“Priests” who don’t know how “to priest”

File under: random observation.

We had the missionaries over for dinner the other day. Nice guys. My kids adore them. Having served in exactly the same ward 11 years ago, I enjoy pontificating about “how to be a missionary in Austria.” They tolerate me.

I asked them to assist me in giving a blessing to my son. A look of worry crossed their faces. “OK…yeah…um…I think I’ve forgotten how to do it, though.” I thought maybe they were worried about the English verbiage after several months of doing church things auf Deutsch. I told them they could do it in German. “Er…hold on…let me just take a look in the handbook.”

Eventually I coached them on how to anoint. I am happy to say that the blessing went well and my son is feeling much better.

There are perhaps a million or so men in the church who actively serve as a lay priesthood, administering church government and performing religious ordinances. That many of us are hesitant when it comes to proper procedure is, in my experience, quite true. (In other words, my ward’s fine missionaries are not alone.) Count me as a little surprised that this vast priesthood receives little training in being “priests.” Of course, priestly work is not the only function of the priesthood, whose greatest sacrament is probably “visiting the fatherless and the widows,” but it’s puzzling nonetheless.

I wonder why there isn’t an official priesthood handbook — given to all — that explains church government, priesthood doctrine, and ritual procedure. Where do priesthood holders go to find such instructions? In the old days it used to part of the priesthood manual, but that is long gone. True, the Family Guidebook and Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood have some of this stuff, but it only seems to be used on an ad hoc basis. How many people even have these books? There’s the Church Handbook of Instructions and its various excerpts, but these have limited circulation. Where is the “White Handbook” for priesthood holders? Should there be regular, official training, a “School of the Priesthood”?

If you are involved in priesthood leadership, please tell us how you go about training the priesthood in their priestly duties.

None of this applies to the Aaronic Priesthood, by the way, who generally administer the sacrament like clockwork. Still, how many Priests would be able to baptise at a moment’s notice?

Comments

  1. I have always thought this kind of instruction should take place between a father and his son. Unfortunately that leaves a large portion of the priesthood body without instruction. Certainly there should be a more concise handbook READILY AVAILABLE. Too often these kinds of details are hid away in the coveted Handbook of Instructions which are passed down like its your grandma’s antique furniture. This should also be spoken of more often in priesthood meetings. What a novel concept! It would also help get rid of these unnessecary add-ins like saying “in the name of” before and after the blessing,” we lay our hands upon your head” and my least favorite, ” in the name of thy Son”.

    Good observations Ronan.

  2. Recently our HP Group has had discussions about our (The HP) responsibility to be the teacher/trainers of priesthood procedures (blessing a baby, laying on of hands, etc) to not only the Aaronic Priesthood holders but also the young Elders who might be hesitant in these matters. This, of course, is because of our vast wisdom.;-) What that means, however, is that the HP need a bit of a refresher course as well. I think it is traditional in the church to leave this teaching up to the fathers but, as CJ has stated above, that leaves a lot of boys – and young men who are converts – without a trainer. When I served as bishop we would try to have priesthood leadership training to cover such matters but I can’t really remember going over the nuts and bolts of giving a blessing. I guess we should stop assuming boys will learn this by observation only and start being more deliberate in our training. Even those “experienced” priesthood holders often get the mechanics incorrect or they follow some misguided pattern (if there is one) in giving a blessing. Those occasional Stake Priesthood meetings that we have twice a year might be a good forum for such training.

  3. At least once a year in every elders quorum I’ve been part of, a quorum presidency member conducts such a lesson on ordinances, usually consulting one of those manuals as he goes. One of the last things in those lessons has always been to have a quorum member consecrate some olive oil. I think it would be great to have an instructional DVD with a member of one of the church’s presiding quorums teaching these procedures.

  4. First, thanks for the links for the ordinances. Today is one of my son’s eighth birthday and the baptism is scheduled tonight. I was going to look for them today so I could get a refresher.

