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Blessing The Sick, Why Doesn’t It Work?

Don - July 30, 2007

I was asked to administer to a lady we home teach. Whenever I finish an administration I always read to the individual from James:

14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:

15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.

I make sure they understand that it’s the prayer of faith that saves the sick. I also read the last part…if they have committed sins they’ll be forgiven…as part of the healing.

It’s obvious that all blessings – administrations don’t work…that is the healing doesn’t take place. Of course we always play the “It wasn’t God’s will” card. I can accept that. but…..

If the giver of the blessing is not worthy, or totally worthy will God withhold the healing blessing, even if the sick person has faith?

If the sick person is not worthy, or totally worthy will God withhold the healing blessing even if the blessing is given by a faithful righteous priesthood holder with faith?

How worthy does a sick personal have to be to be healed enough to have their sins forgiven. Christ, when he healed someone always made the connection between forgiveness of sin and being healed….why don’t we do that more today?

If a sick person isn’t really humble enough and repentant enought to have their sins forgiven then are they really worthy to be healed?

In the past it has been a fairly common practice to re-baptize people who were sick, presumably because of this connection.

So what’s your thoughts? (Lucky I had my companion actually seal the annointing and give the blessing…I just read the scriptures after he was done.)


  1. In the olden days, even prophets and apostles would administer multiple times over days, weeks and months, struggling against the destroyer for a miracle.

    Comment by J. Stapley — July 30, 2007 @ 7:28 pm

  2. I think it’s important to remember that healing doesn’t always mean getting physically better. Elder Oaks pointed out that it can also mean receiving the strength to carry the load that person bears.

    Your questions about the connection between healing and forgiveness are really interesting.

    Comment by m&m — July 30, 2007 @ 9:42 pm

  3. When I’m asked to give a blessing, I also try to make sure that the person getting the blessing understands the role that he and his faith plays in the blessing.

    I often ask that person to pray before we perform the ordinance, so that he is literally asking the Lord to give him the blessing through the priesthood holders. I think its easier to exercise faith when you actually have to ask for it instead of just passively receiving it. I also remind them that Jesus promised that any good thing we ask in his name will be given.

    But I must admit, I didn’t make the connection with forgiveness of sins. I guess I don’t like to think about it because then it raises the implication that those who aren’t healed are unrighteous while those that get better are upright. I always bristle at the thought that outwardly visible fortune/blessings is/are an indicator of spiritual well-being.

    Comment by JKC — July 30, 2007 @ 9:48 pm

  4. I am reminded of Matthew 17: 14-21:

    14 And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying,
    15 Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water.
    16 And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him.
    17 Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me.
    18 And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour.
    19 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?
    20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.
    21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting

    I’ve always wondered just how much could be done if I, as the priesthood bearer, was more faithful and less perverse, and applied prayer and fasting with greater frequency, just what could I do? Jesus said, “Nothing shall be impossible unto you.”

    Comment by Dan — July 31, 2007 @ 2:18 am

  5. I was asked by a sister in our ward in Brazil to perform an exorcism for her brother.

    Upon arriving at her home, it seemed apparent to me that her brother was suffering from schizophrenia.

    Of course, I knew about as much about performing an exorcism as I did about schizophrenia, but (Elder Dos Angeles, if you’re out there, back me up on this), we did what we could.

    My dad’s blessings in our home are some of my fondest memories of growing up. That experience in Brazil brought home the limits of my faith.

    Comment by Chino Blanco — July 31, 2007 @ 3:58 am

  6. If one has faith does the outcome (post blessing) really matter? Could it be that the real purpose of annointing and blessing the sick is to provide a faith-promoting event rather than a healing event?

    Comment by endlessnegotiation — July 31, 2007 @ 8:56 am

  7. Dan, I forgot that example, I guess you’ve answered one of my questions. If we aren’t worthy or don’t have enough faith as the blessing giver, then the result can be failure in the healing. Wow, that sure puts a lot more responsibility on me than I really want.

    I’ve always kind of thought that God wouldn’t withold a blessing from the person even if I wasn’t up to snuff…now???

    Comment by Don Clifton — July 31, 2007 @ 10:11 am

  8. Endless…I guess I have a bit of a problem with your explaination. If the purpose is a faith promoting event then why have the blessing at all? Why not just a nice little prayer? And isn’t receiving the healing a lot more faith promoting than not being healed?

    I think we look for subtle ways to justify why things don’t happen. Like I said before, we use the “It’s not God’s will” weasle clause (of course that’s true sometimes, but I don’t think it’s true as much as we think it is). I think we justify things rather than looking closely and taking responsibilty.

    If they aren’t healed maybe it really is my fault…I don’t want to admit that. Maybe it’s their fault, they don’t want to admit that. Maybe it’s God’s will, we can blame Him instead!

