Hands Are Tied

By: Hedgehog
April 10, 2014

It’s been a year of study and contemplation. A year in which the priesthood has been more at the forefront of my mind, whereas it had previously been something I just didn’t bring myself to think about, ignored on the proverbial shelf, as something too difficult. A year when a discussion in Relief Society about women giving healing blessings historically, resulted in our priesthood leaders attending the following week to make sure we understood this was not something permitted us. The following represents my feelings of events in my life over the past year. My children are well over the age for naming and baptism, which is why these milestones don’t feature. Mainly, I am pained by the way priesthood divides our families.

Hands are Tied

When my husband is sick

I can supply medication, soothing drinks, allow him to rest in a darkened room, pray, and I do.

My soul yearns to reach out and bless him.

But my hands are tied.

When my husband is stressed

I can listen, say soothing words, offer perspective and advice, pray, and I do.

My soul yearns to reach out and bless him.

But my hands are tied.

When our children are sick

We can supply medication, soothing drinks, allow them to rest in a darkened room, pray, and we do.

My soul yearns to join him to bless them.

But my hands are tied.

When our children are stressed

We can listen, say soothing words, offer perspective and advice, pray, and we do.

My soul yearns to join him to bless them.

But my hands are tied.

When my son is ordained

My mother, my daughter and I sit silent observing, my husband ordains, my father my proxy.

Still my soul yearns to join them to bless him.

But my hands are tied.

Then my father unwell

Wives and daughters sit silent, his sons surround him, my husband anoints, my husband my proxy.

Still my soul yearns to join them, for my mother to bless him.

But our hands are tied.

 

How do you feel about these things?

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38 Responses to Hands Are Tied

  1. Howard on April 10, 2014 at 9:10 AM

    My soul yearns to bless them. Please do!

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  2. Jettboy on April 10, 2014 at 9:13 AM

    Your hands are tied only because you mistakenly believe that they are. Priesthood may be restricted to males, but Prayer is for everyone.

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  3. Howard on April 10, 2014 at 9:28 AM

    Prayer is for everyone.

    So is laying on of hands! My tripple-great-grandmother after walking into Salt Lake with the Willie handcart Co. and losing her husband and two children along the way gave many hands-on healing blessings during her calling as a midwive. Priesthood is a license designed to both invite and exclude but God’s power is there for everyone to use! In church women are still one down today but that benevolent chauvinist stuff is just an echo from the past. One day in the future LDS women will be free as blacks!

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  4. Hedgehog on April 10, 2014 at 9:39 AM

    Jettboy, if you take another look you will see that I mentioned I pray.

    Howard, the environment here is very different to Utah where people have female ancestors who participated in healing blessings. Some members are aware of distant anecdotes, some now very elderly member once mentioned (at least 25 years ago) that she had blessed someone once (decades earlier), so my sister tells me, is the kind of thing we hear. Many members, including our stake RS president were not even aware it was ever done. It was me who raised the topic in class, only for us to get the big smack down the following week. So… Things being as they are, I don’t think my father or husband would be comfortable with going against those instructions.

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  5. Earl Parsons on April 10, 2014 at 9:41 AM

    Is there something specific in the handbook that prohibits women from laying on hands to give blessings (either of healing or comfort)?

    Today we see blessings of healing and comfort as priesthood ordinances, but the scriptures (including the Doctrine and Covenants) describe them as acts of faith or exercising gifts of the spirit. I wonder what caused that shift?

