17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Participating in My Baby’s Blessing

I don’t have priesthood envy. I’m not feeling resentful that I can’t stand in the circle and participate in my daughter’s first earthly ordinance. I figure getting to bless her is part of dh’s inadequate compensation for not getting the privilege of carrying and delivering her. But I do have things that I want her to be blessed with. I know that I can pray on my own and express directly to Heavenly Father the things I wish for my daughter. But this is her first priesthood blessing—something I highly value as the recipient of many powerful and significant priesthood blessings throughout my life. Do I, as her mother, have the right to say "I’d like her to be blessed with . . . "? Have any of you talked with your husbands about your childrens’ blessings before hand? Would that be inappropriate?

Obviously blessings are supposed to be revelatory, directed by the Spirit. In which case, perhaps the least amount of forethought the better, allowing direction from the Spirit to be as unhampered with preconceived inspiration as possible. But the format and protocol for baby blessings seems a little ambiguous to me. Apparently, it’s supposed to be a "prayer"—which means, does it not, that it should be addressed to Heavenly Father and contain the desires and wishes of the one praying? But most baby blessings are addressed to the baby itself, as is done in regular blessings of comfort or healing. The instructions dh recently received upon request from our bishopric say that the priesthood holder should offer a "prayer followed by a blessing as the Spirit directs."

So if it’s a prayer, as well as a blessing, can I share with my husband beforehand a few things I’d like her to be blessed with? Things I hope she will be "blessed" with throughout her life? Virtues and gifts I hope will grace her life? Can he "pray" for me—her mother—as well as for himself? Or is this wrong, given that this is also a blessing and should come from the Spirit? Any thoughts? Any thoughts from husbands, who, obviously, have more experience with the mental/spiritual process of giving blessings?


  • Well, there are two parts to the ordinance as outlined in the current CHI. A prayer addressed to God and then a blessing addressed to the child. It should be noted that this practice was at first not a duty of a father, but of the elders of the church and there was a significant debate at the turn of the century on how to best effectuate the blessings. See here.
    posted by Anonymous J. Stapley at 6/08/2006 06:35:00 PM  

  • How interesting. I did hear in our RS lesson just this last Sunday that Elder Faust said that whenever he blesses a baby, he always makes sure to bless him/her with a sense of humor, because everyone needs that in this lifetime. And I'm willing to bet that all those babies have a good sense of humor. Never hurts to ask. I mean, the worst thing that could happen is the Lord could say no.
    posted by Blogger The Wiz at 6/08/2006 08:24:00 PM  

  • I've always liked this quote from Elder Faust:

    For many years as I have blessed newborn children, including my own, I have blessed them with a sense of humor. I do this with the hope that it will help guard them against being too rigid, that they will have balance in their lives, and that situations and problems and difficulties will not be overdrawn.

    It's from this article in the Ensign.

    When I got to bless Baby Nonny the only sure thing I knew I was going to do ahead of time was bless him with a sense of humor. I figure if Elder Faust plans ahead of time to do stuff like that, it's okay if I do, too.

    The rest came by the Spirit, mostly. Some a little bit before, most during.

    Interestingly, there was a baby blessed the week before Baby Nonny where it seemed like the Dad was going over a bulletted list of things he and his wife had decided before hand needed to be bestowed on their kid.
    posted by Blogger A. Nonny Mouse at 6/08/2006 08:29:00 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
    posted by Blogger A. Nonny Mouse at 6/08/2006 08:29:00 PM  

  • Hah! The Wiz beat me to it!


    posted by Blogger A. Nonny Mouse at 6/08/2006 08:30:00 PM  

  • Sunny, Daniel and I were talking and he feels like (and I agree)before any blessing (health, comfort, baby) people involved should discuss desires, feelings, the situation, etc. Having more information simply helps one be better prepared to bless. Then the spirit can help him even more. Like being prepared to teach a lesson--better have read and studied and not just "depend on the spirit" to pop in and give you 45 minutes of material. We all know how those sacrament meeting talks go! :) So, talk all you want, just be happy with whatever comes out of dh's mouth in the end. You never know how much it will or won't be the same.
    posted by Blogger Katie at 6/09/2006 05:17:00 AM  

  • Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, Sunny. Jason & I are very much looking forward to seeing you and B this Sunday at AJ's blessing.

