Are baby blessings like dedicatory prayers or priesthood blessings?

In the last few weeks I have been to a couple of baby blessings and specific differences between the two prompted a question: are baby blessings more like dedicatory prayers or priesthood blessings?

This distinction is important because the method through which God communicates his will is slightly different. When temples are dedicated the person who will be offering the dedicatory prayer (at least as far as I understand) seeks to write a revealed prayer. Apparently some of those who first heard Joseph Smith’s prayer at the Kirtland temple were surprised to hear the prayer being read. Such surprise might not be uncommon today where we seem to associate extemporaneous speaking with the spirit.

Extemporaneous speaking is the mode of revelation associated with priesthood blessings. Priesthood holders are instructed to lay hands on the head of the person and then to offer a blessing as ‘the Spirit directs’. In my experience, this is commonly interpreted to mean that I try to hear what the spirit prompts me to say and then I attempt to communicate the sense of that impression through words.

The specific guidance for giving baby blessings is this:

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

This same language (‘as the Spirit directs’) is used for other ordinances but there is some ambiguity here. Because naming and blessing children is performed through a prayer it is somewhat different from administering to the sick. In this sense, blessing a child may bear more similarities to a dedicatory prayer, which also begins by addressing heavenly father. Certainly, I think that we could argue that a dedicatory prayer is also given ‘as the Spirit directs’.

This is not to advocate for a certain approach but only to see what people think might be the advantages or disadvantages of these different approaches.

Comments

  1. Can it be a bit of both. We all wish things for those we love. Events that we feel would give them a more fulfilled life. We talk to our partners when our little ones come and have expectations and hopes for them. Do we not talk about them and hope for them and then see what comes by the spirit during the blessing. The inspired blessing can be used as direction for the parents in guiding their child.

  2. I should also add skills, talents and characteristics as things we wish, hope, work and pray for.

  3. I think too that it is bit of both. At least you should decide the name beforehand, otherwise you end up giving crazy names like Mahonri Moriancumer. The point 4 of the directions in Handbook suggests that at that point one should speak extemperaneous.
    Although, blessing a child is different than giving a blessing for an adult. For example, what kind of faith is required from the person receiving the blessing, if he or she is an infant?

  4. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    Rather than saying it’s a bit of both, I would say that either is acceptable. However, I do think we have made the baby blessing a more grand event than it need be (for cultural reasons). If we think of the ‘ordinance’ as consisting of two parts, separating the naming from the blessing, the blessing is simply equivalent to a Father’s Blessing – something that can, and probably should, occur multiple times throughout one’s life (with the understanding that the presence of a father to offer such blessings is not uniformly distributed). In practice, the baby blessing seems to take the form of a Patriarchal Blessing (an uber-Father’s blessing?), whereby the baby is blessed pertaining to anything and everything that may be potentially forthcoming (schooling, missions, marriage, parenthood, occupation, …). Ask a new father what kind of pressure they feel to ‘perform’ the blessing, and it becomes clear that baby blessings have become significantlly overblown.

  5. One thing that irks me (slightly) about the way we perform baby blessings is the way the performer of the blessing begins by addressing Heavenly Father and then, after giving the infant a name, turns away from God to address the baby in order to give the blessing. It’s like a prayer followed by a Priesthood blessing. Well, which is it? As I understand the Handbook of Instructions, the entire ordinance should be addressed to Heavenly Father, asking HIM to bless the baby. We should be saying things like “Please bless this infant that she will..” rather than “I bless you that you will…”

    I guess it’s not a huge deal, and I’m sure the ordinance is valid in either case, but I wonder if I’m the only one bothered by this inconsistency.

  6. Why are people referring to the baby blessing as an ordinance? It’s not required for salvation. And speaking in terms of its being ‘valid’ or not gives the wrong impression. It’s a lovely practice to introduce the baby to the ward, and it’s open to a fair amount of interpretation (keeping the handbook’s suggestions in mind).

  7. KMarkP: Both the Handbook and the scripture upon which it is based are quite clear: the child is to be “blessed” by the elders of the church.

    In D&C 20:70, we read:

    Every member of the church of Christ having children is to bring them unto the elders before the church, who are to lay their hands upon them in the name of Jesus Christ, and bless them in his name.

    And the handbook says:

    The person who gives the blessing:

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

    I don’t think either the scripture or the handbook supports your interpretation.

