Cover image via Gospel Media Library.
My husband and I were recently honored to attend a baby blessing, my husband joining with others as they surrounded the new little arrival.
The baby’s father told his new son something I’ve never heard before. He blessed the boy to emulate the wonderful traits of all the men in the circle, to get to know them, and to grow up with their influence.
It gave me a heartwarming opportunity to think about each one of those wonderful men and the great qualities each possessed. I filled with gratitude even to know such exemplary people. I felt renewed appreciation for our friendship, and for the power of the Priesthood of God, which not only can heal and ordain, but infuse a child with blessings from on high. It’s the very power by which the universe was created.
For those new to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and those not members of our faith, I thought I’d explain what this blessing of infants is all about. It’s an opportunity to officially bestow the child’s full name, but also to give that child blessings to help them throughout their life.
Most of us know the story of Jesus correcting his disciples who were trying to usher the children away, when he said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.” (Mark 10:14-16)
He also blessed children in the Americas, as documented in the Book of Mormon. “He took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them.” (3 Nephi 17:21)
Likewise, Melchizedek Priesthood holders can take a baby in their arms and give them direction, strengths, gifts, and abilities to help them on their journey here. In the Doctrine and Covenants we are told, “Every member of the church of Christ having children is to bring them unto the elders before the church, who are to lay their hands upon them in the name of Jesus Christ, and bless them in his name.” (D&C 20:70)
It’s important to remember that this is not simply a prayer said over the infant. It is a blessing given by the authority of God. Just as we might pray for one who is sick– and this is a very good thing to do– it’s not the same as actually drawing upon the power of the Priesthood to heal that individual, or to bring the comfort needed, or to release them to God’s caring. The authority of the Priesthood is powerful enough to work miracles, if they are God’s will.
For example, Elder Matthew Cowley used to tell the story of an experience he had in New Zealand. A Maori father asked Elder Cowley to bless his baby and said, “While you are giving it a name, please give it its vision. It was born blind.”
“I was overwhelmed,” Elder Cowley said. But the faith of that father was immense. Elder Cowley did bless that child with a name and then summoned the courage to restore his sight as well. He saw that child again just a few years later and the boy could see perfectly.
Though a baby blessing is not a saving ordinance such as a baptism or a temple endowment, the certificate of blessing is an official Church record and places the baby on the official records of the Church. It’s an important beginning to one’s life, and relatives travel great distances to be on hand for this special moment.
If the baby is blessed at Church (and at home is fine as well), right after the blessing the baby is usually held aloft, so those gathered in the chapel can see the new member of the congregation. Invariably you hear the “oohs” and “aahs” of adoration for a sweet new infant whose entire life lies before them.
I urge everyone to make this event a tender, spiritual celebration. Invite friends, neighbors, and co-workers. You never know what hearts may be touched by this beautiful ritual we so often take for granted. (A few years ago, I wrote about that here.) There is real power in the Priesthood, and those who hold it worthily can literally draw down the powers of Heaven. What a glorious thing to witness.
Hilton’s Latter-day Saint novel, Golden, is available in paperback and on Kindle. All her books and hundreds of YouTube Mom videos can be found on her website.