recognizing what we are.

Comments

  1. Kevin Barney says:

    I remember when I was a boy I really thought that if I just had enough faith I could walk across the swimming pool.

    On my mission we went with the ward mission leader to visit a young family. She was pregnant, and the baby was positioned in a bad way (I forget the specifics), and the doctors were saying the baby was going to die. The mother wanted a blessing. You should have seen the three of us trying to maneuver so as not to have to be the one to be voice for that blessing. Obviously, we all lacked faith that the blessing would miraculously remedy the situation. And, in fact, it didn’t.

  2. Kevin, I even tried walking on the swimming pool once when I was a kid.

  3. J.,

    I too remember participating in similar discussions and recall that we didn’t necessarily see eye to eye. I do agree with the sentiments in your post that unanswered prayers are not always a cause for guilt, and that the humility gained thereby can be beneficial.

    One problem I have is that your post seems to allow one person to be punished for someone else’s transgression. For example, if you needed to be healed, had the requisite faith, but could choose only one person to ask for a blessing, you would be out of luck (through no fault of your own) if you decided to come to me.

    Another concern I have arises from my impression that healing is often a matter of dumb luck. I don’t observe that the wicked/faithful necessarily die at alarmingly higher rates than the righteous/faithless, all else equal. Furthermore, to attribute lack of healing to lack of faith invites some to infer that someone who has been healed does have faith (though I recognize that the latter implication is not necessarily a logical implication of the former).

    A final question: if you are right about this, do we need to change our practice to maximize the benefits of healing blessings? Should we publicize healing statistics of blessing givers similar to win/loss records in sports. Then only those priesthood holders with a sufficiently high “winning percentage” will be trusted to be called on for healing blessings (unless there is some other indication that faith has recently increased). Maybe those with high winning percentages will intentionally avoid the hard cases to keep their percentages from falling into a range that might bring their faith into question.

  4. So J., if I bless “John” to be healed and John is healed, that means either he or I had the requisite faith? You don’t see a HUGE problem with Confirmation Bias here?

    And if he isn’t healed, it means he or I lacked the requisite faith? And you say, “So What?” You don’t see a problem with this? You don’t see a problem with unnecessary guilt, blame, doubt, and suffering?

    I see it as a Pandora’s Box that sometimes leads to drastic and terrible outcomes, like the humble/faithful/loving/obedient kid who is suffering with same sex attraction but who is promised that with “faith” he can overcome his problem and reorient himself as a heterosexual. So said SSA sufferer then goes to absolutely Herculean lengths to demonstrate his faith over the ensuing years, only to become more and more depressed and despondent when his faith appears to be lacking. In the end he chooses to end his life rather than to continue on. Extreme case, but real. Lesser cases involving ordinary members with ordinary problems are just as troubling to me.

  5. I had an experience where I gave a woman a blessing that she would pass a test, but felt like she had no faith that she would. I gave the blessing anyway because I felt it was what she wanted even though I didn’t have faith in her faith; she didn’t pass the test. It is a constant reminder to me now to fear God more than man, and say what God wants me to and not what I feel is wanted.

    I had several awesome experiences on my mission involving miraculous healings, but I don’t wish to recount them here. I will say I had one experience where I was giving a girl a blessing and I felt prompted to not bless her while giving the blessing and ended up sealing the annointing and then pretty much shutting up because I felt God loved her but no blessing was coming. It turned out she was sick because she had broken the Law of Chastity and had morning sickness. Not sure what the lesson there is, but I had several experiences like that on my mission as well.

    I wonder if, in twenty years, the 25 years it will have been then since my mission will even compare in value anecdotally to those two years?

  6. J. and Kevin,

    Another possibility that we might consider:

    The Lord did not want that baby to be born alive.

    The Lord did not want you to walk across your pool.

    The recipient(s) of the priesthood blessings you cite were not to be healed, as the will of God.

    Then J., the question is, can we get our faith to the point where we bless a loved one to pass to the other side or to not heal them from their current affliction because we are in tune with the Spirit that is giving us that information?

    As you said so well in your last paragraph, not feeling guilty along the path of faith is important. I think however, that all too often the guilt arises out of expectations that we either place on ourselves or are placed there by concerned bystanders.

    Also you will find more accounts, probably by a 100:1 ratio that tell when someone got up from their sickbed and walked, as part of our written Mormon history. I would venture to say that the ratio is actually obverse in reality; so many more people just simply died or remained crippled and that more often than not, it was not a lack of faith but simply the will of God.