    I am going to be doing the confirmation, and we opened up to him the choice of anyone he wanted for the baptism part. He chose a young priest in the ward who has babysat a few times because he is the “coolest” kid ever. So sometimes the Priest do get to baptise, even when they are not expecting it. As a father, Elder, Home Teacher, and the Young Men’s President I can fully get behind the suggestion of pocket handbook covering all the basics.

  5. As a woman who grew up in a semi-active household with a single mom, I am stunned, simply shocked, I tell you, that you guys don’t have a rule book or something. I thought that this is exactly what you didin your secret all-mail priesthood meetings. Learned the rituals and blessings and roles of the priesthood. How silly of me. Now, here I am, years later married to a guy without the priesthood, and I’m worried to hear you say that my son will have no one to train him properly.

    BTW, said little boy was in the hospital last month and I called the missionaries for a blessing. They came along with the elderly missionary couple who attends our ward, and the old guy had to instruct the missionaries there in the hospital room how to do it. The boys were really nervous, like they’d never done one before. Maybe they hadn’t! (My son made a miraculous recovery and was released from the hospital the next morning, too).

  6. The smartest thing mt mission president did was give us all the priesthood manual and ask that we study it regularly. He would often quiz us about it each Zone Conference.

    Like John Mansfield, it seems each year in EQ we also go over the various ordinances.

  7. What a great topic, Ronan. For many years starting in the 1920′s or so, there was explicit instructions in the Priesthood handbooks to not hand out instructional materials. I think there was a number of reasons for this – to minimize the possibility of having formulaic expressions and the church was slowly moving away from anointing afflicted regions of the body, so praxis was changing. The sisters in the 19th and 20th century were asked not to write down formulas for their administrations as well. Starting in the 40′s the church starting giving instructions again. Now the ordinance portion of the CHI is available through the distribution center for all members if I am not mistaken.

    Having grown up in a home where blessings were common, there wasn’t much training to be done, but with the majority of the church membership not in the same boat, I can see how this is something important to teach.

  8. Kevin Barney says:

    In wards I have attended, EQ used to devote an annual lesson to priesthood ordinances, including actually consecrating oil and making it available in containers, just as John in #3 describes. These lessons were based on the material in the back of the manual that summarized all of the ordinances.

    But Ronan is right, with the new manuals that lack that material, I haven’t seen such a lesson for many years now. Out of sight, out of mind, I guess.

  9. We do priesthood training somewhat regularly in the ward I’m in. It’s a good refresher, but can sometimes be somewhat tedious, since for many, it is like bicycle training after a certain point. When I was new though, it was very much appreciated. I think the best training in ordinance work is, just like with the Aaronic Priesthood, on the job training. Thus, the best thing to do is to offer as many opportunities as possible to those Young in the presthood to see not only the workings of the priesthood, but also the value of it. Things that are considered valuable are remembered.

  10. Matt,
    I think the oldies would benefit too, especially as the handbooks often show that some of our more beloved flourishes are unnecessary bumf. (Pet hate: “the name by which he shall be known on the records of the church is…” to give one example).

  11. So you don’t have to say “the name by which he shall be known on the records of the church is” in the naming blessing?

    Actually, I’m kind of glad to hear that.

    (This is not a blessing I’ve performed before)

  12. What role does the MTC play in preparing young elders for missions in this regard? Do you get instruction in giving blessings, consecrating oil, etc. before heading out on a mission?

  13. Ardis Parshall says:

    The MTC tries to teach incoming missionaries how to use a fork and how to tie the ties they used to get their mothers to tie for them — don’t they take an hour to teach the elders how to perform basic priesthood ordinances? This post and some comments would suggest not.

  14. Ardis Parshall says:

    Sorry, kris, now I’ve been the victim of the dread cross-posting.

  15. danithew, we actually use different names for our children in church in order to comply with the “records of the church” requirement. Zaphnath-pa-a-neah is my favorite, though my wife prefers Mithra.

  16. I don’t remember much instruction on ordinances in the MTC. I remember going over how to say them in Spanish, but not much else.

