What should you say in a baby blessing?

May 30, 2010    By: Jacob J @ 12:14 am   Category: Uncategorized

The first time I thought about this question was on my flight from the MTC to the mission home in Florida. My older brother had just asked me something about this in a letter and as I sat pondering the question I was reminded once again that I had nothing insightful to say due to my total lack of life experience. Since then I have had a few occassions to bless babies yet I still wonder about this. What is a baby blessing for? In preparing for a baby blessing should I approach it like I do a healing blessing or is it different?

For blessings of healing, I generally try to prepare by thinking about the person I will be giving a blessing to. I try to think about their situation and imagine what kinds of challenges they are facing as well as what blessings I would want to give them if I were a loving Heavenly Father looking down. When I administer the blessing, I try to clear my mind to listen for inspiration. If nothing is coming, I have some boiler plate material on hand.

As I start talking, sometimes the inspiration comes. Quite often, I say something of my own making, but then the spirit comes in behind it and turns it into something more. Often, this kind of confirmation magnifies only a single sentence in the whole blessing. This sentence is the one I hang on to and exercise faith in after the blessing is over. I often wonder if the person receiving the blessing feels the same thing on the same phrases that stick out for me. For me, blessings of healing are ultimately about discovering and pronouncing the will of the Lord and pronouncing blessings that can become the focus and source of faith.

With baby blessings, it seems like something different is going on. There is certainly a boiler plate available and it is used extensively. Most baby blessings are a laundry list of milestones and good fortune we hope our babies experience in life. Good health, priesthood ordination, marriage in the temple with a “sweetheart” and so forth. I don’t sense (although I could be wrong) that there is the same searching for inspiration about what the baby should be blessed with. In fact, it seems to me that baby blessings have a very different cultural function than blessings of other kinds. I’ll admit that I am generally bored by baby blessings.

When preparing for a baby blessing, I often spend time pondering the kinds of things the baby may face in life, but I mostly spend time pondering what matters most to me in life. Baby blessings seem like a time we should express our hopes and dreams for our babies. For me this is done not by a list of events, but by highlighting the values and strengths that hope my children will aquire in life. Things like kindness and compassion. I told my last baby that the most important thing in life was for her to become a kind person. The fact that baby blessings are given in front of the congregation seems to change the nature of the experience. I think it leads to them being more prepared than other blessings. Because the whole congregation participates, they tend to revolve around the things we value and emphasize as a community (orthopraxy, marriage, family).

But really, I don’t know what function baby blessings should have. I wonder if I neglect the prophetic possibilities of baby blessings to much. Should I be trying to get the spirit of prophecy and make promises about the future? Are pronouncements in a baby blessing supposed to change the future and be the focus of faith in the way a blessing of healing tries to change what God will do for the person blessed? How many different categories of blessings are there? Is it wrong to prepare what you will say in a baby blessing beforehand?

32 Comments »

  1. I try not to think about what I should say. I have heard many baby blessings in my time, part of which seemed to be by rote or tradition, i.e. you will go on a mission, you will be sealed in the temple. But when I blessed my own children, the mission thing was in the son’s blessing, because I felt impressed to include it, and it transpired. The first daughter I blessed I added that she would be a cheerful person, because I felt impressed to say that, and it has been borne out in spades. Nothing ever fazes that young lady.
    The youngest daughter, I was impressed to say that she would have the courage of her convictions, and that has been borne out emphatically also, but alas, I did not include tact as part of that blessing. (She has developed some over the years.)
    The main point I would like to make, is that the promptings of the spirit should dictate what is said in a baby’s blessing, in my opinion.

    Glenn

    Comment by Glenn Thigpen — May 30, 2010 @ 7:06 am

  2. In my limited experience and from the comments already said, convinces me baby blessings are more for us than for the baby. They are a testament to our own convictions and what we want in our children. I think if we are in tune with the Spirit, we tap into the plan our babies went over with Father before they came down here. Strengths and weaknesses, why we came to the family we did, special relationships, etc. I may be too cynical or liberal at times, but this to me seems to be the most practical reason for baby blessings. I also think of prayer. When we pray or bless, we may or may not be rallying family and friends on the other side that are assigned or concerned with the party involved in the prayer or blessing. If the words and will of the pray-er are righteous, the rallying Spirits will often be the executors of the actions requested in the prayer. Similar to that, baby blessings may alter the specific missions of the guardian angels assigned to that baby. Just some thoughts.