  8. MargaretOH says:

    I agree that it can be either, depending on the wishes of the parents. When my husband blessed our babies, we saw it very much as a dedicatory prayer, to the extent of writing it out ahead of time (he read it through several times and then proceeded from memory). We prayed together, had long conversations about impressions we both had received about this infant in utero, during childbirth, and in first few weeks of his/her life. We also discussed how we had chosen the name and what we wanted the child to remember from his/her name. I felt very strongly that my revelations, as the mother, were important and ought to be included. In this way, although my husband officially performed the ceremony, I felt like we had blessed our baby together. The whole process was one of the more sacred experiences of my life.

  9. Aaron, I think it is very important to note that there is no “doctrine” about this. A recent Mormon Women Stand post criticized Neylan McBain’s excellent book Women at Church because of a suggestion that the husband and wife might decide to work together in advance of a baby blessing to prepare an outline of things to cover or even produce a prayer to be delivered. The author of the MWS post claimed that Neylan was in doctrinal error to make this suggestion. I left the following comment:

    “You do not write and read a baby blessing”

    It is a “doctrinal mistake” to declare that this is not one possible way to prepare and deliver a baby blessing. Writing and memorizing might be better, I suppose, but it is absolutely not a doctrinal mistake to suggest writing and reading a baby blessing. Be careful not to present cultural accretions with “doctrine”. There is no “doctrine” about writing out or not writing out a baby blessing in advance. The guidance of the Spirit in the preparation of the blessing can be equally there either way. In writing out the blessing in advance, if the speaker of the blessing is in tune, the guidance and inspiration of the Spirit is present at the time of preparation and writing and also at the time the blessing is spoken, carrying the blessing into the hearts and minds of the congregation. In the more common practice of simply standing and delivering the baby blessing extemporaneously, we believe that the Spirit can also be present in that event if the speaker of the blessing is in tune.

    In response, the author of the post reinforced her belief that it was a “doctrine” that a man must speak extemporaneously while giving a baby blessing, implying that any boost from thoughts prepared in advance from spiritual promptings was doctrinally erroneous. In typical fashion for that blog and others like it, the author prevented my further response from appearing on the blog, though it was entirely civil and focused directly on the question at hand. (That type of dishonest policing of discussion greatly inhibits real communication about these issues and reveals that author’s intention to be purely agenda-driven and not interested in knowledge for its own sake — the author believes she already knows everything about the topic and is not interested in learning anything but rather in preaching her own thoughts without input.)

    Suffice it to say that the Spirit can direct the preparation of the blessing in advance just as it can the extemporaneous delivery of the blessing. I assert that it is doctrinally unfounded to claim that a baby blessing cannot or should not be thoughtfully considered in advance, with the direction and guidance of the Spirit, and then delivered as the Spirit directs. In other words, the individual who cares enough to prepare thoughts and desires and blessings in advance of the baby blessing stands to benefit from the guidance of the Spirit at least twice in the process: first, while making the advance preparations, whether that is organizing thoughts into a rough outline or actually drafting the entire prayer, and then second while actually delivering the blessing as prepared — the individual who is sensitive to the promptings of the Spirit can change or even ignore entirely the prepared thoughts in favor of something else the Spirit might direct.

    I actually think this is a very important issue. For one thing, the steps you listed from the Handbook are not “doctrine” but at most procedural guidance. I think that your comparison to temple dedicatory prayers is very apt. Both of them take the form of a prayer addressed to Heavenly Father. And even someone as entrenched in her opinions as that MWS author would not deny that a temple dedicatory prayer, thought very explicitly prepared in advance and written down for reading at the event, is not “directed by the Spirit” in its preparation.

  10. Slight tangent: we actually had a GA come through a stake we were living in about a decade ago and spoke very forcefully against switching modes of address (from God to the child) in the middle of a baby blessing. It was obviously a personal hobby-horse of his and filtered down in the stake for the next few years in the usual earnest Mormon way, to the degree that all new parents were personally coached by bishops to speak about the baby in the third person throughout the blessing.

    I rolled my eyes and blessed our babies the way that seemed natural at the time (i.e. addressing the child, like any other priesthood blessing) but clearly KMarkP’s interpretation is alive and well in at least some quarters of the church. I don’t think the handbook supports this reading very well. The only reason why baby blessings, unlike other blessings, begin with “1. Address Heavenly Father” is that normally you’d begin the prayer with the name of the blessee, but here that doesn’t work because you’re ABOUT to bestow the name. The introduction of the name allows the switch to the second person. Saying “this infant” throughout the prayer isn’t just grammatically circuitous. To me, it also feels less loving and personal than talking directly to the child.

