Empty Words: Struggling with the Gift of Healing

Aaron R. (also known as Rico) is a life-long British member of the church. He supports QPR F.C., listens to Mumford and Sons and is currently completing a Ph.D in Sociology. He has two daughters (Amelie and Jude) and lives just outside London in a tiny flat with a wife who wishes he would get a proper job, earn some real money and stop blogging at Mormon Matters. We’re delighted to have Aaron as our guest.

When my first daughter, Amelie, was 7 months old she fell off the table onto the floor.

A mixture of neglect and thoughtlessness caused the accident. We tried to comfort her as best we could and she seemed to settle down fairly quickly. We thought everything was fine, although we acknowledged how lucky we were.

Later that day, we took Amelie to the park but noticed that she was not responding to sound in the way we grown accustomed in those first few months. We tried different tests but nothing seemed to elicit the expected response. We began to suspect the fall had caused some damage to her hearing.

Walking quickly back to our flat we discussed the possible options and my wife suggest that I give her a blessing, and I agreed. As we sat together as a family on my couch, my wife holding my daughter, I anointed her head (still soft from her birth) and then gave her a blessing.

I have always struggled to give blessings of healing. I fear making false promises to individuals who might desperately hold onto any idea of hope or healing and then see them fail. Moreover, though I believe in God’s power to heal, I also am unsure about the role I play as a Priesthood holder. Am I a vehicle, conduit, or petitioner?

With hands placed upon my daughters head, holding back tears, I could find no words. The impressions I have experienced so readily with other blessings of comfort or ordination seemed to dry up; and I was left alone. Brigham Young’s words haunted my attempts to connect with God’s spirit and love: ‘In many instances our anxiety is so great that we do not pause to know the spirit of revelation and its operations upon the human mind. We have anxiety instead of faith.’

Anxiety crippled my faith.

I muttered some empty words with a heavy heart and closed in the name of Jesus Christ. Our hospital visit showed no signs of damage and our daughter, to this day, has no problem with her hearing.

Driving home we discussed my blessing and whether it had an impact; I was skeptical because of my own lack of faith in giving the blessing. I felt that we had simply mis-read the signs, but my wife believed that it was possible that the offering of my faith to the Lord was enough. ‘Lord I believe; help thou my unbelief’.

This struggle returns to me now, because my step-father (one of the greatest and most faithful people that I know) is dying of Motor-Neurons Disease; and I want to heal him – for me and for my mother.

But I am not sure that I have the faith.

Comments

  1. Rico,

    I have a lot of empathy for what you write here. Five weeks ago my father was in the hospital with a Pulmonary embolism and no treatment options were looking good. I was his primary advocate and liaison with the medical staff at the hospital. I so wanted to give him a blessing, but I was overwhelmed with stress, lack or sleep and powerful emotions. I knew I could not get through a blessing. I decided to call some local ward members to give the blessing. On one level the priesthood is the priesthood but it felt very strange to have someone else bless my father. I did find the blessing helped me a good deal, by calming me down, and giving me peace. My father died a day and a half later. I am still processing how I feel about it all.

    In the context of your post you write “Am I a vehicle, conduit, or petitioner?” Aren’t we all three in these situations?

    you write: “my step-father (one of the greatest and most faithful people that I know) is dying of Motor-Neurons Disease; and I want to heal him – for me and for my mother.

    But I am not sure that I have the faith.”

    Are you sure that your faith and your blessing would be aligned with God’s will or the potential outcomes of the situation. Or are you hoping that you have enough faith to create a miracle of healing beyond the medical possibilities and regardless of divine will?

  2. Anxiety crippled my faith.

    I muttered some empty words with a heavy heart and closed in the name of Jesus Christ.

    Yeah. I (sadly) am very familiar with that sequence, and it has (again, sadly) at times caused me hesitation not only in giving a blessing with full confidence, but also in even offering to give a blessing. And yet. Still, despite those periods of confidence, I have experienced a great blessing-in-blessing multiple times after such a lukewarm experience, wherein my faith was restored by a confidence and an outcome that surely was not warranted by my own faith.

  3. Rico, I like the way you’re framing this. In the context of blessings we’re dealing with multiple sets of confusing attributes — about ourselves, about the nature of God’s intervention, and about the nature of the priesthood. There are no solid answers, I fear, but the potential for haunting guilt seems virtually omnipresent. Sometimes blessings leave me feeling really doubtful and shattered. And yet… some times when I have blessed my kids, everything clicks and the whole experience has been natural and wonderful.

  4. Last Lemming says:

    First, I think it’s important to distinguish between giving a priesthood blessing and having the gift of healing. I don’t see the purpose of a priesthood blessing to necessarily be to heal the recipient, and I don’t see the gift of healing as being restricted to priesthood holders. I see my responsibility as a priesthood holder to be to learn the will of the Lord and pronounce it in such a way as to benefit the recipient and anybody else in earshot. If his will is for the recipient to be healed, state that. If not, give a blessing of comfort, if such would be well received. But it is a mistake to try to heal somebody without regard to the Lord’s will.

    Anecdotally, I heard a brother tell how he administered a priesthood blessing to keep his mother alive. He soon realized that this was not the will of the Lord as he had just prolonged her agony, so he laid hands on her again and rescinded his blessing. My conclusion that a priesthood holder’s first responsibility is not to heal but to learn the will of the Lord is driven by circumstances like that.

    For the reasons implied by Douglas Hunter, I am a big advocate of having somebody with at least one degree of emotional removal give blessings. That doesn’t address the underlying questions raised by Aaron, but does increase the probability that a blessing will serve its true purpose. (Don’t interpret this to mean that a father should never bless his own family. In most circumstances, a father should be able to keep his priorities straight. But in life and death circumstances, stepping back might be the wise thing to do.)

  5. I think it has always been a struggle, since the very beginning.

  6. Benjamin Orchard says:

    There are some things in the church with which I struggle. My own worthiness to administer a blessing of healing is a bigger concern than whether or not the blessings work.

    When my father was very sick with advance lymphoma (cancer of lymph nodes), we took a trip to California to see my sister graduate college, and then to Utah on what we were positive was his last trip west. We were staying with my aunt in Tooele, when in the middle of the night, my mother walked past the hide-a-bed couch I was sleeping on.

    I asked what was going on, and she told me: dad was throwing up blood and needed to go to the hospital. As I lay there wondering what to do, the most clear impression I have ever had came to me: “Give your dad a blessing”. Newly ordained to the M.P., I hesitated, but when I felt the same prompting again, I did that. I got up, dressed, and we called another priesthood holder to assist.

    I don’t recall the words of the blessing exactly except for one bit: dad was told he would gain some strength for a time before passing away. He was rushed to the hospital, recovered enough to finish our travels, and passed away a few months later on October 1, 1995. I had been ordained on May 21, 1995, and we were in Utah around 12 June of that year.

    What is the role of the priesthood bearer? To get out of the way of the Spirit, and let the Lord make his will known. I feel that we do ourselves a great disservice when we agonize over the words and the details of a blessing. The purest faith is one that simply pronounces the words that the Lord puts there.

