Feminist Choices, Feminist Baby Blessings

by guest poster Angela C.

Representative Women of Deseret by Augusta Crocheron

My daughter is now almost six months old. And there has been no baby blessing.

I’ve had a hard time figuring out what the right way to approach this blessing is. Should I insist on standing next to my husband? Should I speak a blessing myself after my husband has spoken? Should I do a separate mother’s blessing, surrounded by a circle of trusted women?  In chewing over these questions for the past few months, I’ve come to realize that my dilemma mirrors a couple of different feminisms.

On the one hand, I could go the liberal feminist route. This feminism works toward incorporating women into existing male dominated structures. In terms of this baby blessing, that would mean us having the blessing at home, with my husband and me together holding the baby while my husband reads the blessing that we (mostly I) have written for our child. A true liberal feminist option would mean me also voicing a part of the blessing, but because of extended family dynamics, my husband reading our blessing is probably the best we can do.

On the other hand, I could go the radical feminist route. Radical feminism sees existing power structures as so inherently patriarchal that its proponents often withdraw from the structures and form their own women-centered communities and systems. For a radical feminist baby blessing, I would invite a circle of trusted women to gather and bless and share their hopes and spiritual insights for my daughter.  We would create our own women centered ritual.

I think at heart I must be a liberal feminist, because the option that I feel most comfortable with is for my husband and me to bless that baby together, in a community of men and women who wish us and our baby well. That strikes me as the way it should be – men and women acting in cooperation, with the approval of our community.

While I find the idea of a separate women’s ritual beautiful and meaningful, I struggle with the knowledge that this would be somewhat underground, something I couldn’t mention casually to members of my ward. I ask myself if I would be giving in, going the easy route with this option, because I would be segregating my feminist convictions to a private sphere, because I would not be  inserting myself into that traditional male space and standing right next to my husband as his equal partner, thus making a public visual statement of our egalitarian convictions.

I’m not sure what we will ultimately decide — many factors will come into play, including what my husband and family are comfortable with. But what I am interested in finding out is which feminism attracts you more? Are you more drawn to liberal feminism, to incorporating women into existing structures? Or do you prefer to withdraw from those existing structures and form your own women centered ones? Which one do you think is ultimately more compatible with Mormonism?

n.b. I’m painting with broad brush strokes here. If anyone would like to nuance my characterization of these feminisms, please go ahead and do so.

Caroline

Caroline is a PhD student in Women’s Studies in Religion and mother of three.

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52 Responses

  1. cz says:

    The at home alone blessing is great and we have done that.YET I am still always filled with sadness. we still do the one at the church. I have decided that still doing the one at the church is hiding and taking the easy way. As far as family and friends it makes it really difficult. I didn’t bless until 6 months, both times…. I cried almost everyday had fits of rage towards my Husband.ect ect. Its so hard and my heart goes out to you. Im not doing baby blessing anymore. They are pointless.I told my Husband he could do a church blessing BUT to know I will be going to a Hotel during that weekend. At the same time I can’t imagine ever even having a group of women friends that would do that. You are are lucky.My advice to you I say, start off by seeing if you can hold the baby, then go from there. Maybe a private blessing with you and your Husband and then one at the church holding the baby would work for you.

  2. G says:

    My son was blessed in the typical LDS way and it was one of those break-away moments for me; a very real fracturing of my belief in the way things were done. I wish I had been able to see other options at the time… then again, like you, I would probably have just been stuck by the reality of what those options meant for me and my community.

    For me, the only way to get around the dilemma was to (eventually) remove myself from the structure.

    But that said, I view myself as more of a liberal feminist (according to your definitions here) where what I really value is egalitarian participation.

    My thoughts are with you as you decide the way that works best for you and your family.

  3. Alisa says:

    CZ, thanks for your comment and sharing your heartfelt experience.

    Angela, thank you for this thoughtful post. It means a lot to me, as it’s something I’ve thought a lot about recently, as I’ll soon be in the same situation. My family and my in-laws all live close by and I think will expect something traditional, but I think you ask good questions about what the ideal would be.

    Ideally, I would like for both of us to participate as parents. DH and I have had a very equal marriage as far as splitting income responsibilities, education, household duties, etc. between the two of us. I hope parenting will continue along the same trajectory, and I wish that our spiritual rituals could reflect that as well. We are even choosing a very family-oriented approach to our son’s birth that involves DH as much as it involves me.

    But I have to admit that I’m also tempted by the radical model of feminism. I’ve had some amazing experiences with ceremony being conducted with only women. While I know it’s not perfect, the temple initiatories – completely done with only women – have a unique sacred power to them. My blessingway a couple of months ago was another empowering all-women ceremony that left me feeling so rejuvinated spiritually. I don’t know if I can judge that I needed these women-only ceremonies because of the exclusion I experience as a woman day-to-day in the Church, but I want to think these experiences are more than just reactionary. I’d like to think there is something really special and unique about our sacred powers as women.

