Sunday, November 23, 2008

Baby Blessings

Kathryn M wanted to know more about baby blessings. Specifically who writes or delivers them. And if they tell the future of the baby. I may have to back up a little to explain this properly. Bare with me.

In the Bible, Jesus gave to Peter and the other apostles the "keys to the kingdom" or the power and authority to act in the name of God. This would allow them to continue the Saviors work and lead the church by revelation from God after the Savior was killed. It is by this power that the apostles preformed miracles in Christ's name. It is this authority, directly from the Savior who had chosen them out of the world, through which they guided the church in those early days.

We call this power and authority the priesthood. But the world was too wicked for those early apostles and in time all of them were killed and the priesthood authority was lost. Saints or believers still had the teachings of Jesus and the apostles, but they had lost that priesthood power, that presiding revelatory authority necessary, to guide the church under Christ's direction in the challenges of that present day. We call this the apostasy.

Still there were lots of good people who prayed and got answers to their prayers. They were personally guided by the Lord in their lives. But we believe there was no church that was headed by Christ himself with Christ's prophet as the president or leader of the church.

Fast forward to 1830. Here Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdry are visited by Peter, James, and John, the biblical apostles. These angels give Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdry these same keys to the kingdom, to bind on earth and in heaven, or the priesthood power, that Jesus gave to them.

This power is passed from Joseph Smith to others the same way he got it -- through saying a special prayer while placing hands on the head of the one receiving the priesthood. Only one holding the priesthood can give it to another. Each priesthood holder can trace his authority back to Jesus Christ this way.

Okay now that the background is done (thanks for the patience), on to baby blessings. My husband, and most worthy active men who are Mormons, hold some level of this priesthood. They are not given authority to preside over the whole church. Only the current prophet and apostles have that. But they are given the power and authority to preside over their homes and act in the name of God in their duties as a father.

I should note here that this priesthood is only effective when the man is truly living worthy and by the Spirit. It is not a free reign to boss everyone around and be the power figure. It is a way for men to serve and sacrifice for their children and wife even as a mother spends her life serving and sacrifices her body for her children in her divinely appointed role as mother.

So one of the benefits of this priesthood is the opportunity to receive blessings given by this power and authority. There are many kinds of blessings given under priesthood authority. We give them in times of sickness to heal, just as the apostles did and with that same authority. They are given to give comfort and guidance. I received a few of these types of blessings after Camille died. They were very healing and are still a great comfort to me. I KNOW the priesthood holder was but a mouthpiece for the messages the Lord wanted me to have in those blessings.

Fathers often will give their children blessings when they start a new phase of life, like a new school year. These will encourage, warn, give comfort, or bestow blessings on the child. And also, new babies are blessed and given a name to be known on the records of the church. This is typically done in the first few months of life. It is usually done at church in our main sacrament meeting.

If the father of the baby holds the priesthood, he usually gives the blessing. Otherwise a grandfather, uncle, or anyone the family chooses who holds the priesthood can perform the blessing.

Blessings themselves are not written in advance. They are not pre planned. The man or men (often the one giving the blessing is joined by other priesthood holders) place their hands on the head (or in a baby blessing they all hold the baby together) of the person being blessed. The priesthood holder giving the blessing, or being voice, begins by invoking the power of the priesthood that he holds and then proceeds to give the blessing.

Now I have never given a blessing. Women get enough opportunities for service as women and mothers. We don't need the priesthood to help us in that area. But, the words of the blessing are given to the priesthood holder by faith and through the Spirit. The priesthood leader must be listening to know what the Lord would have be in the blessing. How this exactly happens -- well I am pretty sure the answer to that is as individual as how each of us hear the Lord in our lives. Some of us see visions, some hear voices, some feel peace, some feel a warmth in their soul, some just feel right about certain things. It is just as individual for each priesthood holder.

Blessings are not often recorded. But I often take notes as fast as I can when my children are blessed. I took notes during Camille's blessing. Jon told her that there would be a special circumstance in her life that she would have to go through. He noted the lineage of faith from with she descends and how her faith would grow through this experience. He said she would always be a great example to all her older sisters.

I remember asking Jon after the blessing what that meant. He said he didn't know. He couldn't find words to properly fit what he felt. Just that she would have something she would have to go through. I remember thinking and telling him, "that does not sound good." I certainly did not think it would be that she would die early. That was no where in my imagination. I thought maybe she would have some sickness or other trial to endure.

But as it turns out her blessing is being fulfilled. She is no doubt growing in her faith daily under the tutelage of her faithful ancestors and the Savior himself. And she is in every way an example to her older sisters and her mother and father as well. Blessings are not like fortune telling, but sometimes the Lord shows us a tender mercy by giving us a forewarning of things to come so that we may stand strong through the storm.