  17. This isn’t limited to young missionaries. A couple of months ago, one young boy turned twelve and was ready to be ordained a deacon. Both the boy’s father, who did the ordinance, and the bishop had to look at the Handbook to be sure how to do it. The bishop had to look pretty hard in the Handbook to find it, too. One thing that bothered me about getting blessings from my father was that he never said “I/we bless you.” His blessings were always “I ask that Heavenly Father bless you.” After all, the point of giving a blessing is that the person is giving the blessing. If I wanted a prayer, I would have asked for a prayer. I wanted a blessing, so please give me a blessing (end rant).

    This has always stuck me as ironic, because the D&C says that it is through the ordinances that the power of the priesthood is made manifest. how can it be made manifest if priesthood holders aren’t trained, and how can we be trained if it is so hard to find instructions?

    And for the unusual ones, like dedicating a grave? When my brother-in-law dedicated my father-in-law’s grave, the funeral director (LDS, of course) had to coach him through it.

  18. “Pet hate”? Come on, Ronan. It is one thing to recognize that the phrase is unnecessary. It is another to hate it. Your initial post strikes the right cord: we should better train our priesthood on how to administer the ordinances of the gospel. Comment 10 strikes a different, less charitable tone altogether.

  19. Another horror story:

    A man was ordained to the priesthood in front of the Quorum a couple of weeks ago. The bishopric member brought him to the front then asked the EQP to do it. The EQP looked horrified and clearly didn’t know what to do. It was painful. They spent 2 minutes whispering back and forth as to how to do it. In the end, they did it all wrong. No-one said anything.

  20. MDS,
    I’m full of hyperbole. I hate Paris Hilton too.

  21. Where’s these Elders’ mission president? Don’t they have zone conferences where they teach this stuff?

    Missionaries shouldn’t have an excuse to not know how to perform an ordinance because 1) they have the Missionary Handbook that tells them how to do them and 2) they should be performing ordinances as much as possible. OK, maybe if you’re in a mission that doesn’t baptize you’ll be out of practice on how to baptize, but there are plenty of opportunities to bless the sick or leave a blessing on someone’s home.

    I can understand a newly ordained Elder not knowing how to perform an ordinance, but missionaries? That’s weak.

  22. So you don’t have to say “the name by which he shall be known on the records of the church is” in the naming blessing?

    I Always thought that was for suspense if the name of the baby was kept secret before the blessing, or if they had a really cool middle name.

    One thing that bothered me about getting blessings from my father was that he never said “I/we bless you.” His blessings were always “I ask that Heavenly Father bless you.” After all, the point of giving a blessing is that the person is giving the blessing.

    When Elder Nelson visited our stake last year, he made a point of mentioning the difference between a blessing and a prayer. I was especially interested because a baby had been prayed over rather than blessed in sac mtg the week before (by an especially pompous, know-it-all,um, brother in the gospel) and it was great to hear it from the horse’s mouth. (Not that Elder Nelson looks, acts or behaves like a horse.)

  23. Poor Ronan — didn’t you get in trouble for “hating” Captain Moroni awhile ago? I’m wondering if the problem here has less to do with training but how we fundamentally view ritual — such comments above as seeing the training as “tedious” or the idea that men are sometimes reluctant to perform such ordinances makes me wonder if there are greater issues at play here.

  24. If I had a quaret for every pet hate of Ronan’s…

    It is not wrong to say the “name…records…church…is” bit, It would be wrong however to deny the validity of the blessing for it not being said.

    I believe we were issued doucmentation on how to perform each of the ordiances in the MTC, maybe it was even in the white handbook. I can not recall for certain. Anyone have their white handbook still?

  25. Performance anxiety is definitely part of performing the ordinances. At the end of my mission my companion and I went upstairs in the Chile Santiago mission home to visit with a sick elder who had been sent there to recuperate. As we were talking there was a knock on the door and in walked a visitor to the mission, Boyd K. Packer. He talked with the elder for a few minutes and then announced that he would like to give him a blessing. He turned to us and said, “I’d like the senior companion to annoint and I will seal the annointing.”

