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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : How Do Baby Blessings Work? » How Do Baby Blessings Work?

How Do Baby Blessings Work?

Don - August 7, 2006

Fast Sunday and another baby in the ward was blessed today. As I listened to the blessing which included “strong and healthy” and “going on a mission” and “temple marriage” it got me thinking… how does that work?

If the natural consequences of earth life would have brought about a weak child prone to disease does this blessing change that. Or is the child still going to be weak and sickly, but just not as weak and sickly and he would have been?

Or going on a mission…obviously all the babies that get this included in their blessings don’t go on missions. Does this blessing help him make better choices than he would have it he hadn’t had the blessing. And when he gets the “mission” blessing again at baptism is that like a booster shot for good choices? And then again as a Deacon, Teacher and Priest, more booster shots. With all these blessings and booster shots it’s surprising that everyone doesn’t go. Ditto with Temple marriage.

Wouldn’t it be easier/better to ask God to bless us/them with whatever He knows we/they need? I guess that brings up another question, will God withhold blessing He knows we need if we don’t ask for them? Do we have to ask to get blessed?


  1. I have blessed four of my children. Each blessing was different. There were a few common things often said in blessings that for whatever reasons I felt I should not say.

    Anyway, unless we are lead by the spirit in what we say, it is just words anyway, right?

    Comment by Eric Nielson — August 7, 2006 @ 11:42 am

  2. My children weren’t given baby blessings when they were babies because my husband was inactive, I was struggling to be active, and as a convert I didn’t even really know what a baby blessing was about. So we had ours blessed when they were a little older–I think our oldest was 4. Their grandfather did it in the bishop’s office. I had a really incredible experience during their blessings. I knew what my father-in-law was going to say just before he said it. It was a powerful testimony to me of PH blessings.

    Comment by Susan M — August 7, 2006 @ 11:54 am

  3. Agreed. Like any exercise of priesthood power, baby blessings should be done under the direction of the Spirit. There are things that somehow became “tradition” (“…in the records of the Church and the world…,” all the stuff mentioned above).

    [threadjack risk] One other apparent tradition is for the man giving the baby blessing to suddenly switch from addressing Heavenly Father to talking to the infant. The Missionary Manual (for example) indicates that the first part should be addressed to the Father, but couldn’t (shouldn’t?) the priesthood holder just continue in that vein: “bless her with…”? [/risk]

    Comment by mistaben — August 7, 2006 @ 2:05 pm

  4. There is a reason for that. Blessings in general are not supposed to be prayers. The priesthood holder is supposed to address the person being blessed, not the Father, because in his priesthood capacity he is acting on behalf of the Father.

    However, that is hard to do before the child has a name, hence the switch from a petition to God, to conventional blessing form (addressing the blessee).

    Comment by Mark Butler — August 7, 2006 @ 2:39 pm

  5. Susan, that was very moving. Thank you.

    As to how they work, I think that some times they do and sometimes they don’t. There are three possibilities in the moment for them working. 1) the person blessing is pronouncing prophecy, e.g., “insert name, you will grow up and be strong.” 2) the person is actually blessing the child, e.g., “insert name, I bless you to grow up and be strong.” 3) the person blessing is giving counsel to the child (I haven’t really ever understood this one, but it seems pretty common), e.g., “insert name, listen to your parents.”

    As for the blessing not working, there is always the possibility that the person blessing either doesn’t have the gift of prophecy or faith sufficient to ennact the blessing.

    Comment by J. Stapley — August 7, 2006 @ 2:59 pm

  6. Mark,

    That makes a lot of sense to me. In fact, it answers two questions, for I had also wondered why baby blessings are uniquely initiated as prayers.

    To be more precise, we could say it’s two ordinances in one. The first one is prayer-like (sacrament, dedications of graves, temples, homes, etc.) and the second is a (father’s) blessing.

    Would you say this explanation is widely known, or was I just not paying attention?

    On topic, this may answer Don’s question. If the 2nd part is just a priesthood blessing, it works like any other such blessing. So all the same factors (Holy Ghost, spirit of prophecy, faith, etc.) enter in.

    Comment by mistaben — August 7, 2006 @ 3:14 pm

  7. I had a friend who changed the name of the baby during the blessing. His wife, supporting him, had to change all of the paperwork to reflect the new name.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — August 7, 2006 @ 5:58 pm

  8. No direction is given to address the baby. As far as addressing goes, direction is only given to address God. It would be perfectly reasonable for someone to not address the baby. In fact, I participated in a blessing yesterday in which the father did just that.

    Comment by Kim Siever — August 7, 2006 @ 7:56 pm

  9. I read another post on something similar to this (FMH?) And one thing I thought while reading that is, sometimes, in blessings, I would think a parent says things he wants to happen. While a blessing is acting on behalf of the Father, how often is a blessing 100% inspiration? So if a father blesses his son that he will serve a full-time mission, and his son doesn’t, it’s probably because his father (obviously) wanted that to happen, and so blessed his son like-wise. Besides, I’m sure plenty of fathers want to make sure their wife is full satisfied with the blessing, including missions, temple marriages, callings, etc.

