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?