  4. Aimee says:

    Thanks for the thoughtful and thought provoking post, Angela. Last March we had our third baby and first girl. We were lucky when our boys were born that we lived in a ward that was a little more progressive when it came to baby blessings and mothers were welcome (even encouraged) to speak about their child and the blessings they hoped to impart immediately before the blessing in sacrament meeting. My husband and I always wrote the blessings together in advance and he memorized and performed them in church word for word surrounded by really great feminist men. Then we moved. And we had a daughter. And it all felt much harder somehow. At four months we decided to go the liberal feminist route and after writing her blessing together blessed her in our arms together at home. Everyone present, our sons, her aunties and uncle, reached into the circle and touched some wriggly part of her. I loved that people who would be her companions in this life and the next were able to participate in that way. I think I couldn’t quite ever go the radical feminist route (with this ritual, at least) as I really loved the idea of inviting people who loved her, who would care for her and help fulfill the blessings we most desired for her, could all participate, regardless of their gender. It was beautiful, but not “official” as far as church records are concerned. She is now ten months and I still haven’t figured out what to do about that “official” part as I don’t think the heavens would need us to improve upon the ceremony we already had. But that’s another post!

  5. Sterling Fluharty says:

    I have struggled to understand why the traditional baby blessing at church is supposed to include giving the child a name. D&C 20:70, which instructs us to carry out this blessing, says nothing about men having to rename a child when its mother and father have already given it a name. I think I would feel more comfortable if the blessing was in more harmony with Moro. 6:4, which instructs us to take down (not bestow) the names of people at church, so that they can be remembered and nourished by the good word of God. In any event, I think these kinds of blessings should fulfill the scriptural command to honor both father and mother.

  6. Two of Three says:

    Perhaps I have swallowed Mormon retoric hook, line and sinker, but I had no problem with my husband giving my kids their baby blessing. I do not feel excluded. There are so many things I was/will be involved with that he will not participate in. I carried them, gave birth to them, guided them through their first period, continue to talk to them about puberty, love, sex and other things that my daughters are not comfortable talking to their dad about. I share so much with them. My husband seeks to do for them. The blessings they get from their dad create little ties between them. I take joy when my daughters and their dad connect in a meaningful way.

    I support those who choose to do things differently. You have to do what works for your family.

  7. madhousewife says:

    I actually find the women-centered ritual more appealing. Of course, I would be very short on women friends who would be willing to do it with me. I’m all done with babies and baby blessings, so it’s a moot point, I guess, but it kind of makes me sad, anyway–that there’s no group female ritual attached to this very female event, i.e. giving birth to a baby.

  8. claire says:

    I’m torn- on one hand, I am attracted to the ritual of a father claiming and blessing his child in front of the community. I think the exclusion of women is more painful because we aren’t given other opportunities to ceremonially bond or claim our children. In many cases, we are far away from our female relatives while we gestate and give birth; we have given over much of our power to men/doctors/outside authorities in birth. We often feel loose and unconnected and this is the nail in the coffin. I think the blessing issue often acts as a proxy for other feminist concerns. This is the role the church pushes us into, and then takes away our ability to participate? It’s like pouring salt in the wound.

  9. Linda says:

    When I was RS President, we would invite the parents and new babies into the RS room to be sung to. We sang a welcome baby song written by Susan Elizabeth Howe originally for a play she wrote (we had her permission to change the wording a tad; and, just to cover the bases, the bishop’s approval to do it). It was our way to offer our communal sisterly blessing and welcome to the “newest single members of the ward” and was especially nice to include both parents. We’d wait until we had a batch of 6 to 8 new babies (every quarter or so) and line them and their parents all up in the front and then sing the song. It was sung to the tune of “If You Could Hie to Kolob so it was pretty long. The babies all got personal invitations to come to the RS room on a certain date for 5 minutes and to bring their parents if they were available. No one has carried on the tradition since I was released, but I loved it.

  10. jks says:

    For me, it was just a baby blessing. I usually felt crappy because of post partum depression. I don’t get why families insist on bothering a new mother by descending on her expecting a meal or a clean house. I always tried to keep ours as low key as possible because it is just a blessing. People get blessings all the time. I don’t’ see why a blessing has to happen when grandparents are in town or whatever.
    I guess I can see it as a nice way to have a reason to get together and celebrate the birth, but it is more like a nice excuse to get together, not something that is so important it should make anyone miserable.

  11. TopHat says:

    I wanted to participate in my daughter’s blessing, but I only had the guts to ask if I could hold the microphone- usually they have a deacon do that. Still I was denied. Our ward does ask the mom to stand and be recognized for her “large role” in bringing the child to the world after the blessing is done. However, it still hurt. “Hey everyone. Look at me. I brought that baby into this world and I’m sitting back here as if I’m not important.” And I could never tell if the words “large role” was a slight at the weight gain during pregnancy.

  12. miles says:

    I actually don’t mind men having a time to bless their child in front of their faith community, I do have more of a problem with it having to be a priesthood holder. It is not about a father blessing a child it makes it about an authority blessing a child. It makes me a little sad actually. If all fathers had the opportunity to do it, I would feel fine, but since it is restricted it bothers me.

    Personally I think a like a more liberal feminism, as it is defined here. I like the idea of standing with my partner and blessing our child together. If we have another I can see us doing something in this vein.

