Baby blessings

Posted by on August 16, 2013 in blessings, fatherhood, manhood, prayer | 10 comments

My great-grandparents holding my grandfather on his blessing day

My great-grandparents holding my grandfather on his blessing day

About a month ago, my father decided to clear out his collection of family memorabilia and give it to me, the de facto family historian.  I was thrilled.  In my free time I have been perusing the journals, albums and family records.  I came across my Grandpa’s baby book, a more thorough record than most of its kind.  It goes all the way through his high school graduation and includes a map of the Pacific Ocean with the route his ship took during World War II carefully inked in.  Evidently my great-grandmother was a diligent scrapbooker.

The book contains a page for “baby’s first prayer” in which my great-grandma transcribed the words of my grandpa’s baby blessing.  They were not Mormons.  My great-grandfather was a minister of a protestant denomination, and my grandfather later followed in his footsteps.  The fact that this was a father’s blessing therefore had more to do with the family profession than the biological relationship.

 

 

July 5, 1917

Our Father in heaven – thou who has given us this child to make glad our home – we give him back to Thee today.  Use him we pray in Thy great purpose for the world, and through him bring in some small way the Kingdom of God.  Teach him that the only failure is selfishness and the only success service; and when his life is ended, grant that the world will be more Christ-like for his years in it.

We pray too for ourselves.  Help us to live such lives that this boy will find it easy to believe in God, and help us to build such a home that in it he will naturally discover Jesus Christ.  As he works with us, may he see in our lives the spirit of Thy Son; and as we play together may we never do anything that will drive God from his life.  Take us and take him, we pray, and use us in Thy work on Earth.  Through Jesus Christ, Amen.

 

I really love this prayer.  Every time I read it I get goosebumps and I think “that is what I want for my family.  That is the blessing I would want said for my children.”  I also feel that it was a blessing that was fulfilled.  My grandpa did devote his life to service.  He eventually left the ministry in order to work full time in fundraising and philanthropy.  Even in retirement he constantly volunteered.  I do think the world was more Christ-like for his years in it.

In our church we would teach that my great grandfather had no priesthood authority, though I am certain as a graduate of Harvard Divinity he would have disagreed.  Yet when I read this blessing I can’t help but think that this is the baby blessing par excellence.  I wonder what difference having the priesthood could possibly make in blessing a baby.  It isn’t a covenant, it isn’t necessary for salvation by our doctrine.  Why then do we need a priesthood holder to perform this blessing? I myself was blessed by our home teacher as a baby because my father is not a member and probably wouldn’t have been interested anyway.

 

What role do you think the priesthood plays in offering a baby blessing? Is it different from a father who does not hold the priesthood offering a prayer on behalf of his baby? What about a mother blessing her baby?

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10 Comments

  1. What a beautiful blessing. I truly find this blessing very meaningful and inspiring compared to the usual blessings I hear at church where instead of blessing the child with qualities, the fathers usually bless the child by telling him/her what to choose in life. Thank you for this post and sharing this example of what baby blessings should be like.

    I have wondered about why priesthood holders give the blessing since it is not binding and my husband says that in D&C book there is a verse where the elders are advised to welcome the newborn children into the church and community. (Something along these lines). It seems that we have turned it into a tradition where this welcome is the official baby blessing.

    I personally do not think that priesthood plays a role in this particular blessing. It is the parents who created the child and have overwhelmed hearts with emotions for the child that have the power to call on Heaven and ask for blessings on his/her behalf. Priesthood cannot play any role because it cannot guarantee the fulfillment of such words and these blessings are not revelations either. So, I think it is simply a cultural and social tradition where the men are seen as the only actors because women are excluded from giving blessings.

    • Great comments, EFH. I wonder about the role of authority and religiosity as well for this blessing. Seems more administrative to me…. because when we consider that adopted children and children of converts under the age of 8 can be (and I think are *supposed* to be/have the opportunity to be blessed), then the “newborn” delineation is irrelevant. Which also begs the validity of the blessing for the growing number of step children that are adopted and sealed, or adopted children in general. If this is just an administrative task to make a child a “child of record” prior to baptism, then seems perfectly irrelevant to have all of the masculine pomp that traditionally surrounds the baby blessing tradition.

  2. Such a treasure, Em. (But of course, you already know that.)

    The blessing is so beautiful. I particularly love the lines where your great-grandfather thanks our Father in heaven for the child to “make glad” their home, and “Help us to live such lives that this boy will find it easy to believe in God.” I hope that for myself, and my baby, too.

    Your thoughtful questions make me wonder if it would do well for us to think of baby blessings in our culture as father’s blessings rather than priesthood blessings, and if that Would give us more room to eventually perceive them as parent’s blessings, or family blessings.

    Baby blessings have been on my mind a lot lately, as I prepare for birth. I want to have a role, and think it is only appropriate.

  3. I can’t imagine that God would deny a blessing to a child on the basis of a technicality such as how much authority the blessing giver possesses. So why limit participation? I can only throw out guesses: to set male priesthood holders apart as special and important? To keep the circle less crowded? To ensure that participants have been prepared through priesthood training? To maintain a monochromatic black and white color scheme? (That last sounds stupid because it is, but I have heard color scheme concerns brought up on multiple occasions as a barrier to women’s ordination. Seriously.)

    • Comment

    • Okay. Ignore that totally crazy empty comment from me. No idea how I managed that…

      Just struck by the utter idiocy of that line about color schemes. What happens if a man shows up wearing a baby blue suit? Does he not get to participate either?

      Ugh.

  4. This is lovely, Em. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful blessing!

  5. This is the most beautiful blessing I’ve ever read or heard. It brought tears to my eyes.

    The question about the power of priesthood (baby blessing or any blessing, for that matter) is a good question. I spend a good deal of time pondering and praying about this sort of thing, and I look forward to a time of greater clarity in the future.

    I personally feel the power of God (of Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother via their son, Jesus Christ) can be accessed in numerous ways. One of which is the power we recognize as Latter-day Saints as the restored priesthood after the order of the son of God, etc. However, if it is by our faith in Christ that we are healed (according to what Jesus said) and I imagine it is also faith in Him which ultimately brings about the blessings of His priesthood, then I suspect the power of Christ may very well be made manifest in a variety of settings outside our own. I feel this does not diminish the need for or administration of ordinances within our church. That’s what I feel right now.

    Thank you for sharing this. It is a blessing to each of us, Em. Also, you come from good stock.

    • Thank you all for your kind words and great comments.

  6. Like EFH, I am struck by the way in which this blessing focuses on attributes and qualities, rather than on life milestones. One of the things that makes me the most nuts about Mormon devotional practices is the extent to which they emphasize the “right” choices and life milestones, rather than on fostering Christlike attributes. Yes, I know there’s some talk of Christlike attributes, too. But frankly, there’s far too much talking about the importance of marriage and having children and whether you stay home or work or about doing missionary work or about doing family history or about doing X, Y, and Z and far too little talk about what it means–what it really means–to be a follower of Jesus. That, more than any other single factor, is why I don’t really attend church any longer. I just got sick of all of the prescriptiveness at the expense of fostering traits and characteristics that are actually Christlike and which pertain in all people’s lives regardless of whether their lives look like the “ideal” or not.

    Sorry for the slightly tangential rant. I love this blessing. I would *love* to seem Mormon practice take its shape along these lines, whether we’re talking about the shape of baby blessings or the talks in Sacrament meeting or the lessons taught in Primary. Sadly it seems something we are not very capable of.

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