    I was the senior companion. Hearts raced, palms sweated, consecrated oil was shakily applied…

  26. I’m not sure what is stopping priesthood holders from just asking about it. I remember actively seeking to learn how to perform the ordinances and then making up my own little cheat sheet to keep in my scriptures (which I promptly tossed in the trash when I found a better cheat sheet in Desert Book). As a priesthood holder the responsibility to learn how to perform your calling is up to you.

    /Three points to me for playing the Holier-than-thou card
    //Two additional points for playing the card from my soapbox

  27. I’ve never found it surprising that anointing and blessings are not commonly known among elders (not just missionaries). You’re never going to remember everything you need to remember unless you do it enough times to etch the procedure into your brain. And the truth is, your average elder is not going to have a lot of opportunities for a blessing of health. I didn’t know what to do all that well until I was put into a calling that made me do two or three of these within the same week. Since then, I’ve never forgotten. But I’m not sure I would know but for that calling and a particularly bad health week for the ward. The reason the deacons are so good at passing the sacrament is because they do it all the time. Blessings of health? Not so much.

    Moreover, I think that blessings of health are especially hard, as you have to first anoint and then seal and confirm the anointing and then do the blessing. I’m sure a theologian on the board can tell me why I need two laying on of hands to perform what is essentially one function, but it’s certainly not intuitive (at least for me).

    Also, in all the blessings I’ve given, I’ve never been quite sure how to say I’m using consecrated oil (“I hereby state that I’m using consecrated oil…” or “We are anointing you with consecrated oil…” or “You know the oil on your head? It’s consecrated.”). And I’m still not clear on why that statement has to be part of the anointing anyway. Can’t it just be assumed?

    Lastly, a word on baby blessings. Those tend to be complicated, I think, because it’s essentially a prayer, but a prayer about the person you’re blessing. That is, most blessings should go: “Lord, we bless this child that…” over and over again. But again, that’s not exactly intuitive, and so you find most people changing who they’re talking to in the middle of the blessing: they open by talking to the Lord, and somewhere in the middle they start talking to their kid.

  28. My pet peeve is people saying “power” instead of “authority.” That happens all the time. Probably because their dads all said power.

    Were the missionaries new? It’s quite possible a year ago, they were both wondering who they would ask to the prom.

    Matt: The ordinances were in the white handbook.

  29. What about making a point of removing your hands and then reapplying them between the anointing and the blessing as if it’s necessary to so distinguish between the anointing and the blessing? I don’t do it, but I notice that many do.

  30. I’ve always removed my hands. Partly because I was taught that it was the appropriate thing to do. Partly because it give a chance for the person who is voicing the sealing to collect their thoughts.

  31. It does need to be addressed. In a previous ward we would do a quarterly training on ordinances. I believe it helped out tremendously.

  32. I always understood that annointing with oil and sealing the annointing/pronouncing the blessing were separate ordinances. In a pinch, I have done both with my wife, and I lifted my hands between the two to be sure one was complete and the other started.

    Where did you get that cheat sheet? I have one that was copied from an old priesthood manual–back when every manual had a lesson on the ordinances.

  33. Yeah,

    Its an interesting topic.

    I pretty much do not get wrapped up in most of the small details of blessings. I rarely call over a fellow elder at night at 12AM for a sick child. has there ever been an official ruling on the need for both an annointer and the Voice?

    The place for addressing this issue is in quorum meetings. I have seen a yellow card with explicit instructions? Usually laminated?

    Their are a few ordinances with exact phrases. Sac prayer, baptisms, confirmations, etc Most run of the mill comfort or sick blessings have a great deal of freedom of language

  34. Funny story regarding baby blessings.

    Joseph Fielding Smith according to rumor and gossip at the church office building used to always bless his grandkids. He would apparently pull a name out his hat different from what the parents had decided.