    It is tempting to agonize over various details. Don’t. I’ve also heard a number of brethren state that the ‘know’ a blessing was done by the power of the spirit because they feel a certain way. Since we all recognize the Spirit differently, I don’t know if they are right or not. It’s not how I feel, but they may experience the spirit differently. Learning to recognize how you feel and accept the guidance of teh spirit best is what’s important. If you need scripture study & prayer before giving a blessing, then do that. If you just need to be relaxed, that’s okay too.

    One thing I personally can’t doubt, however is this: no matter how difficult it can be or whatever, I have no doubt that priesthood blessings can work to heal a person–if it is the Lord’s will.

    My question is this: can we implore the Lord to change His will successfully? I say yes. Many would say no.

  7. This is a sensitive topic for me too. I am tortured to this day about what I perceive as one of my greatest failures as a priesthood holder. A fairly recently converted woman wanted a blessing for some serious health issues. She and I discussed what blessings are and are not, what anointing is, faith, divine intervention, and what it means when nothing happens. I asked whether she believed in the miracle of healing, she answered yes. From my patr. blessing I am told that I am supposed to be one who is able to work the miracle of healing.

    I asked her again whether she believed she could be healed right there. She answered yes and began to cry softly and I have never felt any more certain that a miracle was going to happen. I began the blessing and then…I couldn’t say the words. I couldn’t say “be healed.” Couldn’t is the wrong word. I didn’t say it and nothing stopped me but me. I was not restrained, I just didn’t say it. I mumbled some stuff about good doctors and faith.

    She was ready for the miracle and I was not even though I wanted to be a part of something supernatural and beyond my experience as modern rationalist. She never recovered and is now, 2 years removed from the blessing, on the verge of death from the same problems.

    That is it. And I have never recovered either. Helluva thing.

  8. Kevin Barney says:

    I struggle with this as well. I first encountered this anxiety as a young missionary. I was still new to giving blessings. There was a less active young couple in our ward, and the wife was pregnant. Apparently they had learned from their doctor that the umbilical cord was wrapped around the fetus in such a way that they said it was inevitably going to die (if that doesn’t make medical sense, I guess I don’t quite recall the details of the specific medical problem). Even though they never would come to church, they reached out to us to give her a blessing. It was the WML, me and my companion. You should have seen us maneuver to avoid having to be the voice for that blessing. I think the WML eventually accepted that he had drawn the short straw. But none of us wanted to give that blessing; the weight of the hope and expectation and the near certainty of it being dashed (which in fact it was within a week or two) was overwhelming.

  9. I will profess that I don’t understand blessings. I have seen people get better miraculously, both with and without blessings. I have seen people get worse, both with and without blessings. It seems that it is all God’s will at the end of the day. So, can we change God’s will with a blessing? I don’t know.

  10. One time, my grandmother was dying of a disease and the doctors didn’t think she’d live past the night. Our entire family was there and all the priesthood holders gathered around to give a final blessing. My father, the voice, blessed that she would have a peaceful passage to the spirit world.

    Instead, she healed miraculously and lived for another couple of years and died peacefully in her sleep.

    Priesthood blessings are a funny thing, and this troubled my father for a while, even though the outcome was desirable. In the end, he finally told me that he’d come to the conclusion that priesthood blessings have an inherent power of their own.

    Contrast this with families who pray earnestly that their young mother/wife will be healed and are only left with heartbreak, sorrow, and emptiness and the issue becomes incredibly thorny and difficult. Sometimes I can only assume that we were just lucky, because to say we were blessed, as Rebecca J pointed out, means that all the other families out there who don’t get “good” outcomes from their blessings and prayers were somehow “cursed,” or at the very least, neglected or ignored, and that makes me feel all funny inside (in a not good way).

  11. Duke of Earl Grey says:

    I have always had difficulty being the voice in these blessings. I always try to figure out what the Spirit wants to me say, but nothing ever comes to me. Then I assume I’m unworthy to even be there doing it, and that certainly doesn’t make things easier. With explicit instructions from the Spirit lacking, my practicality (ie faithlessness?) comes to the fore, and any blessings I dare invoke are moderate and generally non-specific.

  12. I urge you preisthold holders to Try Anyway. Even if your faith is wobbly, even if you doubt, please step up.

    In our family, my husband has struggled with a deep dark pit form of self esteem, to the point where he’d almost always refuse to give a blessing when asked. Births of my children, medical adventures, healing, transitions, big events, all were met with a sad “I just don’t think I can. I’m not good enough.” Yet he’d be even more distraught if we asked someone else to administer a blessing. It was really hard as the kids were growing up, not to mention a seriously lousy example for them. In my own case, I learned to stop asking. I kinda feel like blessings are real and wonderful, but the priesthood just does not apply to me.

    Even if it feels like going through the motions, even if you feel woefully inept, please, do it anyway.

  13. Steve Evans says:

    Deb, we can’t “step up” and say something that is not in our hearts to say. Yes, we should not underestimate the power of the priesthood, but we can’t just go through the motions as you say, either.

  14. Aaron R.–

    Giving an receiving priesthood blessings is a humbling experience. I always tremble when I am called upon to give a blessing. I’ve noticed, as Kevin Barney said, the maneuvering to avoid sealing the blessing as one of those present quickly volunteers to do the anointing. Maybe this kind of anxiety is preferable to having a proud or boastful attitude.

    I talked with a man whose related to Iohani Wolfgramm and had accompanied him in giving nearly a hundred priesthood blessings. Iohani is a Tongan brother who was known for having power in the priesthood. Elder Dallin Oaks related the story of how Iohani’s young daughter was run over by a vehicle and her head was crushed. Many people witnessed the accident. Through the power of the priesthood she was raised from the dead the day after the accident (Ensign, June 2001, 6).

    Iohani, I was told by his relative, not only raised his daughter from the dead but had also been the Lord’s instrument in raising a few others from the dead. Many healings and miracles are also attributed to his faith and standing before God.

    I asked his relative about the healing blessings he had witnessed, he told me that some of the people got better but that many did not, even when they were blessed to get well. He felt that the faith of the person receiving the blessing is a key factor.

    I’ve heard that promised healings and failed promised healings are part of every general authorities experience.

    I wish all blessing resulted in a desired outcome. But the fact remains we are in a fallen world and are fallen beings. No one of us is perfect, and until we are we, we’re subject to our fallen condition.

  15. This is why I like coming to BCC. Posts like this resonate with me an my own experiences. I have no answers, but it is somehow comforting that my own insecurities are not just my own. I’ve almost come to the conclusion that “to some are given the gift of healing and some the gift to be healed” and some are not. Though I wish I could be counted as one with the gift, my faith falters. This in spite of the fact that I have witnessed healing miracles since I was a kid. I’m not sure what the next step is other than to also say “help thou mine unbelief”.

  16. Latter-day Guy says:

    “…my husband has struggled with a deep dark pit form of self esteem…” “…not to mention a seriously lousy example for them…”

    I wonder if there might be a connection here.

    Anyhow, thanks for this post, Aaron. The responsibility to be a conduit between another person and the Divine Will is a daunting prospect. Having had in my own life promises made by trusted priesthood leaders for which I met the stated conditions, but that still did not come to fruition, my disappointment is mingled with a great deal of sympathy. Nevertheless those experiences have made me very reticent to give blessings, and even more reticent to approach priesthood leaders (however much I admire and trust them) even for advice, not to mention any kind of revelatory intervention. Thanks for putting into words something I’ve rarely heard shared, though I suspect the experience is not uncommon.

