A Women’s Blessing

Cross-posted at Ordain Women.

“As your mothers and sisters in Christ, we are here to support you and bless you this day.”

Almost a year ago, my daughter sat in a camping chair on a beach wrapped in a towel, still damp with the water of the San Francisco Bay. It was chilly, but women from our ward and neighboring wards and a couple of family members surrounded her, shielding her from the wind, while I gave her a “women’s blessing” as part of her baptismal program.

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Photo by Matt Lambert

I had wanted a more prominent role in her baptism than I had in her baby blessing. After discussion with my husband, we asked our daughter, “Would you like a women’s blessing, or a parent blessing after your confirmation?” She said, “A women’s blessing,” though I don’t know if she knew exactly what that meant. Admittedly, I didn’t fully know either.

At our tithing settlement the previous December, I asked our bishop what sort of arrangements we needed to have for the baptism. He said all he needed to do was approve the program. A couple of weeks ahead of the baptism, I sent him a copy of our proposed program, with a women’s blessing listed after the confirmation. Shortly I received a simple response that the program was approved. I invited every woman coming to the baptism to participate. I wanted my daughter supported by all the important women in her life.

This was not the first blessing I had been a part of. I’ve participated in group women’s blessings for women needing comfort, where if anyone in the circle feels inspired they can add a few words. I have blessed my children when they were sick and my husband and I have done intimate 2-person naming blessings for our babies.

But it was my first public blessing and I was nervous, partly that I wouldn’t know what to say but mostly that no one would join me in the circle. After a full circle of men for her confirmation, I was afraid that none of the women would join in.

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Photo by Ronan Flynn-Curran

But my ward came out and came through for me and I am so grateful to them. We blessed her to know we supported her in her life journey and to find joy in it. The women who surrounded her are her Primary teachers, her future Young Women leaders. It was so meaningful that the women who do and will support her in life were able to do so on her baptism day. I hope she’ll never forget it.

womensblessing

Art by Margaret

TopHat

TopHat is putting her roots down in the Bay Area with her husband and three children. She loves the earth, yarn, and bicycling.

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25 Responses

  1. Sarah says:

    AH this is beautiful!! Thank you so much for sharing. I am so impressed your ward members participated so heartily.

    • TopHat says:

      We had recently finished a series of lessons in Sunday School about women in the Church and there had been a lesson on women giving blessings historically. I think that made people feel more comfortable.

  2. Andrew R. says:

    An interesting concept. There are some things I would like to try to understand about this however.

    You husband confirmed your daughter a member of the Church and instructed her, buy the power of the priesthood, to receive the Holy Ghost. These parts are essential. Equally essential would have been that your husband, directed by the Spirit give a blessing.

    You then gave her a blessing, you do not say by what authority you pronounced this blessing. Interestingly you specified it as a Women’s blessing, and not a Mother’s blessing. Presumably the Spirit now directed the blessing you needed to give.

    Why did it take two blessing for the Lord’s blessings to be made known? Are we all missing out on blessings the Lord wants us to have because we only ask those holding the Priesthood? Fortunately, when I was recently sick and in need of surgery I was able to ask my son for a blessing, he was assisted by FT missionaries. Everything went very well, and my recovery was fast and full. But maybe, just maybe, he should have been able to cure me, and I should not have needed surgery. Should I have had my wife give me a “top up” women’s blessing, just to be sure?

    I am not trying to be flippant. I don’t inherently see a problem with sisters giving a blessing of faith – especially where that is the only vehicle available in an emergent situation.

    Presumably you explained the difference between the two blessings. That one was a salvic ordinance required for membership in the Lord’s Church, and as such has to be performed by a Melchizedek Priesthood holder. The other was for what? In case your husband missed something? Because you wanted to be a part of it?

    Lastly, if you have a son (or had one if you don’t) would you likewise give him a Women’s Blessing? Or is it that your child is a female? What I mean to say is, is a Women’s Blessing a blessing for, or by, a women? It’s not quite clear to me.

    Again – I don’t see anything you did was wrong, so long as you did not invoke priesthood authority you do not have. I am just trying to understand the reasoning.

    • TopHat says:

      I started the blessing in the exact words as I started this post, invoking my authority as her mother and faith in Christ.