    Although we haven't yet blessed a child, Jason and I have had many similar thoughts/questions as we ponder the blessing of our future children (in the context of both blessing/naming a baby and of father's blessings throughout a child's life).

    I'm wondering if you could flesh out a little bit more of your feelings behind the statement: "I figure getting to bless her is part of dh’s inadequate compensation for not getting the privilege of carrying and delivering her." By flesh out I mean just maybe share some of your thought process/logic/background with us about how you came to that conclusion/feeling/resignation (or whatever it is--I don't want to put words in your mouth).

    I know it's probably pretty obvious to you, Sunny, why I'm focusing in on that statement, but for those of you not familiar with our situation--Jason and I will likely never be able to have children of our own. Which is why this/other issues become a little bit more complicated for us. Particularly for me (and I don't want to speak for Jason on this either), the ideas that "motherhood is equivalent to priesthood" or "priesthood blessings are inadaquate compensation for the privilege of motherhood" just don't seem to ring true. But maybe if I can understand a little bit more of your feelings behind the statement I will be able to understand that viewpoint better.
    posted by Blogger Rebecca van Uitert at 6/09/2006 07:00:00 AM  

  • I know for a fact that my dh spent time thinking about the blessings of our dd's beforehand. Maybe he'll stop by this thread and give his more detailed thoughts.

    Becca - When it came to the blessing of our two daughters, I viewed it more as a role of my dh's fatherhood - even though he used the priesthood to pronounce the blessing. I was fine leaving it all up to him, because in the parenting balance of our house, I felt I would have far more opportunities to bless the lives of our daughters -- I'm a SAHM and he is a long-hour working lawyer. I know it's not the feminist equal view, but it worked for me at the time.

    I am sure this logic also carries many flaws. One of which is the fact that historically, baby blessings were not done by the baby's father, but by the elders of the church (thanks J Stapely). Though, this fact also makes it harder to make the motherhood/preisthood comparison. I do believe each family has a different balance to their parenting, and each family can approach a baby blessing in different ways. I believe in a family situation, which I think baby blessings can fall under, parents can use the priesthood together, as they talk together in preparation for a baby's blessing.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 6/09/2006 07:42:00 AM  

  • J. Stapley,

    The CHI states only that Heavenly father is addressed. Unless we're reading two different versions.
    posted by Blogger Kim Siever at 6/09/2006 07:57:00 AM  

  • "Obviously blessings are supposed to be revelatory, directed by the Spirit. In which case, perhaps the least amount of forethought the better, allowing direction from the Spirit to be as unhampered with preconceived inspiration as possible."

    For what it's worth, I believe that revelation and direction by the spirit CAN occur in the I-have-never-thought-about-this-before-and-God-just-revealed-it-to-me-manner, but I don't believe that is our Heavenly Father's modus operandi, if you will. Revelation is more likely to be a process - a process that starts early and ends, in this case, with the giving of the blessing.

    Why shouldn't you be part of the revelatory process? Why should you leave it solely to your husband to determine the Lord's will for your child? In any other context, I don't suspect you would even consider abdicating the responsibility of receiving revelation for your family solely to your husband. And I see no reason why you should feel obligated to do so now.

    In the days leading up to the blessing of both my daughters, I talked with my Heavenly Father a lot. For me, giving those blessings put me in a bit of a quandary. I believe strongly in the power of the priesthood, so I believe that blessings can have real effect. I also love my daughters more than anything in the world and want them to get as many blessings as possible. With that in mind, I wanted to take all of sacrament meeting pronouncing blessing after blessing on my daughters. (Even if only those blessing specifically revealed to me from God were ultimately to be granted, why would I risk leaving something out?)

