Saturday, December 09, 2006

How Many Priesthood Holders Does it Take to Give a Blessing

I guess the title sounds like I should be delivering the punchline of a joke, but the question is serious. Tradition seems to dictate that if I want to give my wife a blessing, I should call another priesthood holder to assist me. Why is this? The tradition is strongest when we give a blessing of healing, but I don't see why this should be a different situation than any other blessing. The manual says that blessings for the sick are, "Normally," done by, "two or more Melchizedek Priesthood holders."

The scriptures talk about "call[ing] for the elders." Note the plural. But, if the priesthood holder belongs to the family, is there really a need to call for others to assist if it is more comfortable not to do so?


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  • You can give the blessing yourself. In my family that is usuallyt how it is done. I think by having more than one elder might increase the faith but other than that I see no reason to have to use two. Ancient prophets always blessed others by themselves.

    By Blogger Rob Osborn, at 12/09/2006 9:09 AM  

  • Though out the restoration, people have given blessings alone or in conjunction with others. This reminded my of some of the discussions in this post (sorry for the self reference, but I thought the comments were pretty good).

    In the old days, folks viewed blessings with multiple participants as having a cumulative faith effect, often repeating blessings by each of the participants. Now, we are more interested in the form of the ordinance over the faith and power of the participants.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12/09/2006 9:26 AM  

  • I have given my family blessings by my self many times. To me it makes more sense than dragging another priesthood member out, especially if I feel that the blessing cannot wait.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 12/09/2006 10:08 AM  

  • Thanks for the comments, Rob and Ian. And thanks also, J., for the link to your blog. I remember reading the entry, but I don't think I had read the comments before.

    By Blogger Bradley Ross, at 12/09/2006 4:17 PM  

  • Read the church's official instructions:

    Family Guidebook page 23:

    "Only men who hold the Melchizedek
    Priesthood may administer to the sick or afflicted. Normally, two or more administer together, but one may do it alone.
    " (emphasis added)

    And of course Father’s Blessings and Other Blessings of Comfort and Counsel can be given by alone as well.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12/11/2006 10:10 AM  

  • Personally, I believe that when it comes to priesthood blessings it is a matter of substance over form. That is, the form should be followed if possible (and I, for one, appreciate the strength of "added faith"), but where not possible then substance rules over form. The worthy blessing by the priesthood in the name of Jesus Christ is the important and necessary substance, as well as the faith of the receiver.

    I actually think that J. Stapley's nostalgic musings about the old days are misplaced nostalgia, at least in regards to me. I definitely think the faith and power of the participants matters more than the form.

    By Blogger Jordan, at 12/14/2006 8:54 AM  

  • Here's another question that a new convert asked during EQ:

    What is the doctrinal basis for laying on of hands...on the head? Where in the scriptures does it state that we must give a blessing on the head?

    I did some digging and research. I found that some people, in the earlier age of the church, used to annoint the afflicted body part and bless it directly. If you had a sore arm, oil was placed on the arm, and the arm was blessed. If you had a bum knee, the same. I found one example of people who would ingest the oil if they had an ailment on the inside.

    From the best that I can tell, it was a gradual change to "convenience". The head seemed to be a less private area of the body, and it was well within reach of one's hands.

    I'd be interested to hear if anyone else has done some research on this "principle"?

    By Blogger Hayes, at 12/14/2006 12:13 PM  

  • Hayes, J. Stapley has written the most in the Bloggernacle about this subject. If you're curious to see what he's written, I'd do some searches from ldsblogs.org (the search engine there is great) for some of the stuff he has written. My memory of what I've read seems to confirm the story as you've just told it. Our practice in giving blessings has shifted over the years.

    By Blogger Bradley Ross, at 12/14/2006 10:20 PM  

  • I understand that 2 or more are encouraged but that it can be done alone. My understanding is that the reason for 2 is that the 2 priesthood leaders are symbolically Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and that the olive oil/consecrated oil is the symbol for the Holy Ghost, so giving a priesthood blessing is as though the Godhead is present giving the blessing, which really is what the priesthood is, the power to act in God's behalf for the benefit of others.

    By Blogger The Quinn Family, at 12/27/2006 7:42 AM  

  • Interesting speculation, Stephanie. Thanks for sharing it.

    By Blogger Bradley Ross, at 12/27/2006 10:42 AM  

  • From time to time I've certainly given blessings to my family by myself (stopped on the side of the freeway in the middle of nowhere, for instance) but I've always felt that the "normally" clause (in the handbook) should lead me toward at least making a reasonable effort to get a second elder -- especially when I'm at home, surrounded by a quorum full of guys like me who could certainly use some blessings and opportunities to serve and sacrifice a bit.

    I've never thought that getting a middle-of-the-night phone call from a friend in the ward who wanted my help in giving a blessing was a bad thing at all. On the contrary, I've always felt that it was one of those privilege / responsibility things that came along with being a Melchizedek Priesthood holder.

    Call me naive if you must (I won't mind) but I'm pretty sure that for one reason or another, quite a few things in our life were **intended** to be a bit inconvenient. (fingernails, brushing teeth, living by the sweat of our brow, etc.) If I'm a little tired at work the next day, and think to myself once or twice, "Man, why am I so tired?" and then remember that I am an Elder and servant of the Lord, is that a bad thing? Why would I want it any other way? Why would I want to withhold that blessing from a fellow Elder?

    Particularly now that I have kids old enough to understand what's going on, why would I not want them to see other Elders coming into our home to help bless our family, and to see me going out to do likewise?

    Necessary? Certainly not. But as far as "normally" goes... It's certainly worth a late-night phone call (or even two) to me.

    By Blogger Taylor, at 10/01/2007 2:24 PM  

  • I like your perspective, Taylor. Thanks for adding it.

    By Blogger Bradley Ross, at 10/01/2007 3:25 PM  

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