One of the first things that impressed my husband about the LDS faith was the blessing of babies. He loved the glorious hopes and promises, the tender gathering of men around a tiny infant, the precious understanding of this soul’s potential. And don’t we all? Every Mormon chapel in the world fills with a gasp of delight when, after the blessing, the child is held aloft in its blessing outfit. Wee little arms and legs dangle from a cooing-or crying-babe, and for an instant we’re in heaven. Innocence, freshness from God, pure love-it’s all there. Tiny white lace bonnets, a blanket crocheted by a grandmother, a filmy gown, it doesn’t even matter how the child is bundled; we all smile as we picture it.
But it’s more than a pretty scene. Blessing a baby is a really big deal. This is the child’s first experience with Priesthood ordinances. They have literally been bathed in power. I think too many of us take it for granted. Perhaps it’s because we tend to have lots of children and baby blessings are frequent occurrences. In some wards, every Fast and Testimony Meeting has a baby blessing or two. Have we become so blas about it that we have forgotten its magnitude?
The blessings pronounced on a baby set the course for his or her life. An overused word that actually applies here is awesome. How many books and movies are about someone searching for their destiny? Well, here it is, spelled out in front of the whole congregation-a child’s destiny, inspired of God.
I’ve joked that it’s a good thing mothers don’t pronounce the blessings because we’d be there two hours until she ran out of good things to include, insuring her child’s ultimate happiness. And, of course, each of us has free agency to choose to follow the course that leads to those blessings, or not. But how magnificent is it, how glorious, that someone has told us we can do it? We can use this life to get back to Heavenly Father and bring everyone with us that we can!
And that brings me to my idea. I think we should make a much bigger deal about baby blessings in our culture. Here’s an amazing ordinance that deserves a gigantic spotlight, and we virtually wrap it up in four or five minutes. I attended the bat mitzvah of Jewish neighbor a couple of years ago and was mightily impressed. ALL the extended family was there, along with every friend and associate who could come to honor this event. The rabbi exacted a promise, in front of the whole congregation, that Susie would marry a Jewish man someday and raise her children in their faith. A huge feast was served. It was a very big deal. I’m not saying our baby blessings should go on for hours as this did, or that the baby should memorize miles of Hebrew. But we should give this the gravitas it deserves.
When our son, Cassidy, was born (24 years ago, can that be?) we casually mentioned it to a number of nonmember friends and work associates. Well, they didn’t realize that it was a routine thing and assumed it was HUGE-like a bar mitzvah or a quinceanera celebration, and they showed up in droves! We probably had twenty-five extra friends there. And they loved it! They were astounded at the importance we give our children, our families, and our futures. We had a feast, we made our little guy the center of attention, and it felt exactly right. This is how to do a baby’s blessing, with the enormity it deserves. And what an awesome thing, to come into this world and set right out doing missionary work! Imagine the people who would show up to church for this, who might otherwise never come? Would I ever just pop into a Jewish synagogue? Nope. But I wouldn’t miss the giant event of a friend, and will come to support her son in another year, whose bar mitzvah is already calendared. It honors the relationship. It’s what a supportive friend does.
I feel the same way about baptisms of 8-year-olds. Unless the family objects and wants it small and intimate, I think these baptisms should be announced to the congregation in advance and printed in the Sacrament program so the whole world knows something grand and phenomenal is taking place and they will want to be there. It is not a little rite of passage. It is the gateway to eternal life! Let’s invite every nonmember we know to come and bask in the Spirit that will be there. Can you imagine how many people would consider taking the discussions if we did this? And the newly baptized child will better grasp the importance of the event when so many loved ones are there to honor it.
Let’s not diminish our ordinances by taking them in stride without the exclamation marks they deserve. Nobody else has what we have, and each one deserves a banner headline. As grand occasions go, these are mega-grand.
Joni Hilton’s book, “FUNERAL POTATOES-THE NOVEL” (Covenant Communications) is in LDS bookstores everywhere.
Her latest three novels, “JUNGLE,” “SISTERS IN THE MIX,” and “PINHOLES INTO HEAVEN” are all available on Kindle at amazon.com/author/jonihilton.
Listen (and call in) to The Joni Hilton Show, streaming live on AM-1380 Saturday mornings at 9 a.m. PST.
Hilton has written 20 books, three award-winning plays, and is a frequent public speaker and a former TV talk show host. She is also the author of the “As the Ward Turns” series, “The Ten-Cow Wives’ Club,” and “The Power of Prayer.” Hilton is a frequent writer for “Music & The Spoken Word,” many national magazines. She is married to TV personality Bob Hilton, is the mother of four, and currently serves as Relief Society President in her ward in northern California. She can be reached at her website, jonihilton.com, Twitter:@JoniHilton, and Facebook: Joni Hilton.