    Comment by Don Clifton — July 31, 2007 @ 10:24 am

  9. Don and Dan-
    Actually, that makes sense. Why would anyone want someone unworthy (or less than?) to give them any kind of blessing? If the person giving the blessing is either A. Unworthy to exercise the Priesthood or B. Lacking in Faith that the blessing will even work, what good would that do?

    Of course, I know that “blessings” and good things are given to those regardless of the weaknesses/shortcomings of others (go figure). I have an example:

    A relative, unworthy to even have the recommend he lied to get, decided to show up at a family wedding unannounced. Everyone in the sealing room felt a dark feeling at his presence. However, the married couple felt nothing but joy. Afterwards, the family concluded that Heavenly Father had blessed them and perhaps even shielded them from those dark feelings.
    But that doesn’t happen all the time.

    Comment by Cheryl — July 31, 2007 @ 10:36 am

  10. I have been wondering about this very issue lately. It seems that we hear stories of remarkable healings in times past, but hear little of it today. Part of the reason may simply be that those are the stories that survive — precisely because they are dramatic and tend to be written down and repeated. I also wonder how much a role our advanced medical knowledge plays a role in our thinking. In times past, many times the ONLY way to be healed was to rely on the Lord and a blessing of healing because medical science had not figured it out yet. Today we rely on medical science, knowledge of medicines and surgeries, etc. I even wonder sometimes if we give undue credit to our “temporal” solutions when the Lord, through a blessing, has actually intervened and Priesthood power has restored health and corrected a medical wrong for one who is not “appointed unto death”.

    In any case, in most of my experiences witnessing priesthood blessings of healing, I am saddened at how often priesthood holders are timid and in fact offer a prayer that , while offered in a measure of faith — likely offers a blessing beneath the privilege of the priesthood holder and the recipient. I believe that if we faithfully listened to the promptings and truly exercised the righteous power that has been restored, we would see more miraculous events than we do.

    Comment by Neal — July 31, 2007 @ 11:47 am

  11. What would be the purpose of a blessing if the end result isn’t healing? Some thoughts:

    1. Blessing of service.
    2. Blessing of a blessing-giver seeking always to be worthy to give a blessing.
    3. Blessing of the giver in seeking to hear the whisperings of the Spirit, to ensure that the blessing is according to God’s will, not just his.
    4. Blessing of the receiver to discern the meaning of the blessing and to do all possible to make the fulfillment of the blessing possible.
    4. Blessing of asking in faith according to our desires, and doing all that we can to try to see that our desires are accomplished. (Which encourages righteous living for both the giver and the receiver.) But…
    5….Then the blessing of being able to move forward regardless of the outcome. While I agree that on one hand we might not take enough responsibility for “failures”, perhaps we also have a limited view of what blessings can be besides aiming toward an end result. Moving mountains may not be a physical thing, but can come in spiritual strength.

    I also think that healing can be a process. I have found that with my chronic health issues. Insights come, progress is made. I feel strengthened, I learn. Is the purpose of life simply to be healthy all of the time, to live physically healed? I think if we look to that as our only desired or recognized end-result-blessing, we might end up missing some of the other blessings that come along the way, as well as a deeper understanding of the Atonement, humility, patience and endurance.

    Also, for all the miracles we hear about, esp. from our history, we sometimes forget the times when blessings didn’t end with the desired result. e.g., Joseph lost his own children while he healed others.

    Comment by m&m — July 31, 2007 @ 4:32 pm

  12. Great thoughts, M. You have taught me a lot.

    Comment by Neal — July 31, 2007 @ 5:31 pm

  13. My two cents- I feel like all things in life, God does not work on a culturally logical plane-if it was so, there would be no reason to work for our faith.

    Comment by E. Fenn — July 31, 2007 @ 7:22 pm

  14. I confess, I’d be a lot more at ease if:

    1) we didn’t have miracles at all — then we could rest in the concept that the miracle is that God is aware and loves us.


    2) we had a lot more miracles — then we could rest in the faith that miracles turn out like clockwork.

    It is the fact that they happen, but rarely, and without an easy way to predict them. That makes it harder, really.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — July 31, 2007 @ 7:53 pm

  15. Stephen, if miracles happened a lot more, then they wouldn’t be called miracles, they’d be call everyday happenings-lol

    It would make it a lot easier for me if God would just act / react like I think He should!