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  6. Mormon Heretic on April 10, 2014 at 9:46 AM

    Earl, I wrote a post about this a while back. I don’t know the current handbook, but in my post,

    On 29 July 1946 Elder Joseph Fielding Smith of the Quorum of the Twelve wrote to Belle S. Spafford, the Relief Society General President, and her counselors, Marianne C. Sharp and Gertrude R. Garff. While the authorities of the Church have ruled that it is permissible, under certain conditions and with the approval of the priesthood, for sisters to wash and anoint other sisters, yet they feel that it is far better for us to follow the plan the Lord has given us and send for the Elders of the Church to come and administer to the sick and afflicted.41

    See http://www.wheatandtares.org/2333/mormon-women-giving-blessings/

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  7. Kt on April 10, 2014 at 10:31 AM

    I will say that when my child was blessed, it was heart wrenching. I started crying, and I’m thinking most people likely thought it was a ‘tears of joy’, overcome with emotion situation. It was not. And I’m NOT the type to show emotion publicly (I was not raised in the church). It was just SO hurtful to not have it be my husband and I, the two who brought her into existence and love her most doing it together.

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  8. DavidH on April 10, 2014 at 10:43 AM

    The letter from President Smith to President Spafford in 1946 is not necessarily governing anymore than the 1949 letter of the FP explaining the reasons for the prior race/lineage temple/priesthood practices. It is not quoted in the handbook nor in current lesson manuals. On the other hand, the prior teachings of Joseph Smith and Joseph F. Smith enouraging women to give blessings or join their husbands in giving blessings are not in the handbook or in current manuals either. We are sort of in a never never land. But even though we are in a land without precise guidance, I would note that when President Kimball was in his last days, and Elders McConkie and Hanks visited him to give him a blessing, they invited Camilla to join with them in laying hands on President Kimball. If that practice was orthodox enough for Bruce R. McConkie, it is orthodox enough for me.

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  9. Howard on April 10, 2014 at 10:49 AM

    they invited Camilla to join Now there’s an interesting story! Do you have a link?

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  10. Hedgehog on April 10, 2014 at 10:55 AM

    Kt, I can appreciate that now. At that stage in my life I wasn’t thinking so much and regarded it simply as something to be done, to which family was invited, and we did record the blessings. But yes, its the doing it together or for eachother that I really want. I’ve no wish to replace my husband.

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  11. Mormon Heretic on April 10, 2014 at 10:56 AM

    The story is in “Lengthening Your Stride” by Edward Kimball.

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  12. Hedgehog on April 10, 2014 at 11:00 AM

    DavidH, I’ve read that before, and wondered if it might be connected to a second anointing. I assume it is something the 12 and their wives would have undergone if anybody has. Apparently it might have implications for priesthood, or so I read somewhere.

    As to the handbook, I’ve heard there might be a paragraph in book 1 restricting the practice, but I haven’t seen it.

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  13. Mormon Heretic on April 10, 2014 at 11:28 AM

    A few years ago, I attended attended the Temple Lot Church in Independence, MO and there was a baby blessing. (FYI, It is also referred to as Hedrickite Church after Granville Hedrick, who is mentioned in the D&C. They purchased the original Temple Lot, built a white church there, and are another Mormon schismatic group. If memory serves, they believe in the BoM, and Book of Commandments, but not D&C.)

    I remember being surprised at the worship service–people weren’t in their “Sunday best.” Anyway, they had a baby blessing, read a scripture from Mosiah, and then the couple gave the baby to 2 quite elderly old men to bless the baby. I’ve always wondered if the couple was inactive, or if they had rules about who could bless a baby. At any rate, it didn’t appear anyone from the family participated in the ordinance.

    I then walked over to “the Rock Church”, a CoC church adjacent to the Temple Lot Church for the end of their meeting. (The Rock Church was built by JS III, and is the oldest RLDS building.) Both services seemed similar to an LDS church service, but the Old Rock Church reminded me of meeting in the Mormon Tabernacle because it had wooden pillars and a balcony. After that church ended, I wandered over to another Community of Christ church on the other side of the Temple Lot Church. They invited me to attend the following week for a baby blessing, but I told them I was heading back to Utah and couldn’t attend. (That 3rd church service also had drums, and guitars for the postlude music–it felt like “holy roller” Mormons!) I’ve always wondered about the similarities of RLDS baby blessings.

    Calling Rich Brown, Markag, or John Hamer!