  17. Seek the mind and will of The Lord before anything else.

    May The Spirit be with you Rico

  18. Good post, Rico. Good to see another Brit around these parts.

  19. Thanks for your kind comments.

    #1 – Douglas, I am so sorry to here about your father. In response to your thoughts. My initial response is that I would feel that there are times when we should be all three but that they do not necessarily overlap when we giving that blessing. I would strange (perhaps just because I do not here it) petitioning the Lord in the act of blessing, but I would certainly do it before. Moreover, I sense that we do have the ability to enter a form of dialogue with God regarding whether this healing can be offered, but I also sense that God’s will is certainly a directing force and that i should try and align with it. This dual process I find difficult to understand.

    Steve & Scott, I too have had experiences where I have seemed to feel God’s direct influence. For me, at least, I have found this less-frequently in healing.

    #4 – I think you raise some interesting points. Although I have traditional sought to know God’s will, sometimes I have just felt nothing. While I also sense that we can play a role as petitioner. There are times when someone’s prayer has changed what God intends to do.

    #6 – I certinly hope I did not give the impression that I don’t think blessings work. I have seen them work. My struggle is with how I go about trying to do the same thing. I agree that we can change God’s will through prayer.

    #7 – That must be a heavy burden. Thank you for sharing. Your thoughts have added a different dimension to my own ideas.

    #10 – You don’t often here that side of the story. Thanks.

    #14 – Jared, I am sure you are right about the GA’s experience. What I would appreciate in this regard is some examples of people who might have moved from my/our experience to a point of being like the gentlemen you mention, if that is possible.
    #16 – There are certain people I will go to for blessings. My step-father being one of them. However I have met men who have received only 1-2 blessings in 30 years of Church experience. Maybe your reticence to receive is more common than we might think.

    #18 – Thanks Ronan. I’m glad to be here.

    Although I agree that healing is not a gift solely located in the Priesthood, I still sense a responsibility (that may institutionally created) to have this gift.

    Sorry for the long comment.

  20. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    Good post, Rico. Good to see another sociologist around these parts.

    If there are men (or women!) with the gift of healing in my Ward, would they please identify themselves? Then folks would stop calling me. I feel like I should provide a disclaimer each time I am asked to bless the sick, as I surely don’t have this particular gift (very poor track record). I’m fine with comfort, not so much with healing. Our son severely broke his arm recently, and it was the first time I felt comfortable using the common phrase “be made whole” in a blessing. To be honest, I smiled when I said it because it was so ironically appropriate.

  21. Wow Rico, you nailed it. Nice post.

    The uncertainty around giving and receiving blessing can be crippling for me. But on the other hand, the uncertainty is a good thing as it creates an environment where I can exercise faith. Maybe I am just trying to see the glass half full, but I do find value the uncertainty because it allows me to say “I don’t know how the Priesthood works, but I love to believe and I’ll give it a try.”

  22. #20 – I agree. I am current serving in a position where I am asked alot, and this has bothered me more because I do not feel that I can necessarily give people what they are looking for.

    #21 – That uncertainty is a fruitful space. Perhaps as I said above, the sincere expectations of others can create an adjacent space that conflicts and overlaps the space for faith. This friction is sometimes difficult to manage.

  23. #19 Aaron R said: What I would appreciate in this regard is some examples of people who might have moved from my/our experience to a point of being like the gentlemen you mention, if that is possible.
    _______________________________________________

    Based on my experience with things of the Spirit I think we are born with gifts and possibilities. The Lord has given me experiences with dreams, visions, ministering of angels (unseen, but heard), promptings, warnings, encounters with evil spirits (seen), fire and the Holy Ghost, as well as with priesthood blessings (I relate these sacred experiences with bowed head knowing of my unworthiness. I’ve made friends with the Savior as I’ve repented and continue to repent).

    Most of the experiences I’ve had with priesthood blessings have been as a receiptant. I’ve given many blessing, but I haven’t experienced equivalent manifestations of the Spirit giving blessings as I have with other gifts.

    When it comes to the things of the Spirit I see myself and others as a child learning to walk; struggling, falling, getting hurt, some more than others, but eventually they learn to walk, and then run. I also think it was like that before we were born and will be that way again when we leave mortality.

    If we want to grow in the things of the Spirit we must thoroughly intend it.

    Iohani Wolfgramm was born in Tonga in 1911. At age 18 his father died and Iohani was left with 11 brothers and sister to help raise. He was overcome with the task. In his history he says that an angel came to his room and took him into the spirit world to learn about his purpose in life. It was to do temple work.

    He and Solate had 19 children (two adopted), went on 8 missions. They moved to SLC in the 1960′s and served in the temple nearly everyday.

  24. Rico,

    Thanks for your post. What a humble approach to what is perhaps the most personal and intimidating of priesthood ordinances. Unlike ordinances in which words and actions are prescribed (like baptism and sacrament), blessings require more of the priesthood holder and of the recipient.

    Having been the position to give many blessings, I have seen growth in my own perception over time. I have, over time, been as instructed by what I have felt prompted to say as what I have not felt prompted to say (or even felt prompted not to say) in some blessings.

    Looking back, I am certain that some of my blessings projected my own views / wishes / insecurities. But there are other times when I have felt a different and far more spiritual connection.

    The role of priesthood holder as voice — I believe it is all three of the things you suggest: vehicle, conduit and petitioner. For me, I am learning to avoid giving counsel or direction in a blessing unless I feel inspired (learned through years of experience) to do so.

    The Savior healed by virtue of His blessings because He is the the source of the power of healing. I don’t believe I have the power to heal; I have authority, but it made power only through my faith and the faith of the recipient; any healing that takes place is not because of me.

    But I have had the sweet experience of having words come to me that have offered unique comfort or direction (or even healing), words that were not my own, that were not the result of prior knowledge, but that spoke directly to the soul of the recipient of the blessing.

    And I have had the confounding experience of having no idea what to say. In those moments, I have relied on standard phrases sometimes, and sometimes I’ve had the presence of mind to wait silently for heavenly help.

    The Savior taught his apostles that some healing blessings only come after fasting and prayer. I remember seeking a particular blessing at the hand of my brother-in-law (I would have sought a father’s blessing at the time, but logistics made it impossible). We both approached the blessing fasting and in prayer. I was initially remarkably disappointed by the lack of “flash” in the blessing — no direct instruction, and no significant feeling as a result of it. Yet in the weeks and months that followed, the blessing as pronounced proved to be the counsel that I needed, and the spiritual confirmation, and the memory of the blessing itself, came as I needed at the moment.

    My mission president was of a mind that we should bless people with good things — every good thing we could think of while giving the blessing. I have not always followed that counsel, but sometimes I have.

    The Doctrine and Covenants teaches that the gift to heal and the gift to be healed are two separate gifts. Not clear to me if they operate together or separately.