    After some initial shock the first couple of times around the family decided that since he was a apostle these names were coming from Inspiration.

    I have threatened to do this 4 times now with my wife and each time received no additional name to add at the time of my kids blessings. If and when we have a #5 I will test this theory out again and see what happens. My wife of course threatens to bring my deer rifle and have the crosshairs on my forehead for #5′s blessing. I can see the headlines now…. “Mormon elder changes childs name during Christening, receives a 30 caliber present from Spouse” Later in the article the policw would announce no charges filed and thank my wife for missing the other family members.

  35. “I thought that this is exactly what you didin your secret all-mail priesthood meetings. Learned the rituals and blessings and roles of the priesthood. How silly of me”

    Meems, I sat in on priesthood once and that’s what they were doing! The topic was how to name and bless a baby, with direct instruction and lots of questions about how and why things are done. It seemed they did this with some regularity.

  36. cchrissyy, they were only doing that because you were there. I’m sure that their regular meetings are more after the fashion of the secret handbook, involving ribs, idle speculation and video games.

  37. My grandfather gave my uncle a different name in his name and blessing than the one my grandmother had picked out previously. I guess my grandfather wanted something different, and decided to slip it into the blessing–she was helpless to stop him and then it was official on the church records. I’m not sure how it affected the birth certificate though. She still brings it up with a certain amount of rancor.

  38. Like was said in 27, I think the problem isn’t in the teaching or resources as much as it is in the “practice.” That stuff usually gets taught in EQ once a year. But I’m surprised the missionaries didn’t know it.

    I know most of the ordinances from constant repetition on my mission (15 years ago). TStevens, my son is 8 today as well. Small world. I haven’t baptized anyone since my mission, but I know the words (at least in spanish) without hesitation.

    Maybe we just need to involve more priesthood holders in the ordinances that some of us do quite frequently. I’m sure the original apostles learned from watching Jesus do it, not from a great meeting he had with them.

    Regarding the unnessecary language, some of it bothers me, but I feel we need some of it just to have a flow. Ronan, are you suggesting “HF, by the authority of the MP, his name is John. John, be good…?” That’d seems weird to me.

  39. I have seen a yellow card with explicit instructions? Usually laminated?

    The irrefutable indicium of authority and authenticity: lamination.

  40. I am currently serving as a rookie on the High Council (less than a year), and it is interesting to note that each week in our meeting, we spend time getting instruction from the HB on various topics. We did get some specific training on how to do MP ordinations recently. Other recent topics include funerals, purpose of and how to conduct meetings, and similar things. This is done with the idea that we are then to go to our assigned wards, and teach those same things to the HP group leadership, and EQ presidency. I think we covered blessings a few months back, and hit some of the things that are covered here, such as pronouncing the blessing, rather than just stating a prayer. Hard to tell, because our meetings start at 6 AM.

    As to my own ward, when I’ve been awake in HP quorum, I seem to remember dreaming about the ordinance of consecrating oil, and how to raise Eutychus from the dead after falling out of the third story window (one of my favorite NT stories).

    My take is that we could do a better job of this, and it’s probably my responsibility to do it (I think I was awake for that part, as well).

  41. The implied question here is easy to answer, and I’m surprised that it comes up so often.

    In fact we so strenuously abjure the very idea of formalized rituals, that it thus becomes a question of whether the simple act of committing to paper some kind of outline constitutes moving toward establishing a set “prayer”.

    Perhaps the root of this consistent and recurring uncertainty is that it is so difficult to maintain a dependency on spiritual guidance and inspiration. It takes a constant effort to stay in contact with the powers of heaven. How much simpler to just recite a pre-written formula?

    Before you ask for a cheat-sheet, please seek to learn the real purpose of priesthood blessings and ordinances. Seek inspiration from God before presuming to act in His name. Here’s an outstanding example to start from – Matthew Cowley’s classic speech, “Miracles”.