    I wonder at the moment of crisis for a parent or spouse caring for a seriously ill family member if there can be a more pure supplication for heavenly assistance; in other words, pure faith. And then, the even greater faith required to accept the will of God that does not agree with our own.

    Thank-you for dressing down guilt. There is way too much of it in the world and it is used as a motivator all too often. Unfortunately our lives in the Church are not immune to this ill-used motivator.

  7. As far as I can read the Mind of Stapley, I know that the man is a Josephite of the first order. He has both faith in, and nostalgia for, the kind of spiritual power evidently wielded by the Prophet and his circle.

    So, when Joseph says, “Let the Elders either obtain the power of God to heal the sick or let them cease to minister the forms without the power,” I think it gives Stapley pause.

    We are all form and little power. This is a bit of a problem for those who believe they hold the Priesthood of God.

  8. endlessnegotiation says:

    J. Stapely wrote: “What type of relationship do you need to walk on water? Or to heal cancer? I don’t know, but I have seen it before.”

    I’ve never seen that kind of faith. Does that justify me assesing your entire argument to be bunk? If what you assert as the main topic of your post is to be believed then the experience you relate should be universal. My experience is that the efficacy of blessings/annointings his capricious at best. Your treatment of the efficacy of blessings seems like another bastardized version of the Law of the Harvest.

  9. Continuing my comment:

    Which is to say (from my point of view, anyway) that if we personally do not demonstrably have the power to heal, we should get out of the business. But again, this is desperately problematic for those of us who feel the priesthood carries the right to this power. It actually doesn’t per se (healing is a spiritual gift), but most of us think it does (or, better: we talk like we think it does).

  10. “We are all form and little power.”

    Well, we’re really zero power, aren’t we? Form is what we have, and what we know. But God, in His mercy, occasionally sees fit to bestow some power through these forms. When everything clicks, it’s a wonderful thing.

    Which is a weird and stupid way of saying that miracles do happen and the priesthood power is a real one, but who knows what it actually means.

  11. When everything clicks, it’s a wonderful thing.

    Steve,

    It seems that what Stapley wants, and what Joseph had, was the power to make it click all the time. Your approach is honest, but do we do act in such an honest manner?

    “Brother Evans, please heal my sick child.”

    (Steve looks around. No other Evans’s about. Cripes!)

    Steve: “OK. But, I have to tell you, faith or no faith, it might click, it might not click. Let’s give it a go!”

  12. I have been able to witness a few minor miracles. The ones I have been closely involved in seemed to have more of the gift of prophesy to them. I almost always know in general what to say in such blessings. Stating them accurately is often difficult.

    I guess I would say I would not give any specific healing blessing unless I had specific inspiration to do so. A good percentage of my blessings end up being quite general with contingencies. Perhaps it is just me.

  13. Eric:
    I guess I am in the same boat, of sorts,I have had many expereicnes where in a blessing I have felt to give a certain bit of council or a certain specific blessing, but in general, if I don’t receive anything, I’d rather not say anything at all.

  14. Ronan, we’re kidding ourselves if we think Joseph had the power to make it click all the time. No man does, save Jesus. What Joseph had, I think, is ability to sense when things were clicking, and the courage and volition to act immediately upon this feeling.

    And yes, it’s tough to tell someone that they might not get healed, faith or no faith. But does God (and experience) permit us to say otherwise?

  15. Dan and Matt, the probelem with your position is, as I see it, that you think everyone should be treated equally by God regardless of the circumstance, their actions or the actions of those around them. Say that I am going to die. I ask someone to administer that has no faith and the ordinance is innefectual. I die. The other option is that I happen to ask someone who has the gift to heal and by great providence my life is spared.

    I was going to die, but by faith, history was changed. That is not a universal right. It simply is a miracle. And miricles are not free to all.

    If you want to argue that there are no miracles, I suggest that this is not the place to do it. If you want to argue that we cannot discern the will of the Lord and that any healing is by his grace alone and we have nothing to do with it, I submit that our history and scriptures are full of evidences to controvert your position.

    I’ve read the accounts of failed healings. By Joseph, even. There is no shame in that. If you haven’t seen miracles in your life and reject my argument becasue of my empericism that is your choice, but again, I think the scriptures are fairly clear on the matter.

    And thanks, Ronan.