  25. For me, giving blessings always has very uncomfortable elements to it for the reasons listed above. I always avoided being the voice if I could. On my mission I thought I was really clever, because I came up with a formula to minimize my own struggle with this. It went something like this:
    There are three variables or conditions that blessings hinge upon
    1. The person’s faith 2. My faith 3. God’s will
    I would try to minimize my part by using “disclaimer language” in blessings. I would preface promises with phrases like “according to your faith” or “according to the will of your HF.” I felt like that sort of let me off the hook.
    I felt like it worked ok, and it was based upon things that I had been taught. So I didn’t worry too much. I became comfortable with it. But one day, my wife asked me for a blessing and it was suddenly more personal. I really, really, really wanted her to live. As I continue to struggle with this, I am trying to embrace the uncertainty, rather than avoid it.

  26. Thanks for sharing this, Rico. Jared, I kind of disagree with you, only kind of though. Let me explain.

    My husband, Bill, is unsure of himself when it comes to blessings. While he’s far from perfect, as I’ve made very clear the last few years, he honors his priesthood. He’s a good man, trying to be better.

    But he doesn’t “get” the power within him as a worthy priesthood holder. He gives tentative blessings. He doesn’t “bless you with health and strength” he “prays that the Lord will give you health and strength.” I’ve heard that rather weak phrase from other priesthood holders. It’s like they don’t believe they’re a. worthy b. powerful.

    But I perservere with him, anyway. I always ask him to give the blessing, even when I know there are other more confident priesthood holders.

    A couple of weeks ago, I was very sick. Struck down, as it were, with the usual chronic illness I’ve endured for years. I was so discouraged and had missed 6 days of work—disastrous! Finally, I asked him to give me a blessing. He called our neighbor across the street, our former bishop, who’s now the patriarch of our stake.

    I sort of wistfully wished I could ask the patriarch without demeaning my husband, and I knew Bill would instantly defer. But I also knew it wasn’t right.

    And more—and this is important, Rico—-I know that Bill has the same priesthood as our patriarch, well, not the same level, but the same priesthood, if that makes sense. And I believe. I believe in the healing power there and in the oil set aside for the healing of the sick.

    So, the patriarch anointed and Bill blessed. Now that patriarch’s power was evident from the moment he put his hands on my head. Which came as a bit of a surprise since I’ve known this guy for 31 years, we raised our kids together and I know he’s basically an ordinary guy. But he’s grown in the gospel and in the spirit and there was real power there. And he knew it.

    Bill gave me the normal, “I pray that the Lord will bless you with whatever you stand in need of at this time.”

    No matter. The next morning, although still weak and shaky, I was a whole new person. I knew I would be.

    So, there was the element of my faith, the element of the healing oil, and the element of their priesthood, no matter their faith in their own power.

    There is power in you. Whether or not your stepfather is appointed to die at this time, the power in you will allow some kind of healing and comfort. The healing oil will add to that, and God makes up the rest. God bless :)

  27. Annegb, you’re the best. I hope you feel well, and that you continue persevering with your husband.

  28. I would suggest that the “gift of healing” includes the “gift of not healing”.

    That is, I’ve known a member who was able to tell me, in advance, if particular people he was asked to heal were supposed to be healed. So he knew in advance whether all the “blessings” — no matter how heart felt and sincere (or insincere) — would be effective. There was already a plan in place. (I’m not saying that blessings are ineffective. Rather, their role, and your role in them, are understood.)

    These things are gifts. I just participate with a sense of wonder and amazement.

  29. annegb–

    I thought your comment was filled with truth and faith. From what I know about the Lord I’m sure He is pleased with your approach to your husband and the priesthood he holds.

    As I read your words the thoughts contained in D&C 76:5 came to mind.

  30. I have given blessings of miraculous healing and blessings of peaceful release – and blessings of uncertainty and hopeful hesitation. 90+% of the blessings I’ve given have ended up being of comfort and eventual healing – not exactly “powerful” in any way. I never know going into a blessing what will happen once I lay my hands on the other person’s head. They all have been worth it, however – both in the moment and for the times when God has reached down and spoken clearly and unmistakably through me – and I have had that excperience more than once.

    There also have been times when I have felt totally unworthy to bless someone. In those times, I have tried to exercise faith that, if God has something to say, He will say it – and, if not, that at least I will speak words of worth. In the end, I am convinced that the efficacy of blessings has little to do with my own personal worthiness – since I don’t have that high an opinion of my own worthiness to speak for God. I just try to be open to the times when He condescends to suffer me to do so regardless – and appreciate the other experiences for whatever they can give to the person being blessed.

    Ultimately, I have no idea whatsoever why some blessings work in obvious and unmistakable ways and others don’t. I personally value sincerity and humility over confidence in one’s self – and a willingness to allow for the non-miraculous to be divinely inspired and approved.

  31. Thank you for your comments. I feel that I much to consider and that I have a renewed desire to understand this process and power. Moreover, I want to be able to understand how God wants me to use it. Perhaps, as Jared suggests, I am not someone who will be able to use such power. As I recall it, ‘all have not every gift’.

  32. Aaron R–

    Help me understand where I suggested that you are someone who won’t be able to use such powers? That thought never entered my mind.

    I agree with Robert Millet:

    Certain gifts come to us more naturally than others, perhaps because these gifts were developed in our first estate (McConkie, New Witness, 359). Nevertheless, they must be received and developed in this life as well, in order for them to prove a blessing to the Saints. Though we must strive to be worthy of such gifts, they come to us almost in spite of ourselves. Because the Lord desires to bless the people of the covenant, he works his mysterious wonders through fallible, mortal creatures. To be more specific, let us suppose that in a given ward there is man, a Brother Brown, who has the gift of teaching. The Lord has blessed this man with an unusual insight into scripture, a capacity to expound upon those insights and to involve the members of the Church profitably in the discovery of the sacred truths of the gospel. People love to hear him speak and teach. He proves a rich blessing to the Saints. And yet we find, on closer inspection, that this particular brother has difficulty with his temper, tends to explode over relatively insignificant matters, and can be downright harsh and insensitive when it comes to people’s feelings.

    Alive in Christ: The Miracle of Spiritual Rebirth by Robert L. Millet, p. 58

  33. Hello all. Great topic. I, too, have struggled with this my entire tenure as a bearer of the Melchizedek Priesthood. In spite of various ‘temporal’ measures of success (education, career, etc.) where I get some amount of self-esteem, I have struggled all my life with feelings of unworthiness before the Lord. And nothing makes me feel more uncertain and anxious and tentative in the priesthood than being asked to seal a priesthood blessing. After all, you are being asked to determine the mind and will of the Lord on behalf of the blessing recipient. This is an EXTREMELY difficult thing to do! I am glad for Deb’s (#8) comment, but respectfully, Deb, try it sometime.