      We gave her the option of a women’s blessing or a couple’s blessing and she chose women’s blessing. We will give the same choice to my son. He can chose what he wants.

      It was a women’s blessing because I paused to let the other women in the circle add anything they felt moved to add.

      Re: why both if one was good enough: as far as confirmations go, everything after “receive the Holy Ghost” is a father’s blessing and not required for the ordinance. Why do men add that if the ordinance part is good enough? They do it to show love for the person receiving the confirmation. We figured that if my husband gets to voice his father’s blessing as part of the day, I could voice a blessing too.

      • Andrew R. says:

        That is an interesting take on a Confirmation. Whilst technically in the instance of a father confirming his child it is a father’s blessing, many confirmations are not by fathers.
        The instructions for a confirmation (as taken from Handbook 2) are as follows.
        1. States the person’s full name.
        2. States that the ordinance is performed by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood.
        3. Confirms the person a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
        4. Uses the words “Receive the Holy Ghost” (not “receive the gift of the Holy Ghost”).
        5. Gives words of blessing as the Spirit directs.
        6. Closes in the name of Jesus Christ.

        You will note that Step 5 is not optional. The actual confirmation should include a blessing directed by the Spirit. Your comment, “my husband gets to voice his father’s blessing” seems to imply that your husband simply says what he wants to say, and so you did too.

        I can tell you that having confirmed both my children, a child of another, and converts, that most especially with those not my children in the blessing part of the ordinance I was directed by the Spirit. In the case of the child of record I confirmed (her father is a non-member) the Spirit I felt and the understanding of God’s love, consideration and desires for this young women, were manifest – I will never forgot it.

        Still, thank you for your responses. I find it interesting, and if it helped to create an understanding, in your daughter, of the importance you both feel for your daughter being baptised, then all well and good.

  3. ElleK says:

    Oh man, I wish my bishop would be cool with something like this. I love that you claimed your authority and participated in a way that was meaningful for you. I wish there were institution-approved and specified ways for women to wield spiritual authority in their homes and families, but we have to carve out our own way. There is fulfillment in this, but it is also uncomfortable and riddled with self-doubt, at least for me. Also, people like to say, “you can’t do that!” when they haven’t seen something done before, which is discouraging. Good work!

    • Andrew R. says:

      I will preface what I am about to say with the fact that I am not now, nor have I ever been, Bishop.

      If I were a bishop in this instance I would probably not have approved this to take place during a baptismal service. Not because I have a particularly strong feeling about the idea of a mother giving their child a faith blessing. I would be worried about creating any confusion and precedence.

      Bishop hold the keys to authorise Melchizedek priesthood holders to confirm individuals – even Dads. They do not hold any keys to authorise a mother to give a blessing. In order for a Melchizedek priesthood holder to perform a confirmation he must be worthy to hold a temple recommend. There are established ways of determining this. Since a Women’s Blessing is not an ordinance of the priesthood, or of a non-priesthood, what criteria would I establish. Would the sister need to be a member? What if the Dad were a non-member, prospective elder or unworthy, could he perform a father’s blessing in a baptismal service – after the formalities?

      No – it’s a very nice idea, and something I have no issue with in a general sense – give the blessing at home. However, as part of a Church service over which I was presiding, I would find it hard.

      Fortunately not something I have to worry about – also not ever going to be bishop.

      • Carrie Ann says:

        Andrew,
        Do you and your wife always get the exact same words from the Spirit? Is she ever inspired about your children in ways that you are not? I encourage you to look at the way women have blessed one another, husbands, and children throughout church history. Historically Priesthood leadership understood this concept well and encouraged the use of it often.

        I am guessing maybe this Bishop understood the historical and spiritual implications better than others in his position. It sounds like a beautiful experience.

      • ElleK says:

        “I would be worried about creating any confusion and precedence.”

        This is the argument that is often unspoken but that underlies many other arguments against expanding women’s roles in a variety of contexts. Many men seem to think that if they give women an inch, women will suddenly think we have the priesthood (trust me, we understand that we don’t have the priesthood). Or maybe they’re concerned that potential nonmembers in attendance will think that we ordain our women (the horror!). And what precedent are you afraid of setting? That other women will likewise want to perform faith blessings or find a meaningful way to participate in their children’s ordinances?

