There are a lot of types of blessings within the LDS church. There are blessings for the sick, father’s blessings, baby blessings, baptisms, settings apart for callings, conferrings of the priesthood and ordainings to priesthood offices, sacrament prayers, blessings of comfort and counsel, dedicating graves, sealings, and the list goes on.
Why are there so many types of blessings? Why is each blessing performed differently, with different wording, and with a different purpose? Additionally, many Mormons, non-Mormons, and ex-Mormons alike ask the question of why do we have any of these blessings at all? If I don’t get a consecrated blessing for the sick, will I not get better? If I don’t get set apart for a calling, will I not do my calling as well?
I know those are a lot of questions, and they are difficult questions to answer. While I have given and participated in most of the different types of blessings, I have wondered about many of these questions.
To begin to understand the answers to some of these questions, I first studied the difference between ordinances and blessings. Ordinances are sacred and formal acts performed by one or more with authority where we make covenants with our Heavenly father, such as baptism and temple marriage. In a sense, these are formal acts where we promise to do something and Heavenly Father promises to do something as well.
There are also blessings that may be performed by one or more with authority, including administering to the sick or setting someone apart for a calling. In a talk titled, “The Importance of Priesthood Blessings,” Elder Dallin H. Oaks discussed the significance of priesthood blessings. He shared, in part, “[t]hink of a young man preparing to leave home to seek his fortune in the world. If his father gave him a compass, he might use this worldly tool to help him find his way. If his father gave him money, he could use this to give him power over worldly things. A priesthood blessing is a conferral of power over spiritual things. Though it cannot be touched or weighed, it is of great significance in helping us overcome obstacles on the path to eternal life.”
So okay, that "kind of" answers the questions raised above, blessings are tools or gifts given to us by our Heavenly Father. But that doesn’t really fully answer the above questions. I need more. So I turned to what President Boyd K. Packer has shared on priesthood blessing. President Boyd K. Packer shared, "priesthood bearers do what [Heavenly Father] would do if He were present." I think a more specific definition of priesthood blessings is the right or responsibility to pronounce Heavenly Father’s will for the person being blessed.
Knowing Heavenly Father’s Will
I think the definition of priesthood blessings enabling us to know Heavenly Father’s will goes a long way to answering many of the questions that I have. The different types of priesthood blessings we receive enable us to know Heavenly Father’s will on different matters. If you want to know Heavenly Father’s will concerning your condition or situation, ask for a priesthood blessing.
Once we know Heavenly Father’s will, it is still up to us to exercise our faith in order for us to receive the blessings that are Heavenly Father’s will. For example, we can receive a priesthood blessing where we can learn what Heavenly Father’s will is concerning our sickness or infirmity. This priesthood blessing, on its own, does not mean that we will be healed. It just means that we find out Heavenly Father’s will concerning the condition. We still have to exercise our faith and works (such as faithful prayer, temple attendance, going to the hospital, etc…) in order for us to receive the blessings that are Heavenly Father’s will, such as a healing of the sickness or infirmity.
Anchor for Our Faith
I also believe that knowing Heavenly Father’s will can serve as an anchor for our faith. When we know what Heavenly Father’s will is, then we are able to act accordingly. For example, if we know it is Heavenly Father’s will that we should be healed, we will work and exercise our faith to be healed. Alternatively, if we know that it is Heavenly Father’s will that we have performed what we need to in this life and it is time to move on to the next life, then we can work to prepare to pass on to the next life.
In short, a blessing is not a request. I am not asking Heavenly Father to heal this person. I stand in the place of Heavenly Father and let that person know what Heavenly Father’s will is concerning a matter (which is why it is important for priesthood holders to live worthy of the inspiration of the Holy Ghost). Then it is up to the person receiving the priesthood blessing (and family members and friends) to then exercise his or her faith in accordance with Heavenly Father’s will
This is far from a complete answer, but it at least gave me a greater understand of what priesthood blessings are and how they apply to our lives.