    A late friend of mine was a patriarch in his stake. He was once told by one of his other friends that that calling (patriarch) would be the easiest in the Church. My friend countered that it was the most difficult he had ever held. With all respect to the patriarch, he was chosen out of scores of capable men in his stake because he already one thought of as being very mature in the gospel and in tune with matters of the spirit. Members of the stake that sought him for their patriarchal blessing have already been interviewed by their bishop and found to be ‘worthy’ (a topic for another thread). They called him and made an appointment to come to the home of the patriarch to receive the blessing, often several weeks in advance. The patriarch and the blessing recipient often were fasting. So it is in a setting primed for a spiritual encounter, should it be the will of the Lord. And so on. Now contrast that with the average elder in the church that is asked to give a blessing. He probably has already put in a long, stressful day at the office. He’s beat and tired and feeling the pressures typical of a husband, father and church worker. Other than family prayer that morning, the ‘matters of the spirit’ have not been on his mind all day. You’re tired and maybe a bit grumpy. Then at 9:45 p.m. or later, with no warning one of your home teaching families calls and informs you that the wife, 28 years old and 6 months pregnant with their third child, is bleeding and cramping. Her husband is out of town on business. Can you get another holder of the Melchizedek Priesthood and come right over and give a blessing before she goes to the hospital? You change back into nice clothes, rush over to the home of the family, and are expected to speak the words of the Lord. Now Deb, what do you do? Could you do this? And, just for thought, if the stake patriarch thought he had pressure, what must the two elders in this situation be feeling? This can be, and has been for me, a very, very stressful situation, filled with anxiety and self-doubt.

    I didn’t mean for this to be a ‘glass half empty’ comment, but this topic has never been brought up in priesthood quorum or group in the 32 years I’ve held the MP, and I have a suspicion that these types of feelings are a lot more common amongst my brethren than many would think.

    Thanks for listening.

  34. DH was talking about giving blessings this week. Last Sunday he visited a family going through an extreme trial with the rest of the Bishopric, and the mother specifically asked DH to give her a blessing. She said, “I feel impressed that you are the one who is supposed to do it”. Talk about pressure! He said this is the third time he has had to give a blessing when he’s been under enormous pressure like that.

    Hearing that really made me appreciate the priesthood more. It is an enormous amount of pressure to be worthy and receptive to the Spirit so that you can convey what God wants the person receiving the blessing to hear. In these situations, I know DH had nothing to do with the blessing other than opening his mouth and saying what God put in his heart to say. I also makes me appreciate him and his worthiness and his willingness to serve (something I struggle with). I hope I don’t hold him back.

  35. Jared, I pretty much agree with everything Robert Millett says. If he gets up in the morning and says “looks like rain” I take that as gospel. He’s the man.

  36. annegb–

    I agree. He has made a significant contribution to my understanding of the gospel.

  37. We had our first son 8 weeks early in a rural hospital in Kansas. My doctor expressed hope that our son would be OK, possibly blowing sunshine to help me. DH went to the nursery and gave him a name and a blessing. By the time another Dr and our Branch President got to the hospital our son had died. DH was a convert of just 2 years at the time. About a year later another son was born, this time 13 weeks early, but at the U. He was whisked right into the Newborn ICU, where we both went shortly so his Dad could give him a name and a blessing. No one but us was hopeful that he would live. The blessing was sort of ordinary and I wondered why DH had not been a little stronger in his petition to the Lord. DH had to go back to Kansas and keep working so we didn’t lose our insurance. Baby Dave struggled through crises daily. I left the hospital every day fearing he would not be alive when I got back. There were many blessings by many priesthood holders. When Dave was 10 days old he had surgery to close his patent ductus. During the surgery her suffered brain bleeds, hemorrhaging, and convulsions. Then hydrocephalus developed. Neurosurgeons wanted to put in a shunt to relieve the pressure. Before the surgery I asked my Dad to bring a certain friend up to give Dave a blessing. Dad made the appointment with his friend, who forgot. Dad brought a senile old guy from his ward, who wandered the streets in his underwear, and said the guy could anoint. I was aghast when the senile old guy said he was senior and would be voice. I was shocked when Dad acquiesced. Old guy started to seal the anointing and I was filled with the Spirit. He said “the child will have problems, but he will be well enough to be baptized at 8, to receive the priesthood at 12, to go on a mission at 19 and to be married in the Temple.” Then he closed. I thought I was wowed with the Spirit until the neurologist who had walked in during the blessing compassionately told me he did not expect Dave to ever do those things. He said that even the best prognosis was that Dave would not ever sit up, or even recognize us. He gently explained that wanting something to happen gets confused with the Spirit a lot. While Dave was in surgery his primary nurse talked to me a while. I learned that the neurologist was a Stake President. My expectations plunged. Dave was in hospitals more than he was out over the next 3 years. He looked and acted like a sick newborn. We fed him with an NG tube and did a lot of CPR. He got meningitis and encephalitis and had strokes and seizures. But year 4 things began to change. Dave quit getting sick so much. He finally gained some weight and became able to regulate his temperature. He was always in special ed, but he hit the baptism and priesthood dates of the blessing. He wanted to serve a mission, but they made him serve a two week mini-mission in the neighboring mission, and then a 6 week trial mission in a far area of the mission we lived in. Then he went on a full time 2 year mission stateside. His neuropsych evaluations consistently show a verbal IQ of 120-125 but his written IQ is more like 80. He has a pronounced left side weakness and limp. All his bones grew 12% shorter on that side. He goes to the Singles Ward and has lots of friends, but he has never dated. I remember the way I felt during that blessing, and how unlikely professionals thought it was that he would do this well. And now I work in the Temple. I recognize the feeling of that blessing as the Holy Spirit of Promise confirming absolute truth. And sometimes I feel it when I am present when someone receives a blessing. Like Hemi wrote, there needs to be a convergence of someone’s faith, someone’s worthiness, and the will of God all at the same time. BJ I agree that the level of “in tuneness” it takes to confidently pronounce the Lord’s will can be staggering. ( Maybe Alzheimer’s helps-just kidding) Oh, and a few years ago I asked DH about the blessing of the first son. He told me he knew as he started the blessing that the baby would die so he ended it because he couldn’t handle it. There is a patriarch on my temple shift and his wife is my friend. They were wonderful before he received this calling, but she says his efforts to stay in tune are monumental and big changes have occurred in him.

  38. Karen–

    Thanks for sharing this family experience/history.

    Have you considered submitting it to the Ensign Magazine or even writing a book?

    What about the old guy from you dad’s ward, did you ever find out more about him?

  39. Rico, thanks for this.

    And Karen, that was wonderful. Thank you for sharing.

  40. We joke about a book. Maybe someday. DH is so funny that when he tells the tragic parts people laugh.
    We moved into one ward where the bishop’s wife was the old guy’s niece.

  41. I think sometimes we have inappropriate expectations in blessings. As I read D&C 42:44, it is clear to me that a bold blessing of health can be followed by death — and this is okay. A blessing is given in hope and faith, and maybe God answers the blessing or maybe not, but all is well either way. No man holding the priesthood who gives a bold blessing but then sees the person die (or otherwise not recover) should consider that the blessing was invalid or that God dishonored the blessing or the priesthood holder. When God gives the guidance in D&C 42:44, he (1) instructs us to bless the sick; and (2) clearly reserves to himself alone the answer of whether the person recovers or not. But for me, my instruction is to bless and to exercise faith.

  42. JI, it happened to me very personally. A bold blessing. I was constrained at the end of the blessing and said exactly that, if it did not happen it was because love and hope had led me to bless a cure.

    I think I did not believe a cure was in the offing at the time nor did the recipient, but we hoped and tried to have faith. Mercy.

