I had the opportunity to give a friend a blessing. She has been in quite a bit of pain—both physically and emotionally.
We spoke a bit about the propriety surrounding giving blessings for the sick, normally a two part process consisting of anointing the head of the person receiving the blessing with a drop of consecrated oil and then sealing the anointing with the blessing itself.
I had no oil with me so I simply suggested that I consecrate a small amount prior to the blessing. This made our blessing experience a three part process.
This was the first time I had been asked to give a blessing in years. I honestly don't remember how long or who I gave my last blessing too. Thank goodness for the technology in my phone that allowed me to double check the proper modus for each of these steps.
I remember the first time that I was ever asked to give someone a blessing. I was serving in the U.S. Navy in Panama and a friend who I enjoyed discussing topics of faith with had invited me over for dinner. She later asked me to bless her. She was having back problems. Every day that we went to work, we all traveled on a bus from Fort Davis to Galeta Island and the horrendous Panamanian roads made the trip very painful for her.
When the time came for me to offer the blessing, I was nervous. I remembered other blessings I had received and witnessed and thought of all the beautiful and powerful things that were said and realized that I had no idea what I was supposed to say to this woman. I started to speak and I stumbled and then I felt prompted... not to speak, but to listen. Then the words entered my mind, "Let the Spirit speak." And soon, the words that needed to be said came to me.
I had a similar experience with my friend recently. I wasn't nervous, nor did I plan on saying anything in particular. I just listened, first to her and then to the Spirit and the words that she needed to hear just came to me. There were pauses and I asked—in my mind—is that all? And a moment later, more words came until all that was needed to be said—all that she needed to hear in that moment—had been spoken.
I think many of us spend too much time worrying about details like protocol. This is ironic, because it was the Law of Moses that required strict adherence to ritual and the Gospel of Christ is more focussed on the spiritual. While there are specific ways of doing things in the church, either administratively or within the context of performing priesthood ordinances, outside of the Temple and the Sacramental prayers, it isn't always about the words that are spoken or the order in which they are said, as it is being open to the promptings of the Spirit.
When I was a boy, I had a severe allergic reaction to some weeds and pollen that were kicked into the air when I had mowed the lawn outside of our house. My eyes itched and teared profusely and I was in a great deal of pain. I was exhausted but I couldn't sleep. I cried and cried and my Dad decided to give me a blessing.
There are a few things I need to say about my Dad, first. At the time, he was in his late 60s. He was born in the U.S. but grew up in Spain. English is his second language and he speaks it with a thick Castilian accent. His education is very limited and when he writes in English, he often uses Spanish grammar. On top of that, we had only been members of the Church for a few years at this point. I'm not sure if Dad had ever given anyone a blessing up until then. But he saw that his youngest son was in pain and he knew that as a priesthood holder, he could give him a blessing.
Dad got his consecrated oil and he anointed my head with it as I kept crying and my mother held my hand. I don't think that Dad followed standard blessing protocol. I don't recall him saying one prayer to anoint and another to seal the anointing. I don't think he even spoke a word about acting under the authority of the Melchizedek priesthood. He just placed his hands on my head and began to pray. By the time he said, "Amen," I was no longer crying. My eyes still hurt but I was no longer in excruciating pain and was able to finally get some sleep.
In the end, God didn't care about the words my Dad spoke. He cared about what was in his heart and acted through him accordingly.
The next time any of us consider the manner in which we officiate in a priesthood ordinance, it's okay to think about the proper way to do it, but don't let that overshadow the most important parts of officiating in it: Our own spiritual awareness and the sincere and loving desires of our hearts. If we make that our primary focus when magnifying our callings and officiating in our priesthood duties, then God will not concern Himself with whether or not we were wearing the "right" colored clothes or whether we followed the directions to the letter. The power of the Priesthood is real and cannot be hindered by our human imperfections. Indeed, it's the Priesthood itself that is key to helping us overcome them.
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