Special Feature: Reader's Puzzle for Fall 2010

"The Blessing Dilemma"

Valerie M. Hudson

SquareTwo, Vol. 3 No. 3 (will be part of Fall 2010 issue)

 

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            One of the most remarkable talks of the April 2010 General Conference was that given by Elder Dallin H. Oaks in the priesthood session, entitled “Healing the Sick.”  The talk makes several excellent points, including, a) Latter-day Saints do not regard blessing or praying for the sick as a substitute for medical care, b) prayers of the faithful, whether LDS or not, may be sufficient to heal the sick even without priesthood blessings, c) we do not casually talk about miracles of healing in public, and d) we are not to ask for too-frequent priesthood blessings.  These are all important things to be said.

Elder Oaks discusses how during a blessing the authority of the priesthood can open the windows of heaven for a faithful soul to be healed, if that is the will of the Lord.  Elder Oaks also indicates that we must not overlook that requirement that the person being blessed must apply their faith, and that no priesthood blessing can override the will of the Lord.  Some who were blessed to be healed or to live have not been healed or have died because that was the will of the Lord.  From what Elder Oaks says, it is a possibility that the non-fulfillment of a priesthood blessing could indicate that the faith of the person being blessed was insufficient to be healed, even though it was not contrary to the Lord’s will that they be healed.  Indeed, Elder Oaks cites President Spencer W. Kimball, who stated, “The major element [in healing blessings] is the faith of the individual when that person is conscious and accountable.”  If one is unconscious, or suffering from dementia, or a tiny baby, we do not account the faith of that individual as a prerequisite for healing.

Perhaps this means that there are three possible states existent when a blessing is given: 1) the Lord wills that the person be healed, 2) the Lord wills that the person not be healed, and 3) it is not contrary to the will of the Lord that the person be healed.  In that third case, it is possible that degree of faith might correlate with degree of healing.

The talk also includes a discussion about the meaning of the words of a priesthood blessing, and here we would invite the assistance of our readers, presenting a bit of a puzzle. We invite our readers to express their own resolution of the puzzle. We will publish all faithful commentary on this matter in our Fall issue, even if a comment is shorter than our usual 250 word minimum. Please send your comments to squaretwojournal@yahoo.com by October 31st.

The section of Elder Oaks’ talk concerning the actual words of a blessing of healing or comfort is worth quoting at length:

"Another part of a priesthood blessing is the words of blessing spoken by the elder after he seals the anointing. These words can be very important, but their content is not essential and they are not recorded on the records of the Church. In some priesthood blessings様ike a patriarchal blessing葉he words spoken are the essence of the blessing. But in a healing blessing it is the other parts of the blessing葉he anointing, the sealing, faith, and the will of the Lord葉hat are the essential elements.

"Ideally, the elder who officiates will be so in tune with the Spirit of the Lord that he will know and declare the will of the Lord in the words of the blessing. Brigham Young taught priesthood holders, 的t is your privilege and duty to live so that you know when the word of the Lord is spoken to you and when the mind of the Lord is revealed to you. When that happens, the spoken blessing is fulfilled literally and miraculously. On some choice occasions I have experienced that certainty of inspiration in a healing blessing and have known that what I was saying was the will of the Lord. However, like most who officiate in healing blessings, I have often struggled with uncertainty on the words I should say. For a variety of causes, every elder experiences increases and decreases in his level of sensitivity to the promptings of the Spirit. Every elder who gives a blessing is subject to influence by what he desires for the person afflicted. Each of these and other mortal imperfections can influence the words we speak.

"Fortunately, the words spoken in a healing blessing are not essential to its healing effect. If faith is sufficient and if the Lord wills it, the afflicted person will be healed or blessed whether the officiator speaks those words or not. Conversely, if the officiator yields to personal desire or inexperience and gives commands or words of blessing in excess of what the Lord chooses to bestow according to the faith of the individual, those words will not be fulfilled. Consequently, brethren, no elder should ever hesitate to participate in a healing blessing because of fear that he will not know what to say. The words spoken in a healing blessing can edify and energize the faith of those who hear them, but the effect of the blessing is dependent upon faith and the Lord痴 will, not upon the words spoken by the elder who officiated."