    Comment by Don — July 31, 2007 @ 10:11 pm

  16. Don:

    I think the concept of the healing prayer is a cultural creation that has seen it’s time pass. Think back to conditions 2000 years ago. Back then just about any bug or injury would very likely result in the death of the sufferer. An official blessing from an authorized representative of a diety had the power to give an individual something he/she would not otherwise have– hope. Hope beyond random probability. We learn from scripture that hope preceeds faith so by offering someone hope the priesthood holder was facilitating a faith-exercising experience that was completely independent of whatever malady troubled the afflicted. Random “healings” were consequently credited to the priesthood blessing reinforcing the prospect of hope for other afflicted individuals. Success stories were repeated and proliferated in order to help build/sustain the legend. I’m not discounting miracles entirely but I think that actual miracles are incredibly rare. Events like the plagues Moses called down upon the Egyptians or Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead are miracles. Stories of Brother Joseph healing random members during a cholera epidemic are merely modern stories that reinforce the legend. This is the opposite side of the same coin you played in #8 when you wrote, “I think we look for subtle ways to justify why things don’t happen.” Today because we have a much greater understanding of the body and disease and due to our success with life-saving measures hope must come from divining and understanding God’s will. Both my great-grandfather and my grandfather died of simple, easily treatable infections and their deaths came as quite a surprise to both the family and their treating physicians. Both died despite numerous blessings by worthy priesthood holders and unwavering faith of the blessed and his family. How else to explain the death than to play the “God’s will weasel [card]“? Based on your fomulation someone involved in those two specific situations had to be lying about either their worthiness or the measure of their faith for the blessings to be so ineffectual. Given that I know the individuals involved either of those two propositions would come as a monumental surprise. That’s why I make the claim that the outcome of a healing blessing is completely irrelevant. And yes, I think that the miracle of modern medical technology makes the blessing to heal an anachronism.

    Comment by endlessnegotiation — August 1, 2007 @ 9:48 am

  17. Endless, I appreciate your prospective and insights. I didn’t mean to imply that every blessing that doesn’t work is the result of unworthiness of either the giver or the receiver. Sometimes the weasle clause is in fact the truth. As a matter of fact the weasle clause is probably always the truth. God’s will is probably the deciding factor in all blessings. I don’t think our faith and prayers are going to change that. It’s our responsibility to aline our will with His.

    I think your comments are right on.

    So I guess our blessings/healings/non-healings are really all about us and our faith, how it effects us and how we deal with it….the healing if it does take place is almost a side effect.

    Comment by Don Clifton — August 1, 2007 @ 10:17 am

  18. Yes, but God’s will is aligned with the faith of the believer. He seems to be trying to hammer that into us all througout the scriptures. All things are possible with faith. I just can’t seem to figure that out.

    Oh, and God’s will does not always come to pass. If that were so, there probebly would not have been a rebellion in heaven and all the fallout since then>:)

    Comment by Bret — August 1, 2007 @ 12:58 pm

  19. First, I’m glad that the connection between sin and illness has been deprecated. It’s still not completely gone. My own grandmother thought I needed to repent and get back out on my mission when I was bedridden for six months. Tests showed that I had two viruses. Though I am a sinful person like everyone else, I was not unrepentant. I was sick. The priesthood blessings I had received during that time all told me it was time to move on in my life, but I wanted to continue to serve. It wasn’t until I agreed to be released that I began to get better.

    Second, I think the “God’s will” argument is a bunch of garbage. When a blessing isn’t fulfilled, it is more likely that the voice’s will is not being done rather than God’s will is being done. When the spirit is prompting the content of the blessing, non fulfillment is rare.

    Lastly, I think we bless the sick because miracles can and do happen. I think they are rare, though. There are, in my mind more importantly, tangential benefits to blessing for the one who blesses and the blessed. It is an exercise in faith. It is also an opportunity to receive counsel from your father in heaven. I think many of us have received answers to prayers while receiving blessings something unrelated.

    Comment by KyleM — August 1, 2007 @ 2:16 pm

  20. endlessnegotiation — except, I’ve been around when solid miracles happened. You know, bed sores that went clear through to the bone, biopsies done to justify amputation and the next day not a trace, just pink skin (for example). That is a concrete, physical miracle.

    I got kicked in the face hard enough to pick me up (a training exercise accident). Not a mark on me afterwards.

    Yet … I’ve buried three children too.

    I’ve blogged on the topic.

    Don — I’m just thinking of miracles happening maybe ten or twenty times more often, still a drop in the bucket. They’d still be thought of as miracles, though we wouldn’t see them so much as miraculous as magic, perhaps.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — August 1, 2007 @ 7:03 pm

  21. Stephen (20)

    Right on in your first paragraph!

    I’m sorry to hear about your children. I’ll say no more in regards to that.

    I also think that most miracles that happen aren’t proclaimed to other people. The miracles that I’ve seen are usually not suitable for discussion with other people.

    And yet, Don makes a good point. I wonder how often things don’t work because of our own lack of faith. If it can happen to apostles. . .

    Comment by Jacob — August 2, 2007 @ 3:01 pm

  22. A few things I noticed about “miracles” are: they rarely happen, most are shared or bragged about but are considered sacred so we don’t hear about them, the longer the time between the miracle and the present the more we tend to forget the mirale part and the more we tend to explain it away bit by bit and last if we don’t record it when it happens it will probably be lost forever.

    Comment by Don Clifton — August 3, 2007 @ 10:02 am

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