  13. mb says:

    I’m with “Two of Three” on this one. Though, as a feminist and a believer I anticipate increased incorporation of women in public priesthood work, I had no trouble at all with my husband blessing our children when they were infants. (One at home, the rest at church simply due to how we were feeling about our privacy or our sense of church community the time.)

    I rejoiced in the particularly sweet connections with our children that came to me in their infancy and later years that were specifically between them and me, some of them institutional, others intrinsic. I was happy for my husband when he could enjoy particular, individual connections with them as well, of which one was this opportunity to give them a formal blessing.

  14. Tiffany says:

    Oh my goodness! I don’t know if you all even belong to the same church as I do because clearly you have not studied the same doctrine as I. It is a PRIESTHOOD BLESSING, and therefore done by the PRIESTHOOD. We, as women, have different, yet equally important roles in this life. But we do not have the priesthood. What’s next? Are you going to want to perform baptisms for your children as well? Bless the sacrament? This is not the plan of our Heavenly Father and only satan would want to stir up women and make them feel less important because they are not physicaly taking part in these ordinances. I can’t even believe what I am reading on here from most of you. Sounds like you may need to start your own church because these things are not in line with what our Prophet has revealed to us!

  15. Angela C says:

    cz, yes I am very lucky in that I have a strong group of Mormon women friends who would be happy to join me in a blessing. I wish that you had that in your life as well.

    Thank you, G. Part of why I am open about non-traditional baby blessings is because I want Mormon women out there to know there are different options. I wish you had known at the time – having some control and participation in the event makes me feel better about the situation.

    Alisa, I love the idea of your blessingway. I should email you for additional details, as I really do like the idea of doing something like this for my daughter.

    Aimee, what a wonderful way to do a blessing. I love the fact that you had every single person touch her. Beautiful. And as for the paperwork issue, it’s not complicated. Just talk to your clerk and have your baby added as a child of record. Not having an official baby blessing doesn’t matter at all. All it means is that you won’t get a certificate to put in a scrapbook.

    Sterling, I had never thought about the name issue before. Interesting point. Now I’m also wondering why that has become part of the standard baby blessing…

  16. cz says:

    Tiffany, there is no PRIESTHOOD being used by a the Father when he sits and holds his baby instead of stands. Many times I have seen men whom are not worthy to hold the priesthood get invited to sit and hold the baby. Again NO PRIESTHOOD is being performed by the Father. So why would a worthy women not be invited to hold their child whilst their worthy priesthood husband stands? Als, Perhaps you should study what the history of women in the church use to do. You may start to wonder a bit.

  17. Anita says:

    Whatever you do, it better be soon before that baby gets much heavier! 🙂 My nephew was blessed at five months and they could barely hold him.

    As far as the PRIESTHOOD situation, you actually do need to be a priesthood holder in the circle; here’s what the handbook says:

    Only brethren who hold the necessary priesthood and are worthy may perform an ordinance or blessing or stand in the circle. Those who participate are usually limited to priesthood leaders, close family members, and close associates such as home teachers.

    Leaders encourage worthy fathers who hold the necessary priesthood to perform or participate in ordinances and blessings for their own children.

  18. Stan says:

    Anita, again, Many times I have seen Fathers whom are not worthy to hold the priesthood get invited to SIT and hold the baby. Thus NO PRIESTHOOD is being performed by the Father.Why are women not invited???

  19. Stan says:

    Cz’s Husband…

  20. mraynes says:

    Tiffany: While we are happy to have any and all opinions shared on this forum, please make sure that you state them in a respectful manner. Angela is sharing something that is very personal to her and she has the right to be taken seriously without being judged. If you have any questions regarding what is an appropriate comment please check our comment policy, specifically #4.

  21. Angela C says:

    Two of Three, thanks for your comment. It’s nice to hear the experiences from someone who has a different opinion on the issue. I suppose for me, the baby blessing seems to be the only ritual-type thing I as a woman might ever be involved in. There’s wiggle room with baby blessings that is not there for baptisms, etc. I would like to be just as involved as my husband with my family’s religious life, so these non-traditional blessings are an attempt to get close to that in this one brief moment. Though, like you, I support those who want to do things differently.

    madhousewife, it also makes me sad. Though I like to remember that less than 100 years ago, Mormon women were conducting ritual blessings for women about to go into labor. Very cool. Perhaps maybe again, someday.

    Well said, Claire. It does seem ironic that we aren’t supposed to participate in these blessings that center around birthing and motherhood, Mormon women’s primary role in life.

    Linda, what a wonderful practice. I love how you found a way to offer that communal sisterly blessing within the accepted structure of the church. We need more thinkers like you!

    JKS, that’s how I see it as well. I think of it as just a parents’ blessing, which means that my husband and i have the space to carry out that blessing as we choose. It’s not like it’s a saving ordinance or anything. Anyone can say a blessing.