    Ultimately, I didn't take all of sacrament meeting giving the blessing, and I felt like the blessings I gave were largely revealed to me - beforehand. In fact, I knew pretty well what I was going to say long before I held our daughters in that circle of priesthood authority. I was open to receiving further revelation in the moment, but I didn't expect it. After all, I had conversed with God for days about this, why would he wait until the very last minute (when I might choke on my words or not be able to interpret his spirit clearly) to tell me something additional?

    BUT, I don't believe I even thought to include Carrie in helping me seek revelation for the blessing. I'm not sure why. I think we discussed in generalities the process of giving the blessings (my desire to give a very long blessing), but I don't think we ever talked about specifics. Perhaps our daughters will now be excluded from some blessing that Carrie would have helped me understand the Lord wanted for them.

    Next time.
    posted by Blogger Todd L. at 6/09/2006 12:08:00 PM  

  • Becca, I had a feeling that the statement you’re focusing on would draw some attention. And to be honest, I think my thoughts are still being shaped and formed on this point—-I’m not sure I’ve come to any hard and fast conclusions. In other words, I might change my mind even as I’m forced to explain what I mean as I write this.

    But I don’t think that priesthood = motherhood. I think that argument has been created largely to “explain” (?) or “justify” (?) why women don’t hold the priesthood. (I’m sure someone will respond with a quote from a prophet equating the two; but I’m not certain I consider the idea doctrine??). But I also think that the equation fatherhood = motherhood often undervalues motherhood, because we cannot argue away the fact that there are elements of mothering that just can’t be accomplished by men. I do believe absolutely that beyond those things, fathers CAN be just as nurturing and “mothering” as mothers.

    But when I was pregnant I felt privileged—-that’s the only word I can use. I remember the first time I realized that Astoria had the hiccups inside of me. I cried. I watched a little bulge on my stomach flick up and down rhythmically for almost eight minutes and I felt so close to her because I could tell she was there, could see something that she was experiencing. And I felt sad that dh wasn’t there to experience it too. And then when I told him about it in all my excitement, I wondered why he wasn’t jealous. It was his child too. Shouldn’t he yearn to be close to her too?

    I honestly feel like our society’s (all society’s, not just the LDS one’s) gender problems would largely vanish if the unique capacities of women were genuinely valued (by men and women)—-not just paid lip--service to: if men looked at women when they were pregnant and felt envy; if men were jealous as they watched their wives nurse their children; if men coveted the chance to go through labor. We—-women-—are jealous of the things society allots to men, are we not? Their power, prestige, professional identities? Their opportunities to fully develop their talents or pursue their interests—-unhampered by maternity leave or sleepless nights. Why shouldn’t men envy us? Wouldn’t we be more equal if they did?

    Of course, men never will envy these female capacities because all bearing, delivering, and even nursing children can be painful, unpleasant, even ugly (and we women certainly do a fair amount of complaining about all of them). But aren’t they some of the most fundamental parts of being human—-not just women, but human? Shouldn’t they be glorified in our society? Instead they’re considered the work of women who “don’t work” or who “stay at home”-—people who, in terms of professional rights and monetary privileges, occupy a marginal place in our corporate, money-hungry, salary driven world. (Can anyone say anything about non-western cultures that are more matriarchal, where women are the leaders and revered? Does this have anything to do with their ability to bear children?)

    So I think that really there is no adequate compensation for men not getting to participate in this part of mothering.

    But I see that this line of thinking is problematic. It has extremely cruel implications for those who can’t have children (and for men?). I realize that. I went through several years fearing that I wouldn’t be able to have children-—just fearing, not knowing that that was the case, just fearing. And it was terrible—-it hurt terribly. I wouldn’t even let myself follow my feelings to the possible conclusion that I would not get to experience this part of life. It was too painful. Way too painful.

    But isn’t there some way to glory in a woman’s ability to bear children without dehumanizing or belittling those who can’t (men included)? Or am I just contradicting myself? I don’t think that not being able to have children means that we are any less human or worthy of glorifying, any more than autistic people are any less human or worth glorifying. Human capacity is enormous, but not all humans have the same capacity. And of course that’s difficult and unfair . . .

