This is a sum-up of my Elder’s Quorum Lesson. Enjoy!
When I gave my first blessing to Maria, when I was 18 years old, I was terrified out of my mind. I was giving a blessing in front of her non-member parents. My heart was pounding, and I wasn’t sure where to go with the blessing. My dad told me in the car that I should “pray to be able to convey the love that Father has for her, and just open my mouth, knowing that it would be filled.” I remember the feeling more than the words that I gave, like I had done something the way that the Lord wanted me too. My fears reminded me of the words of President Henry B. Eyring:
“I had grown up in the mission field where there was only a tiny branch, which met in my home. Then my family moved to where there were stakes and large wards and chapels and quorums of boys who all seemed to know so much more than I did about what priesthood holders do. They had in that ward a complicated pattern for passing the sacrament. I felt almost certain that I would make a mistake when my turn to pass or prepare the sacrament came.
In my fear and desperation, I remember going outside the chapel to be alone. I was worried. I prayed for help and for some assurance that I would not fail in serving God in His priesthood.
It is now many years later. I have held the Melchizedek Priesthood for more than 50 years. But in the last few days I have prayed with that same pleading for help and assurance that I will not fail in the call which has come to me to serve in the First Presidency. Others seem so much more able to serve and so much better prepared. But as I prayed this time I think I could feel an answer that was probably sent to me outside the Yalecrest Ward chapel long ago. It is the same answer you can expect to get when you face a call to serve in the priesthood which seems beyond you.”
As I have grown and matured in the Gospel, I have given a lot of blessings, and a lot of thought into how to give a good one. Elder Oaks gave a stellar talk in the April 2010 Priesthood Session, concerning this. He said that there are 4 parts of a Priesthood blessing:
(The words of the blessing are not a part of the official ordinance! In the missionary handbook, it states that other words after the sealing should be given “as directed by the Spirit.” Elder Oaks elaborates:
“On some choice occasions I have experienced that certainty of inspiration in a healing blessing and have known that what I was saying was the will of the Lord. However, like most who officiate in healing blessings, I have often struggled with uncertainty on the words I should say. For a variety of causes, every elder experiences increases and decreases in his level of sensitivity to the promptings of the Spirit. Every elder who gives a blessing is subject to influence by what he desires for the person afflicted. Each of these and other mortal imperfections can influence the words we speak.
Fortunately, the words spoken in a healing blessing are not essential to its healing effect. If faith is sufficient and if the Lord wills it, the afflicted person will be healed or blessed whether the officiator speaks those words or not. Conversely, if the officiator yields to personal desire or inexperience and gives commands or words of blessing in excess of what the Lord chooses to bestow according to the faith of the individual, those words will not be fulfilled. Consequently, brethren, no elder should ever hesitate to participate in a healing blessing because of fear that he will not know what to say. The words spoken in a healing blessing can edify and energize the faith of those who hear them, but the effect of the blessing is dependent upon faith and the Lord’s will, not upon the words spoken by the elder who officiated.”
4. The Will of the Lord
The anointing and sealing are almost wrote. Faith is something that we have when we ask for, give, and follow the direction of blessings. The blessing works by faith, for “without faith it is impossible to please [the Lord].” Faith is something that we need to have coming into the blessing, and will grow as we act in harmony with the standards the Lord has set for comfort, counsel, or healing.
But accepting the will of the Lord is perhaps the most difficult thing to accept. In a very unscientific survey, I asked 28 girls, and 7 guys, what inspired trust in someone, to ask for a blessing from them, and focused largely on being a trustworthy home teacher. The top 5 answers go as follows.
1. Sincerity: defined by consistently asking what they can do to help, following up on things in their lives that they talked about before, making personalized lessons for them. We are to teach, and of course bless, by the Spirit of God. I think Elder Holland said it best when he said:
“When crises come in our lives--and they will--the philosophies of men interlaced with a few scriptures and poems just won't do. Are we really nurturing our youth and our new members in a way that will sustain them when the stresses of life appear? Or are we giving them a kind of theological Twinkie--spiritually empty calories? President John Taylor once called such teaching "fried froth," the kind of thing you could eat all day and yet finish feeling totally unsatisfied.”
Listening is perhaps the best tool we have in showing sincerity, and in helping solve problems. The following is taken from Preach My Gospel:
When you listen carefully to others, you understand them better. When they know that their thoughts and feelings are important to you, they are more likely to be receptive to your teachings, share personal experiences, and make commitments. As you listen, you will be able to more effectively adapt your teaching to their needs and interests.
Especially listen for the whisperings of the Spirit. As others share their feelings with you, thoughts or ideas may enter your mind that are directed by the Spirit. You will also be able to understand what others are trying to express.