This is a most extraordinary passage.  I think most members of the Church have concluded as a result of their life experiences with blessings that the words of some blessings were clearly not the will of the Lord because the words were not fulfilled, even though the faith of the person involved was not an issue.  But this passage appears to go a bit farther.  It appears to indicate that the words of a blessing are a non-essential element, and even perhaps that they are an element that should not be considered as particularly meaningful by the person being blessed.

We can see how this could be understood as an encouragement to the blessors.  As Elder Oaks says, “Consequently, brethren, no elder should ever hesitate to participate in a healing blessing because of fear that he will not know what to say.”  It must be encouraging to know, as a blessor, that it does not really matter what you say as long as you try your best to be in tune with the Spirit.  The will of the Lord and the faith of the person involved are what matter.

However encouraging this might be to the blessors, it does seem to create a dilemma for the blessee.  In a normal blessing, the anointing may take a minute, but then the remainder of the blessing might take many minutes while the blessor pronounces a blessing.  If the words in the end mean nothing, what should blessees be thinking while these words are being said?  Should we be distracting ourselves, so as not to hear the words and be tempted to believe them, because they do not necessarily have any import and may not in the end be true?  Should we be inquiring of the blessor before or after the blessing concerning how in tune with the Spirit they feel, say on a scale of 1 to 10, and then give credence to the words spoken in the same degree as the ranking given?  Should we ask the Spirit to tell us if the words of the blessing have any real meaning?  Should we suggest the blessor simply say, “The Lord’s will be done according to thy faith,” and resist the temptation to embellish on that sentence?  When a spoken blessing is not fulfilled, should we assume that the blessor was giving in to temptation to say more than the Lord willed rather than assuming we did not have the faith for the blessing pronounced to be realized, because how can one be expected to have faith in words that may not mean anything?

Truly, ‘tis a dilemma to know what to think about these things.  Being the blessee now brings with it an interesting set of conundrums.  On the one hand, it is good to know that if a blessing is not fulfilled, it might not be because we lacked faith, but rather because we should not have placed our faith in the words spoken.  But now what does a blessee “do” with the words of a blessing?

Because we feel our readership will have good and useful insight on this matter, we ask for your thoughts.  Again, we will publish all faithful commentary on this matter in our Fall issue, even if a comment is shorter than our usual 250 word minimum. Please send your comments to squaretwojournal@yahoo.com by October 31st for consideration.

 

Full Citation for This Article: Hudson, Valerie M. (2010) "The Blessing Dilemma," Vol. 3 No. 3 (Fall), http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleReadersPuzzleBlessings.html, accessed [give access date].

Would you like to comment on this article? Thoughtful, faithful comments are welcome. Please submit to SquareTwo.

COMMENTS: 10 Comments

1) Eric Gee, November 2010

Sometimes, members of the Church  think of blessings as synonymous with “faith healings”. I think the difference is that faith healings imply a guaranteed resolution of the problem provided “adequate” faith is exercised.   Those providing blessings in the LDS Church never guarantee anything but rather respectfully ask God for His blessing and then humbly submit themselves to God’s will, whatever that might be.   So, if we accept that blessings can have a multiplicity of effects, perhaps the actual words spoken aren’t so very important in the end.   

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2) Dale B. Robertson, November 2010

I wonder if we have a narrow view of what constitutes healing.  If someone in the last days of cancer is blessed to be healed and then dies, I think that she has been healed.  Isn't death the ultimate cure or healing of earth's pains?  Our begging to be allowed to live for a few more days or months or even years, must be amusing to beings for which time has little meaning. 

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3) Arnold W. Hammari, November 2010

One should not look a gift horse in the mouth.  There have been a few times in my life when I requested healing blessings from Priesthood brethren.  I asked because I was desperate.  I knew the elders fairly well; they were men of faith.  The words they spoke during the administration were not always what I expected, but they were words of affection and encouragement.  My attention may have drifted during the pronouncement of the blessing so I appreciate it that Elder Oaks minimized the importance of the content.  I have always been appreciative of these blessings and have felt the Lord was mindful of my needs.