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  14. mark gibson on April 10, 2014 at 1:20 PM

    In the RLDS, the infant is held by two Melchizedek priesthood members.The baby’s family stands off to the side. The infant’s name does not have to be mentioned (it’s printed in the bulletin) and there’s no required statements other than closing in Jesus’ name.

    Baby blessings can occur for single parents and unmarried couples. The focus is on the needs of the infant.

    By the way, MH, it’s historically known as the “Stone Church”.

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  15. Rich Brown on April 10, 2014 at 1:32 PM

    First, just for clarity: It’s referred to as the Stone Church congregation.

    There are generally two Melchisedec priesthood members (yes, that’s the way we spell Melchisedec) who officiate, although I’ve occasionally seen three. If there’s only one available, that’s OK, too, but it’s very rare. One person holds the child in his or her arms and the other offers a prayer of blessing. This is usually a family affair, and for some reason parents often request grandparents. Makes for a lovely Hallmark moment, I suppose. The parents, along with any siblings, stand next to the officiating ministers during the prayer, which takes place during a regular worship service. I’ve even seen extended family members (or “godparents”–we can be really tolerant rule-benders sometimes) stand with the parents on a few occasions. Although it’s usually an infant who’s involved, it can be any child under the age of eight. I recall one time when newly baptized parents brought all their young children to the front where each child was blessed one at a time. Made for quite a memorable experience.

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  16. Geoff -A on April 10, 2014 at 4:23 PM

    Handbook 1 (which you can download) says all these ordinances require the melkchezdec priesthood. Even being a witness to a baptism, requires the aaronic priesthood.

    Book 1 is worth a read, to see how far things can go within the limits. For example

    A bishop can invite whoever he wants to bishopric meeting – RS presidency permanently?

    Even to conducting sacrament meeting – it does not say the ptiesthood is required.

    It says nothing about not standing for the intermediate hymn either.

    I pointed all these out to the bishop and stake Pres, but was told they would not even allow standing for the hymn, unless told to by their superiors. Obedience seems to be a requirement for these positions.

    I feel for you and all women in this reguard hedgehog. Yes the church is more conservative in some ways outside the US.

    In my home I have my wife assist me when giving blessings. (Even that sounds condecending)

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  17. Mormon Heretic on April 10, 2014 at 6:19 PM

    Rich and Mark, is the one who blesses a pastor, patriarch, or some other calling? The father never blesses the child? I suppose women could also bless the child?

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  18. Nate on April 10, 2014 at 7:10 PM

    Hedgehog, your desire for the priesthood seems deep and sincere in the poem. Maybe you will get the priesthood because the scriptures say “ask and you shall receive, knock and it shall be given.” But maybe like blacks born before the the ban was lifted, you will have to wait. Maybe more women need to feel like you, pray for it, cry for it, before it will become an issue the brethren would seriously consider.

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  19. Ken on April 10, 2014 at 7:29 PM

    This comes across as a bit dramatic to me. Your hands could easily be un-tied by a hometeacher, offering an uplifting experience for all those involved.

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  20. Howard on April 10, 2014 at 8:02 PM

    Your hands could easily be un-tied by a hometeacher, Boy does that ever miss the point!

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  21. Rich Brown on April 10, 2014 at 8:08 PM

    MH (#17)

    The prayer of blessing is offered by one of the two Melchisedec priesthood members. That’s not a designated function or calling within a congregation. There’s nothing that prohibits a father or mother from being one of those doing the blessing, assuming he or she is an elder. But I can’t say I’ve ever seen that happen. Keep in mind that the benefit of the blessing is not only for the child but for the family, as well, so it’s more appropriate for somebody else to officiate. In a small congregation with a limited number of elders available that may occur, of course.

    Years ago it was very common for the person offering the blessing prayer to ask God to inscribe the child’s name in the “Lamb’s Book of Life.” That’s rare nowadays. We understand the purpose of the blessing prayer not as a ritualistic method of getting the child listed in heaven but more of a desire to seek heavenly guidance and assistance for the child during her or his growing-up years. That’s how the rest of the immediate family is brought into it.