    TopHat, I think it’s pretty sad that they didn’t even let you hold the microphone. Good grief. Makes me wonder why a woman’s very presence near the blessing circle is such a threat.

    miles, interestingly leaders used to allow non-priesthood bearing fathers to stand in the circle. Then women started to ask why they couldn’t be in there as well, since it clearly wasn’t a priesthood thing, and the practice stopped. No more non-LDS men allowed. I think that’s a shame as well.

    mb, I can see where you are coming from, and i can see why many women and men would agree with your point of view. But for me, I don’t sense any special connection I have to my kids that my husband doesn’t, other than birthing and the breast feeding. (which isn’t all that fun, IMO). So that line of reasoning – that the blessing is a special connection for men with their children because women already have other special connections with their children – doesn’t resonate so much with me. Perhaps you can be more specific about these special bonds you have? I might not be thinking broadly enough. Thanks very much for your comment. I love hearing these other perspectives.

    Tiffany, I think your comment is very troubling and very sad. I can’t imagine Christ telling people to leave his church because they like non-traditional baby blessings.

  22. Caroline says:

    cz and stan,
    As was mentioned in the above comment, my understanding is that it was (in the 80’s and 90’s) indeed common practice for non-priesthood dads to be in the circle. But apparently the policy has changed on that. Though I wonder if there are still wards that continue on in that old practice? If so, very interesting. That certainly leaves space for women to insist on sitting and holding the child as well. I myself have thought about going to my bishop and saying that I would like to hold my baby in front of the congregation while it is blessed. I would argue that I’m not “in” the circle. I’m “within” it. That’s different.

  23. cz says:

    Do you mean they would stand or sit? I have in the last 3 years different wards have seen 3 unworthy fathers sit. In any case, it just seems I wouldn’t be so sad about it if it were not such a natural feeling. who knows..

  24. brooke says:

    Wow, I have to say, if TIffany hadn’t of commented on here, I wouldn’t have known this was an LDS website, or is it? I was directed to this to find help in my RS lessons. I am grateful for the help, though sometimes the questions raised by the ‘teachers’ on here haven’t quite felt right. As I started looking at what else this site had to offer, like the Top Posts, I have been disturbed to see there is more a feeling of apostasy on here, rather than sisterhood in the gospel. I was surprised that TIffany was chastized for her comment of the Priesthood and her testimony, that it was not the norm, rather than the exception here. I don’t mean to judge, the gospel is perfect, not the people. But when you start to question the Priesthood and church policy/doctrine, you are heading in the wrong direction.

  25. Anita says:

    I have personally never witnessed the non-priesthood holder sitting in the circle situation (lifelong member, wards in VA,CA, and UT), and do agree that the 1999 handbook makes that pretty clear, but in our UT ward after the blessing they ask the mother to stand and be acknowledged by the congregation. Another thought. I like the idea of your own female ritual which doesn’t conflict with established church policy but could still be affirming and memorable at home.

  26. mraynes says:

    brooke: Tiffany was not chastised for her testimony of the priesthood. She was referred to our comment policy because she questioned the OP’s faithfulness and not so subtley suggested that the rest of us start our own church. Such a statement is prohibited by our comment policy because it does not foster productive dialog. As I said to Tiffany, all opinions are welcome here but it should be done in a way that is respectful.

    The beautiful thing about Mormonism is that there is enough room in the doctrine for all of us. So perhaps some of us have different concerns than you but that doesn’t mean that we love the gospel any less. All of us are trying to make the church the best it can be and negotiate a place for ourselves within it.

  27. Abbie says:

    I think that’s precisely the point Brooke, that people *aren’t* perfect and the Church leaders are people, too. Certainly I think the leaders are trying their very best, that Heavenly Father helps them along when He feels it is prudent, and guides the Church BUT we are imperfect beings trying to interpret the will of a perfect, divine being. How often does Heavenly Father answer prayers English? My impression is that this is the exception to the rule – often answers come as impressions or feelings. Our leaders have a weighty responsibility (that I certainly don’t envy!) to interpret the impressions they get into something we can understand. That understanding, however, is bound by our language which is shaped by the culture and experiences we live. It is, in a way, imperfect. Perhaps if we all spoke Adamic, things would be more clear. 😉

    So we question, so that we might gain an understanding. We offer alternatives, so that we may have a different perspective with which to observe the issue. Perhaps I may liken this to Nephi when he asked God where he might find the ore to build the tools he would need to build the ship. He didn’t say “Well, I can’t build the ship because I don’t have the tools, so do You think You could just give me one?” He did things in preparation first. Asking questions and offering alternative ways to perceive something is a means of preparation before finding an answer, if that makes sense.

    Do we ask difficult questions at times? Sure. Questions we still don’t have answers to. But we’re *trying*. And we ask them here so we can discuss honestly.

    (…in my opinion… ^_^ )

    Does this make sense? We’re just trying to learn and understand, and this is our way of doing that.

  28. Angela C says:

    Anita, I think what will happen is that my husband and I will hold that baby together, so we won’t have to worry about the weight of the baby during a one-handed bouncing maneuver. 🙂 Thanks for the quote from the handbook. And as for doing something that doesn’t conflict with church policy, my husband and I actually got our bishop’s permission to do the blessing in our home and both hold the baby. There’s definitely a lot more flexibility when one does it in the home.

    mraynes, thanks for explaining the policy to brook and Tiffany. You did it much better than I could have.

    cz, how interesting that you have a ward that allows for sitting non-priesthood husbands. Or when you say unworthy, do you mean they have the priesthood, they are just inactive? I imagine there’s a lot more latitude to include those husbands if they’re just not highly active.