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4) Larry Stay, November 2010

As one who has given and received blessings I was also perplexed by the explanation that the words of the blessing of one who is sick are not the most important part of the blessing.  As you outlined, the crucial elements are the will of the Lord first, the faith of the recipient second and the words of the blessing third.  If the person giving the blessing is in tune with and has learned to listen to the Spirit , then the will of the Lord and the words of the blessing would be the same.  This is the only way that the blessing would not be contingent.  I guess that in any blessing of this nature, where the priesthood holder acting as voice has not clearly received the will of the Lord, he should do as you suggest and make the contingencies explicit.  That is, saying something to the effect that they are blessed to be healed if it be the will of the Lord and if their faith is sufficient.

It should not seem unusual to us to receive contingent blessings.  Many of the blessings we receive or are promised depend upon our faithfulness.  The companionship of the Holy Ghost as promised in the sacramental prayers is contingent on us keeping the commandments and always remembering the Savior.  The blessings of the temple depend upon our continued faithfulness.  Indeed we are told that when we receive any blessing from God it is because we have obeyed the law upon which that blessing was predicated.

I think that more and better blessings will be given as we learn to find the power in the priesthood that President Packer taught us about in his talk. 

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5) Cort McMurray, November 2010

Elder Oaks’s argument boils down this way:

1.        Priesthood is the power of God.
2.       Men exercise Priesthood only when they are properly ordained and living worthy lives
3.       The power of the Priesthood is manifest in the ordinance; words of counsel and blessing are ancillary to that

All of this is correct.  We complete Priesthood ordinances in the Temple, like baptismal confirmations, without invoking works of blessing.  The blessing and counsel is not necessary.

This does not diminish the importance of the blessing.

I recently heard a former bishop say that he had had young Priesthood holders express relief over Elder Oaks’s talk, feeling it “liberated” them from the expectation to say something inspired.  I do not think that is what Elder Oaks was trying to accomplish.  Rather than liberating us, Elder Oaks is challenging us: a crucial part of worthiness is knowing the mind and will of God.  Doctrine and Covenants 68:1-4 is often misinterpreted as a reference to prophets.  In fact, it was counsel given to departing missionaries, and promises ALL Priesthood holders that if they earnestly seek the Spirit, and carefully keep themselves worthy, what they speak in the context of their specific stewardships, will be the “will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.”  We have an obligation to seek the Spirit, so that we can say the things the Lord would have us say. 

People yearn to hear counsel from the Lord.  When my father was dying of cancer, my mother made three separate requests for Priesthood administration.  Independently of one another, and with no knowledge of what the others had said, three worthy men, all good friends of my father, each performed that ordinance.  In every case, the blessing that accompanied administration promised the same things, that my father’s children would be provided for, and that his wife would be well.  A promise of healing, which my mother desired beyond all measure, was never made; my father died a week shy of his 40th birthday.  At fifteen, I learned of the power of the Priesthood.  I knew, even though I had not been present for any of the blessings, and only heard about them from my parents, that they were of God, and that God was speaking to us.  As I got older, and lived through the financially and spiritually difficult years that my family endured after my father’s death, those blessings were an anchor: we would be provided for.  All would be well.  We were, and it is.  It helped that one of the men told me, many years later, that he had decided to promise my father health, but had been constrained by the Spirit.  This was a tremendous teaching moment for me.

Priesthood ordinances are interconnected halves:  there is an administration, which is essential to effect the ordinance; then there is a ministration, which strengthens the feeble, encourages the disconsolate, and guides the humble.  Both demand the worthiness of the Priesthood holder.  Administration satisfies the demands of order; ministration brings the pure love of Christ.  Look at the Scriptures: some of the most moving and instructive passages are recorded blessings, offered by righteous Priesthood holders!  Can you imagine how barren our spiritual lives would be if Patriarchal blessings consisted of a deeply righteous man, laying hands on head, announcing his authority, declaring our lineage, making some reference to resurrection, and closing in the Savior’s name?  Words matter. 

We need to teach our Priesthood holders that they can speak the voice of the Lord.  And we need to teach them the difference between those words, and the words they merely want to say.

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6) Janille Shumway Stearmer, November 2010

After pondering these words from Elder Oaks, "The words spoken in a healing blessing can edify and energize the faith of those who hear them, but the effect of the blessing is dependent upon faith and the Lord’s will, not upon the words spoken by the elder who officiated," I have a few thoughts to share.