While others talk to you, avoid the tendency to think about what you are going to say. Make sure you are really concentrating on the person speaking rather than planning your response. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught: “More important than speaking is listening. These people are not lifeless objects disguised as a baptismal statistic. They are children of God, our brothers and sisters, and they need what we have. Be genuine. Reach out sincerely. Ask these friends what matters most to them. What do they cherish, and what do they hold dear? And then listen. If the setting is right, you might ask what their fears are, what they yearn for, or what they feel is missing in their lives. I promise you that something in what they say will always highlight a truth of the gospel about which you can bear testimony and about which you can then offer more. . . . If we listen with love, we won’t need to wonder what to say. It will be given to us—by the Spirit and by our friends.”
2. Have contact outside of Church, inviting them to activities.
How often to do we text message, facebook, read blogs, check the weather, etc? How much harder is it to have sincere, weekly contact with those that we care about, and care for?
3. Offer blessings at every teaching appointment.
The following are excerpts from 2 girls, who really went above and beyond for helping me:
“My roommates also said that they really appreciate it when their home teachers remind them that they are always willing to give them a blessing whenever they may need it. I think as women we often feel like we are taking up your time by asking for a blessing, so it is just nice to be reminded that it isn't an inconvenience to give a blessing (unless it is, in which case don't lie) :) and that you are always willing.”
“My home teachers I have felt the most close to have visited regularly and asked me how I was doing with specific questions. They remember things that are important in my life. As the home teachers fulfill their callings, there seems to be a blessing of friendship formed with the home teachees and the home teachers. They would ask if there was anything they could do to help me.... That opens a door for a girl to feel comfortable enough to ask for a blessing. Some girls may have trouble asking for help when they feel like it's just out of the blue. Sometimes we feel like we could be burdening the boys, but when my home teachers tell me right off the
bat, any time, day or night, they are willing to come give me a blessing, I felt so grateful to know I have their support and the priesthood power available to me.”
4. Change into Sunday clothes.
“A couple months ago I asked one of the guys in our ward for a blessing and I really appreciated that he took the time to put on a white shirt and tie. He didn't have a second priesthood holder with him but one of the guys that was visiting my roommate immediately offered to run home and change into Sunday clothes and then help with the blessing. Although it would have probably been a lot easier and quicker for both of them to not have to change, it meant a lot to me that they valued and recognized the great power that they held enough to take those few extra minutes. So moral of the story...as women we really appreciate it when guys wear white shirts and ties to give us a blessing. I understand that there are circumstances where that might not be possible, but we are usually willing to wait those few extra minutes so you can show proper respect and love for the amazing priesthood power that you hold.”
“We also really look up to and respect the guys that show the proper respect while they are blessing and passing the sacrament (or doing other priesthood ordinances like blessings or temple work.) The sacrament is so important and as women we are unable to do it ourselves, so we really appreciate those men that provide us with that opportunity. I think how men view and perform their weekly priesthood responsibility of the sacrament tells us a lot about how much they value the power that they hold to give blessings.”
5. Their attitude in and outside of Church, including language and crude jokes.
“I am so very grateful for so many wonderful men who worthily hold the priesthood. When I have home teachers that I feel really do care about me, there is strong support. I think part of this is due to their stewardship, and also remaining personally worthy.”
B. “Thank you Boys for staying worthy and exercising your priesthood
power. It is so greatly appreciated and cherished by the women.”
The only thing that every guy said was “don’t be judgmental when I ask for help.” Interesting.
Texting is not home teaching. (Weird)
People can tell the difference when their hometeachers are praying for them.
Don’t creep on your home teachees. They can’t get away from you.
After this interesting survey, let us consider the words of President Eyring once again:
“Now, tonight let us decide together what we are going to do. All of us, whatever our callings may be, face tasks that are beyond our own powers. I do and you do. That’s true from the simple fact that success is to get testimony down into the hearts of people. We can’t make that happen. Even God won’t force that on anyone.
So success requires people we serve to choose to accept the testimony of the Spirit into their hearts. The Spirit is ready. But many people aren’t ready to invite the Spirit. Our task, which is in our power, is to invite the Spirit into our lives so that people we serve will want to have the fruits of the Spirit in their lives—the fruits that they can see in ours.”
Work hard. Take the time to teach well. Love the people that you serve. Here is the line that ended an e-mail that I think we could do well when making decisions for further action:
“I am so very grateful for so many wonderful men who worthily hold the priesthood. When I have home teachers that I feel really do care about me, there is strong support. I think part of this is due to their stewardship, and also remaining personally worthy. Thank you Boys for staying worthy and exercising your priesthood power. It is so greatly appreciated and cherished by the women.”