    Comment by dallske — May 30, 2010 @ 9:59 am

  3. I am now a boring ward clerk, and I would like to give a boring ward clerk perspective.

    The blessing is an ordinance, and it results in a record number for the child. Giving the name which will be kept on the records of the church is a real thing. Otherwise, the child will not show up on membership record information, class roles, etc. If a baby is not blessed, they will not get a record number until baptism.

    Probably not what you are looking for. I think these blessings go along with Elder Oaks talk on blessings in last conference.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — May 30, 2010 @ 2:23 pm

  4. What should you say in a baby blessing?

    I recommend you say awesome stuff — and lots of it.

    Seems to me the the more divine assistance we can call down upon our children throughout their lives the better.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 30, 2010 @ 5:47 pm

  5. I feel dallske is on to something. Since baby blessings don’t have any bearing on that salvation of the child, they are partially for the benefit of the parents. For example, John Taylor taught that “by bringing their child before the Church [the parents] manifest their faith in the sight of their brethren and sisters, in God’s word and in his promises, as well as their thankfulness to him for increasing their posterity and for the safe delivery of his handmaiden.”

    Thus, blessing the child before the congregation may comprise a miniature test of faith for the parents. President Taylor continued, “The child is also benefited by the united faith and responsive prayers of the assembled Saints . . .” [Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-75), 2:311].

    See: http://theseerstone.blogspot.com/2009/12/is-there-rightwrong-way-to-perform-baby.html

    Comment by Jeremy — May 30, 2010 @ 6:02 pm

  6. Is it wrong to prepare what you will say in a baby blessing beforehand?

    I find nothing wrong with “studying it out in your mind”

    Baby blessings are like weddings, they are as much for those watching as those being blessed.

    Comment by Matt W. — May 30, 2010 @ 8:03 pm

  7. “If a baby is not blessed, they will not get a record number until baptism.”

    A baby blessing can trigger the creation of a record, but it’s not necessary for the creation of a record.

    “For statistical and reporting purposes, the following persons are members of record and should have a membership record:

    Those who have been baptized and confirmed.
    Those under age nine who have been blessed but not baptized.
    Those who are not accountable (see Not Accountable).
    Unblessed children under age eight when:
    Two member parents request you create a record.
    One member parent requests you create a record and the nonmember parent gives permission.”

    Comment by Justin — May 30, 2010 @ 8:51 pm

  8. Interesting thoughts, Jacob. I only have two kids, but I approached blessing both of them in terms of saying what kind of a person I wanted them to be rather than describing particular events I hoped would happen in their lives. The list-of-events blessing has always kind of rubbed me the wrong way; I guess I wonder, so what if the kid doesn’t grow up to serve a mission, marry in the temple, be a GA, or whatever? (Not that I’ve ever actually heard someone bless a baby to grow up to be a GA.)

    Comment by Ziff — May 30, 2010 @ 10:35 pm

  9. Since baby blessings don’t have any bearing on that salvation of the child

    That is an awfully binary way of putting it. What you eat for breakfast tomorrow morning will have some bearing on your eternal salvation, and if baby blessings do not have some rather more significant soteriological benefit than that, we should cease them at once, along with youth activities, primary days, and ward birthday parties.

    Comment by Mark D. — May 30, 2010 @ 10:35 pm

  10. As far as baby blessings are concerned, I believe they are valuable and worth performing (not to mention biblically ordained), but also that any baby blessing longer than three minutes is excessive in the extreme.

    I am a big fan of short and sweet ordinances myself. They carry more meaning that way. A baptism doesn’t last more than sixty seconds, and it is hardly less effective because of it.

    Comment by Mark D. — May 30, 2010 @ 10:41 pm

  11. I think the comment by Jeremy wasn’t going for relevance on salvation as much as making a point on the relevance of a blessing toward the parents. In this sense, I disagree with your comments, Mark D. We cannot measure, in any significant way, the bearing a baby blessing will have on a child, so we should probably avoid extreme comments like doing away with it if we think it has no bearing on that childs salvation.