In a recent conversation with my mother, the topic of my father's diagnosis of Pulmonary Fibrosis came up.  Pulmonary Fibrosis is a terminal disease from which there is no cure, only treatments to alleviate symptoms and, hopefully, prolong life.  This was a very difficult time for our family, of course, and I know we all sought answers and comfort.  Dad was given a blessing that if he remained active and fulfilled his church callings that the doctors and medicine for his treatment would work within his body and he would enjoy continued health. Though he has slowed down and still suffers with some of the symptoms, this promise continues to work in him, fives years after the initial diagnosis.  Now, would his own faith and the will of the Lord have been sufficient for the priesthood ordinance of the healing blessing to work within him, and the words mere additions? Possibly. But I think that sometimes the words give the person receiving the blessing the opportunity to focus their faith in specific directions. My father is 73 years old and will die someday, probably due to the ravages of this illness in his lungs.  Does that negate the words of the priesthood holder when the blessing was given? No. They were what he needed to hear at that time, to bring comfort and direction and confidence.

In the face of serious personal trials, choices may become confusing or overwhelming. Are the words necessary for the ordinance to have power, coupled with the faith of the individual? No. But neither would I claim that they were superfluous or unnecessary. As servants in the Lord's kingdom, we are required to care for one another, comfort those in need of comfort, support the weary, and I think through the words of blessings and prayers of faith, this can be a part of ministering to one another, though it is not a necessary part of the ordinance itself.

I asked my husband, Matt, to comment on these matters, also. What follows are his thoughts:

As a high counselor I attended a meeting with our Stake President. He related to us an experience he had with a general authority that had just recently attended out Stake Conference. President Smith was setting apart some individuals for new callings and ordinations. On the first setting apart Pres Smith said he gave a beautiful blessing at the end of the ordinance. After that individual the GA indicated that he had indeed given a nice blessing, but he should try to keep it shorter. So the next individual came in. And while the blessing after was shorter the GA gave the same instruction.
After 4 attempts, President Smith said the required words, 1-2 sentences in blessings and
then ended. The GA patted him on the back and said well done.

We were then instructed to teach in the wards this pattern. Training and counsel should be given in their proper setting. And the ordination and setting apart were generally not going to be the proper setting.

While this experience is not doctrinal, I believe that it is instructive. The core message is that we should focus on that which is most important. I think that it also carries with it a warning.

The covenant people throughout all time have had to deal with distractions. For the Jews they had an elaborate law, but not quite as fun as the pagan stories. They were admonished again and again to not let their pure faith be corrupted by the beliefs of those in whose land they dwelt. Even when they managed to remain faithful to the law, the law itself became a distraction.

In the time of the New Testament similar distractions happened. As Romans and Jews converted to Christianity they both missed their old ways of life. Many, like Lot’s wife of old, turned back to their old ways because of distractions.

As I read Elder Oak’s remarks I do not see him minimize the blessing. He clearly states, “These words can be very important”. He then goes on to put it “can be” in its proper context. The first key is in general to focus on that which matters most. The second is to really be in tune with the Spirit. The third, which I surmise from the text, is to the officiator, to not to become prideful and feel that we have to give an eloquent blessing in order to make the blessing more meaningful. Fourth, a word of caution to the receiver, to not waiver in faith if a grand pronouncement of healing or blessing was not bestowed.

I believe that Elder Oaks’ words are extremely timely. We cannot afford to ritualize the blessings and ordinances of the gospel in the later days, or their true power and significance will become lost to us. We must be active participants in the promise that the truth will never again be taken from the earth.

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7) Raymond Takashi Swenson, November 2010

Valerie Hudson posed the question:

Being the blessee now brings with it an interesting set of conundrums.  On the one hand, it is good to know that if a blessing is not fulfilled, it might not be because we lacked faith, but rather because we should not have placed our faith in the words spoken.  But now what does a blessee “do” with the words of a blessing?