        Nearly all of the church auxiliaries and many programs (like FHE) were created by grassroots innovation in local units and later adopted by the church. It is strange that we posses such a heritage but that we are now governed by fear of stepping out of bounds in so many instances. The handbook is a flexible and living document; if something nontraditional is not expressly prohibited, then where is the harm?

        You brought up a few other points that have been on my mind and articulate the need for the church to either recognize and give guidelines for women exercising spiritual authority in an organized way, or else encouraging lay leaders to feel comfortable challenging the status quo. Your reasons for [hypothetically] saying no seem mostly born of fear and discomfort, not of love.

      • Andrew R. says:

        ElleK,

        You will note that some of my comments related to worthiness to perform a blessing/ordinance. I realise that such a blessing would not be a priesthood ordinance. However, in the context of a church meeting, which a baptism is, I think this would be a dangerous precedent. A Dad that can not perform the confirmation giving an additional blessing for instance.

        Also, in large stake, with many baptisms, individual baptismal services do not always take place. A child may be being baptised with maybe 5 others. So 5 baptisms, 5 confirmation, and then 5 women’s blessings?

        So it is the making it a part of the baptismal service that I have a worry about. Complicating things.

  4. Dani Addante says:

    This is a great idea! I love it when women are involved in things like this. I think it’s natural for women to give blessings. Women like Emma Smith and Eliza R. Snow would give blessings of healing and even do prayer circles. Also, women currently give blessings in the temple. And giving a blessing is something women do every day, such as praying and asking blessings for others. Giving a blessing and praying are very much the same thing.

  5. Danna says:

    This is so amazingly wonderful and. Eaitiful Heather. I dream of a day we all can share our blessings for one another without restraint!

  6. Rachel says:

    Her drawing is so, so beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Debbie says:

    This is beautiful. Its great that your bishop agreed to this. I do hope as more women see these types of blessings happening and feel inspired to follow that there won’t be a crackdown.
    Would it be ok to publicly share

    • TopHat says:

      Sure! I was on the fence about sharing it here because it was so special to me (it’s been almost a year since her baptism), but I feel like unless we share these stories, nothing will change.

  8. Avril says:

    Thank you for sharing! So beautiful! Thank you for encouraging us to follow the Spirit that is in us and continue to create. This is so powerful.

  9. Carrie Ann says:

    TopHat,

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I was deeply inspired and joyful for all who were involved. I am sure heaven smiled on you for using your spiritual gifts to lift the ones you love.

  10. Spunky says:

    I’m crying! I want this for my daughters!

  11. April Carlson says:

    Beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing. Your Bishop sounds like a Christlike person comfortable with all expressions of God’s power (masculine/ feminine and everything in between. Someone once described a blessing to me as a hug from God delivered through the arms of someone that loves you. I wish my own baptism had afforded opportunities to receive *hugs* from God from the wonderful women in my life. I am grateful for the love I felt from my father and grandfather, but the inclusion of my mother, grandmothers, and aunts would have been amazing!!

  12. Amiee Flynn-Curran says:

    This was so beautiful to see in person – and Margaret’s drawing is frame-worthy. My great regret is that I was technically finished with my research, so it won’t be part of my “lots of references to TopHat” Chapter (P.S. working title, ‘Especially their women’).

  13. Ellen says:

    Thank you so much for this. I wish i had thought of this when my children were baptized years ago. Who among us doesn’t need more love and good wishes and blessings? Also, the drawing is wonderful!

  14. Violadiva says:

    Such a special and sweet experience. I’m so glad you did this — not only for her, but also your other children to see, and all of us! I love it when strong, spirit-filled women respond to the spirit in meaningful ways. Thanks for your example. ❤

  15. Tatum says:

    I remember that day. Such a beautiful baptism. And such a beautiful blessing.

  16. Olea says:

    This feels so right and good and full of love. Thank you for sharing TopHat, and please thank Margaret for her drawing. The whole experience, and especially the art, are so expansive, they reach me closer to heaven.

  1. May 27, 2017

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