    Voted “more like a priesthood blessing,” though I think preparation is absolutely okay for either.

  11. I definitely agree on switching to addressing the child in second person once the name has been stated in the part of the blessing that is addressed to Heavenly Father.

  12. I think the more important issue is the cultural accretion mentioned above that seems to preclude inspiration in these blessings–they are mostly just the same wish list for every kid, more Sleeping Beauty fairy gift than priesthood blessing. As with blessings of healing, the words spoken have come to overshadow the authority invoked. In reality, the “blessing” ie the wish list could be left out entirely with no ill effect other than people thinking the dad was a weirdo. No blessing has ever taken away my child’s disabilities or the need for following the commandments if I want her to enjoy the blessings of Gospel living. A child blessed at birth to marry in the temple is no more likely to marry in the temple than a kid who isn’t but still grows up in an equally righteous family, so let’s stop mocking God.

  13. The situation with fathers blessings is usually quite different because the recipient is typically old enough to hear the messages being delivered my inspiration. Speaking to an infant is odd. Might as well go Pentacostal and speak in tongues.

  14. We need more Mahonri Moriancumer’s in the church! Extemporaneous blessings are wonderful, but more challenging.

    I have mixed feelings about the carefully pre-written wish-list for God. It seems to me that it treats blessings more like a vending machine for children and less as a way for God to remind us about the millinia-old spirit that came into the family and to remind us all of their spiritual gifts.

    Is the difference between a scripted blessing and an extemporaneous one wherein the PH holder is prompted to share gifts/blessings the difference between a child reading Santa their wish list and a child opening a surprise present?

    I have a few stories about “wish list” blessings.

    1) Emma asking Joseph for a blessing before his last or one of his last departures, and Joseph telling Emma to write her own blessing and whatever it was, he would sign it.

    2) A young yuppie couple who after reading McBain’s book, spent countless hours planning every phrase of their baby’s blessing together. The mom quizzed the dad on his memory of their “list”. However, the baby didn’t cooperate and screamed so loudly through the blessing that the dad just named the baby and sat down.

    3) A dad carefully recites a pre-written “wish list” during the blessing. It feels awkward as he essentially describes (without names) the athleticism of Bo Jackson, the moral fiber of Captain Moroni, the missionary success of Heber C. Kimball, the spiritual knowledge or Parley P. Pratt, the scholarship of Hugh Nibley, business success of Steven R. Covey and the popularity of Mitt.

    Yeah, riiiiiiiight. Because you said it in an uninspired blessing, God’s gonna make little Johnny a super-child.

    This post is about much more than baby blessings. I often pray that the teleprompters will break in the middle of conference, forcing the speakers to talk from the heart and spirit as once was the pattern so many general conferences ago.

  15. annon, your comment relies on the premise that one cannot prepare the blessing “as the Spirit directs” if one sits down to do it beforehand, through quiet, focused, and prayerful introspection and reflection. That is simply wrong.

    Do it however you like doing it best but don’t say that others’ righteous and prayerful preparatory work in following the guidance of the Spirit to think through the blessing beforehand is equivalent to making a list for Santa Claus. That’s simply bad faith argument.

    As I said in a comment above, if you actually believe in the power of the Spirit to direct a blessing, then you will believe that the Spirit can inspire a speaker to extemporaneously ditch a prayerfully prepared blessing in favor of speaking from the cuff at the time of the blessing if for some reason the Spirit finds that to be necessary.

  16. I think the point is that if you are sitting down and crafting a blessing together in order to include the mother in the experience, the focus is not on God’s will for the child, as much as it is on the parents’ will for the mother.

    I can think of circumstances where writing the blessing beforehand can be done righteously, prayerfully, and humbly. But as a mother who recently watched her abuser baptize her firstborn child, and tried throughout the process to include the stepmother’s family while being shot death glares by them, I can attest that there are things that are not about me, as a woman nor as a mother.

  17. It honestly has never occurred to me to use a baby blessing a wish list. I never thought much of baby blessings until holding my own first babe in my arms and experiencing some of the clearest spiritual impressions of my life about who this little soul was and who she had the potential to become. I wanted her to know about those revelations and about the meaning that I attached to her name (and that I hoped she would latch on to as well as she grew). The baby blessing was a formal way of sharing those communications from God and inviting our community to welcome her.