    Also, as far as opinion goes, baby blessings can be very poetic and many poems go longer than three minutes. To call that ‘excessive in the extreme’ is not only redundant in my opinion, but also a bit exaggerated.

    Comment by dallske — May 30, 2010 @ 10:59 pm

  12. Well, they aren’t patriarchal blessings, so you don’t foretell blessings in that way. You’re not saying “if you’re righteous you’ve been promised that ‘this’ will happen”. Its more of a prayer than a blessing. You’re just saying “I hope you’ll have ‘this’ and do ‘this'” In my opinion, its not from the Lord, but from you. Its a Father’s Blessing. Plain and simple. So think of what blessings you’d like your child to have, and ask for them. Start most sentences with “we hope…” “We want you to know…” “we’d like…” “we bless…”

    Also, ask her mother. :) She’ll have plenty of things she’ll want you to specifically say, and things she wants to include. Her voice should be heard through the blessing just as much as yours. That’s why you should say “We” and not “I”. And if you can, specifically say, “your mother and I…”

    Comment by Olive — May 31, 2010 @ 9:21 am

  13. Eric, yes, that was your most boring comment ever.

    Ziff, ha, I would fall out of my pew: “I bless you to make the quorum of the twelve, or, failing that, one first quorum of the seventy.”

    Olive, it is interesting that you have both “they aren’t patriarchal blessings” and “it’s a Father’s blessing in the same comment. I like your suggestion to ask for input from the baby’s mother. I have done that. Personally I wouldn’t feel comfortable starting a sentence in the blessing “your mother and I bless you with…” because my wife would not be administering, but I would feel great about lots of other possibilities like “your mother and I love you…” or “your mother and I hope…” (By the way, I would welcome a return to the original practices of women administering blessings of healing.)

    In general, I am opposed to turning priesthood blessings into prayers since I feel there is a real power in pronouncing blessings rather than listing hopes and wishes. I think a blessing can catalyze faith in a way prayers often cannot. But, baby blessings are the one place I see our blessings as being more along the lines that you suggest.

    Mark, I like your three minute rule. Be as poetic as you want within three minutes, but unless the spirit has hold of you, keep it pithy.

    Comment by Jacob J — May 31, 2010 @ 10:29 am

  14. I am not suggesting that we do away with anything. Just making the point that there isn’t anything on the planet that doesn’t have some bearing on our eternal salvation (for better or worse), and that it is morally unserious to suggest otherwise.

    I don’t mean that as a personal criticism, just a general response to the historically influential idea in the Church that we can dispense with anything and everything that doesn’t directly pertain to essential ordinances and it won’t have any effect on the faith, activity, and well being of the Church and its members.

    That argument is often used in favor of dumbing down our lessons to the junior high school level, because it couldn’t possibly help anyone to have a more morally serious approach to the gospel than that, right?

    Comment by Mark D. — May 31, 2010 @ 11:18 am

  15. Mark D., to clear up confusion, let me explain what I meant. Baby blessings are not an ordinance of salvation and will not effect the child’s ultimate state of exaltation if he does not receive one. In that same vein, I doubt whether we have either Cheerios or Oatmeal for breakfast will have any bearing on whether we are admitted into the celestial kingdom.

    The blessing of a child is, at its core, simply a prayer. Granted, the prayer can be altered into the form of a blessing which may petition the power of the priesthood to the child’s benefit.
    But, if it were an ordinance of salvation, this would be done in the temple for others who hadn’t received such an oppotunity in life.

    Sorry for the confusion.

    Comment by Jeremy — May 31, 2010 @ 12:01 pm

  16. Jeremy,

    Since baby blessings don’t have any bearing on that salvation of the child, they are partially for the benefit of the parents.

    Even in light of your explanation I am not sure I understand the logic of this sentence. I agree that baby blessings are not a saving ordinance. Neither is the sacrament, but it doesn’t make sense to me to say that because the sacrament is not a saving ordinance they are partially for the benefit of someone else. I agree with your general point about the blessing being partially for the parents, but I don’t think this is a function of whether or not the blessing constitutes a saving ordinance.

