The blessings I have received this week

On Friday last week I lost my voice. Usually this would make people happy but the following 7 days would include two interviews on two continents and I would need my voice for both. I was anxious and so on Friday evening as I was putting my two daughters to bed I asked them to pray for me.

Amelie (my oldest) has a pretty good track-record with God and she offered me a sweet and sincere prayer asking that my voice would return. Then Jude (my youngest) wanted to pray for me as well. She asked me to sit on her bed as she stood up and put her hands on my head. “When I am sick, Daddy,” she said to me “you do this for me and so I am going to do it for you”. And she blessed me. After Jude finished her blessing, Amelie sat up in bed and said “I wanted to do that too but did not think I was allowed. Can I give you a blessing too, Daddy?” I went and sat on her bed and received another blessing for my sore throat.

I kissed them goodnight and went downstairs, feeling a deep connection to God and my daughters.

A few minutes later my Mum (who was staying with us that weekend) came downstairs. She had gone to say goodnight and the girls had told her about giving me blessings. Yet, now Amelie added this caveat: “I do not know whether it will work because I do not have the Priesthood”.

Amelie has just turned 8 and Jude will be 6 in a few weeks.

Jude’s intuitive response to the problem of sickness was to emulate the blessings she had received from me. It was Amelie’s too. But Amelie had learned – somewhere between the age of 5 and 8 – that laying hands on the sick was off limits to her and that even should she bless the sick in this way it would be less efficacious because she does not (will not ever) have the priesthood.

I do not pretend to know God’s will on these matters but it seems a rather grave thing (perhaps even a sin) to teach someone that they are less than they really are. If we are incorrect about the capacity of women to bless and heal then we are systematically cutting them off from certain powers and opportunities; and we have been doing for this generations. May God forgive us if we are wrong.

Comments

  1. Powerful.

  2. “it seems a rather grave thing (perhaps even a sin) to teach someone that they are less than they really are”

    Yes.

  3. Amen. Just as we systematically cut off black people from the blessings of priesthood service, temple endowments, and the joys of eternal family here on earth.

    “May God forgive us if we are wrong” may be understating the gravity of our situation.

  4. Thank you, Aaron.

  5. Aaron Brown says:

    Amen.

  6. I love that Jude wanted to bless you just as you’ve done for her. Amelie asking if she could give you a blessing was such a pure and beautiful gift, and when she later expressed her doubt about it working, it made my soul hurt.

  7. Kevin Barney says:

    Your girls sound like a delight.

  8. Brilliant. That is all.

  9. And mine, Rebecca.

    Thank you for the kind comments.

  10. I´m happy to attest that his girls are, in fact, a delight.

    By the bye, thanks for this piece, Aaron. Just recently put together that “Aaron R” was the Aaron R I know, which was a pretty exciting realization.

  11. Thanks for sharing Aaron. My nieces are amazing!

  12. “that laying hands on the sick was off limits to her and that even should she bless the sick in this way it would be less efficacious because she does not (will not ever) have the priesthood.
    I do not pretend to know God’s will on these matters but it seems a rather grave thing (perhaps even a sin) to teach someone that they are less than they really are.”

    Is that what the church teaches? Are we going to the same church?

    I have three daughters who are now teenagers. We’ve had similar conversations. I can tell you that NEVER have I taught that a priesthood blessing is MORE effectual than the prayers of a sister.

    It’s a beautiful story and a wonderful teaching moment. But “what is being taught?”, that’s up to you.

  13. I don’t think Amelie’s blessing any less efficacious than one given by a Priesthood bearer. Experience has taught me that the answers to prayers and the receiving of blessings come by faith, not the office or calling one holds. No, I’m not Molly Mormon from Happy Valley. I’m a life long member who doesn’t understand the clamor for women to be ordained to offices in the Priesthood. Not holding a Priesthood office has never interfered with my relationship to God and Christ, nor with the guidance and companionship of the Holy Ghost. So why would I need to be an Elder or High Priest? I sincerely don’t understand.

  14. “Not holding a Priesthood office has never interfered with my relationship to God and Christ, nor with the guidance and companionship of the Holy Ghost. So why would I need to be an Elder or High Priest?”

    Tina, fair question. But in that case, why does anyone need the Priesthood? And what is the point of Priesthood blessings?

  15. We are wrong.

  16. This was indeed virtuous, lovely, of good report and praiseworthy.

  17. Oh goodness. So beautiful (the offerings from your daughters and the connection you experienced) and so wrenching when your older daughter questioned herself and her desires and abilities. Thanks for sharing.

  18. For some reason these words come to mind:

    1. As the dew from heav’n distilling
    Gently on the grass descends
    And revives it, thus fulfilling
    What thy providence intends,

    2. Let thy doctrine, Lord, so gracious,
    Thus descending from above,
    Blest by thee, prove efficacious
    To fulfill thy work of love.

  19. Please be so very careful, Aaron. The endings historically haven’t been very good for those who have taken the stance that the Church is true but the Prophet is wrong on this issue.

    Whether we are talking Sonia Johnson or Kate Kelly or a number in between (and regardless of how you feel they were treated), evidence has shown that there is a large risk once you step across that line. Sometimes, when looking at results, the danger seems particularly acute on this issue.

    The Atonement is so much greater than any one issue – but I have seen far too many whose focus on this issue has resulted in their ultimately turning their backs on the Atonement. If the Church’s position is right, you may be found fighting against it. If, by chance, the Church’s position happens to be wrong the infinite Atonement and Christ’s Grace is sufficient to erase any hardship or pain that might come as a result.

