We blessed our last child yesterday. I am well aware how difficult this ritual has been for some among us, and I am sympathetic to their concerns. Some of our friends have opted to bless their children at home in order to allow greater fluidity in the ordinance, while others have declined to participate at all. We have chosen to bless our children in the church in the presence of the several communities to which we belong. Though I am intellectually fascinated by the ritual of LDS infant blessing, its apparent connections to Puritan covenantal systems, the close affinity of healing and welcoming new life that it suggests, I wanted today to share a personal testimony.
My wife and I tend to prepare mentally for rituals at the same time that we are eager to be open to spiritual promptings at the actual moment of the experience. In the week leading up to the blessing, I had considered ways to resist Mormon folkways that we have felt to be less-than-inspired. I thought about how to encourage my daughter not to be constrained by antiquated and sometimes toxic visions of gender. I hoped to provide for her blessings of power, of independence, to emphasize her intrinsic worth as she and God decide to define it over the years.
When I held her in my arms, though, surrounded by dear friends and my grandfather, I felt a visceral love for my daughter that stopped me from speaking. I began to cry. My blessing was much less sophisticated than I had intended, but I felt the two of us connected to God, the generations that have gone before, those that will follow after. I remember few details of what I said now, though I remember blessing her to always know of God’s love for her and consecrating her bonds with her siblings, her mother, and the communities God has placed her in. I did not feel to regulate or prognosticate the course of her life but to relish the glorious fact of it, to become aware again with her of the vast family that unites us all regardless of our personal characteristics.
My wife has reminded me that the only times she has seen me actually break down in tears are at the blessings of my children (I get misty-eyed during movies like Children of Heaven or Color of Paradise, but I don’t break down). So be it.
I cannot answer the difficult questions we are posing about how we are to relate as humans within this church, how to sacralize parenthood without demeaning parents. I am not satisfied with explanations of priesthood that invoke the relative inadequacy of men, which seem to make authority a bribe to keep a craven Neanderthal within the compass of the hearth.
With these caveats and disclaimers, though, I would add my voice of worship and love as a grateful father, touched by the sublime enterprise of nurturing. I was transformed, however haltingly and transiently, into a mother. I thank God for his kind and sacred gift to me yesterday. And I thank God for my mighty and glorious wife, with whom I can create new life.