    Ultimately, I do wonder if we are watering down the concept of a priesthood blessing when we treat it as mostly a prayer and largely for the benefit of the parents/congregation. That was the impetus for the original post.

    Comment by Jacob J — May 31, 2010 @ 12:41 pm

  17. Blessings that run long can be mitigated by someone else in the circle who pinches the baby…

    Just sayin’

    Instructions for blessings are rather simple, and quite distinct from other blessings in that a baby blessing is directed to Heavenly Father.

    It’s common practice in the church to change mid-stream and address the baby with the blessing, though I have heard of general authorities who have taught in stake conferences that the whole blessings should be directed to Heavenly Father.

    Written instructions are ambiguous, however, in that they simply say something like “and pronounce a blessing as directed by the spirit.”

    I remember blessing one of my daughters with beauty. After the meeting I was told by a sister in the ward that it was inappropriate for me to have done so. Hmmm. (That’s the only time someone actually criticized a blessing I gave, though I suppose it’s possible there have been silent criticisms for years.)

    Comment by Paul — June 1, 2010 @ 11:26 am

  18. though I have heard of general authorities who have taught in stake conferences that the whole blessings should be directed to Heavenly Father.

    Seriously? I thought all blessings were directed to the person being blessed. Since all blessing instructions start with addressing the person by name, I take the “and pronounce a blessing as directed” to be fairly clearly in the camp of switching mid-stream to addressing the baby.

    Comment by Jacob J — June 1, 2010 @ 1:48 pm

  19. Paul: After the meeting I was told by a sister in the ward that it was inappropriate for me to have done so.

    At which point you said “look closely at the tips of my fingers” and then proceeded to give this sister a Three Stooges style double eye poke.

    As for the switching gears thing — I remember studying up on this one before a baby blessing or two and discovering that there are simply different schools of thought on the subject but that the gear switching style (where the child is directly addressed after the beginning) is the most popular style these days. There is no hard and unanimous rule on it from the leadership of the church.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 1, 2010 @ 2:05 pm

  20. #19: She may have referenced some leader or other who so counseled, and I think I may have replied that if the Lord didn’t want me to say it, he should not have so inspired me. As it happens, my daughter so blessed is a beautiful young woman. (She clearly takes after her mother and not me in that regard…)

    I really like baby blessings. When I was bishop I invited myself to stand in the circle most of the time, just so I could look at the baby while the blessing was being given. Not many sweeter things than a newborn.

    As for gear switching, I’ve always done it. I was surprised, therefore, to hear a fellow repeat counsel he’d received in a stake conference to the contrary. But I’ve never heard anyone do it the other way.

    Comment by Paul — June 1, 2010 @ 2:24 pm

  21. At which point your said “look closely at the tips of my fingers” …

    For a second I thought you were going to go a different direction with that.

    Comment by Jacob J — June 1, 2010 @ 2:40 pm

  22. Hmmm… Maybe you assumed I would go with the look closely at my finger (singular)? Same basic message but not as funny to witness as the Stooges move would be.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 1, 2010 @ 2:45 pm

  23. First off, this entire thread is nothing short of an answer to my prayerful pondering.

    I’m a first-time father of a baby boy who is due in September. And as the time has gone by I’ve many many times about wha I should/would say when the time comes to bless my baby. I keep leaning towards what dallske has said. I feel like although I’m not pronouncing some future inevitability, I still can get in tune with what personality my child will arrive with and how we (the baby, my wife and I) can tap into help from unseen influences.

    By the way, my father blessed all 4 of his boys in the comfort of our home, surrounded by close family and friends. Originally I had planned to do the same with my children out of some sense of tradition, but maybe I will reconsider some of the reasons why I need to actually do it before the body of my ward.

    Good insights people.

    Comment by Riley — June 1, 2010 @ 2:52 pm

  24. Have you ever listened to a blessing given by a young father that included a name along the lines of “Joseph Fielding Covey Smith Marriott. ” When the family name was Zarroty.

    And a blessing that promised Prophecy and Presidency ..