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  22. Abu Casey on April 10, 2014 at 8:40 PM

    Hanbook 2 seems to make it pretty clear that blessings can only be given by Priesthood holders (available through lds.org, here: https://www.lds.org/handbook/handbook-2-administering-the-church/priesthood-ordinances-and-blessings?lang=eng#20.1.6), although the section in the handbook is titled “Priesthood Ordinances and Blessings”. If a blessing given by a woman is not a priesthood blessing blessing (despite its status as, say, a “healing blessing”), then does this passage apply?

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  23. Mormon Heretic on April 10, 2014 at 9:17 PM

    Thanks Rich. I find that very interesting.

    Ken, blessed are the compassionate. Your comment sounds like a bull in a china shop that just stomped on the china on purpose.

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  24. hawkgrrrl on April 10, 2014 at 9:21 PM

    Ken: “an uplifting experience for all those involved” Which is exactly the point. No women are permitted to have this uplifting experience.

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  25. Hedgehog on April 11, 2014 at 1:25 AM

    Abu Casey. Thanks for that link. Either way it would exclude women participating with the men. I gather the paragraph I’m told is in book 1 is more explicit about women and healing, but I’ve yet to see it.

    Ken, try reading it again?
    And for the record, my husband did try contacting the home teachers. A whole week later they showed up…

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  26. Ken on April 11, 2014 at 8:50 AM

    MH:

    I was asked how I felt about a poem and gave my honest response. Long ago I committed to follow the counsel from Alma to be “bold, but not overbearing”. It has served me well and has always let others know where I stand. I appreciate your bold response. If my comment came across as overbearing, I offer my apologies.

    By way of reiteration, if the revelation comes for women to receive the priesthood, I will welcome it with open arms.

    Per previous posts and comments they were asking for the leaders to simply “take it to God”. The Apostles have responded.  If you believe, as I do, that they are who they say they are, then God has responded and continuing to ask is vain ambition at this point.

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  27. Ken on April 11, 2014 at 9:03 AM

    Howard, Hawkgril, Hedgehog:

    I got the point of the poem. My response is that this is a lay church. It was designed this way for a reason – to take people out of their comfort zone. To ask, and to be asked, by others to provide acts of service so ‘all can be uplifted and edified” and priesthood blessing are one of hundreds of acts that can be offered. It was also setup to offer humility and let others serve us and accept our role in the plan.

    Home teachers were one example. I am certain between home teachers, missionaries, neighbors and priesthood leaders a blessing of the sick can be offered within a reasonable time frame anywhere in the world.

     

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  28. Howard on April 11, 2014 at 9:19 AM

    Ken wrote: Per previous posts and comments they were asking for the leaders to simply “take it to God”. The Apostles have responded. If you believe, as I do, that they are who they say they are, then God has responded and continuing to ask is vain ambition at this point.

    While I agree Apostles have responded, there is no indication that the question was recently taken to God.

    Please review SWK’s beliefs and efforts regarding obtaining revelation and the months of work and difficulty he went through to come to OD2 and I think you will agree that there is no evidence of a similar effort for this issue.

    Also keep in mind TSM is the only person on the planet authorized to receive revelation for the church, not Elder Oaks who was simply giving his opinion.

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  29. Kristine A on April 11, 2014 at 9:49 AM

    Ken, to consider Elder Oaks address the final answer and 100% truth is, I believe, tunnel-vision. His address raises more questions than it answers! It certainly indicated that revelation would be required to change females holding priesthood offices — but opens up the doors for what women can be delegated to do by those with priesthood keys. We hold priesthood power and authority when delegated. Sounds like if delegated, I may be able to bless, heal, serve as a witness, etc. etc. It actually prompts us to ask more questions!! The conversation certainly isn’t over, to me it sounds like it’s just beginning!