  43. Or in other words, I don’t believe I must necessarily discern the divine will before I pronounce a blessing, such as we expect of a patriarch. I only need to bless in faith, and I can do this without first discerning God’s intentions. One wants to be open to the promotings of the spirit, to be sure — but a priesthood holder need not know God’s will before pronouncing a blessing, and need not see himself as speaking the divine will. Rather, he is speaking from the faith and hope of the community surrounding the sick person.

  44. Or in other words, I don’t believe I must necessarily discern the divine will before I pronounce a blessing on the sick, such as we expect of a patriarch and a patriarchal blessing. I only need to bless in faith, and I can do this without first discerning God’s immediate or ultimate intentions. One wants to be open to the promotings of the spirit, to be sure — but a priesthood holder need not know God’s will before pronouncing a blessing, and need not see himself as an oracle speaking the divine will. Rather, he is speaking from the faith and hope of the community surrounding the sick person.

  45. Great post Aaron. As others have said, I think this is an issue most or all priesthood holders confront and struggle with. I remember discussing something similar with other missionaries during my mission.

    Similar to Scott’s and Steve’s comments above, I have been surprised at the outcome of blessings I have participated in in the past. Most recently, about a year ago my daughter was sick and asked for a blessing. I was hesitant, worried about potentially damaging her innocent faith (by the possibility of blessing her to be healed without obtaining that result) but pressed forward in any event. She immediately went to sleep and was better the next day. That was a huge relief but I don’t expect that my level of anxiety will ever be any less in giving future blessings. It truly is an act of faith, with all the potential disappointment that such an act naturally entails.

  46. This is a really good subject. I have felt prompted to give a mother’s blessing on several occasions, and felt similarly unsure of what I should say. I know it must be really hard for priesthood bearers who are called upon to bless people they don’t know well, and people who are in dire need.

    I wonder how often it’s okay to ask for blessings. I know in the past people would be blessed over and over again for the same sickness. I feel hesitant asking for blessings more often than once a year or so myself. Because I’m a single sister and don’t have a priesthood holder in my home to ask, I feel especially hesitant to ask. I mean, I need blessings every day, surely. What is appropriate?

    I have chronic health problems, and my son has as well. Are our daily heartfelt prayers enough? Are we requesting that God’s will be changed? I don’t really know. I’m willing to accept God’s will and know that it’s for my benefit regardless of what happens, but also sometimes I just want to beg him to help us.

    I’m unable to work now, and the insurance company is also refusing my disability claim. We don’t have income. In the middle of this my son melts down and has to go in the hospital. I’m given help from many quarters, and am deeply grateful, but I’m unsure of the next step. While pursuing the claim through the courts should I also sell our house? The mortgage is possibly underwater, and the tremendous work of sorting and moving seems beyond me. I have pets, no income, a child who is mentally and physically ill. What kind of apartment can we get for less than our house payment? The attorney we were referred to hasn’t returned my calls. I feel overwhelmed and unable even to know where to begin. I need blessings every day. I quit paying tithing when I quit having income but nobody in my ward seems to notice. Which is fair because I haven’t been to church in a while due to illness.

    I ought to be able to sort all this out and take care of things myself. What’s the matter with me? Why can’t I pull myself together and do whatever it is I should be doing? I don’t know. I need a blessing. What do I do?

  47. Tatiana, I am so sorry to hear of your struggles. Can you go talk to your Bishop? Or call and ask for the Bishopric to come visit you?

  48. Anon- if it's OK with you says:

    Thank you “ji” for your comments. I have struggled with priesthood blessings. When my son was young, he was healed from illnesses rapidly, miraculously. Then he was disgnosed with leukemia. I laid my hands on his head and blessed him to be healed. He hung on for weeks. Then it became apparent that it was my will that he be healed. Then, I gave him a blessing that the Lord’s will be done. He passed away shortly afterwards. he came and visited me a couple of months after his passing and said that he had been given a choice of missions on either side of the veil, but that none of the blessings that he could have had had ne remained in this live would have been lost. Because of the extreme pain he was suffering, he chose to pass on. About a month later, I had a dream that he was going to visit my Grandmother’s favorite grandparents. He walked up to their door, knocked, and when they answered, he introduced himself and asked if he could talk with them. He taught them the gospel and I had done their temple work about 10 years previously.

    My struggle is with a certain ward member who runs around the ward telling people that if I had been faithful, my son would have been healed.

    Recently, a sister in the ward was diagnosed with cancer. For some reason, when the bishop heard of her diagnosis, I was assigned to be her home teacher. She had small children and wanted so much to be healed. Whenever I laid my hands on her head, the certainty that she would be healed was so strong. The cancer went into remission, but then reappeared in multiple places. I really doubted the feeling I had when I gave the prior blessing, but as soon as I laid my hands on her head, I had the distinct impression that she would be healed. She passed away, still firm in her faith, without an unkind thing to say about me. I can’t understand why Father would take her after giving me such a stong impression multiple times. But after my experience with my son, I felt that there must be a reason.

    Then the ward gossip stared again. If I had only been a better priesthood holder, she would have been healed.

    Why does this woman feel a need to denegrate me? I often feel it is an attempt to elevate her husband. Is is such a sin to punch her in the mouth?

  49. This is a difficult issue for me to deal with, too. Trying to understand the difference between expressing the deepest, most profound desires of our heart and speaking the Lord’s will is not very easy for me. It doesn’t help that last month marked the fifth anniversary of my 2 1/2-year-old daughter’s passing, just over one month after she was given a blessing that she would recover completely – a blessing during which, if I did not feel the Spirit, I never have in my life.

    I am still very uncomfortable giving blessings. When asked, I usually end up trying desperately to bottle up all the doubt (both general and of the self-directed variety) and just going through the motions.

    I’m not sure what else to do. I can’t just tell people, “No, because blessings didn’t help my daughter, who surely deserved to have her life spared more than you deserve to have your stomach flu last only a day rather than the usual 2-3 days, and besides, I don’t know if it will help, anyway – it didn’t help her.”

  50. We have five grown-up kids. Between first and second, we had a miscarriage. It was not physically devastating to my wife, but it was pretty damn tough for both of us emotionally. She had already felt the fetus’s movements and we had a name for him (didn’t know really).

    So before I took her to the hospital that day, I gave her a blessing. The tragedy for me is that I knew then that it would be a miscarriage, but in my weakness I hung on to my last vestiges of faith and promised her all would be well, while knowing it wasn’t going to be — at least the way we the thought would be well.

    No, all was well, despite the miscarriage; we had four others, and we love none of them any less for having that experience. I’d almost say we love them more because of it.

    Anyway, I was talking about facing the inevitable, accepting what’s happening and not fighting against what must be. I’m not talking bout destiny either. I mean that sometimes some things happen despite our best intentions. “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”

    That cry of help became my lifeline some years back. I was depressed, suicidal, really far gone. I was getting to be desperate and really crying out for help. The Lord heard me. No miraculous healing in a flash of lightning, but a feeling of peace in my heart when I turned to the Lord with all my soul. That required some difficult discussions with my wife and my bishop. Thankfully that is history now, and though it was hard, I know I am stronger for having lived through it.

    That’s actually what I’m talking about. We are here to experience mortality. It’s going to kill us eventually, no matter what else happens before.