    Talk about DEAD SILENCE after the meeting.

    Comment by Win Marsh — June 1, 2010 @ 3:27 pm

  25. Win,

    No. Have you? The story sounds interesting.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 1, 2010 @ 3:35 pm

  26. Geoff (#4) wins.

    Comment by J. Stapley — June 1, 2010 @ 4:00 pm

  27. I personally feel much like Glenn does (comment #1). I’ve given two baby blessing thus far, and I tried not to plan anything for them. I very much went forth in fasting and faith, trusting that I would be directed by the Spirit. I don’t see how that can be a bad plan. Then again, I’ve come to believe that we should be directed by the Spirit more than we typically think even when it comes to basic prayers, at least ideally.

    As it turned out, neither of the baby blessings I’ve given have sounded like the “boiler plate” kind you mentioned (and which I agree is heard quite frequently). I don’t think either of them made specific mention of marrying in the temple or going on a mission. (Both of my children are boys.) But I feel very confident that I was directed in what to say, and I think others have recognized that as well. When I blessed my most recent child, a woman I didn’t even know very well told me afterward that it had been an exceptionally spiritual blessing. That doesn’t mean it was, of course, but at least my wife and I aren’t the only ones who thought so. With my first born, my brother in law (who participated in the circle) said he had never felt so confident that a blessing was directed by the Spirit. And I can assure you, I was exercising great faith when I gave that one.

    One thing I’ve loved about giving baby blessings is that I feel like I know my child better after I do. I feel like I’m given a glimpse of their personalities, of their characters. It’s a beautiful thing, and I’m humbled by it. And so far, though my children are still fairly young, the impressions I received during their baby blessings have proved true. My first born is a rather sensitive boy, and I feel like it was evident to me from his baby blessing that he would be. With my second child’s blessing, I felt like he would be a very happy person, and now he’s the most smiley kid I know. Those things might not sound too impressive, but I’ve simplified the details. The point is, I know from experience that we can receive spiritual direction in giving baby blessings, so I think we should seek that direction out. I don’t see how it can wrong if we do.

    Comment by Benjamin — June 6, 2010 @ 8:58 am

  28. Just blessed my daughter last month, and it was a combination of 1) preparation and meditation, including some planning of what to say; 2) spiritual inspiration at the moment of the blessing, and 3) the baby getting upset after about 60 seconds and prompting a quick end to the blessing. :)

    Was a very cool blessing, I have to say. Inspiration included pointing out that, by virtue of her (very diverse) ethnic heritage, her birth represented a type of fulfillment of the covenant of the Gathering of Israel. Not something I came up with on my own.

    Comment by Bro. Jones — June 7, 2010 @ 7:57 am

  29. D&C 20:70 indicates that the elders are to bless the child in his name. This appears different than praying over or for. Blessings can certainly be prophetic, but oftentimes just bring in the Spirit to speak peace to the heart and reveal little new. The same also directs it should be before the church, which seems to prefer the practice of Sacrament Meeting.

    Comment by Paul — January 5, 2011 @ 12:09 pm

  30. When my husband was preparing to bless our two children, he asked me what I thought he should include in the blessing. It had honestly never occurred to me that I could have input, but I thought it was a beautiful way to honor the obvious fact that mothers are also entitled to inspiration for their children.

    Comment by Sarah Familia — July 7, 2011 @ 9:07 am

  31. A blessing is not channeling the Holy Spirit. Rather, a blessing, such as a baby blessing, is a statement of the faith of those gathered together. The men giving the blessing share their hopes and prayers and unite their faith in behalf of the child.

    It is okay to be bold. We petition the powers of heaven in behalf of the child, and pronounce a blessing on the child. Our prayers, our faith, our blessing, with some guidance in the moment from the Holy Spirit — but a blessing is not channeling the Holy Spirit. A blessing is a beautiful thing.

    Comment by ji — June 19, 2012 @ 8:10 am

  32. A blessing is not channeling the Holy Spirit.

    And you know this how? If the prayer of faith does not channel the Holy Spirit, then nothing can.

    Comment by Mark D. — June 19, 2012 @ 8:57 am

Leave a comment

RSS feed for comments on this post.