  29. Abbie says:

    Bah, I should have just waited. mraynes’ comment was so much better.

  30. D'Arcy says:

    Hi Brooke,

    Thanks for you comment. I’m so glad you come here for lessons as I have done a few of them myself. It’s a place to come for ideas and some various insights into the material.

    I hope that neither Brooke nor Tiffany feel any offense from any of the bloggers here. I think that as we are all trying to find and maintain a place in the LDS theology, it becomes harsh when others equate that to apostasy, especially when so many of us are faithfully serving.

    Asking questions and feeling valid feelings of concern and frustration does not equate apostasy. I think there are ways for all of us to learn and discuss with each other without feeling “chastised” on either side. Thus, why m.raynes referred Tiffany to the comment POLICY. This forum is not about making judgments.

    Hopefully you’ll keep reading the lessons and gaining new information from them. Good luck!

  31. mraynes says:

    Abbie, I was about to say the same thing to you! 🙂

  32. D'Arcy says:

    Abbie, your comment was perfect! I really appreciated it.

    You know, I served a mission in the deep South of the USA and I always wondered what would have happened if righteous black members of the church NEVER asked or questioned the decision that they couldn’t have the priesthood. Would they have never received it? I think it took them years and years of asking, demanding, praying and fasting and God opened the way.

    I’m not saying it’s the same for women (but maybe it will be) but I feel a change within the church. Women are becoming more and more aware of their power as daughters of God and therefore are demanding more and more equal opportunities. I wonder if God won’t really answer unless we all start knocking a little harder. Did some members of the church believe that the black men seeking after the priesthood were apostates? Yep. I think some of them did. Now, it seems crazy that they were EVER denied.

    I think something like that is in store for women too, and I don’t really think there is anything apostate about wanting to be treated with equality and respect. I just don’t.

    My two cents!

  33. Stan says:

    Angela C I am not quite sure but I suppose unworthy or inactive enough to where the Bishop did not feel comfortable with him standing.When we did it at church the bishop told my Husband to make sure all standing in the circle were worthy Priesthood holders. I don’t necessarily equate unworthy priesthood holder with inactive.A few men whom don’t go to church every week stood in our circle. They were worthy.So I suppose it depends on your definition of inactive. But I do know one of the times the person not only was unworthy but inactive. Hope that helps. Thanks for the chat..

  34. CZ says:

    Sorry I forgot my Husband posted last. The last post was me.:)

  35. CatherineWO says:

    Angela, I think you need to do what feels right for your family (and it appears that’s what you plan to do). My own children are all grown, but I had a beautiful experience last weekend with the blessing of my daughter’s recently adopted son. He was sealed to them on Saturday and then they had the blessing in their home on Sunday afternoon. Though the blessing circle (those actually holding the baby) were all men, the rest of us stood around that circle, essentially forming a large circle around the baby. Present were most of the family of both the father and the mother (my daughter and her husband) and also the birth mother and her parents. I don’t know that I have ever felt more love in one place than was in that room that afternoon.
    After the blessing the baby was passed from person to person as we visited and expressed love for him and for each other. As the adoptive grandmother I was able to express my love to the birth mother and her parents and all of us shared in the joy this new life has brought to so many lives.
    If I were still having babies I would definitely have their blessings in my home. There is much more flexibility and the home is a more sacred place than a ward chapel.
    Also, a blessing is not a priesthood ordinance. I see nothing wrong with doing it any way you wish (with women and/or men) in your own home. As has been pointed out already, you can always have the ward clerk add the child to your family’s church record.

  36. bell says:

    We are often told that women and men in the church are equal but have different duties, separate roles to play. Together they make a perfect team because one cannot do things without the other. But if men and women are truly equal, that means that just because men have the priesthood, they are not superior to women and women should be on the same level as men. I often hear the rational that men are somehow less spiritual than women and that is why they need a little extra responsibility in the form of the priesthood, to somehow raise them up to the level of women. If that is true (which I don’t necessarily I agree) then really, women have just as much power alone as men who have the priesthood. If everything is supposed to be done together in a true uniting of the family, it only makes sense that women could also stand in the circle and use their own natural, innate power to help bless their babies. A woman standing in the circle should not “break the connection.”

    My husband and I are just starting to think about getting pregnant and I have been thinking how my bishop would handle things if I approached him wanting to be in the circle. It’s just such a shame that the minute I say anything, I will probably tag myself as one of those “feminists” and feel it will impact how I am viewed and perhaps responsibilities in the church. That’s why I am glad there is at least a forum like this to honestly and openly talk about these things. Thank you all.

  37. ESO says:

    Meh–this is no issue for me.

    Do I bless my children? Of course! I gestate, birth, and feed them. More importantly, I love and serve them their entire lives! They are SO blessed!