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  30. Mormon Heretic on April 11, 2014 at 10:17 AM

    Per previous posts and comments they were asking for the leaders to simply “take it to God”. The Apostles have responded. If you believe, as I do, that they are who they say they are, then God has responded and continuing to ask is vain ambition at this point.

    Ken, when Abraham said, “God, what if I can’t find 100? How about 50? 40? 30? 20? 10?, was his continuuing to ask a vain ambition? When God told the Brother of Jared how to get air but not light, was BoJ’s response a vain ambition? Should we not follow the Parable of the Unjust Judge?

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  31. fbisti on April 11, 2014 at 10:57 AM

    A “priesthood” blessing is no more efficacious than the faith of the person voicing the blessing. Ergo, faith is the operative principle (not the “authority”)–as limited by the intent and righteousness of the person voicing. Obviously, the faith of all involved is involved also.

    That is a significant aspect of the meaning of 121:37… “That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens ewithdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.”

    Or, is there one kind of power–the authority to invoke/effect God’s healing power–for men holding the priesthood and another for all those outcomes of “just” faith? It is not logical to think that priesthood blessings require both authority AND faith, but prayers of faith without authority (women) require only faith to be effective.

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  32. Ken on April 11, 2014 at 11:11 AM

    MH;

    The vain ambition comment was not directed at the Apostles, but those pushing the cause. For now, they have spoken. It is totally acceptable, as you correctly demonstrated, for Prophets, Seers and Revelators to continue to ask.  That is their job. Unless, of course (like with the 116 page manuscript), the Lord says to quit asking.

    Kristine;

    It was not just Oaks – Holland, Nelson and Uchtdorf gave the more relevant responses to this issue in my opinion. In short, be Grateful for what you have (this would include your calling; the story of the customer at the diner is fitting for the continued push by OW in my opinion); and, obey the commandments of God, which would include instruction by Apostles.

    To me, they have responded. If you disagree, that is your decision and I respect that. I believe they are the voice of God as indicated in the first section of the D&C. If at a future point, that revelation comes I will welcome it, but for now I will respect what I heard. 

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  33. Hedgehog on April 11, 2014 at 11:19 AM

    Ken, thank you for that broader explanation of your comment. I was puzzled by your initial comment because the majority of the poem home teachers were not required, there were enough male family members present having the relevant priesthood. I really feel that having women in the family participate as well, wouldl serve to strengthen and bind families closer together.

    I understand the point of people having an opportunity to serve, and I do chafe at the way in which priesthood as it currently stands binds men to the institutional church so inflexibly, in part because they have to turn to other members when requiring blessings of healing for themselves, though they themselves are able to provide that service for their families. That feels like an intrusion into the family to me. Though I am prepared to concede it may be necessary in a fallen world, I do think it acts to weaken families as well, in that the female members are effectively sidelined.

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  34. Hedgehog on April 11, 2014 at 11:22 AM

    Just to make things clear, I do not have a profile with OW. I do feel the pain and exclusion highlighted in the poem. I certainly don’t think it vain ambition to be asking questions. I agree with Kristine that there is an ongoing conversation to be had.

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  35. Hedgehog on April 11, 2014 at 11:27 AM

    fbisti, that’s interesting, but I’m not sure that how it would work as a mixed group of men and women, particularly when the current practice is to invoke priesthood authority when giving a healing blessing. As I mentioned #4 there’s not much in the way of folk history or family story here when it comes to how to even begin to go the practice, and few would feel comfortable with it without the ok of the church.

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  36. Mormon Heretic on April 11, 2014 at 11:30 AM

    Ken, so apostles and prophets can do vain ambition, but the average Joe not so much? How does this square with the Parable of the Unjust Judge?

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  37. Ken on April 11, 2014 at 2:19 PM

    MH,

    As I mentioned, the term vain ambition does not apply to the Apostles. Chiefly, due to the fact they are not aspiring for more authority for themselves.

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  38. Mormon Heretic on April 11, 2014 at 3:19 PM

    I’m confused. The Parable of the Unjust Judge applies to apostles only?

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