“Fear and a Priesthood Blessing,” Ensign, Sept. 1990, 54
Ever since my baptism thirteen years ago, I had been confused about priesthood blessings. The sheer responsibility involved frightened me. How could the priesthood holder be sure, when he gave a blessing, that he spoke the words of the Lord and not his own well-meaning phrases? Naturally he wants the sufferer to be made well, but what if the Lord has other plans? How would the person receiving the blessing feel if, instead of becoming better as the blessing indicated, his or her condition worsened? How would the family feel if the sufferer died?
I never wanted to be in a position where I said something that the Lord didn’t want me to say. But an experience I had one spring enlightened my understanding of priesthood blessings and, more important, removed my fear.
Our nonmember neighbor, Beverley, had discovered that she had cancer. She would have to go to the hospital for surgery immediately. Assuming the worst, she confided to my wife, Carol, and me that the only question she could think of was, “Who will bring up my children?”
Although Beverley and her husband knew that we were Mormons, they knew little about the Church itself. When Carol suggested that I visit Beverley in the hospital and ask her whether she would like a priesthood blessing, I complied, but my old fears resurfaced. I had invited my good friend Keith Gould to accompany me, and, in my panic on the way to the hospital, decided that I would ask Keith to do the actual blessing. I would do the anointing.
After having made that decision, however, I remembered the patriarchal blessing I received at seventeen. Be bold in everything you do, it told me. And was this any time to back down? No. I would give the blessing, come what may.
We arrived at the hospital room, and Beverley, obviously distressed, told us that the doctor considered this operation only one in a series required to combat her cancer. She would need radiation therapy as well. As she described her concerns for her children, Keith and I sat on the bed. We listened, then explained to her about priesthood blessings for the sick.
Beverley readily agreed to the blessing, and my anxiety increased tenfold. What would I say? I wanted Bev to recover, but what if the Lord didn’t intend for her to get better? What would she think of the Church and its priesthood if I blessed her that she would be made whole and the doctors found her riddled with cancer?
I sat on the bed with turmoil mounting inside me when suddenly the strangest thing happened. Quite unmistakenly, I received a clear message: Beverley was going to get better. This was not wishful thinking on my part—the message came directly from the Spirit. Keith anointed Beverley, and I gave the blessing, telling her that she would be made well and would live to raise her children.
The operation the next day was a success. No further operations or even radiation treatments were required. Bev’s crisis had passed, and so had mine.
After thirteen years, I finally realized that I had been so afraid of getting the blessing wrong that I hadn’t been listening to the Lord. Sometimes we have to show courage—and faith—in order to discover the Lord’s will and to be sure the words that we speak are his.