Whether it is a new preemie baby in a hospital, a grandparent that is dealing the age-related issues, or a spouse dealing with cancer, there are times in our lives where we or someone we know has an illness that persists for an extended period. When faced with a major illness or extended trial we turn to our Heavenly Father for help, fasting, praying, and often receive a priesthood blessing.
Extended illness and trials often raise a lot of questions about priesthood blessings. How many priesthood blessings does it take to be healed? If Heavenly Father doesn’t heal you, a child, a spouse, or a friend, how do you know if it is because of a lack of faith or because Heavenly Father has a different plan? Is it a lack of faith to constantly ask for blessings? Should one be enough?
These questions cut right to the heart of what a priesthood blessing is and what purpose of a priesthood blessing is. They are the questions undoubtedly go deep into the heart of many parents with children who have life-threatening conditions.
First, among those who love the Lord and keep his commandments, there are no accidents. Our Heavenly Father loves all his children. He is even more concerned than we are about our eternal welfare. However, Heavenly Father sees life from a very different vantage point than we do. Paul wrote that “for now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (1 Cor. 13:12). There are needs and opportunities on the other side of the veil, just as there are here. Heavenly Father controls the timetable of the eternities and knows what roles and responsibilities we are to fulfill in this life and in the life to come. He gives us life a second at a time, tick-tock. He may not promise us that the next second will come and calls us when the time comes.
Regarding whether it is a lack of faith to beseech our Heavenly Father for help continually, he is a loving father who will listen to us as long as we want to talk to him. Specifically regarding multiple priesthood blessing, anointing with consecrated oil and pronouncing a blessing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit might be done one time unless the condition changes for the worst.
Repeated blessings by the laying on of hands, however, may be inappropriate. It is not that we negate the priesthood blessing by asking for multiple priesthood blessings, but rather a priesthood blessing is a conduit that we can receive guidance from our Heavenly Father and unless circumstances change and we need further guidance, repeatedly asking our Heavenly Father’s will may not provide any further insights. For example, we read in the Doctrine and Covenants that Joseph Smith repeatedly asked Heavenly Father, on Martin Harris’s behalf, if Martin Harris could show the translation of the scriptures to his wife. After Heavenly Father had given his original guidance on the matter, Joseph asked the same question several more times. In D&C 3:7-9, Heavenly Father reproached Joseph Smith for continually asking Heavenly Father the same question, stating:
7 For, behold, you should not have feared man more than God. Although men set at naught the counsels of God, and despise his words—
8 Yet you should have been faithful; and he would have extended his arm and supported you against all the fiery darts of the adversary; and he would have been with you in every time of trouble.
9 Behold, thou art Joseph, and thou wast chosen to do the work of the Lord, but because of transgression, if thou art not aware thou wilt fall.
While we may not need to repeatedly ask our Heavenly Father for guidance once we have received his answer, importuning the Lord repeatedly for the same blessing may be an act of faith, rather than a lack of faith. We are told to pray constantly, to have a prayer always in our heart. The Savior implored us to “Look unto me in every thought, doubt not, fear not.” (Doctrine and Covenants 6:36). We may continually have on our minds and in our prayers the welfare of those who are near and dear to us and repeatedly appeal our Father on their behalf for the power of Heaven to be rained down upon them to bless them and bolster them up.