Sunday, March 6, 2011

When Blessings Become Dangerous

The following story was posted on the RfM forums by a female who calls herself 'Greyfort'. My personal thoughts will follow.

"When I was 30, I was diagnosed with pre-uterine cancer. They wanted to do a hysterectomy.

"Of course I went straight to my Priesthood leaders and got a blessing. I was told that I would be healed and that I would bear children. When my friends said, "Well maybe you'll adopt," I replied, "No, Heavenly Father was very careful to specifically say, 'bear,' so that I'd know."

"Instead, I was put on hormones, which made me gain 20 pounds, designed to give my body a break, and I underwent a D&C (not the Mormon variety, LOL).

"I spent the next 14 years, going through 4 surgeries, trying to avoid having a hysterectomy. I based it entirely on what my blessings promised me. I figured that many different Priesthood holders gave me blessings which insisted that I would be healed and that I would bear children with my husband, so how could so many Priesthood holders be wrong?

"Just before my 44th birthday, I went to a specialist a few days before Christmas. Before I'd even arrived home again, they'd called to schedule a total hysterectomy for January 3rd, less than 2 weeks from then. I no longer had a choice. That was my 5th surgery for this same issue.

"When I look back, it makes me furious. I underwent 5 operations, two of them very serious; one where I developed an infection and ended up sleeping 16 hours a day for 10 months as my body struggled to heal.

"I could have put my life in danger, because I'd made all of my decisions based on what those blessings said. I could have had one surgery, instead of 5.

"I realize that the decision was always mine, but I trusted them. I believed that they spoke for God, because I'd been taught that they did.

"And not only that, but once I got into my 40s, I finally realized that I'd been born without a libido. I'd spent my entire life waiting for puberty to kick in, and I'd finally realized that it was never going to.

"1 or 2% of the population are asexuals, and I'm one of them. I never was even the marrying kind. Surely God would have known that and not blessed me that I'd 'bear many children.' He would have known that I would never marry.

"It was one of my biggest cog dis-causing issues of my life. Now it just makes me furious when I think about it.

"Apparently, many Priesthood holders can be wrong."

***

For any who might be wondering, Mormons believe that their worthy men hold the priesthood. The priesthood is the literal authority to act in gods name. It is given by the laying on of hands and they believe it came directly from Jesus Christ to Joseph Smith and from there it branches out to every priesthood holder in the church.

In order to be worthy to be given the priesthood, the candidate must live all the commandments of Mormonism and pass an interview with the bishop. Once he is found 'worthy', he is sat on a chair and several priesthood holders stand around him. They each place their right hand on his head and their left hand on the shoulder of the person on their left. On person utters the prayer. Note: This procedure can be done with just one person. Several are used just for sentimental reasons. A father can bestow the priesthood to his son, under direction of the bishop. Similarly, when a baptism is performed, any worthy priesthood holder can do it. It is common for fathers to baptize their children.

The prayer will usually sound something like this, although it is not required to be word-for-word:

"Bro. ___, by the authority of the holy Melchizedek priesthood, which we hold, we lay our hands upon your head to confer upon you the (Aaronic or Melchizedek) priesthood."

The person giving the blessing may add other details as he feels 'inspired'. Usually he gives a reminder to never defile the priesthood and to use it for the service of others.

Mormons believe that by receiving a blessing from a person holding the priesthood, they can receive instruction, healing, comfort, etc. It is taken very literally as inspiration directly from god. It is a bad idea to ignore advice from a blessing.

There are two 'ranks' of priesthood, the Aaronic and the Melchizedek. The Aaronic priesthood is the lesser priesthood and is usually given to the young men, starting at age 12. Aaronic priestholders can not give personal blessings. They can, however, bless and pass the sacrament, and even perform baptisms. The Aaronic priesthood prepares the young men to eventually receive the higher priesthood, or the Melchizedek priesthood. Levels of 'rank' within the Aaronic priesthood are: deacon, teacher, priest, and bishop.

The Melchizedek priesthood is usually given to young men when they are about 19 or 20, shortly before their mission. Levels of rank within the Melchizedek priesthood are: elder, high priest, and patriarch. This is why missionaries refer to themselves as 'Elder'.

Q: Do you have to be a Melchizedek priesthood holder to go to the temple? No. However, receiving the higher priesthood and attending the temple for the first time are usually related events. Both are required before missionary service.

As you can see from the story above, a 'blessing' is usually just the opinion of the person giving it. Most blessings sound very similar because the giver is just repeating what he has heard before.

Mormons love to share stories about how they received a blessing and it came true. This happens all the time with blessings of healing.

A blessing of healing is done a little differently. Mormon men carry with them, usually on their keychain, a small vial, which is filled with olive oil. This oil has been previously 'consecrated and set apart for the healing of the sick and afflicted'. The blessing is given in two parts. This can be done by one or more priesthood holders. The first part is the 'annointing' and is done by one person. The second part is the 'sealing' and can be done with one or many priesthood holders. If there are two, they each do one of the parts.

In the first part, one priesthood holder put a drop on oil on the persons head. Then they place both their hands on the persons head and say a short blessing. It usually sounds just like this:

"Bro or sis ____, by the authority of the Melchizedek priesthood, which I hold, I annoint you with this oil, which has been consecrated for the healing of the sick and afflicted, and I do this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen."