    Are they “blessed” by their father? Sure, he loves and serves them, too, but face it, not like I do. Your feelings of disconnection from the Church practice of baby blessings is surely LESS than your husband’s feelings of disconnection from pregnancy, birth, and nursing. You have that privilege of doing something for your child no one else can, why not let him do something special for your child?

  38. gina says:

    I’m not particularly familiar with how blessings are performed, as I’m not a member. From what little I DO know, though, and from what I’ve gathered here, it seems to me that this is a classic case of the grass being greener… In a number of mainstream Christian churches, there’s beginning to be this push to be more male dominated because that’s what people feel is right in the eyes of the Lord. As a young woman in this framework, I have a great hope that young men will rise up and take their rightful roles as leaders in the church and allow the women to step down from the roles they’ve had to assume in the abscence of male leadership. I look forward to this happening. On the other hand, it sounds to me as though a good number of you fine women are feeling constrained and even wronged by this construct I hope for! :\ I think, more than anything, the thing that chafes most is intent. I can imagine that I would feel wronged by male-only leadership if I felt seen by those men as inferior. I think, though, that if everyone acknowledges and appreciates not only the roles they fill but also the, different but equally important, roles played by those of the opposite gender, nobody should feel put out.

    Does that make any sense?

  39. mb says:

    Angela, you misunderstood me. You said “So that line of reasoning – that the blessing is a special connection for men with their children because women already have other special connections with their children – doesn’t resonate so much with me.” That is not what I said.

    My husband did not have that special connection *because* I already have other special connections. My connections with my children are independent of his. This is not just a compensation or a balancing of connection. His being given the opportunity to formally bless his child is not part of a balancing act between mother and father. It is simply an opportunity for him to do something sweet and loving and good with his child. And I continue to celebrate every good thing that they do that connects them. And I will continue, joyfully, all my life to foster experiences that connect our children to me and that connect our children to him

    I do not feel left out because I am not out. I am totally in my relationship with my child and totally in my relationship with my husband. I see this formality as something that is joyful for two people that I love dearly. I’m happy for my husband that he has that experience. I’m happy for every experience that my husband has that links him sweetly to our children. I’m happy for every experience that I have with my children that link me sweetly to them. I have had myriads of those sweet connecting experiences with my children over the decades. I couldn’t possibly make you an adequate list in this small space here. So has my husband. (and so will you and your husband, I hope.) I am joyful about all of them.

    Bless and connect with your child any way you feel good about and do so joyfully and excessively. Celebrate every time your husband does so as well. My undeniable experience is that among life’s sweetest moments are those where you witness people you love connecting with and loving each other.

    CatherineWO, Thanks for sharing your experience with your grandson. Very sweet.

  40. Angela C says:

    CatherineWO,
    That is a beautiful blessing story. Thanks for sharing it.

    bell,
    “A woman standing in the circle should not “break the connection.”” That’s exactly what I think. I can’t imagine a God who would object to a mother participating in a baby blessing. I’m glad you’ve found this site helpful as you move into that phase of life when you’ll be making these decisions.

    ESO
    “You have that privilege of doing something for your child no one else can, why not let him do something special for your child?”

    I suppose it’s just a case of different strokes for different folks. I personally would have loved to share the privilege of birthing and gestating with my husband. If it were humanly possible, I would have. Baby blessings, on the other hand, are something that both parents can participate in. And ritually blessing is something that, as a woman, I don’t get the opportunity to do very often. So because I like that sort of thing, I want to participate. I don’t see it as a case of me taking something away from my husband – I see it as something special we can do together.

    gina, I think you articulate what a lot of Mormon men and women think about gender roles – that it’s not a case of superiority or inferiority, it’s just a case of difference. However, built into the Mormon framework is patriarchal rhetoric that I feel does infer a superiority/inferiority dynamic. Having husbands preside over wives, having wives hearken unto husbands. That kind of language is problematic to me, and I am uncomfortable when there are these gender constraints that seem arbitrary.

    How interesting that you actually want women to step down and for the men to take charge. It’s hard for me to imagine wanting that – though I could imagine wanting men to step up and take charge along side women. That totally works for me.

    mb, thank your for explaining where you are coming from. You do so very eloquently.

    You say, “His being given the opportunity to formally bless his child is not part of a balancing act between mother and father. It is simply an opportunity for him to do something sweet and loving and good with his child.” Would you then see a mom blessing or being involved in a blessing as likewise just something sweet and loving to do with her child? Something to rejoice in? I liked what you said about the sweetest moments in life being those in which you watch the people you love connect. I believe that. I also, personally, like the idea of not only watching but also being involved in those connections at times. A baby blessing is one of those times for me. But I do understand how that might not be the case for others.

  41. mb says:

    Angela,
    You wrote: “Would you then see a mom blessing or being involved in a blessing as likewise just something sweet and loving to do with her child? Something to rejoice in? “

    As I said, bless and connect and rejoice in your child any way you feel good and joyful about. If you feel good and joyful about doing that, that’s not an issue for me.

    The act itself is not what is important. The formal blessing of a child is only sweet and loving if the people doing the blessing are doing so with godly love and selflessness. If he or she is doing so to make a statement or to insure an outcome or force an issue or establish territory or reassure themselves then it is less sweet and loving.