To frame my response, I would like to have the key text in Elder Oak’s April 2010 talk in front of us, so we can parse the words correctly:

"Ideally, the elder who officiates will be so in tune with the Spirit of the Lord that he will know and declare the will of the Lord in the words of the blessing. Brigham Young taught priesthood holders, “It is your privilege and duty to live so that you know when the word of the Lord is spoken to you and when the mind of the Lord is revealed to you.” When that happens, the spoken blessing is fulfilled literally and miraculously. . . .

"Fortunately, the words spoken in a healing blessing are not essential to its healing effect. If faith is sufficient and if the Lord wills it, the afflicted person will be healed or blessed whether the officiator speaks those words or not. Conversely, if the officiator yields to personal desire or inexperience and gives commands or words of blessing in excess of what the Lord chooses to bestow according to the faith of the individual, those words will not be fulfilled. Consequently, brethren, no elder should ever hesitate to participate in a healing blessing because of fear that he will not know what to say. The words spoken in a healing blessing can edify and energize the faith of those who hear them, but the effect of the blessing is dependent upon faith and the Lord’s will, not upon the words spoken by the elder who officiated."

The meaning I get from these words includes the following:

1. Aside from times when God has a specific will that there be either healing or not healing, in other cases God is willing to allow us to be healed, if our faith in God is sufficiently strong.  In other words, in that third category of cases, healing through a priesthood blessing depends on both (a) God’s willingness to have the blessee healed and (b) the strength or quality of the blessee’s faith that God can heal him or her.

2. If the elder does not know God’s will, but decides to make a promise of healing on his own initiative, he cannot obligate God to back up such an unwarranted promise of healing, and the healing will still depend solely on God’s true will and, if God allows, the quality of the blessee’s faith.  Healing, or not healing, will take place in spite of such unauthorized promises by the elder. 

3. If the elder does not know God’s will, through revelation, and therefore honestly declines to make any promise in the blessing ordinance, the ordinance can still be an effective means for God’s priesthood power to heal, either (a) because God simply wills a healing or (b) God allows a healing and the blessee has sufficient faith in God’s power to heal.   

4. “Ideally”, if the elder lives so that he knows “when the mind of the Lord is revealed” to him, he can declare the Lord’s will in the blessing portion of the ordinance.  Because “[t]he words spoken in a healing blessing can . . . energize the faith of those who hear them”, a blessing ordinance that is accompanied by an authentic promise of the Lord’s intent that the blessee be healed will increase that faith and therefore increase the likelihood that the ordinance will heal. 

What I take from this as an elder who is performing the blessing ordinance is that, if I feel sensitive to communication through the Holy Ghost, I should take advantage of that and pronounce a blessing that will “energize the faith” of the blessee and make the blessing more likely to heal.  On the other hand, if I am not feeling sensitive to inspiration, I should decline to make false and potentially misleading promises and simply rely on the blessee’s existing, unaugmented faith. 

The real problem is when I am unsure whether I am receiving inspiration or not.  While we commonly associate the experience of inspiration with particular emotional and even physical sensations (such as a “burning in the bosom”), there is no warrant in scripture and the accounts of revelatory experience from Joseph Smith and often shared with others (such as Oliver Cowdery or Sidney Rigdon) to assume that there cannot be simply revelation as “pure intelligence” that enlightens us, without other verifying sensations.  It is possible that my desire to heal a loved one can strongly affect my emotions and thoughts, even though I am also receiving inspiration that confirms my desire, that in effect answers the prayer of my heart with a positive answer!  So inspiration can be present or absent regardless of the presence or absence of various feelings.  Especially when the person in need of healing is someone we are close to, a lot of things will enter our minds and hearts, and identifying specifically that we are getting, or not getting, inspired encouragement to make promises of healing, may be obscured by our emotions.  In that state of uncertainty, what should I say?

In light of the fact that inspired words can have a direct effect to “energize the faith” of the blessee, and the efficacy of any blessing is dependent on the energy within that faith, it seems to me that the prudent thing for me to do as an elder giving a blessing is to err on the side of assuming that I am getting inspiration, whenever I am uncertain, because the blessee deserves that aid to her faith. 

Your question was from the viewpoint of the blessee, but I have addressed it from the view of the elder giving the blessing.  However, I think this is the logical way to see what options are given to the blessee.