  18. I agree that it is a mix of both, though voted extemporaneous. Aren’t all blessings this way? Even those that are fully ‘dictated by the Spirit’, we are interjecting our own personal, historical, cultural mindsets as the blessing unfolds. Hopefully we are open enough to allow the Spirit to tell us what we need to say, and to convey to the person receiving the blessing to get what they need from it. For this reason I agree with KMarkP that the blessing should be addressed to Heavenly Father, who is ultimately blessing the child. The infant doesn’t need the ‘hear’ the blessing (half of the time they’re asleep, at least hopefully not screaming!) and wouldn’t understand the words anyway. The handbook is ambiguous as to who is addressed during the blessing portion, so it does not preclude either addressing the child or Heavenly Father, but it seems to make more sense to me to address Heavenly Father throughout. I wouldn’t be upset though if someone didn’t follow my predetermined mindset.

  19. What if someone wrote down the baby blessing for the individual to have and refer to later in life, like a patriarchal blessing? Wouldn’t that be wonderful! And, if someone has prepared the blessing in advance, as directed by the Spirit, then delivered as directed by the Spirit, then so much the better!

  20. Most of the blessings I have heard in my ward (lots of young couples with lots of babies) have sounded like a list of achievements the father wanted the child to accomplish. A watered down version of a patriarchal blessing, with no acknowledgement of the child’s agency. Fortune telling, instead of invoking God’s blessing on the behalf of a new life.

  21. I always conceptualized it more like launching a ship. Which is why I always concluded the blessing by smashing a bottle of champagne on the baby’s hull.

  22. I always conceptualized it more like opening a shopping mall. Which is why I always start by cutting the umbilical cord and then shouting ‘Lets go shopping’.

  23. Next stop: “Why are people referring to the baby blessing as an ordinance?”
    The church categorizes baby blessings as ordinances, even though they are not essential for exaltation. Consecrating oil and administering to the sick and afflicted are also specified as ordinances. According to lds.org, the definition of ordinance is a sacred, formal act performed by the authority of the priesthood (https://www.lds.org/topics/ordinances). My guess is a patriarchal blessing would also be considered an ordinance under this broad definition.

  24. I gave a baby blessing to my son just a few weeks ago. I made a few changes to the “normal” blessing–instead of the “his name shall be known on the records of the church as…,” line, I simply stated, “His name is…”
    I also didn’t mark off a list of accomplishments I’d like him to achieve. No “serve a mission” or “marry in the temple” stuff. I did, however, bless him with specific traits and desires that I want him to have–that he’d be a hard worker, that he’d develop a good friendship with his brothers, etc. I view it more as my wishes for him rather than fortunetelling.

  25. A few quick responses:

    Debs, a little bit of both is a cop-out :) One side or the other please.

    john f., there was a moment just before I posted this that I wondered whether this had been discussed somewhere else recently. I quickly realised that when you have not posted in quite some time you do not have the luxury of being original. Great thoughts, btw.

    Owen, oh that more baby blessings were like this

    MargaretOH, I do not think the prepared blessing is necessarily a wish list but rather a different approach to revelatory process.

    robherr, yes, I guess they are but in reality more emphasis is given to one rather than the other. For example, when asked to give a blessing I am certainly aware of particular impressions that come even before laying hands on someone’s head but that is not I think the same as approaching the blessing like a dedicatory prayer where the emphasis is on preparation (while retaining scope for impromptu diversions).

    Mary Ann, you get a good point. Ordinances =/= salvific. Ordinance = ritual. (At least in Mormonism).

  26. Tim, thanks for sharing your experience. It is interesting to hear the diversity in how people approach this moment.

  27. For our first born, I gave him a name, said “amen”, and sat down. The blessing took place that night at home, while he was sleeping in his mother’s arms. For the second born, we just did the whole thing at home, surrounded by friends.

  28. Here’s where a clerk needs to point out that whatever name you say at the podium doesn’t matter a whit. It’s whatever name you put on the piece of paper you get handed, that goes on the records of the church. So placate grandma at the podium and put the real name on the paper.

  29. As for the blessing being an ordinance – that’s just a word. The action is not recorded in the history of the church, anywhere. You could have a clerk create a membership record for the tyke and no one would be the wiser if a prayer was used or not.

  30. I am still hoping to hear the blessing where a child is promised to be “a scourge unto the seed of his brethren.”

  31. We have written down each of our children’s blessings and they stay with the baby book and then the baby. They are all very very different.

    They are spirit directed, though my husband prepares himself spiritually.