  16. There seem to be far to many factors to me than just have it be about the faith or the blesser or the blessed.

    I feel these two things simultaneously:
    1) We’re growing up our faith to recognize that faith is one component to healing and that there are many other components that might impede or override the faith, sometimes that is chance even. To still ask, beg is a sign of humility and adult faith.
    2) Cynical Amri sometimes nags that faith or no faith most of the time we can’t get God to do what we want him to (like healing) and so why do we keep doing things expecting to force God or the universe into something?

    Today feels like a #1 day.

  17. The faith J. is espousing here seems to bear more resemblence to things I see in movies, like “the force” in Star Wars, or the magic in Harry Potter. But where is this kind of “power” manifest anywhere in life? Where are people walking on water. Is there a modern day example involving prophets and apostles in the last 100 years?

    People seem to be only able to point to one kind of “powerful faith,” the faith to heal the sick. But people get sick and either die or are healed all the time. Blessing or no blessing. Priesthood or no Priesthood. Faith or no faith. How can we call these experiences miracles? They’ve happened all the time, since the dawn of man, to the best and worst of people, regardless of religious affiliation, much of the time defying the expectations of Doctors. By all means let’s be grateful, let’s thank God, but I feel funny inside, or get all twisted up in illogical knots when we start to credit this person’s faith or that person’s Priesthood or God’s will.

    Most religious tradition scripture — Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Mormon, Greek/Roman — is replete with examples of such power, although these examples date from hundreds or thousands of years ago. We pick and choose which examples to believe (based, in large part on where we were born), accept them on faith, and then apply their science/physics/mind-bending logic to today. Yikes.

    Oh me of little faith…

  18. I say don’t blame anybody, because there’s no way that you can tell how much faith somebody really has, far less the net faith required in a blessing. In fact, the only guaruntee to know that you yourself don’t have enough faith for something is a realization that you don’t have any. Add that to a limited knowledge of what God wants in a situation (even with revelation, which tends to be precise). So, having enough faith is something that we should always strive for and never worry about. I think it’s kind of like knowing that you’re ‘sufficiently humble’.

  19. I absolutely espouse a charismatic faith, Matt. It, however, is completely dissimilar from the magic of fiction. But as I said, I am not particularly interested in arguing about the veracity of maricles.

  20. Steve,

    When we anoint the sick with oil, we are explicity doing so to heal them. If blessing the sick was simply a case of, “please bless this person, but thy will be done,” it would be a different matter. (I think that’s about all we can hope for, but then I have no faith.) But the language and administration (anointing, sealing) of priesthood healing-blessings in the Church is quasi-magical (for want of a better description).

    In other words, it is an act designed to bind God to the action, not plead for his intersession. We bless, we don’t ask for a blessing. Now, oft times in a “blessing” one hears things like, “we bless you to have the strength to bear this illness.” That’s a fine thing, but it’s not a healing-blessing, and you shouldn’t be anointing someone with oil “that has been set-apart for healing.” So, I repeat my point: we have the form, but little real belief in the power, despite our speech to the contrary.

  21. One small quible Ronan, (and this isn’t something that has been published), but historically, the oil is consecrated for either the “anointing of the sick” or the “healing of the sick.” So historically, the anointing is viewed as a liturgical therapy and one that isn’t explicitly formulated to heal; that is what the words of blessing are for.

  22. Eh?

    If the oil is consecrated to “heal the sick” how is “not explicity formulated to heal” the sick?!

    I’m lost, my good man.

  23. I think Ronan has a good point. If giving blessing is merely asking the Lord to heal someone, then what makes it different than prayer? More clout?

    As the Lord says in John: “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also.”

  24. Let’s say I concecrate the oil to “anoint the sick,” which is fairly common historically. Then all that it is for is to anoint, not to heal, right? Actually, whether it is concecrated for healing or for anointing it is for the same thing. And there is a huge historical precident for the viewing of the anointing as a healing ordinace in and of itself, so I retract my quible.

  25. I just pulled-up the instructions for the ordinance on the church website.

    “States that he is anointing with oil that has been consecrated for anointing and blessing the sick and afflicted.”

    OK, “anointing and blessing” as verbiage do not equal “healing.”

    Still, I stand by my belief that the ordinance is designed to be one that calls down the power of God. “Thy will be done” is never expressed. So, if it does not work, then you are right: it is a simple case of lacking faith.