As a blessee, each of us has no direct insight into whether the elder blessing us is receiving inspiration from God, especially since he may not know himself (see above).  On the other hand, if the elder makes promises of healing to us, there is no reason to assume that they are not inspired, and we should give him the benefit of the doubt, and accept them at face value.  If we feel encouraged and made hopeful by them, they may increase our faith, and our faith is the one variable in the efficacy of the healing ordinance that we as blessees have control over.  This means that even an uninspired, human promise that is absent specific inspiration, one way or the other, might increase our healing potential.  

Finally, each of us, as a Latter-day Saint, has the promise that we can have God’s “Spirit to be with [us]” as we live up to our baptismal and Sacrament covenants.  Therefore, we blessees are just as entitled as the blessors  to “know when the mind of the Lord is revealed to you”.  If we are able to receive our own direct inspiration from God as to His will for our healing, we can have faith that we will be healed regardless of whether or not the elder pronounces such a blessing, and thus whether or not he is feeling that same inspiration.  So, “Ideally”, we as blessees do not have to be dependent on hearing the elder make promises of healing to us, because we can hear those promises directly from God, God willing. 

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8) John Mark Mattox, November 2010

Rather than viewing the implications of Elder Oaks’ teachings as a dilemma, it may be profitable to understand it as an epistemological question, to wit:  “How does one know that the faith of the person being blessed, the faith of the person pronouncing the blessing, and the will of the Lord are aligned?”  The answer appears to be in the question:  Precisely because the acts of pronouncing and receiving a blessing are acts of faith, they are not things known, for “faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true” (Alma 32:21).  One who requests a blessing practices, by that very act, the exercise of both faith and hope (hence, the necessity that, whenever possible, the ordinance be the result of the afflicted person’s request and not the result of a priesthood bearer’s solicitation). 

It is likewise useful to bear in mind that all supplications for blessing—whether issued in connection with priesthood administration or not—are subject to being fulfilled in the way that Heaven deems best; and that may or may not be in the way that the supplicant imagined the fulfillment would occur.  Nephi asked for strength to break his bands, but instead they simply fell off of him (the reason why is worth pondering).  The Brother of Jared how to light his ships and instead of an answer he got a question in return (again, the reason why is worth pondering).  James and John asked for the privilege to sit at the Savior’s right and left hand when He came in glory, but instead they got the warning that they had better be careful of what they asked for.  The Savior Himself asked that the “bitter cup” pass from Him, but instead He was crucified.  In each of these cases, the supplicants were blessed, but not in the way they had requested. 

In the case of administrations to the sick and afflicted, it may be useful to understand the person pronouncing the blessing as faithfully supplicating on behalf of the requestor and not necessarily as the “messenger service,” as it were, that is announcing what the outcome will be.  Given the design of the mortal experience, to expect that the words of every priesthood blessing are definitive statements of what will happen beyond our epistemological horizon is probably to expect too much.  Even those priesthood ordinances with formulaic words which pronounce specific, definitive blessings require, in order to be efficacious, faithful performance on the part of the one receiving the ordinance. 

Let us not underestimate the indispensible role of faith in our present existence.  In this life, we inescapably live by faith, whether (ironically) we are “persons of faith” or not.  The faithful, the infidel, the atheist, the God-fearing—all live by faith whether they want to or not, because that is the nature of our present existence.  “[N]ow we see through a glass, darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12).  It may well be that, far more important than the specific outcomes which result from specific blessings of the sick and afflicted is the opportunity which the occasion provides to practice the exercise of both faith and hope.  Our success in this life probably does not hinge very much upon whether we are healed of this or that specific malady, but it may well hinge in great measure on how earnest we are about the task of learning to exercise faith, hope, and—might we add, their indispensable companion—charity.  Sickness and affliction give us an opportunity to learn something about our weaknesses and also the opportunity to become acquainted with these three great spiritual gifts.  As the Lord informed Moroni, “I will show unto the Gentiles their weakness, and I will show unto them that faith, hope and charity bringeth unto me—the fountain of all righteousness” (Ether 12:28).  Thus even if, from our mortal perspective, every word of a blessing to the sick appears to have failed, but through the process of seeking and receiving a blessing one comes closer to “the fountain of all righteousness,” it is difficult to conceive how, in the eternal scheme of things, that that outcome is not a blessing—regardless of what words may have been spoken by the officiator.