    I don’t know you. I assume that your motives are good and loving and unselfish and that you feel loved and competent.

    I have learned something about myself over the years. All my life, from childhood to now, there have been times when members of my family have connected in sweet ways; my siblings with my parents, my parents with each other, my husband with our children, my mother-in-law with my husband, my parents with my children, my in-laws with my children etc. etc. Too many times over those years I experienced anxiety or resentment or insecurity about being left out of something when they did that connecting either in formal or informal experiences together. As you said, it’s nice to be involved in those connections at times. It’s normal to feel like you’re missing something when you are not right there in the middle of it. That said, it gradually it dawned on me that every time I was unhappy about not being involved in those times I had to admit that I was thinking about myself and my inclusion more than I was thinking about them and their joys. I didn’t want to be that kind of person. I decided I was missing out on a lot of joy. I decided to change. And when I did, I found that the joy of rejoicing for them when I was not part of the activity or the picture was immensely satisfying; as much or more than the joy of rejoicing when I was enmeshed in their experience. It surprised me. I still thrilled at the connecting times that I had with them all (and there continued to be many of those), but this new way of responding to things made a tremendously positive impact on my life. I began to see their time together as precious. That joy is REAL.

    I’m not saying that you are doing what I was doing before I learned this. As I said, I don’t know you. I will assume that you are wiser than I was. All I can do is speak from what my own experience has taught me; that when a person, male or female, stops being concerned about not being intimately involved or about missing out and starts watching and rejoicing in what the people they love and feel connected to are experiencing together their world becomes more light-filled. I cannot do the change justice in words. It is joy.

  42. CZ says:

    MP , It is always great when we learn those lessons in life. It is wonderful. In any case, you say “I was thinking about myself and my inclusion more than I was thinking about them and their joys. I didn’t want to be that kind of person”.The desire to be more involved does not necessarily indicate lack of appreciation or joy. I do understand that and respect it but many times it’s not just about ourselves. As far as our blessing went it was my Husband also that was thinking about himself. He desperately felt it was unfair and he was in the connection! I would have loved for my Mom to give me a blessing when I was sick. And she has told me she would have loved to as well.Yes we had other connections and my Mother has blessed me in other ways, and we found so much joy in one another. It was not that she was watching me get blessed and was envious of my connection with my Father.And my longing for a blessing from my mother is not just about myself. It is a longing that (in my opinion) that comes from God. It’s not getting left out of a family gathering to Dinsneyland. so again one may ask why so much sadness if it’s not just about you? Sadness about a ordinance does not imply we missed out on joy and are thinking only about ourselves. My Husbands sadness was about us not himself. We can sometimes have difficulty with aspects but still be very joyful. I think that is why I stay in a church, I know my difficulties are not made of envy or negativity. but they are from God and I know one day that I will be able to hold my child alongside my Husband and we can rejoice together as it was suppose to be.

  43. mb says:

    CZ

    I completely understand. I certainly agree that the desire to be more involved does not necessarily indicate lack of appreciation or joy. I do not nor did I ever, I believe, indicate that I thought that the feelings expressed were “just about ourselves.”

    I am sad if that is what you read into my words. I hope you can read what I write as it is intended; simply an outline of what I have learned and the joy that I have experienced, and not, ever, as statements about your experiences or the experiences of others who love their children as each of you, I’m sure, do.

    My goal as a commenter in this forum is to articulately share what I have learned from my own experiences, not comment on or judge the experiences of others. My goal as a reader is to understand, not feel like I need to defend, so I try to write in ways that will not incline people to feel like they need to defend their positions. From your considered and well written post I think I must have failed a bit on that last post of mine and I am sorry if it made you feel misunderstood or misconstrued. I’ll do better next time. And I hope you will take my comments with the good will with which I intended them, however imperfectly executed.

  44. dar says:

    In 1973 my daughter was held by her father, a non-member at the time. This blessing was done in a regular Sacrament Meeting (UT) due to a military leave conflict. My father performed the blessing using the words “by the priesthood which I hold” instead of “we hold”. One year later my daughter’s father was baptised. I don’t believe that would have happened had he been excluded from participating. (Note: we were divorced a few years later and both have left the church.)

    I’ve seen many participants in blessings and confirmations that are not worthy priesthood holders. Does that nullify those ordinances? I doubt it.

  45. anon says:

    Re: Tiffany, LOL…where do these nutjobs come from?! There’s always one in every post. OH BROTHER!

    I love the idea of the mother holding the baby while it is being blessed. In fact, it’d probably work out a WHOLE lot better considering most of the time the baby is wailing at the top of its lungs from being held in the air (cold), surrounded by old, scary, hairy men, and they always lay their hands on the baby way too hard (uncomfy). No wonder babies seem to hate it so much, lol! I don’t see how the mother holding the child would make ANY difference whatsoever to the blessing. A woman is in the “circle” when she herself is being blessed, so how is it a problem simply because a women is “touching” the baby while it is being blessed? So weird that our church get SO hung up about this.

