The Blessing

She wasn’t looking as she stepped out Emma’s front door, and the fall knocked the wind completely from her chest. It was a big first step, and she was so distracted by the people surveying the Smith family cemetery across the street, she completely missed it. She was still in her skirt from the Temple earlier, which flew up and let the rough concrete take a gnarly bite of exposed leg, as her head slammed into the iron railing on the edge of the landing.

For a few seconds she sat, stunned and detachedly noting the reality she had long suspected only a Looney Tunes gag- but nope- stars and bells, coupled with black swirly spots swam across her vision.

Then embarrassment. Oh my heck, did anyone see her? She shoved her skirt down, and looked across the street- some men had turned around, but everyone was far in the distance. Did she yelp? She didn’t know. She gave a sheepish wave at the guys, and gathered herself up. She had been on the way to a meeting with the group of writers she was traveling with, and had been in hurry, but now rivulets of blood were running down her leg.

Back in Emma’s house, she found a friend who helped her clean her leg, and they concocted a history-nerd story about being pushed down the stairs. They both giggled and thought themselves very clever and funny, and hobbled together on the short walk from Emma’s house to the visitor’s center to join their group.

As the evening’s presentations wore on, her head began to ache, and her leg began to swell and turned violently purple. By the time they returned the house for the evening, she was feeling quite ill and sore.

In the basement dining room of the Nauvoo House, it was proposed that she be given a blessing. As a member of the church, she had received many blessings, but this suggestion at first startled her and then made her feel very self-conscious. The group of men and women gathered were academics, writers and historians- and she knew and trusted them intellectually. Somehow the idea of partaking of a blessing of faith with people she had generally interacted with cerebrally was startlingly personal.

She sat quietly for a moment, struggling with her own uncertainty. Why was an act of faith so much more intimate than discussing the minutiae of history? She did not shy away from history- even sought it avidly- and yet there in the quiet basement of Emma Smith Bidamon’s house in Nauvoo, Illinois, she was suddenly self-conscious.

She sat down and bowed her head, acquiescing to what she knew she needed physically- a blessing- and what she ultimately wanted to experience spiritually and emotionally- communion with her brothers and sisters of faith.

A phial of oil was blessed and consecrated, and her lowered head was anointed. In every blessing she had ever received, one or two pairs of hands were used, usually by someone standing behind her leaving her with the sensation of openness and air. This time, as she closed her eyes, the large group of men gathered and drew close, completing a circle with their bodies. The sensation of being covered, protected and encircled made her eyes sting with surprised tears.

A dozen gentle, open hands were laid upon her head, one after another, and a beautiful blessing was pronounced.

******

On the flight back west, she reflected on why that particular blessing felt so much… heavier? stronger? personal? and she still hadn’t arrived at a true answer. Her leg still throbbed, and she had a concussion- the blessing didn’t change any of her pain. But she suspected it wasn’t supposed to- the blessing opened her, as she moved from the abstract intellectualism of discussing her faith, into the emotional vulnerability of practicing her faith. It bonded people in a way no paper submission, no verbal debate, no footnotes ever could. It was a metamorphosis.

Comments

  1. “she moved from the abstract intellectualism of discussing her faith, into the emotional vulnerability of practicing her faith”

    Beautiful, Tracy. That says it about as well as anything I’ve ever read.