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9) Anonymous, November 2010

I am glad that your journal is discussing this issue, and I look forward to reading the comments that you receive. It used to be that I would listen very intently whenever I or my children received a blessing, rushing to my journal to record the words for time and posterity. In some of the situations, the words did not come true, but I reconciled that fact by assuming that either faith was insufficient on the part of the receiver, or that some pronouncement made depended on the agency of others, and that agency meant that things could go differently than what the blessing had stated.

But then something happened that made me realize perhaps I was making an error. I was given a blessing about a matter of the utmost gravity, a blessing that did not appear to be contingent on the faith of anyone but the will of God. While I will give no details, consider it akin to a statement like, "The snow will melt tomorrow for sure."

Well, the snow didn't melt. Not only did it not melt that day, it has not melted any day since. I used to wake up every morning thinking, "Today's the day that snow is going to melt for sure!" That day has not yet come. This has been a sore trial to me. Frankly, I wish I had never, ever received that blessing, and never ever listened to its words.

When Elder Oaks gave his talk, I wasn't sure whether to feel relief or chagrin. Relief from knowing that maybe not all words of blessings are to be treated as scripture. Maybe chagrin from being so naive as to have earnestly believed and treasured up the words of blessings all of these years. I guess it's a feeling akin to realizing that there is no Santa. Some little part of some earnest innocence withered that day.

I do kind of feel that I would rather not listen to the words of blessings anymore. A part of me thinks that is really a very sad thing. I guess I will just concentrate on getting insight through prayer, instead of getting insight through the words of blessings. God has wrought many miracles in my life, and so I do not experience this as a loss of faith on my part. Maybe it is just a part of growing up spiritually? For some reason, I still very very sad about it all, and now I feel very uncomfortable when I receive blessings. Maybe your readers can shed some needed insight for me.

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10) Larry Landrith, November 2010

You raise unnecessary dilemmas when you said: 滴owever encouraging this might be to the blessors, it does seem to create a dilemma for the blessee.If the words in the end mean nothing, what should blessees be thinking while these words are being said?

Elder Oaks did not say that the blessor痴 words (following the sealing of the anointing) were unimportant; on the contrary, he said that 鍍hese words can be very important. And when Elder Oaks said that their content was not essential, he made it clear that their content is not essential to the healing of the blessee. In other words, if the blessee has the faith, and if it痴 the Lord痴 will, then all that is necessary in the blessing are the anointing and the sealing of the anointing, as Elder Oaks said: 釘ut in a healing blessing it is the other parts of the blessing葉he anointing, the sealing, faith, and the will of the Lord葉hat are the essential elements. 擢ortunately, the words spoken in a healing blessing are not essential to its healing effect. If faith is sufficient and if the Lord wills it, the afflicted person will be healed or blessed whether the officiator speaks those words or not.

But please remember that Elder Oaks said, 典hese words [said after the sealing of the anointing] can be very important. Thus, the words said after the sealing of the anointing, may be an important message from the Lord. And it痴 actually possible that this message from the Lord may be more important than the healing itself.

How can you tell if the message in the blessing is from the Lord? Elder Oaks said in this great talk of his, 釘righam Young taught priesthood holders, 選t is your privilege and duty to live so that you know when the word of the Lord is spoken to you and when the mind of the Lord is revealed to you.樗 This means that the Spirit will tell us whether a message is from the Lord if we live worthily of the Spirit.

It痴 really just that simple. The complexity and the problems occur when we do not live worthily of the Spirit. As one who has received and administered priesthood blessings, I testify that the priesthood is real and is God痴 power.

From my own life I will cite 4 examples that illustrate what Elder Oaks said: 1) When I joined the Church at age 19, I like all new converts received the Aaronic priesthood. Within a year I received the Melchizedek priesthood and almost immediately thereafter did something stupid incredibly stupid. Being a new member and a very new Melchizedek priesthood bearer, I stupidly thought that I could simply bless someone to be healed, and the someone would be healed without thought of the Lord痴 will. Stupid! I blessed a terminally ill relative to be healed; she died. Thus, as Elder Oaks said, 吐aith and the healing power of the priesthood cannot produce a result contrary to the will of Him whose priesthood it is.