    Having said all this, I must clarify that I don’t think that this means that people who adopt aren’t as good mothers/parents as those who can have children. Obviously, there are adoptive parents who are exponentially better parents than a lot of natural parents (in fact, are there any BAD adoptive parents? Do people who aren’t ready to take on parenting with all its sacrifices and challenges ever adopt? As opposed to the many people who “naturally” become parents by accident). So please don’t anyone mistake my thoughts to mean people who can’t have children naturally = bad or lesser parents in any way.

    But the fact is, I feel so blessed to have carried and given birth to my daughter, so I don’t anticipate ever feeling left out because I can’t bless, baptize, confirm, or ordain her (are they any women who do? is priesthood envy part of feminism in the church?). Or maybe I should envy the priesthood if I expect dh to feel left out that he didn’t carry, deliver, or nurse her? Perhaps then we’d be mutually respecting each other’s unique abilities? But then, does that mean that priesthood = motherhood? If priesthood does not = motherhood, but men and women are to equally respect each others’ unique capacities, what would non-LDS women envy that their husbands can do that they can’t? I haven’t thought about it yet and I’ve written too much already . . .

    Someone tell me where my argument isn’t logical or doesn’t make sense or what I haven’t considered, because this is something I think about a lot and I’d like to know where I’m wrong . . . so that I can come to some conclusions.
    posted by Blogger sunny at 6/09/2006 12:25:00 PM  

  • Thanks, Todd. I wish I had posted these questions weeks ago.
    posted by Blogger sunny at 6/09/2006 12:28:00 PM  

  • I'm tempted to just say, "What Todd said" which I did from time to time when we were in the bishopric together in Astoria. But seriously, these are very interesting questions raised by Sunny and interesting points made by Todd. (sorry, I didn't have much time to read anybody else's comments.)

    My experience with blessing our sons was that I thought about it a lot and prayed about it in the days leading up to it, but that was really about it. After talking with Jen about it last night, I don't really remember "consulting" much with her on what I should say in the blessing or talking much about it beyond, "Gee, I hope we don't drop Noe."

    It really wasn't on purpose, either; it just sorta happened. Not to say you shouldn't talk about it, but it wasn't really my experience. Perhaps I felt comfortable knowing that we were on the same page about what we wanted for our boys, and that the Spirit would direct me as such.

    And beyond what Todd said (there I go again) about revelation being a process: it's also human nature to think or talk about this leading up to it. It's a big deal and you have family and friends there. But like I said, other than thinking/praying about it, I didn't have a grocery list of blessings written down anywhere.

    I remember the night before Noe's blessing, I started writing stuff down, mostly to make sure I had the wording at the beginning correct. But as soon as I caught myself writing down other things, I threw the paper away. I thought it'd better to just let the Spirit direct me up there.

    It's a marvelous experience and one I hope every father gets to experience. As I told Jen after my sons' blessings, that was a moment that came from somewhere else, from being in tune with the Spirit.

    Anyway, I know Brian will do a fine job on Sunday with Astoria, and that Heavenly Father will know what blessings to bestow upon her.
    posted by Anonymous E. Guzman at 6/09/2006 01:18:00 PM  

  • kim: The CHI states only that Heavenly father is addressed. Unless we're reading two different versions.

    Well, yeah. I read that as being a prayer. I guess, technically you could adress God and do the blessing in the third person, e.g., "and we bless this child with a sense of humor."
    posted by Anonymous J. Stapley at 6/09/2006 01:21:00 PM  

  • I think that if a couple is praying together and communicating well that their hopes become aligned by the Spirit. Therefore, for me, blessings are not just words from a Father, but the result of a revelatory process of a couple.
    posted by Blogger Tri Mama at 6/09/2006 01:27:00 PM  

  • Sunny - DH and I definitely talked about DS's blessing. I asked him a lot about how he would go about preparing for the blessing, if there was anything I could help him with, etc. We talked somewhat about things that DS could be blessed with, but I agree with cc in that if you & DH are praying together and communicating then you each know your desires for your child. And in turn Heavenly Father knows your desires as well.

