Yesterday was a Sacred Day

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.

Comments

  1. …but I felt the two of us connected to God, the generations that have gone before, those that will follow after.

    Sam, that statement, and the gratitude you convey, capture almost perfectly my own feelings at the blessing of our children.

  2. Wonderful. I experienced the same connection as I saw my children being born. The awe will never leave me that was given me as a great gift. I has been enough to sustain my spirit over the trials and heartaches of real-life parenthood. That holy experiece makes holy everything that came after–the diapers, midnight pacing, bruised knees and broken bones, broken hearts. And it is a feeling that is renewed with grandchildren.

    Thank you for sharing your sacred moment. May the sacred connection grow stronger and stronger through similar experiences.

  3. What a beautiful experience. I can’t impose meaning onto your experience for you, but what reading it meant to me is that maybe all that you felt during that blessing is an answer to all that sometimes bothers us about life or the seeming inequities that it brings…that we are connected to God, to family and to each other (living and dead), and that is really the meaning and purpose of it all. That seems to boil the gospel down to its core and reading of your experience really brought that home to me. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Thanks, Sam.

  5. Beautiful, Sam. Thanks for sharing this.

  6. Thank you for sharing this Sam. I am sorry to have missed it.

  7. Sam – This July will mark 23 years since I blessed my youngest child. And while I have stood in the circle for many other blessings since, including 4 of my own grandchildren, the “connection to God” is not the same for those not offering the blessing. Unlike you, I get weepy over almost anything beautiful in this life.

    Yesterday I attended the funeral of a friend who had slowly dwindled from pancreatic cancer. I guess you could say the beginnings and the ends of life bring us closer to God. I suppose our challenge is to stay just as close during the “in between times.”

    Thank you for your beautiful thoughts.

  8. Thanks for this. The blessings of my two boys stands as the greatest spiritual moment of my life, when I felt that same connection to God you describe.

    I am curious, though, about something you said:

    I was transformed, however haltingly and transiently, into a mother.

    I found this quite surprising as I see that blessing and the feelings and spiritual connection you describe implicit in my normal role of fatherhood. I appreciate you are trying to tread lightly here, but I am sincerely interested to hear more explanation.

  9. Beautiful, Sam.

  10. Wow, Sam. That was just lovely. Thank you for allowing us to share.

  11. Norbert, I appreciate your kind tone and your awareness that I am trying to tread lightly. I guess I meant that in that moment of clarity and connection I felt the overwhelming sense of devotion to a child that culturally we associate with motherhood. This was the reason for my mentioning in advance my concern about the parity of priesthood argument.

  12. m&m you have shared an important and perceptive insight.

  13. cj douglass says:

    I recently blessed my second child. I’m a little ashamed to admit feeling grateful that I was the easy choice to perform the ordinance (as oppossed to both me and my wife holding the priesthood and having to decide who would do it). I know its a selfish feeling and certainly would not want the priesthood withheld from women for such an insecurity. But I also admit feeling a certain connection that I imagined my wife had already felt with this child. Maybe it wasn’t as visceral as, I was transformed, however haltingly and transiently, into a mother, yet it was special and greatly significant. I’m also unsatisfied with notions that the conferral of priesthood relates to the relative inadequacy of men but my own experience, and Sam’s, makes me wonder.

  14. I think that the priesthood, rather than making up for male inadequacies, provides a way for men to serve their families in a way much more personal and spiritual than “merely” earning money. Women, by working in the home, rather than outside of it, have the opportunity to be there when spiritually intimate moments come to their children, but men are more likely to miss out on that. The Priesthood and its responsibilities allow men to make those spiritual moments – to be there when it matters.

  15. I wasn’t quite sure how to go about this, whether there were a way to embrace the great beauty of this ritual without pushing toward discussions about priesthood inequities. Is there a way to celebrate that doesn’t push automatically toward discussions about who gets what and why? I think my vision of this experience was the sense of us all participating together.

  16. A wonderful, worthy post, Sam. I never worry about “priesthood inequities.” In fact, those discussions make me weary. There’s nothing more beautiful than watching your worthy husband bless your child.

  17. Thanks Sam . .

    I remember little of what I said during the blessing of my children. I’m the father of quadruplets and after doing 4 blessings in a row I was completely drained. Like you I had some idea of what I wanted to say and some definite things I wanted to avoid, but in the end I was overwhelmed by the feelings of love and connection between God, my wife and I, and the children.

    When we do the little -hold the child up for everyone to see after the blessing- thing it always reminds me of The Lion King. Good or bad, it makes me laugh.

  18. I was visiting a friend in PA and we went to his family’s community church (sorta evangelical protestant) and they called everyone up to the stage with new babies and the minister said a prayer over them, blessing that they would all grow up knowing God and loving their families. I think baby blessings are nice in any form, I do appreciate the intimate connections that we have with individual baby blessings. I appreciate the priesthood so much in family situations because as families/parents there is so much that is overwhelming and that makes us feel powerless in trying to love these children and help them be happy and productive (I feel that way just being an aunt to SMB’s daughters). In the face of that powerlessness, I feel like the Priesthood gives us power, even if that power is the humility to beg for God’s help.
    I wish I were there, I”m glad Grandpa was there I bet he loved it.
    I’m always glad that you share things like this.

  19. Tiny G – regarding the ritual of holding the just blessed child for everyone to see, I’m reminded of the TV mini-series “Roots” which showed the tradition of Kunta Kinte’s African family tradition of taking a new-born child outdoors on a clear night and while holding the child up high towards the heavens stating the child’s name and then saying “Behold, the only thing greater than yourself.” It struck me as a beautiful gesture.

  20. Thanks, Sam. These are treasures.

  21. Steve Evans says:

    Thanks, Sam. I just remember feeling so dwarfed by the experience of blessing my kids, so humbled by their latent greatness and yet so proud to be associated with them. You’ve captured things really well in this post — thanks again.

  22. cj douglass says:

    lamonte,
    thanks for that thought. It makes me feel better about giving into mormon “folkways”.

  23. Sam: Reading this post touched me deeply, as one whose last child is getting ready to fly the coop in a few months. The time you spent composing that post was well worth it–thank you.

  24. Kevin Barney says:

    Beautiful, Sam.

  25. Thank you, Sam — the rest of you, thank you.

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