  32. Oh and my husband prefers to continue speaking with heavenly father instead of switching mid blessing.

  33. I always thought the mid-blessing switch in addressee from Heavenly Father to the newly-named infant was a little confusing, but I did it five times, so we kind of got used to it. Awkward as it was, it seemed more awkward to pronounce the blessing in the third person. And we never prepped anything in advance except the name, although I did think about what might be covered. It couldn’t really be said that I planned anything. I never had a lightning-bolt revelation to change a name, either, thank goodness. :)

    I no longer have access to HB1, but I seem to remember that we’re not supposed to record (or take notes?) on blessings, although I’m sure note-taking is done all the time. Way back when, I taped and transcribed the blessing when I was set apart for my mission; apparently my stake president at the time hadn’t gotten the word. It was a great help and comfort to me in the field.

  34. It is interesting that over the course of giving my children blessings, both at their birth and each year as a tradition before school starts, i have learned more about the future potential about my children than they do. The blessings greatly affect my council to them when they are having difficulties and trials. I believe that they are blessings to be spoken by inspiration as the handbook states. ” a name and a blessing”. both are given. The dedicatory part of the prayer is the name that is chosen by the parents and the spiritual part is the “as the Spirit directs”. A wise parent follows the after the voice of the Spirit and records the words spoken so as to verify and build testimony twenty and thirty years later. Waiting on the Lord to see His hand in the life of your child is of great spiritual worth and brings great Joy.

  35. I should amend my comments by saying that you record your remembrances, impressions and feelings in your personal journal.

  36. KmarkP – I also used to think it was wrong to switch from addressing Heavenly Father to addressing baby directly. It just seemed sort of rude. The old handbook instructions were a bit vague. But, the latest handbook says:
    Handbook 2, 20.1 states in part:
    Those who give priesthood blessings speak words of blessing (“I [or we] bless you that …”) rather than saying a prayer (“Heavenly Father, please bless this person that …”).
    I think this finally cleared up the ambiguity that had previously existed, and all blessings given are given to the recipient as opposed to asking God to bless the individual.

  37. I do not think that preparing a baby blessing, or even a prayer ahead of time makes that blessing or prayer any less inspired. The inspiration just comes at another time, that’s all. I gave one of the prayers at my college graduation and I prepared it very carefully beforehand and memorized it. Only one of my English professors recognized that the prayer was in the for of a sonnet. Nevertheless, a sincere sonnet. I think a baby blessing begins as a dedication, then becomes a blessing. Most blessings that I have heard have expressed the father’s love for the child as well as giving a blessing that the child will follow the Gospel. I have never considered them to be “wish lists.” Instead, I have felt them to be a parent’s sincere desires for his child.

  38. New Iconoclast,
    this is what HB1 says:
    “Patriarchal blessings are recorded and transcribed. The exact wording of other ordinances and blessings is not recorded in writing or by recording device. However, a family may record father’s blessings.”
    Isn’t baby blessing sort of father’s blessing?

  39. What if someone wrote down the baby blessing for the individual to have and refer to later in life, like a patriarchal blessing? Wouldn’t that be wonderful!

    I think so, which is part of the reason I prepared in advance and then read my first and to date only baby blessing. The other reason is that I am not convinced that the advantages of speaking off the cuff–flexibility and engagement with the audience–are worth the price of coherence and substance. A few experienced/gifted speakers might be able to have it all, but not me. Besides, in a prayer you don’t need to worry about eye contact.

  40. My first two children’s blessings were very extemporaneous. However, I was a very new member when my daughter was born and had very little experience with blessings of any kind even by the time my son was born three and a bit years later. Whats more, my wife grew up in a household with no active priesthood holder so we had little experience to call upon. As a result, I was so busy focussing on “doing it right” I feel they lacked some of the extra spirituality they might have otherwise had.
    With this, my third and as yet unborn, child I feel a lot more prompted to prepare at least something beforehand even though I had never really considered preparing a blessing up until this point. I feel that she (1) will be a very powerful force in the church and I want my congregation to know that this is something they will have a part in bringing to pass.
    To complicate things further on this question, not long before I expect to be blessing my third, I will be baptising and confirming my first born. I wonder what level of preparation I should put into her confirmation prayer?

    1) We haven’t had this confirmed by medical science, but I knew the genders and names of both my children well before their births so we’ll stick with she for now.