    So my attitude now is that I just try to learn the lessons there are to learn in my experiences.

  51. @rick, #49:

    Just remember that with your daughter you may have spoken your hopes more than anything else. And felt them.

    With others you have less of an emotional charge. One brother I gave a blessing to, and I knew he was dying. I was giving him a blessing of comfort and peace—and that was directed to his wife, too, who was listening.

    Afterward, she came to us and told us that her husband had seen a third person with us giving the blessing; a person in white clothes, whom he felt to be someone from the other side who would meet him soon, and he felt very peaceful. She told this with tears of joy; they both had felt very peaceful and he had passed peacefully. If death can be beautiful, that was.

    I can only be grateful for having been there, that was not anything special about me, I just happened to be there.

    I have also held a nephew in my arms, who didn’t breathe and had no pulse. Someone went to call an ambulance and another joined in giving him a blessing, along with resuscitation. It was either that the resuscitation worked very well or there was some kind of divine intervention, but the ICU doctors said there was absolutely nothing wrong with my nephew.

    Life and death. It took a while to learn the difference and to live with the idea. We’re all going to die anyway, why worry too much?

  52. And, yes, remember that the Priesthood is for you to serve others, not yourself.

  53. rick h, I’m so sorry.

  54. and you too, #48. I don’t know what else to say, except thank you for sharing your experiences. You remind us all that at some point, all the easy, tidy answers break down, and we’re left to face bewildering contradictions.

  55. My feelings towards blessings have been shaped by being the recipient. Several years ago I was going in for a surgery. I had a blessing the night before. It was actually quite a significant experience. I was told in the blessing that I would be healed 100% and that my problem would be made “perfect”. I was also told many other fairly significant and profound things regarding life, future Church callings, etc, and truly felt it was God’s will.

    Time has passed since then. Profoundly negative things have happened since that time. My family nearly fell apart. And despite 2 repeat surgeries for the same thing, I now still have daily pain and am potentially worse than before I even had the first surgery. Needless to say, my faith is not quite the same any more – towards blessings or really towards anything.

    At the end of the day, I think I would have been better off had I not had the first blessing, as the fall-out has really impacted me quite a bit, and not in a positive way.

  56. I appreciate all the honest feelings and stories being shared on this thread.

  57. My father recently had an experience in healing a good friend. He had a vision before the blessing was given of spirits / angels discussing with each other whether or a healing blessing would be acknowledged. Among things discussed were previous blessings the man had been given.

    Adding to everything else, I wonder, really, whether God has a single plan for each individual that must be followed. Blessings fail, prophecies fail, because circumstances change. Always in motion is the future, says Yoda, difficult to see.

    I personally have no problem receiving revelation when it comes to giving a lesson or talk, or even is normal associations with my fellows. But I approach healing blessings with the same trepidation that others have expressed.

  58. What a wonderful array of comments and experiences that demonstrate such a wide variety of circumstances.

    #48 Anon… I’m sorry for your expeience, particularly with the suggestion that somehow you were at fault in the matter. More proof that church is a hospital for the sinners (by which I mean your gossiper, not you) rather than a museum for the perfect.

    I was, thanks to #55, reflecting on blessings I’ve received. One came at a terribly difficult time in my life, as I was being set apart by my stake president. The blessing was incredibly long, and I wanted very much to hear and register every word, but there was just too much to hold in my already troubled head. And so I determined that whatever blessing he was pronouncing would be fulfilled whether I heard it or not. It is, honestly speaking, the only time I’ve ever taken such an attitude, but in that moment I had complete faith in my stake president to be a real conduit, as he is still (though he’s no longer my SP) one of the most spiritually in tune people I have every had the good fortune to know. But the effect was remarkable. My wife and I remembered bits and snatches of the blessing (it must have run up to ten minutes, and no one had the forsight to take notes) at different times, as if they came when we needed them the most. And I am confident that other elements of the blessing were realized without my even knowing it.

    My heart aches for those who have such profound spiritual experiences that are difficult to explain. The comfort I take in those moments comes from this same wonderful stake president: eternity is a long time, and we will come to an understanding one day. That counsel lifts me up quite often.

    My thanks to those of you who have contributed so freely.

  59. If I can add one thought to the discussion here: Much has been talked of the gift of healing and the gift to be healed, and these are important aspects of a priesthood blessing of health. There has also been mention of faith of the Preisthood bearer, and faith of the sick. This seems like a good place to interject my understanding of faith. People often describe faith as an ability, a strength, or something else internal to one’s self. I have a slightly different view of faith – especially in reference to it as a power of God – especially when referring to miracles. It has been my experience that much like the other “gifts of the spirit” that faith is a gift (Moroni 10:11), given by God, to those who seek it. I’m sure our worthiness plays into this equation, but I think our asking does as well. As God tells us in D+C 46:10: Seek ye the best gifts. I think in light of this way of thinking, the feeling that has been expressed throughout this thread of “help my unbelief” makes a lot more sense. So specifically speaking to Aaron in regards to having the faith to appropriately administer these blessings, I think it is appropriate to pray for faith often in life to be prepared for the moment when we need it. And when the moment comes, continue to pray to be blessed with the faith necessary.
    That being said, I absolutely relate to the insecurites expressed in the OP and the comments. Thank you all for expressing them. I have felt uplifted while reading both the successes as well as the supposed failures.

  60. #58: Paul

    Your comment also caused me to remember more. Fairly soon after the blessing I had spoken of above, I too was set apart for a very busy calling that took me away from my family for many hours per week. As I was set apart, I was specifically told that while this would involve a lot of time, the Lord would watch over my family.

    After this, everything fell apart. My family was nearly destroyed. Finally, I was thankfully released and have no more desire to ever have a “leadership” calling again. We are doing fine now, but I came out of it very scarred, and I still have pain as I type this after 3 surgeries.

    So, in my case, what happened in my life after 2 fairly significant blessings was almost the exact opposite of what was said. I understand that my ways aren’t the Lord’s ways. I understand that we can’t see all. I’ve been taught that my whole life.

    But it is what it is.

  61. I wrote a response and then my computer froze and it appears that it didn’t go through. If I’m wrong, then there will be two similar responses. I hate it when that happens ;o)
    Here are my thoughts. Faith is the key to the gift of healing. Are we perfect in our faith? No. Can a healing happen at the hands of others besides Priesthood holders? Yes. Some people do have a strong gift of faith and healing. A Priesthood holder has the responsiblity as a holder of that office to give blessings. So of course there will be many who feel inadequate or anxious about doing so. I think the answer lies in Mark 9. In this chapter, a father comes to the Lord and asks that a spirit be cast out of his son. The Lord says, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” (Mark 9:23-24)
    In other words, the father knew he had faith, but knew his faith was lacking in order to accomplish the task at hand. So he asked the Lord to help him with the part he lacked.
    This is where I believe the Priesthood holders who feel anxious about blessing of healing should take heart. Remember, as a Priesthood holder, you AND the Lord are working together to perform the blessing.