    My DH journaled a lot when he was preparing for the blessing. I know he was nervous, too, when he gave the blessing in front of everyone (he confessed that later). He also tried to prepare himself for "what if DS cries the whole time", etc. Just in case that happened he didn't want to be totally pulled out of the moment.
    posted by Blogger Beth at 6/09/2006 05:38:00 PM  

  • "I guess, technically you could adress God and do the blessing in the third person"

    Which, incidentally enough, I do. ;)
    posted by Anonymous Kim Siever at 6/09/2006 06:01:00 PM  

  • Sunny--

    I'm happy to have found this post; I'm excited to be there on Sunday. I'll add a couple of thoughts.

    As I've come to give more Priesthood blessings in the last few years, I've taken to the custom of asking the blessed to pray before I offer the blessing. That is, we seat ourselves, talk for a moment, and then I ask, "would you feel comfortable praying to invite the Spirit, and would you also ask for me to be able to address any specific topics that are important to you." I've found this a wonderful opportunity for the blessed to let me know the reasons for wanting a blessing. Sometimes the person gives a non-descript prayer and I learn little, but at least she has the opportunity. In other words, I think it not only appropriate but advisable for you and your husband to talk about what blessings you would like for your child.

    Hopefully, of course, your husband will remain flexible--allowing himself to follow the Spirit.

    A couple of thoughts also on Priesthood, Motherhood, and those who experience neither.

    Much of the consternation over these subjects, I think, comes from a misunderstanding of their cores. Many people feel Priesthood is fundamentally about power--but that's not true, it is most basically about love. Christ taught, when He washed the disciples' feet, that the world's idea of a "leader" is backwards--it is service, not power, which defines leadership.

    On the Earth, two organizations are most important: the Church and the Family (the latter more than the former). Men are called especially to lose themselves in service to the Church, women to the family. I don't know that Priesthood and Motherhood are equal, but both are opportunities to serve deeply and with power.

    I think, then, that those who are neither Priesthood holders nor mothers can find deep satisfaction from serving--anywhere and anyone. The more meaningful the service, the deeper the satisfaction. That brings to light an important corrolary mistake the world makes--becaue the world teaches satisfaction comes from having power, the world believes only the powerful (rich, etc.) can find satisfaction. The truth, of course, is that the powerful are seldom satisfied; the loving, on the other hand, find profound peace and comfort.

    Elder Maxwell has said it much better than I know how: "Thus, developing greater contentment within certain of our existing constraints and opportunities is one of our challenges. Otherwise we may feel underused, underwhelmed, and underappreciated—while, ironically, within our givens are unused opportunities for service all about us. Neither should we pine away, therefore, for certain things outside God’s givens, such as for the powerful voice of an angel, because there is so much to do within what has been allotted to us (see Alma 29:3–4)." I hope this idea is encouraging.

    One personal note: by intersting coincidence, my Father will be released as Bishop tomorrow. Sunny will understand better than others my dad's empathy--he is, as my mother once commented, "a profoundly good man." When he began his term as Bishop, the bags under his eyes grew deep and dark and his temper grew temporarily a bit shorter. As we watched him come home late on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Sundays, we could nearly see the heavy load he carried on his back--the weight of others' sins (I believe Bishop's are called in a literal/spiritual sense, to "bear [others'] burdens." The load taxed my father, nearly to the limit.

    When I spoke with him earlier this week, however, he told me he will be sad to be released. Trust me, he has little aspiration or desire for power. His time in service to his flock, however, has excavated a profound place in his heart--he has been filled with charity. Consequently, he will, it seems to me, long look with fondness and longing on this time when he he came to love more deeply.

    For what's it's worth, I think that is what Motherhood, Priesthood, and Servicehood are about.
    posted by Blogger tyler at 6/10/2006 06:31:00 AM  

  • For all three of our children's blessings, I have asked my wife several days before the blessing, if there was anything specific she wanted me to include in the blessing. I incorporated her comments into the blessing as I felt prompted to do so. I ended up blessing each child with whatever we discussed, and also with some things that I was prompted about during the blessing itself. I see no harm in pondering the words of the blessing. Clearly, from someone else's message, we see that Elder Faust plans ahead.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 6/14/2006 06:36:00 PM  

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