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?