  42. Oops, lost the link for that speech.

    http://www.lightplanet.com/response/cowley.htm

  43. Joe B,
    The handbook instruction on naming children is as follows:

    1. Addresses Heavenly Father.
    2. States that the blessing is given by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood.
    3. Gives the child a name.
    4. Gives a priesthood blessing as the Spirit directs.
    5. Closes in the name of Jesus Christ.

    So, how about, “we give this child the name…” or, “we name her…”

    Really, I don’t hate the fluff; mostly I find it amusing how habitual our language can become.

    I once had a bishop correct me in a blessing when, in fact, I was doing it right. I hated didn’t like that one bit.

  44. My pet peeve is people saying “power” instead of “authority.” That happens all the time. Probably because their dads all said power.

    Grrr, I hate this in a Ronan type of way as well.

  45. It is the responsibility of each priesthood holder to learn his duty. DC 107, last verse, I think. Then, the Priesthood leaders are to instruct. Also DC 107: 25 -29, or so. (Leaders are to teach according to the covenants)

    The Family Guide Book, available online, has all the ordinances listed and available for all to read, and for Priesthood holders to access so they don’t need to wait until that one week in priesthood meeting when the ordinances are covered.

  46. NoCoolName_Tom says:

    As an employee for Distribution Services, I want to echo Rich’s comment on the Family Guidebook. In fact, the Church has at least three publicly available sources that contain this information: the Family Guidebook, the Melchizedek Priesthood Section of the Church Handbook of Instructions Book 2, and the Missionary Handbook (they’re still in there even after the major revision the handbook went through last year).

    I find the guidelines interesting because some parts are quite vague (e.g., where it states to “give a priesthood blessing as the Spirit directs” after you “give a child a name”) while other parts are extremely detailed (e.g., the sacrament section). It seems, though, that since these ordinances are contained in the Missionary Handbook, I would hope that missionaries would be as familiar with them as they are with other aspects of the handbook, like the basketball rules (no full-court, no score-keeping, etc).

  47. I went to the NZ MTC and President Hanks went through all the ordinances with us. This has ben repeated many times in EQ since, both in the areas i served and at home.

    Also, recently every member in our ward was given the Family Guidebook.

    So if someone in my area doesnt know how its done, they are probably very slack… :P

    I think also people get worried about “getting it right” so they get too nervous and want someone to tell them how it is to make sure.

  48. I agree with #41, and it seems to me that that is a pretty good rationale for NOT having an omnipresent handbook for performing priesthood ordinances. The plain fact is that, despite the tendency of many toward pharisaical (is that a word?) rule-making, there are precious few real rules about how to do these things other than the only real rule that counts: Follow the spirit. If you have that one down, none of the others, including your silly “pet hates” matter at all.

  49. Umm…why must one say “by the AUTHORITY of the priesthood” instead of “by the POWER of the priesthood” when performing ordinances? Is there some rule or precedent I should know about? Just curious.

  50. Ronan, I’m in a stake presidency in an established stake in California. We were just talking the other day in stake presidency meeting about the need to blanket the stake with the Family Guidebook that you mention for precisely the reason that you mention–i.e., that it explains how to perform priesthood ordinances and blessings and it does NOT appear to be widely disseminated even though it clearly states that it is intended “for all members.” Maybe I’ve missed the memo, but I do think the general Church leadership ought to be more proactive in ensuring that this guidebook gets distributed throughout the Church.

  51. In answer to an earlier question, here is a quote from the most recent Church HB of Instructions, Book 1, p. 38: “Normally two or more priesthood holders administer to the sick, but one may perform both the annointing and the sealing alone if necessary.” Recently I annointed and sealed a blessing of my sick son in the middle of the night–it seemed to work just fine…

  52. Re: 49
    “All of us who hold the priesthood have the authority to act for the Lord, but the effectiveness of our authority—or if you please, the power that comes through that authority—depends on the pattern of our lives; it depends on our righteousness” (H. Burke Peterson, Conference Report, Apr. 1976).
    There is a clear difference between authority and power. Authority, or the right, to use the priesthood is given to all priesthood holders. Power, or ability, to use the priesthood is predicated on righteousness. Since “authority” and “power” are not synonyms, I think it is important to follow the guides given us and use “authority” instead of “power.”

