“When is it appropriate to give a father’s blessing?” Ensign, July 1978, 30–31
James O. Mason, father of seven children, and bishop, Ensign Sixth Ward, Salt Lake Ensign Utah Stake Returning home from work one evening, I was met at the front door by my eleven-year-old daughter, who had been babysitting her younger brothers for a brief period. Obviously, her patience was totally exhausted, since she pled, “Daddy, Ralph has been just terrible. You’ve got to give him a blessing!”
I was delighted that my daughter understood the power of a father’s blessing, even though she may not have completely understood when that privilege should be exercised. In showing my appreciation for her and discussing Ralph’s problems with him, I had an opportunity to think about the wonderful power given to fathers and husbands who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood.
How much better to bless than to curse! The inspiration of a father’s blessing often accomplishes much more than a harsh word or scolding. Misbehavior and rebelliousness may be a child’s way of asking for love, understanding, and acceptance.
Yet I feel that there is a sacredness about a father’s blessing that requires that it not be employed without careful spiritual preparation. Our Heavenly Father has given us, as mothers and fathers, a number of tools to use in inspirationally meeting our children’s needs: personal and family prayer, fasting, regular father’s interviews, goal-setting and accountability sessions, daily discussions, even our journals with their records of progress and challenges.
However, my daughter was right in one principle: a father’s blessing is available whenever there is a need; it is not something to always be saved for grand ceremonial occasions.
President Spencer W. Kimball gave us some outlines and also reminded us of our responsibilities as fathers when he counseled:
“‘Certainly we should give new and additional emphasis to the role of the father in giving blessings to children in the family. I think we should generally leave to the ordained patriarchs in the stake the responsibility of declaring lineage in connection with an official patriarchal blessing, but still we could leave unlocked the door so that any father who felt inspired to pronounce the lineage in connection with a father’s blessing he was giving to his children should not be prevented from doing so.
“‘We should urge and encourage fathers to give a father’s blessing to their children on such occasions as their going into the military or away from home to school or on missions and on other appropriate occasions.’
“A father’s blessing may be recorded in family records, but it is not to be preserved in the archives of the Church.” (Suggestions to Patriarchs, pp. 3–4, 1974.)
We generally receive only one patriarchal blessing during our lifetime. When and how often is it appropriate to receive a father’s blessing? Elder Eldred G. Smith, Patriarch of the Church, gave this answer:
“Father’s blessings can be given by your father, if he holds the Melchizedek Priesthood, anytime you wish one, anytime you have a desire for it. This is what I recommend to young people. It is recommended by the Church that whenever you are starting a new adventure in life, some change is taking place, some new goal coming ahead of you, it is appropriate and recommended that you ask your father to give you a father’s blessing. What would be more appropriate than in a family home evening you sit together in a family group and have your father literally put his hands on your head and give you a blessing for this particular occasion that is coming up.” (“Patriarchal blessings,” Eldred G. Smith, April 30, 1971, Salt Lake Institute of Religion, The Last Message series, pp. 2–3.)
Other circumstances which might lead to a father’s blessing include times of stress or trial, of mental, emotional, or physical difficulty.
I have a friend who gives all his children a father’s blessing each fall as they again enter school, as they again symbolically and factually leave the home to absorb ideas and make friends and associations that can bless or mar their lives, depending upon the wisdom of the child.
One of my children, faced with the difficult task of making a decision concerning marriage, came to me asking for a father’s blessing. She had prayerfully approached this important crossroads in her life and now wanted confirmation that what she felt in her heart was indeed right. As a loving and equally concerned father placed his hands upon her head, the sweet Spirit of the Lord filled his heart. He was impressed to reassure her and confirm her decision. Words of promise and insight followed that were beyond his wisdom and understanding. Father and daughter caught a glimpse of eternity as they shared this spiritual experience.
If a person does not have an available or eligible father to give a blessing, he should remember that the bishop is available, as well as home teachers. They, or a relative, can give a blessing whenever needed. However, when the person performing the blessing is not the father, it is called a priesthood blessing instead of a father’s blessing.
It is the right of all children to ask for and receive guidance at critical times in their lives through a father’s blessing. And it is the duty of every father holding the Melchizedek Priesthood to prepare himself to give sacred blessings to his children.