  2. Yes! That’s fantastic.

  3. Sharon LDS in TN says:

    This is something well worth copying and keeping Tracy.
    You are well blessed from God with a talent of taking an experience and making it possible to share inside OUR hearts and minds.
    There are so many levels of consciousness and cognition.
    They are however, so much more understood, felt, explored, memorized, transferred and elevated ….WHEN accompanied by the Holy Ghost. When we approach and analyze our faith intellectually, the mortal part of ego and carnal can so limit the fullness of possibilities. We have to “let go” and “let God” to let even the occurance of pain,
    joining with others in our practice of faith, virtually the whole range human experiences…mental, emotional, physical….all can be lifted to highest level of educating us..teaching us…about our true selves and what it is like in community..joining with anyone of a “LIKE mind” or spirit.
    It is a blessed experience to “become one”….acting together for each other.
    Just as we can choose to view things in our world in the best light…..you raised a very commonplace experience in your life to an excellent teaching moment…and bring introspection into having blessings coming together with others in a moment of “oneness” and faith.
    It illustrates a point of a higher possibility of humanity and sharing that is always available IF we GIVE, SHARE, BELIEVE and CHOOSE the higher paths.
    Love to All

  4. Ken Pargament at Bowling Green State University has done some interesting research on religious coping mechanisms. In one study, he compared secular meditation to God-centered meditation, and a control group. These meditators were taken to the lab and their hands dunked in ice water. They were told to use their meditation techniques and keep their hand in the ice water as long as possible. The result? They all rated their discomfort the same, but the God-centered meditators were able to endure the discomfort for a much longer period before withdrawing their hand.

    It’s a principle we’re taught pretty often though. God doesn’t reduce our pain, necessarily. He increases our capacity to endure it.

  5. Aaron R. says:

    Tracey, thank you for this. I particularly loved this line:
    ‘the blessing didn’t change any of her pain. But she suspected it wasn’t supposed to’. I really love the idea that we can be changed through participating in rituals together.

  6. nat kelly says:

    This is beautifully written, and quite poignant. You have a way with words, Tracy. I enjoy all your posts.

  7. Really beautiful post, Tracy.

  8. This story ended with a very moving experience for everyone involved. Thanks for recounting it so beautifully.

    Nauvoo’s always a special place for me. I’ve been very fortunate that I gotten to go back so frequently in the past few years — I was there last week and I’ll be there again this week. But among the many visits, the pilgrimage we took together with our many friends will always stand out for me.

  9. Beautiful post, Tracy!

  10. Thanks everyone.

    I’ve been struggling with how to write this for a long time- even wondering if I should. So I waited. And waited- but the buzz in my brain just wouldn’t go away.

    This really is a paltry re-telling of something that was much greater than my poor power to illustrate with words.

  11. Mark Brown says:

    There are gifts associated with both the giving and receiving of such blessings.

  12. Kevin Barney says:

    Lovely, as always, Tracy. Thanks for memorializing this account of a powerful spiritual experience.

  13. Molly Bennion says:

    Lovely. We teach of an eternal intelligence combining heart and mind, but you have put flesh and bones on the concept as well as anyone I’ve read.

  14. Tracy, you may not feel you’ve illustrated the experience adequately, but I certainly felt what you wrote, and I’m glad you wrote it. You’ve really got a talent.

  15. Steve Evans says:

    Wait, you weren’t pushed??!?

  16. Often we call for blessings out of physical pain, which the Lord may or may not be willing to relieve. He sometimes instead uses that pain to give us something much more enduring and elevating than mere relief from it. I’m going to remember that when called on to give blessings in the future. Nicely done, Tracy.

  17. Cynthia L. says:

    This is beautiful, Tracy. I like the picture, did you make that?

  18. Tracy, you captured the wonder and meaning of that moment so well. I’m glad you wrote this. Thank you.

  19. Nope, it’s a Paleolithic cave painting from Lascaux, France ca. 10,000-15,000 years ago. :)

  20. Wow. Gorgeous.

  21. Stephanie says:

    Beautiful post. Loved it.

  22. Powerful and inspiring. Refreshing to read for its unmistakable truth, testimony, and insight. Thank for your efforts to express these thoughts, and the courage you’ve exemplified by sharing them.

  23. Awesome, Sister M. You’ve captured well what was surely a moving experience for all present. Thanks for this.

  24. Latter-day Guy says:

    I love this! Thanks, Tracy M. Beautiful, thoughtful, splendid.

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