    Family Guide Book, Chapter 18

  53. Re: 49
    “All of us who hold the priesthood have the authority to act for the Lord, but the effectiveness of our authority—or if you please, the power that comes through that authority—depends on the pattern of our lives; it depends on our righteousness” (H. Burke Peterson, Conference Report, Apr. 1976).
    There is a clear difference between authority and power. Authority, or the right, to use the priesthood is given to all priesthood holders. Power, or ability, to use the priesthood is predicated on righteousness.

    Obviously, having the authority and power are necessary. Since “authority” and “power” are not synonyms, I think it is important to follow the guides given us and use “authority” instead of “power.” (Family Guide, chapter 18)

  54. Interesting that it really isn’t until the twentieth century that you mentioned priesthood at all.

  55. Notice that the language used by John the Baptist in ordaining Joseph and Oliver makes no mention of power, authority or priesthood, or for that matter the actual name of the Lord. He only says “in the name of Messiah.” Given that, I wonder if it really matters whether we use certain words, as long as we actually have the authority and are guided by the spirit.

  56. I agree that the required verbiage is policy, not doctrine, but the policy is clear. I’m not an apostle, so I’ll stick with their guidelines until the policy changes. There is plenty of opportunity remaining in blessings to be prompted by the spirit.

  57. I’m not suggesting that anyone ignore the policy. There is a tendency, though, for more “policies” to creep in as time goes on. For example, you never used to hear about this distinction between power and authority. I remember hearing both said in almost every ordinance ever performed, e.g.: “By the power and authority of the MP, which I hold” Was that really wrong? Were all those ordinances improperly performed? I think not. Does the Lord really care whether you state that you have the authority, or does he only care whether you actually have it?

    My point is that, while its good to have policies and guidelines and some uniformity in performance of these ordinances, the more policies we have, the more training is required, and the more we will get away from the fact that, in my view at least, there are very few real “requirements” (as opposed to “policies”) in the performance of these ordinances.

  58. I guess I need to clarify my earlier post (#55). John did not “ordain” Joseph and Oliver, he merely “conferred” the priesthood of Aaron, following which they baptised each other and then “ordained” each other to the priesthood, which I suspect means that they were “ordained” to the office of priests. This is a very interesting distinction. Does anyone know why John did it this way?

  59. I’ve never heard anyone insist that an ordinance be redone because someone said power instead of authority, nor do I believe that the ordinance would not be in effect. I also think saying “power and authority” covers the guideline.

    I actually agree with your logic. I have the same feelings about alot of policy in the church, especially some policies enacted at local levels or BYU. But I take seriously the policies regarding excercising the priesthood, even if in the end my striving for the spirit is more important than achieving exactness.

  60. The temple ordinances are the only ones that are to be redone if not performed correctly. Blessings, and ordinations are not in that category. PH holders can go pretty far from the best verbiage and will not be asked to try again. That does not justify their sloppiness, but is to explain why the leadership lets such mistakes stand.

    I’ve been a witness at baptisms, both within and without the temple, and I tell you that if it is not done correctly, it will be repeated. But there are not two witnesses to attest to the correctness for blessings, or even ordinations.

    #52 said it well about the authority vs. power. All MPH holders have authority to bless the sick, and all fathers have the authority to bless their children. But one holding the keys must direct the baptising or ordination of someone, before anyone holding the PH can perform the ordinance.

    One of my favorite stories was about B. K. Packer at a conference in Europe. I can no longer remember many details. But he was asked to ordain a young man to the MPH and the office of Elder immediately after the conference session. He asked the young man where his father was. His father was sitting with his mother at the back of the auditorium. Elder Packer asked the young man if his father didn’t hold the MPH? The young man said, Yes, he does, but he hasn’t been active in several years. Elder Packer asked the young man to bring his father down, and they would have the father ordain his son. As the lad went to get his father, one of the other PH leaders there asked Elder Packer why he would not ordain the man as asked? Elder Packer said that it was the right of fathers to ordain their sons, and it was so in order to build families, which is what HF was doing. Then Elder Packer was asked, What if the father hadn’t the PH? Elder Packer said, In that case, we’d have ordained the father, and then he’d have ordained his son.