    This is a very hard thing (as has been amply expressed above) because there is no empirical way of deciding if the healing would have taken place had you had enough faith.

  26. Matt,
    Re: the Force. When I was a kid I used to try to move things with my mind. It is a terrible, cruel thing, you know, that the Force isn’t real.

  27. ““Thy will be done” is never expressed.”

    That’s just not so, Ronan. The entire blessing is to be pronounced as directed by the Spirit. Implicit in this injunction is the notion that you are articulating aloud the will of the Lord. Any person who commands someone to be healed when not feeling so impelled by the Spirit is not performing the ordinance properly.

  28. Well, Steve, I think it goes back to the formulation in the begining of the post. You either pronounce a false healing or false prophecy. Of course we should only pronounce true blessings. However, very few people like to admit the opposite occur. In fact there seems to be a metaphysical urge to construct a scenario where either there is only mystery to obfuscate it.

  29. The Force isn’t real. As if.

    Sheesh.

  30. That’s fine, J. (#19), but it is hard to talk about the faith to perform miracles and not talk about the veracity of miracles. I see them as inextricably intertwined.

    Does such faith exist? That is the question. The only way to know is by looking at the results (i.e. miracles). Sure, we can talk about something and ignore whether it really exists or not, but it seems more like a form of mental masturbation :) — like talking about “the force” or “magic” and not talking about the veracity of forces or magic.

    So, ignoring the veracity of miracles, I guess my only comments would have to do with this issue of “blame,” as it seems to be loaded with potential for pain and suffering, if not abuse. DMike (#18) has some good things to say about the kind of humility I’d expect in this regard.

    Ronan calls you a “Joseph-ite” — aaahhhhh… say no more… to me, the most fascinating of all Mormon “ites.” :) I guess I’m more of a McMurrin-ite or a Bennion-ite… I don’t know. Maybe a B.H. Roberts-ite, especially in his latter years.

  31. Steve,

    Fine. But the fact that, by and large, the kind of miraculous healing power wielded by Elijah, or Jesus, or Joseph doesn’t seem to be around much today* can only mean:

    1. The Spirit isn’t telling us to heal much anymore.
    2. He actually is, but we have no faith.
    3. Miracles don’t actually happen.

    All of these solutions are problematic, especially when we promote a belief in a priesthood that heals. And one that heals by right, and heals often.

    (I’m just trying to figure out how to approach blessing people myself, especially my kids.)

    ___

    *Yes, yes, I’m sure people have stories, but as Matt points out, I don’t think that there’s any good data to suggest that believing, priesthood-adminstered Mormons are being cured of diseases at a greater rate than heathen Gentiles.

  32. Probably a McMurrin-ite.

    If you want to write a post at SSB about how miracles don’t exist, that is fine. But I don’t think that it is too much of a requisite in a conversation about Mormon healing to presuppose that they do.

  33. Ronan (#26): Me too. I concentrated with all of my might to move a spoon across our kitchen table.

    I also tried to exercise Peter-like faith. Peter walking on water was a seminal story for me as a kid. I tried the swimming pool thing too. I was kind of joking, kind of not.

    Not a joking matter was the neighbor’s dog, a HUGE German Shepherd that scared me to death. I walked by their house everyday on the way home from school. (Probably 1st or 2nd grade.) I remember the prayers I said before approaching the house each day, and I actually saw it as a test of faith. I vividly remember thinking, if the dog starts running at me, and if I have faith like Peter, the dog will stop and not hurt me, but if I falter, I’m dog food. I absolutely believed that that kind of faith existed, but wondered if my faith was strong enough. Luckily, I was never put to the test. (The only thing that is strange about the story to me today is that my parents let me walk home from school alone when I was in first and second grade.)

  34. …and a quick aside. I think that we tend to conflate belief and faith. There are many great things that are born of belief. I tend to think, however, that a child’s belief in miracles is quite different than faith sufficient for them.

  35. J. (#32) Actually, I’m not even saying miracles don’t exist. Maybe they do, maybe (I’d say “probably”) they don’t. But I don’t feel as confident about saying they don’t exist as I feel about saying there’s no way for us to know. I don’t want to destroy faith and hope — I guess I’m calling for more humility in the way we 1.) ask for God’s help (let alone miracles); and 2.) credit the results, be they favorable or unfavorable.