    Also, I don’t know why so many people are weirded out by blessing their babies at home. People here do it all the time, ofr a variety of reasons, mostly being they want more than 3-4 people in their circle. My uncle’s immediate family (who was a bishop for years) does all their grandkid’s blessings at home. *shrug* I know plenty of other people at church who do it, too, for plenty of other reasons.

    I must admit, it DID bother me that I was “not supposed” to sit on the same aisle next to my son when he was being baptized. I don’t know why they are supposed to sit up front with just their dad/baptiz-er…lol. It made me feel second class. I wanted to sit next to him and squeeze his shoulder and hold his hand and be able to smile at him and whisper in his ear. Next time when my daughter gets baptized, I will.

  46. z says:

    Doctrinally speaking, what exactly would happen if a woman subversively infiltrated the baby blessing by subversively holding her own baby? What is the actual religious argument behind this?

    “If a woman is allowed to participate, God will _________.”

    Or is this really about men and their wishes, and not about God at all?

  47. Merri says:

    In our Gospel fundamentals it says, and I quote,

    The Blessing of Children-
    Men who have the priesthood can bless babies, usually a few weeks after the babies are born. They must have the permission of the bishop or branch president to do this. The baby’s father can bless the baby if he has the Melchizedek Priesthood. If he does not have the Melchizedek Priesthood, he cannot bless the baby or be in the circle with men who bless the baby. He can ask someone who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood to bless the baby. The father, if he holds the Melchizedek Priesthood and is worthy, or another person who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood, holds the baby in his arms, assisted by others who must also hold the Melchizedek Priesthood, and says a prayer. In the prayer, he addresses our Father in Heaven, says he performs the ordinance by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood, and gives the baby a name that is chosen by the parents. He then blesses the baby as the Holy Ghost inspires him.”

    This is the way Heavenly Father has instructed us to perform these sacred blessings. That’s all I need to know! If a man cannot stand in the circle without the priesthood than surely a woman should not be there either. I have a firm testimony of our Prophet and church leaders, and that is all I need to know.

  48. Abbie says:

    mraynes, D’Arcy –

    aw yay ^_^ I’ve never commented before so I was hoping I didn’t inadvertently say something out of line/come across as rude to Brooke or something.

    I’m sure that there is *something* for women, but I don’t know what that is.

    As for the liberal vs. radical feminism, as defined in the post, I think I fall somewhere in between the two. Oh, wait, I just had a random thought. What if there is a place for all three..uh…types. A priesthood blessing (usually done in the ward – I kind of feel like this helps bring the community of the ward together, if that makes sense), a “family blessing” with both the mother and father (held in the home either just between the two of you or select family around maybe?), and a “mother’s blessing” with a group of select women (name could change if there is something better, as I am writing this as it occurs to me.)

    Am I making any sense? I’m probably just rambling. I do that frequently.

  49. D'Arcy says:

    Abbie! Love your ideas and love that you have started commenting. I appreciate your voice and your strength and look forward to many more comments by you!

  50. mb says:

    This notion of desiring to bless children or receive a blessing from your parents, both mother and father, are not unique to LDS circles. Gary Smalley and John Trent, christians of another faith, wrote a book entitled “The Blessing” in which they outline the biblical and psychological aspects of seeking to both receive and give parental blessings and ways to do that in your family.

    They also discuss how to deal with the situation of having a parent who, for whatever reason, would not, or felt that he or she could not, ever, give you the blessing you desired.

    It’s interesting reading and I would recommend it if this is something you’d like to develop further in your life. I read it when we were in the early stages of starting our family and it was insightful and helpful in expanding my ideas of possible ways to do those things.

  51. Greg says:

    Wow! I was talking about baby blessing with my wife and was wondering why baby blessing are done in front
    of the ward. I know that they can be done at
    home but thought it odd they do it before sacrament.
    All other blessings seem to be done privately.
    After reading this blog I feel that there seems
    to be some issue with inadequacy on the part of
    wives of priesthood holders feeling suppressed
    due to the obligation of male priesthood holders
    to perform ordinances. As if there is past trauma
    to create this feeling of being suppressed in a
    very non suppressive scenario. Most likely coming from
    issues they had with their parents like divorce,
    abuse, neglect, excreta. channeling that trauma
    and repeating it the inherited abuse through
    victimization. I don’t feel better than, more
    important or in any other way superior to my wife
    because my despicability is different. Those,
    male or female that due should look to their
    past to identify the root of this problem, which
    undoubtedly has effaced other areas of their life.
    But back to my question/comment about baby
    blessings. I don’t know why the need to have
    them done in font of everyone. it seems “showy”
    further more I don’t see the criticalness of feeling
    they need to be able to as well. If the only point
    to do it publicly is for attention. further more a
    lady who feels she needs to be present in a
    priesthood circle has bigger issues to deal with
    and should figure that out first before yelling
    unfair and bias in situations where it is not.
    By yelling bias you expose your feelings of
    inadequacy and end up hurt the group you are
    trying to support.

  1. March 23, 2010

    […] by reading blog entries about how a feminist feels about baby blessings, questioning authority, mormon feminist activism, and blessings […]

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