For the second part, the group of priesthood holders (if there is a group) encircle the person as described above. If there are just one or two, then they place both their hands on the persons head. The person chosen to give the blessing will usually say something very similar to this:

"Bro or sis ____, by the authority of the Melchizedek priesthood, which we hold, we lay our hands upon your head to seal the annointing which has taken place and to pronounce a blessing of healing upon you."

The person may then proceed to give a blessing as he feels 'inspired'. This usually, but not always, includes a promise that the person will be healed. It may also remind the person that the blessing will only work according to their faith. The blessing usually ends with the person saying, "I pronounce these blessings upon you, and any others which the lord feels you stand in need of, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen."

Priesthood holders claim 'inspiration' when giving a blessing, however, they are usually just repeating what they have heard in other blessings. When a promise in a blessing fails to come true, Mormons rationalize it with things like:
  • It wasn't the lords will
  • He must not have been faithful enough
  • The priesthood holder who gave the blessing might not have been 'clean'
  • He was just stating his opinion
  • It will be fulfilled in the next life
  • etc.

When a blessing "works" they get all excited and can't wait to share it with everyone. They get up in testimony meeting and, through tears and sniffles, share the story and how wonderful it is to belong to gods only true church.

A group of men in the church is often referred to as "the priesthood". For example, you might overhear someone say, "The priesthood played softball very well yesterday."

A priesthood holder is to never be disobeyed, especially a church leader. They have the right to speak for god on your behalf. In the family, the priesthood holder has the last say. Don't defy the priesthood. This can, and sometimes does, lead to abusive relationships where the priesthood holder thinks that his wife must submit to everything he says. Advice from a priesthood holder, such as in the story above, is taken above the advice of doctors, lawyers, professors, etc. Afterall, god knows more than the doctor.

Women are not currently allowed to hold the priesthood. Black men were denied the priesthood until 1978, when Spencer W. Kimball received a 'revelation' basically saying that god was no longer racist.

Does anyone have any additional thoughts on the priesthood or stories about blessings that did or didn't come true?

9 comments:

WickedTwin said...

dyslexia moment! blacks got the priesthood in 1978, not 1987 :)

Mormon411 said...

Thank you! When I typed in 1987, it didn't feel right, but nothing else came to mind. I have corrected it.

Doesitmatter said...

I served a mission in Toronto. Within my first 6 months I had already experienced a baptism, and was working on furthering my great experience. We met a man who seemed humble, contrite, etc. He was way down on his luck. Lost everything and on the verge of homelessness.
We taught him and the ward accepted him. They got him a job, a new apartment, etc. I was thrilled. This was the experiences I was hoping for before I left.
After many blessings and lessons, he was baptized. I confirmed him a member. I have a clear recollection of this experience. I remember it just like it was yesterday. I did my very best to remain nuetral when blessing him. I didn't want my own words to be given. I wanted to be an "instrument/mouth piece of the lord."
After his baptism we stayed in touch for several months. I saw this experiece as a real testimony builder. I shared this with anyone who would listen. I was convinced God put me there for that experiece.
Well reality soon set in. He was arrested for Child Porn. He was on the run from California. 3 strikes your out law. He was also wanted in Toronto. This shit bag had us all fooled.
After I learned of his arrest, I was convinced God would never have prompted me to say anything positive about this man let alone bless him. The inspiration I received while blessing him was nothing more than my own thoughts. I just didn't understand them at the time.
As I think about spiritual inspiration it's obvious we are behind it all. If you pray for something, you will more than likely try to obtain it. When you finally get it, you praise God. When you can't get it, it's your lack of faith or it isn't Gods will. Damn fools.

Mormon411 said...

Thanks for sharing that story. It just goes to show that even well meaning blessings are really nothing more than the opinion of the person giving them. Before my mom died, I gave her blessings of healing but obviously they didn't work.

Exhalted Outcast said...

I remember when my wife's mother was ill with Cancer. Every day her father would have the bishop etc over to the house to give her healing blessings etc. Nothing seemed to work, he would bless her to make the pain less and it stayed. You know what made the pain stop? Marijuana! That's right, I got her some pot and she felt better. He of course didn't know that as he would have had a fit, instead he praised the lord for making the pain lessen.

No blessing from god. Just some pot.

Heather B said...

My husband was doing a baby blessing for our youngest and I chastised him for not saying things like "he would serve a mission," "get married in the temple," "hold the priesthood" etc. Of course I didn't know at the time he was an atheist just going through the motions for my sake. He then told me that he was not a fortune teller and wasn't going to say things that might not happen.

It was actually a very nice blessing. Simple and loving. I just wish I had noticed that at the time. =(

Mormon411 said...

Jesus couldn't stop the pain, but Mari did, huh? That right there is a sure testimony builder. Kinda sad on one hand and kinda funny on the other.

Heather, thanks for sharing that.

Exhalted Outcast said...

Exactly!

The truly sad part is this. If my father in law ever found out, he would say that the "lord prompted me to do that to lessen her pain" He would REFUSE to think that I would have DARED to do that without the direct influence of the "lord" in that decision.

Mormon411 said...

And that shows that no matter what, people will be rationalizing religion until the end of time. If you want it to be true bad enough, you can jungle-gym your brain into believing anything.