    By the way, is “SSB” the official abbreviation for SunstoneBlog around the bloggernacle, and if so, who made this decision? As Kaimi pointed out to me once, does that make Sunstone Magazine “SSM,” an abbreviation loaded with more interesting associations?

    As for a post on miracles at SSB, now that you mention it, I am posting something tomorrow (Thursday) about, I kid you not, The Killers, Howard Jones, and Elvis Presley that I found “miraculous.” Would love to see anyone stop by and weigh in.

  36. Matt,
    My long inactive (actually no longer a member) sister is (was?) a huge Howard Jones fan. If your story is faith-promoting(!), I’ll send tell her to stop by. Maybe it will save her soul. No pressure.

  37. Of course the big catch that will drive the Matt Thurston’s of the world absolutely batty is that the skeptical, balanced view of things they advocate is exactly what kills faith and miracles in J. Stapely’s view. Hence, they can never be satisfied.

  38. I’ve said this, several times, before but I think that the overall lessening of miracles in the church has far more to do with a general trend in (Western) membership to not actually ask for/expect miracles than anything else.

    That said, I don’t know what to think of J’s post. God generally does what God is going to do; sometimes he lets us participate in the process. I am not sure that I have a handle on how faith operates in that process.

  39. I don’t think God makes a “heal or not heal” decision after every blessing. Natural processes explain most of what happens here on planet Earth, and the health, sickness, or injury of the human body is certainly the expression of natural processes. If God decides to intervene and heal a particularly deserving or faithful person once in a while, then may we all shout His praises. But IMHO God intervenes only rarely. Very rarely. Generally nature (assisted by competent medical treatment) takes its course.

    I think that (reading Job) we ought to be careful about inferring faith or lack thereof from healings or failure to heal. In fact, I think that is a destructive and judgmental way of thinking about how God works, *especially* when some people turn it around and conclude that someone was *not* healed because they lacked faith (or that some priesthood holder who gave a blessing lacked faith). That sort of rampant guiltmongering is one of the least attractive features of the LDS community, especially when projected on those who already suffer illness. We are called to suffer with those who suffer and mourn with those who mourn, not tell them it’s too bad they or their loved ones lacked the faith to be healed.

  40. We are called to suffer with those who suffer and mourn with those who mourn, not tell them it’s too bad they or their loved ones lacked the faith to be healed.

    I couldn’t agree more. Theoretically, there is faith possible to move mountains and turn rivers, but I don’t see anypoint in castigating those without it.

  41. Doc (#37), are you saying my lack of faith is keeping J. Stapely’s miracles from happening? If so, I humbly apologize to Mr. Stapely. In any case, I could cite several scriptural examples of miracles that occurred despite the lack of faith of the people.

    Ronan (#36), it probably won’t save her soul, but if she is/was a H.J. fan, and if she’s ever attended a concert (of anyone) in Utah, it will probably make her smile.

  42. Matt,
    Actually I’m just observing. You seem to be saying “prove it,” and J. seems to be saying, “my point exactly.” Your arguments just aren’t that persuasive if you accept that it is a lack of faith that keeps them from occuring.

    For the record, I whole heartedly agree with #40. Observing that one lacks a certain amount of faith is absolutely no reason to castigate them. There are far more eggregious faults one could have. I doubt you could even call a “fault.” However, saying God doesn’t heal because you can’t prove it also seems rather faulty logic to me. Therein lies the rub. It requires faith to believe that healing requires faith.

  43. mullingandmusing (m&m) says:

    Elder Oaks seems to indicate that God’s will has a lot to do with blessings that don’t end up the way we want (which says to me that faith or the lack thereof is not the only factor in the end result of the blessing, although of course that comes into play):

    We can be healed through the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood. Jesus gave His Apostles power “to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease” (Matthew 10:1; see also Mark 3:15; Luke 9:1–2), and they went forth “preaching the gospel, and healing every where” (Luke 9:6; see also Mark 6:13; Acts 5:16). The Seventy were also sent forth with power and direction to heal the sick (see Luke 10:9; Acts 8:6–7).

    Although the Savior could heal all whom He would heal, this is not true of those who hold His priesthood authority. Mortal exercises of that authority are limited by the will of Him whose priesthood it is. Consequently, we are told that some whom the elders bless are not healed because they are “appointed unto death” (D&C 42:48). Similarly, when the Apostle Paul sought to be healed from the “thorn in the flesh” that buffeted him (2 Corinthians 12:7), the Lord declined to heal him. Paul later wrote that the Lord explained, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (v. 9). Paul obediently responded that he would “rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me . . . for when I am weak, then am I strong” (vv. 9–10).