    But I do also think we are often blessed with things which we don’t fulfill out of our own bad choices/ agency.

    Comment by cmac — August 8, 2006 @ 3:00 pm

  10. Mistaben, among priesthood holders I would say it has been widely known for a long time. I quote from the Family Guidebook (2001):

    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.” (D&C 20:70)…The person who gives the blessing:

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

    Compare the pattern for baptism and confirmation, which have specific wording explicitly addressed to the ordinance receiver, for example:

    The person who is called of God and has authority from Jesus Christ to baptize, shall go down into the water with the person who has presented himself or herself for baptism, and shall say, calling him or her by name: Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

    Then shall he immerse him or her in the water, and come forth again out of the water.
    (D&C 20:73-74)

    A better example might be consecration of oil, where one is instructed to address Heavenly Father, not the container, nor the oil. After the preamble, some might say “I consecrate this oil for the healing of the sick” others may say “We ask thee to consecrate this oil”.

    So it is probably not a hard and fast rule, but performing a baby blessing in a manner different from all other personal blessings definitely raises eyebrows. Jesus said, “Take up thy bed and walk”, not “Father, please bless this man to take up his bed and walk”.

    Comment by Mark Butler — August 8, 2006 @ 7:36 pm

  11. A few comments regading baby blessings:

    First, we have four children. For the first two, I didn’t give much thought to their blessings … much like when a person requests a blessing (b/c he or she is sick), I didn’t think about the words I was going to say. I felt that the Spirit would guide me. However, for our third child it was different. I was walking back to my car after class one night and began to think about his blessing. Thoughts and words came to my mind … they flowed freely and I felt the Spirit strongly (to the point of tears). It was truly unique and special to me. I kept contemplating those words that came to my mind during the next few days. Eventually I wrote them down. Because of other family crises, we didn’t bless our 3rd until the following month. On his blessing day, I prayed to have the Spirit with me as I gave him his blessing. It was emotional and I have no doubt that he will receive the blessings mentioned.

    Our 4th was just born. I imagine that I’ll contemplate what I’ll say in her blessing having faith that the Spirit will prepare me as needed.

    Second, when we blessed our 2nd child, I had the same question about addressing Heavenly Father at first, but then switching to addressing the child. It all seemed unorganized to me. I did some research on it, but didn’t find much. We were at BYU at the time and so I’d pay attention to the 2 or 3 baby blessings each month. Some followed the above mentioned pattern while others continued to address Heavenly Father throughout the blessing. I was still confused. Eventually I came across Luke 2:76-79. It was like a light bulb went on in my head. Zacharias gave John the Baptist a baby blessing and he addressed John directly. So the whole addressing Heavenly Father at first and then addressing the child made perfect sense to me after reading that passage.

    Anyway, I hope my 2 cents add to the discussion.

    Comment by dp — August 9, 2006 @ 9:50 am

  12. I have pondered some of these same questions that Don raises quite a bit, and am yet unsatisfied with my understanding. However, I have reached a position of peace with them. Like many of you I have seen miraculous things occur which seem to be directly related to a priesthood blessing. I have also blessed a man to live and then he passed on 2 hours later and I was left wondering why the Lord didn’t let me know that. When I put my hands on people’s heads to give blessings I feel the peace of the spirit, etc., and in many ways feel more connected to God than at any other time. I once heard Elder Dallin H. Oaks tell the following story in a stake conference: He was attending a funeral and a speaker told the congregation that he knew it was this man’s time to die. Elder Oaks wondered to himself how this man could know such a thing. The man explained by saying that he had given him a blessing to live, but be died, therefore he knew it was his time to go. Elder Oaks gave his approval of this thought process. So I have adopted a few thoughts that I follow in my blessing opportunities.
    1. The Lord will not reveal everything to us, nor is he bound by what we say.
    2. Giving a blessing is not test of my abilities to predict the future. (isn’t that what scares all of us; that we will say something that won’t happen and then how do we explain that?)
    3. Having perfect clarity through revelation is a pretty rare experience. God seems to prefer giving us glimpses through a glass, darkly. Therefore, if my stated blessing doesn’t seem to be fulfilled it doesn’t mean that I am some sort of second class priesthood holder.
    4. The Lord wants us to give priesthood blessings, even as imperfect mortals, so I will seek the spirit and then give the blessing I feel to give in the moment. The efficacy of any blessing seems to be some combination of God’s will, our will, our faith, and the receiver’s faith.
    5. Looking back on years of blessings it is easy to say that the fulfilled ones far outnumber the unfulfilled ones.
    Sorry for the length of this post.

    Comment by Hal H. — August 9, 2006 @ 10:24 am

  13. dp and Hal H,
    Very nice thoughts. Thank you.

    Comment by Rusty — August 9, 2006 @ 10:49 am

  14. Mark, I’ve known the guidelines given in many places (eg the Family Guidebook, Missionary Manual, etc), but it was the explanation as two distinct priesthood events that I’d never heard.

    The source of my confusion is (as it was for dp) the sudden transition from talking to the Father to addressing the infant. It seems awkward.

    Hal, thank for you for your thoughts.

    Comment by mistaben — August 9, 2006 @ 11:57 am

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