  62. Oh, and I recently wrote about Faith on my blog if you are intersted.
    http://www.thoughtblossoms.wordpress.com

  63. As a youth, I had a very powerful and positive experience receiving a priesthood blessing, and I kind of felt that one experience made me and authority on the subject. Later, as a young man I gave a couple of blessings to people with chronic illness in which I promised them a full recovery according to their faith. I was convinced I had been spiritually prompted to say what I said, and yet those present simply looked at me as though I were crazy. What, you don’t think priesthood power can cure a brain-destroying stroke or Kron’s disease? ‘Course, the easy way out is to say they lacked faith, which was true, so no problem, right? But I was deeply disturbed that I felt prompted to say something like that. Twice.

    A few years later my daughter is born with a hole in her heart and they’re talking surgery. My terrified young wife’s hope rested with me and the priesthood I bear, but I couldn’t bless her. Between my stong feelings on behalf of my daughter, the pressure I felt to uphold my responsibilities to my wife, and my doubts in my ability to hear God’s voice, I didn’t think I could give my daughter the blessing I felt she deserved. If that weren’t pressure enough, my (stake pres.) father, who I knew would give the right blessing, declined to do it, saying that unless I was unworthy, it was really my place as father to bless my daughter. Wanting nothing more than to speak the Lord’s words, and feeling His Spirit as powerfully as ever, I finally blessed my daughter, pronounced the words, and she was completely healed.

    Just as most babies in her situation usually are. Most times, they simply heal on their own.

    Subsequently, I’ve given many blessings, and usually I don’t get strong impressions and end up giving general blessings which leave the recipient disappointed. But I’ve also been occasionally prompted to give some very powerful blessings as well, including in one case where the sister was complaining about shoulder pain and I knew she was going to die, and I blessed her that if sought medical attention immediately, she would have enough time to get her life in order. She died from breast cancer 4 or 5 months later.

    I’m convinced that more than anything, priesthood blessings are an opportunity for those involved to try to put themselves in tune with God. His will is done regardless, but depending on where we (meaning everybody involved) are in relationship to Him, His will can be different. Just as prophecy is conditional, I think priesthood blessings can be conditional, and not just on faith.

    I also think we need to be careful not to beat ourselves up over lack of faith. Faith grows organically, or is gifted to us — I don’t think you can just will it, any more than I can will myself to suddenly be able to bench press 200 lbs. And, I think there are levels of faith that we may not be able to reach in this life, just like no amount of practice is going to get me into the NBA.

  64. I really like your last paragraph. Because of my lack of faith, I instead rely on hope. I still pray. I still serve in my callings. I still read the BofM and stay active. All because of the hope that someday I will have faith “gifted” to me. As time goes by, I am more and more accepting of the fact that I just may not have it in this life.

  65. Mike S (64, 60, 55…), I can’t thank you enough for opening yourself in this thread. It’s very instructive to me. Particularly as a young man it was much easier to draw lines between black and white, right and wrong, faithful and not, worthy and not. (Of course I was not in a position to judge anything or anyone, but that didn’t stop my young restless heart.)

    As I have grown older, I’ve come to appreciate the passage in John 9 that several have referenced, about the father’s pleading for his son, and for help with his unbelief. And I have seen myself in that father’s shoes more and more.

    I have also come to realize that there are more people than I know who keep moving forward day after day in the gospel without that gift of faith, but with, as you put it, with the hope that it may come.

    I’m a convert to the church, so I have no Mormon pioneer heritage, but my wife does. I read those stories of courage and determination. I’m sure there were some who looked forward with faith to find power to endure the trek, the building of new towns and then being resettled again and again as they colonized the west. But there are others, I’m quite sure, who simply put one foot in front of the other, day after day, until they finally arrived. In the end, both types of pioneers arrived.

    Hopefully we can recognize the various gifts among us and strengthen one another.

  66. 63 – I definitely agree. I hope it didn’t come off that I was saying that if you lack faith its because you didn’t ask. But I don’t believe your comment was directly to me.
    I was saying another way of preparing is by asking for faith. And in line with your comment, I think if we don’t have all the faith we think we need sometimes, maybe the Lord has his own purposes in withholding that blessing – lack of faith doesn’t always (usually?) mean unworthy.

  67. Sorry — Mark 9, not John 9! (Help my inability to read…)

  68. I too struggle with blessings of healing. The first PH blessing I ever gave was to a terminally ill woman that I had never met before. The EQ president had called me to come help with a blessing, and when we entered the room, I was immediately struck that she was going to die, and nothing I could do was going to change that. I gave a rather perfunctory blessing of comfort, and she died a few days later.

    I’ve given a few blessings where I felt like I should promise some things; more often than not, I find myself searching for words, and trying to separate emotions from real spiritual promptings. It is hard, and as a result, I find myself not looking forward to giving blessings of healing, even (or especially) for my wife and children. I feel much more comfortable and inspired about giving father’s blessings on occasions like sending a child out on their mission, or the first day of school.

    I have on occasions experienced the spirit powerfully, but rarely in giving blessings. I’m beginning to think that giving blessings may better be approached by viewing it as an opportunity for service, and not letting our own emotions or desires get into the mix at all. Just trusting, and waiting faithfully for the outcome, whatever happens. It’s just that it is so damn hard to do so when we are heavily invested in the outcome. As others have repeated, “I believe, Lord; help thou my unbelief”.

  69. marjorie conder says:

    To the good brother in #48. Perhaps these people were “healed” but not “cured”. There is a difference that can be of great significance to the person receiving the blessing. Many “unseen wounds” may be healed by the refiners fire. I witness to that. As to the woman who mocked you, her wounds are huge and the likelyhood of “healing” is miniscule with her present attitude. So sad for all concerned.

  70. I have had blessings where the only promptings I have been sure of have been to reassure the person that Heavenly Father knew them and loved them, and was aware of their needs. Sometimes, that is enough.

    This thread also reminds me of the struggles my mother had. She had health problems most of her life, mostly related to Multiple Sclerosis. I only have a vague memory of her being able to walk, and have no memory of her having the strength to be able to hold me. The last couple of years of her life, she very much wanted to pass on, but no one who gave her blessings felt that impression, until one early May morning. Our next-door neighbor was the voice in a blessing that told her she could have some rest. Within hours, she was gone.

  71. I have come to realize that I just do the best I can at the moment with blessings and then I let the chips fall where they may, with faith that I have done all I could. If something doesn’t happen the way I hope, it wasn’t because I didn’t do my part. I have no real control of the future. I only have control of what I do in the present. When I’m called up on to exercise my priesthood, I exercise it, and then the rest is ENTIRELY out of my hands. If somebody comes to me and says, why did you say what you did and it didn’t happen? My reply will be, I did all I could, and you have to take that up with the Lord. That’s his doing. Blessings are his to either honor, or for a higher purpose, not fulfill. As a priesthood holder I’m called upon to pronounce whatever I feel comes into my mind, and if the Lord is trying someone’s faith by allowing me to say something that goes unfulfilled, I am powerless to do anything about it. It doesn’t take away my duty, and what the Lord expects me to do.

  72. #71,You are right.
    I had a thought Sunday as I was studying for the lesson on the Abrahamic Covenant. Abraham was given a blessing…some of which was fulfilled much later, and some of which has yet to be fulfilled. Sometimes blessings given may not have the time-line we are expecting.
    Just a thought.

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