    Healing blessings come in many ways, each suited to our individual needs, as known to Him who loves us best. Sometimes a “healing” cures our illness or lifts our burden. But sometimes we are “healed” by being given strength or understanding or patience to bear the burdens placed upon us.

  44. I guess, m&m, that such cases would fall under the lack of faith to prophecy correctly category.

  45. mullingandmusing (m&m) says:

    I don’t necessarily agree, although sometimes that may the case, J. Take, for example, a woman in our ward who died of cancer last year. Every possible means of exercising faith was implemented by her family and those of us around her. Emails were sent all over the world. Her name was on temple rolls in numerous places, and we were united in faith as a ward in a way perhaps unprecendented. I have never felt such love and unity and faith toward specific ends and purposes in my life. In my mind, her death was not a manifestation of a lack of faith, but a manifestation of God’s will. I am not sure what the specifics of blessings were, but there was a lot of faith all along the way. I just think His will was not known until the end.

    We can only move mountains (literal or symbolic) if it is accordance with God’s purposes to do so. Is God’s will always made known before it happens? I believe that sometimes it isn’t. I took great comfort in the fact that we exerted our faith in significant ways and thus, by such an exercise, we could have the assurance that she was in fact “appointed unto death.” I do not believe that collectively we lacked the faith that could have brought about her healing. I think by exercising our faith without knowing God’s will until she was taken, we all grew in tremendous ways.

    I don’t believe that God’s will is always made known through prophecy. I think sometimes we are allowed to exercise our faith in the best way we know, or toward a righteous goal, and then we submit to His will and let our faith be exercised in HIS end, sometimes after the fact. Faith isn’t always about getting a desired end. It’s about figuring out and conforming to God’s will, and that is made known in different ways. At least those are my thoughts at this point.

  46. You see, m&m, how do you know it wasn’t God’s will. What if just a bit more faith would have been sufficient to save her? The problem I have with your perspective is that it states that whatever the outcome, it was God’s will, which I find hard to imagine.

  47. J.–could you elaborate on your #44 statement? I read the quote from Elder Oaks as implying that sometimes blessings of healing fail, not because of a lack of faith, but because they are inconsistent with God’s will.

  48. could you elaborate on your #44 statement?

    If you are making a pronouncement contrary to God’s will, it would be a false prophecy or a false blessing.

  49. J,

    I typed in a long response to your #15 but forgot to put in my name, so the response disappeared when I tried to submit it. I would tend to just let it go, but the memory of a recent T&S thread where Julie assumed to be accurate an unrebutted mischaracterization of a position taken by Dave is fresh in my mind. Therefore, allow me to briefly list three cases where I think you got my argument wrong.

    First, I didn’t have any intention of disputing the existence of miracles (though a blog that “tolerates dissent, but not stupidity” would not seem to be inappropriate forum for doing so). Next, I didn’t say that God must treat everyone equally regardless of their actions or circumstances. Finally, I didn’t say that we never have anything to do with miracles (though I feel such instances are rare and difficult, but not necessarily impossible, to discern).

    One other thing: my question on how to act if you are right that relatively few have faith to heal is a serious question (despite appearances). Should we seek out the stake president or someone of similar stature when we need a healing blessing, rather than the home teacher? (Yes, I know that some home teachers may have more faith than some stake presidents, but on average, the stake president would be the safer bet, wouldn’t he?)

  50. Great post by J and great comments. I struggle with this all the time. I would venture that when “miracles” occur it is usually due to the tremendous faith of the recipient of the blessing. That’s because I know that when I give the blessings, I’m a lot like Peter. What is it that someone said to Christ: “Yea, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” That’s me. So the miracles that I’ve seen (and I do believe I’ve seen some) as a result of the blessings I’ve given, must have been generated by the recipient in keeping with God’s will. Perhaps that’s unfair to the recipients for whom “miracles” have not occurred, but I just don’t think I have sufficient faith myself to be the “generator” of many miracles on my end.

  51. I just saw Dan’s post. I’m a counselor in a stake presidency, but read my post #50–I want to believe, but I also think I lack sufficient faith to heal at times. I am therefore very grateful for the faith of those that seek blessings from me. I really do believe it is THEIR faith, in the priesthood I hold, that generates the miracles.