    In my brief contacts with general authorities, and in my study of them and their teachings, one generalization comes out. They seem to be always focusing on what God is trying to accomplish. We might say following the spirit, although I think they often figure it out on their own, by focusing on what God is trying to accomplish.

    I heard a temple president once tell of an occasion when his five year old son taught him about faith. His boy’s pet frog had died, and his boy came and asked Dad’s help with the frog. Dad was busy in his study and put the boy off, planning to help his son bury the frog in the back yard later. But an hour later, Dad asked the boy why he had cheered up so much. The boy explained that after Dad put him off, he had gone back to his dead frog and had asked God to heal the frog, and now the frog was alive and active again. This great PH leader testified that his son’s frog had been dead and was again alive, because of the sincere prayer, and faith, of his five year old son.

    Power is faith – faith is power. Unordained children can have great faith = power. Priesthood authority is not power. Yet, if we have faith in what we do with our PH, we ought to just do it. “I command thee in the name of JC to be well,” or “I rebuke this disease in the name of JC,” of “I/we bless you . . . . .”

  61. Space Chick says:

    Soooo…to sum up:

    1. We all need to ask for blessings more often so priesthood holders would get more practice.

    2. If the sisters held priesthood authority, there would be lots of copies of handbooks available explaining the process and suggested wording, with embroidered and crocheted covers.

  62. Some interesting points have been made. I finally had to ask the first counselor in the bishopric how to give priesthood blessings because I had no idea how to do them, I felt like it was just expected of me to know how to do it! After I asked him for help a class was held in elder’s quorom.

    Speaking of the missionaries and being unprepared, when my family first was baptized and I still held just the Aaronic Priesthood we had the missionaries over for dinner one night. My back had been hurting for a number of days from a back injury I suffered a few years prior and I asked for a blessing. Imagine my surprise when the senior companion told me he didn’t have any oil so he couldn’t give me a blessing!

  63. Tony,

    he a)should have had oil, b) should have asked if you had any olive oil he could concentrate, or c) should have given you a blessing anyway.

  64. Kyle,

    Yes, it would have been nice if any of those things would have happened! Needless to say, I survived (the bishop gave me a blessing a week or so later) but my impression of the missionaries dropped just a tad after that as I was bitterly dissapointed that they couldn’t give me a blessing.

  65. Trueheart: I just couldn’t disagree with you more. First of all, it’s not just temple ordinances. As you say in your next paragraph (which, incidentally, contradics your first paragraph) baptisms have to be word perfect. The same is true of sacrament prayers. Neither of these are temple odinances. Also, there are witnesses to blessings and ordinations. They could be redone if it were of critical importance that certain words be used. The fact is, that is just not important in the performance of those ordinances. All of which means that you should probably can the use of a term like “sloppiness” when talking about the way someone else performs an ordinance. My point all along has been that some ordinances simply don’t require linguistic precision to be acceptable to the Lord. If HE isn’t calling them sloppy, maybe you shouldn’t either.

  66. I think I know why “power” instead of “authority” bugs me. Knowing the “proper” way of doing things is part of being prepared. It’s like not having oil. I don’t believe using oil really make a difference, especially now that we only use a drop on the head regardless of where the ailment is. But we are instructed to use it for health blessings, so we do. Can an unprepared elder give a health blessing without oil? Yes. Can an unprepared elder say power instead of authority? Yes.

  67. I know I am very late to this discussion, but until today, I had no idea there was such a thing as the Family Guidebook.

  68. You’re not the only one. I think the last update was in 2000. I’ve never actually seen one in print. It’s not like they hand it out in sacrament meeting.

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