    I hope this is received in the spirit it is given.

  20. Johnathan, it sounds to me like you are limiting the power of the Atonement. The Atonement is not the Church. Disagreement with Church policy does not impact the effectiveness of the Atonement in any way. The Atonement is much, much greater than the little organization of mortals that we call the Church, and its influence and power are in no way limited by one’s degree of fellowship within said organization.

  21. Nrc42:

    Not at all. I’ve just been around long enough to see enough people start with loving the Atonement and disagreeing with the Church and end with turning their backs on the Atonement. For whatever reason (particularly on this issue), it becomes nearly inevitable when certain positions are taken.

    Others may better understand why, but I’ve just seen it enough to be aware of the danger.

  22. Jonathan, how would you define “turning one’s back on the Atonement?”

  23. The most common is turning their back on the ordinances Christ has instructed us are necessary to effectuate the Atonement in our lives. It almost seems to follow the mentality that if this person I want to have the Priesthood doesn’t, then the Priesthood doesn’t matter. Abandoning covenants, foregoing the Sacrament, surrendering Membership, or similar actions that reduce our ability to access Grace under the terms established by the Savior.

    More serious, though fortunately less common, are those who turn their backs on Christ altogether and adopt a humanist/atheist/agnostic position.

    Whatever the mechanism, when a person says the Church is true but the Prophet is wrong on this issue it is seemingly only a matter of time before that person is saying the Church isn’t true. I expect their are exceptions to this, but in my experience they are tragically rare.

  24. Jonathan, it sounds very much to me like you are saying that turning one’s back on the Atonement and turning one’s back on the Church are one and the same. The Atonement is greater than that.

  25. Aaron, I’m curious what your response would have been if your little girls were little boys. I’m also curious what kind of language your daughters used. Did they imitate blessings they have heard (“by the power of the Melchizedek Priesthood which I hold”) or just ask Father in Heaven to bless your throat that it would get better while placing their hands on your head? I see absolutely no reason why they should have any doubt that the latter is fine, and you should reassure them about that (it sounds like you did).

    My children (a girl and two boys) have received priesthood blessings from their dad and seen him give blessings to others, and they have also observed me praying for recovery or other blessings for others and done so themselves. However, I don’t think it would occur to any of them to place their hands on someone’s head as opposed to just asking for a blessing as part of a normal prayer. I wonder why that is? I guess we’ve just never talked about priesthood blessings being different from petitioning the Lord through prayer. This story makes me wonder if we should. What is the difference between a priesthood blessing and a prayer of faith? I suppose there’s an element of command or power in using the priesthood as opposed to an element of pleading in a prayer. One is asking with authority or expectation while the other is asking in hope? I’m not sure if that captures the subtleties of the difference.

  26. It seems as though we have different views on what the Church is. If the Priesthood is the only authority to perform saving ordinances necessary to accept the Atonement (and I believe it is), then turning your back on the Church is turning your back on the Atonement. Not because the Atonement is no larger than the Church, but rather because the Church is the means the Savior has provided to accept the Atonement into our lives.

  27. Anyhow, we seem to have gone off topic, so I’ll bow out.

  28. I think that you are deifying the Church.

    I believe in the broad, expansive Atonement of a loving Savior who is ever-knocking and ever-seeking to gather and protect as a hen gathers her chicks. I believe in mercy and in a Savior who knows us and knows when we are trying our best to do what’s right. I believe that the moment we stop trying to do what’s right is the moment we reject the Atonement, and that that cannot be measured by anyone but God. I do not believe in a narrow, draconian Atonement whose ability to save is limited by the edicts of fallible men.

    We will have to agree to disagree.

  29. J. Stapley says:

    Thanks, Aaron. I’m grateful for you and your daughters.

  30. This is beautiful.

    And it hurts.

  31. I love this. I love that your daughters wanted this. I think I would be a better person today if I’d grown up feeling like it was okay for me to act on my instincts to bless people in that way.

    This discussion also raises something that seems to me to be a pretty significant blind spot in Mormonism: what do priesthood blessings and priesthood holders actually do? Are speech and actions that evoke priesthood authority more binding or given more consideration by God? I’ve personally felt a lot of comfort from priesthood blessings I’ve been given, and I love the laying on of hands. But I’ve never heard a clear statement of the spiritual mechanics of exercising priesthood. Sometimes people have told me that priesthood blessings just help us to be at peace with God’s will. Other stories imply that blessings have changed outcomes, healed the sick, protected people, and allowed miracles, as Christ’s exercise of it apparently did. Priesthood apparently helps to legitimate ordinances like baptism or temple ordinances (but I’ve never heard of ordinances being re-done because it was later discovered that the priesthood officiant was unworthy). If priesthood is merely “the power to act on behalf of Christ or God,” in the abstract, then we can all exercise some degree of priesthood by serving and praying for others, even if we aren’t all using it to build planets. But it seems strange to say that a priesthood blessing is no different than a prayer of faith, because then why is priesthood needed? Why is succession so important? Priesthood is obviously more than just compassion and a desire to bless and serve, otherwise it could not be restricted by age, sex, or church status…

  32. I appreciate all the comments, even those worried about me being excommunicated.

    The discussion has mostly passed and so I just want to say ‘hey’ to Tanner. Hope you are well, mate!

  33. But what if you don’t feel less than? What if you like the distinctions? Why do we have to be the same? And why do you insist that somehow women are “less than” unless men and women are the same? (Notice I use the word “same” here not equal, because I feel perfectly equal in our un-sameness.)