  41. Left Field says:

    Until now, I was not aware that writing a whole blessing in advance was something people did. I don’t have any objection to it, I just didn’t know it was a Thing. Though I would imagine that for any kind of blessing, people might think informally about what they will say.

    I don’t remember everything I said in my son’s blessing, but I think I determined that cultural expectation was not sufficient reason to include things like mission and temple marriage. And I know I didn’t say “take a young woman to the temple.” For several reasons, I really dislike that locution*.

    And I bucked tradition by skipping the whole preliminary, “We take this infant in our arms to give him a name and a blessing. And the name we give him, by which he shall be known…” I recommend the direct route: “By the authority of the priesthood, we name this infant John Doe, and bless him…” I don’t think it’s necessary to announce what you’re about to do, unless perhaps you need to give the Lord a few seconds to grab the Celestial Name Form and fumble for a pen. Besides, it’s the naming and blessing, not the holding that’s done by the authority of the priesthood.

    ===
    *Back when there was such a thing, I was a stake missionary visiting a new convert with the full-time Elders. One of them was going on and on about how she needed to find “someone to take her to the temple.” He never mentioned marriage. I could tell she was becoming increasingly bewildered about why it was such a big deal to get a ride to the temple. Finally, I had to interject and explain what he was talking about.

  42. The shift from Heavenly Father to baby seems quite natural to me. We are giving the child a name and a blessing, we address the Father in giving the child a name (as stated, for the ritual, the baby doesn’t “have” a name yet, as we’re giving it) and then we give the child the blessing. So while I think the first part is more like a dedicatory prayer (the giving a name), the second half is a priesthood blessing. And while I consider all seven I have done (my own six, and a friend’s child) to be extemporaneous, they were also certainly “prepared” to some degree, as I think/pray about them quite a bit before hand.

  43. Thanks Peter! I find that contribution very valuable to this discussion.

    I have given four baby blessings extemporaneously, “as directed by the Spirit”, though for the third one I prepared by reading a few specific scriptures in advance that I felt drawn to and for the fourth one I carefully researched in advance the ancestor after whom we’d named her.

    For the fifth baby blessing, I prayerfully prepared the blessing in advance, “as directed by the Spirit”, by researching the ancestors after whom we were naming our son, studying a number of scriptures, and discussing our son’s names with my wife, then memorized a general outline of several themes that I was feeling prompted, beforehand, to include. Then, during the blessing, I pronounced it “as directed by the Spirit”, which just happened to coincide almost exactly with the content I’d prepared in advance “as directed by the Spirit”, though not entirely and so the extemporaneously delivered blessing differed slightly and for the better than what I’d prepared in advance.

    Having prepared myself mentally with such an outline of content in advance, it made it much easier after the fact to then write out the blessing as delivered, so that our son will now have reference to his own baby blessing when he is older. This is something I regret that we did not think to do with our other four children.

    So my experience with preparing a blessing in advance is a hybrid one — I did not write out the blessing word for word in advance but did a lot of studying of family history and scriptures and prepared a mental outline, “as directed by the Spirit”, incorporating both scripture and family history, and then delivered the blessing extemporaneously, “as directed by the Spirit”, which happily included virtually all of the substance (scripture + family history) I had prepared but with some changes that were definitely an improvement on my mental outline.

    I am completely confident that someone who goes one step further and writes out the entire blessing in advance, “as directed by the Spirit”, and then either reads it or delivers it by memory during the blessing, “as directed by the Spirit”, is not in doctrinal error in any way.

  44. I served a mission in a Russian-speaking country and will point out that in English we “say” prayers (that’s the verb . . . “say”, “speak”, “deliver”, “give”) whereas the Russian verb is to “read” a prayer. So a literal translation sounds like this: “Sister X, will you read the prayer?” Consequently, when we taught people to pray for the first time, they would often ask for a week to prepare, then they would write out a thoughtful “spirit-directed” prayer, which they would literally read during the next appointment. Other prayers from the bible, especially “Our Father” are also read. The impromptu prayer thing was pretty weird and new.

    Point being, other cultures would lean almost entirely on prepared prayers/blessings instead of improvisational ones.

    That having been said, I still think there is something beautiful and unique about speaking improvisationally from the spirit, something steeped in our culture. I miss our GA’s speaking from the cuff in conference, and I stand in awe at great orators who improvise. Much like I appreciate the improvised trills and flourished in baroque music, or a great improved’ jazz riff. At the same time, I can appreciate Bach’s beautifully planned counterpoint. I worry that we will loose one or the other.