2) I wore contact lenses in their beginning stages, that is, when contact lenses were hard and thick and could not be worn overnight without damage to the eye. One night, however, I fell asleep with my contact lenses on, woke up early in the morning, felt great pain in my eyes even after I took the contact lenses out. Whenever my eyes blinked just try to keep your eyes from blinking I felt excruciating pain as my lids scraped the cuts on my eyes. I wanted to go to sleep to avoid the pain, but could not do so. I phoned several eye doctors for a cure. Each doctor said that only time would heal my eyes, and that they would not be healed for at least 24 hours. I contacted the priesthood and asked for a blessing. I was healed. Almost immediately I fell asleep; I woke up 2 hours later (not the 24 hours later that the doctors said was needed) and felt no more pain. Interestingly enough, when I blinked, I could feel the lids go over the cuts of my eyes, but there was no pain. My faith in the Lord was not in the specific outcome of being healed. My faith in the Lord was in that I knew that whatever He did, would be a blessing, meaning: if I were not healed, that would be the Lord痴 will and I would be content. One of the real problems with people and faith, is that sometimes people have faith in a specific outcome rather than faith in the Lord. Elder Oaks made the same point:

的 felt that trust in a talk my cousin gave at the funeral of a teenage girl who had died of a serious illness. He spoke these words, which first astonished me and then edified me: 的 know it was the will of the Lord that she die. She had good medical care. She was given priesthood blessings. Her name was on the prayer roll in the temple. She was the subject of hundreds of prayers for her restoration to health. And I know that there is enough faith in this family that she would have been healed unless it was the will of the Lord to take her home at this time. I felt that same trust in the words of the father of another choice girl whose life was taken by cancer in her teen years. He declared, 前ur family痴 faith is in Jesus Christ and is not dependent on outcomes.樗

3) My teenage son ran track (440 yard race) in high school, became sick before a track meet, and needed a blessing. I felt impressed to bless him that he would be healed for the day and only that day of the track meet. My son was healed for that day and ran his best time yet. The day after the track meet just as the Lord had said in the blessing my son was sick again and got well in the routine way. As Elder Oaks said, 的deally, the elder who officiates will be so in tune with the Spirit of the Lord that he will know and declare the will of the Lord in the words of the blessing. Brigham Young taught priesthood holders, 的t is your privilege and duty to live so that you know when the word of the Lord is spoken to you and when the mind of the Lord is revealed to you. When that happens, the spoken blessing is fulfilled literally and miraculously.

4) Many years after I joined the Church, I gave a blessing to a lady who had cancer. I felt impressed to bless her that she would be healed. She died. I wondered if I had made the same mistake that I had made when I was first ordained an elder and shortly thereafter blessed a terminally ill lady as I related in my first example of these 4 examples. But as I pondered and prayed, the answer I received was that the lady sick with cancer did not have the faith to be healed. Then I learned that her bishop had previously given her a blessing and had likewise blessed her to be healed, and had likewise concluded that the lady did not have the faith to be healed. This illustrates Elder Oaks point: 擢aith is essential for healing by the powers of heaven. The Book of Mormon even teaches that 妬f there be no faith among the children of men God can do no miracle among them (Ether 12:12).10

In a notable talk on administering to the sick, President Spencer W. Kimball said: 典he need of faith is often underestimated. The ill one and the family often seem to depend wholly on the power of the priesthood and the gift to depend wholly on the power of the priesthood and the gift of healing that they hope the administering brethren may have, whereas the greater responsibility is with him who is blessed. . . . The major element is the faith of the individual when that person is conscious and accountable. 禅hy faith hath made thee whole [Matthew 9:22] was repeated so often by the Master that it almost became a chorus.11 The lack of the lady痴 faith was shown by her repeated requests for blessings, thus illustrating Elder Oaks point: 撤resident Kimball even suggested that 鍍oo frequent administrations may be an indication of lack of faith or of the ill one trying to pass the responsibility for faith development to the elders rather than self.

I cite the previous four examples, and I could have cited many others. I know that the priesthood is the authority and the power to act in His name, thus being able to bless people according to His will and the faith of those the Lord desires to bless.