  52. Dan, sorry for mischaracterizing your position. As to your question about seeking out certain indaviduals to heal over others. Well, from a historical perspective, there is a lot of precedent for such an activity. There used to be full time healers in the temple (it was their full time job) until the 1920’s. By the 1940’s, however, you find counsel noting the a healing blessing from a patriarch (they were frequently saught out for charismatic rituals) is of a “no higher order” than from other priesthood holders. If I were sick and I had the choice, I would choose the indavidual who had the greater faith to heal, regardless of their position in the church.

    Skip, thanks for your comments. They are always appreciated.

  53. mullingandmusing (m&m) says:

    46
    With all that we went through, and all the people who were involved, I felt very confident that the faith was sufficient. It seems a little bit cavalier of anyone “on the outside” to look at the situation and assume that there simply wasn’t enough faith. Had you participated in the process, perhaps you might have felt differently.

    Add to the fact that a lot of the same people exercised their faith for another man in our stake, and he was miraculously healed.

    Again, I don’t doubt that faith has an influence. But I don’t think we can always chalk unfulfilled desires up to a lack of faith. Otherwise, why would there be a scripture talking about those appointed unto death, for example? And why would Elder Oaks frame things in the way he did? He could have as easily said that sometimes those who pronouce blessings don’t do it right (aren’t speaking by prophecy, as you say), or those who receive them don’t have enough faith. I just don’t see God always holding up a yardstick and thinking, “OK, just try a little harder. More…more! Nope. Sorry, I guess death will have to be the option because you just don’t have what it takes.” Not that He will give a free ride, either, but I think He gives some space for us as we seek to grow our faith, and He has often been quite merciful with us even in spite of our lack of faith at times.

    I suspect there is a little bit of all of this combined in His perfect wisdom and plan for all of us. Faith is a big deal, but mercy can come into play according to His will and knowledge and His timing (which Elder Oaks has addressed in the past as well).

  54. mullingandmusing (m&m) says:

    …and sometimes His will trumps all, regardless of the faith we exert. Faith isn’t about changing God’s will, it’s about aligning ourselves with it.
    Can one give a blessing not in “promise” mode, but in “hope” mode? I believe so. Can’t we do all we can toward an end that we desire, but then sometimes have to apply our faith not in gaining that desire, but in accepting God’s will that is different?

  55. I listedn to a talk this morning by Matthew Cowley given at BYU called Miracles this morning. If anyone is interested in the Warm Fuzzy version of this conversation, I highly recomend it. It’s available at the BYU Speeches website, and is a true Gem.

  56. “OK, just try a little harder. More…more! Nope.”

    Kind of like Peter sinking in the water.

  57. mullingandmusing (m&m) says:

    J., do you think a blessing can be given in “hope” mode rather than prophetic promise mode?

  58. mullingandmusing (m&m) says:

    56
    The Savior didn’t let Peter sink completely. He helped him even though his faith wavered. “And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him….” Isn’t it possible that He does that when our faith wavers with regard to healing that is according to His will but perhaps not quite do-able according to our faith?

  59. I was going to comment but it got kinda long, so I posted it as its own thread over at my site. Enjoy :-)

  60. I am not sure if I am following the “train of thought”, here. What? Blame the “victim”. That is ignorant; possibly arrogant; and, at least absurd! I am impressed–but not favorbly so–that “guilt-tripping people” is ever the cause celébre, in the Church. Appealing to guilt seems, to yours truly, to be a poor way to effect a change of mind or opinion, in another. (Did I just “guilt” you, here, I wonder?) However, calling a spade a spade is a proper start, in my opinion. And, I just did tell it like it is, with this.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Does Priesthood Represent ‘Real’ power? By Jared E. Over at BCC there is an interesting thread going on about what is actually going on about blessings. J. Stapely begins: I remember several discussions where someone asked why it is that sometimes blessings are effectual and other times they aren’t or why sometimes prayers get answer and other times they don’t. My typical response is that it is a matter of faith. If you bless someone to be healed and they aren’t, there are several possibilities: 1) You lack the faith and don’t have the gift of healing; 2) you were actually not trying to heal but were trying to be prophetic. Alas, you lacked the faith to have the gift of prophecy; 3) the person you blessed lacked the faith to be healed. The common response is that these possibilities aren’t acceptable because it is essentially blaming the victim. Yep, it is. So what? [...]

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