“Blessed by the Priesthood in a Holy Place,” Ensign, April 2016, 47–49
“Do you want a blessing?” I have heard that question many times throughout my life, as have most members of the Church. We often hear it when we are ill or struggling—when we need divine help. I grew up in the Church, served a mission, and am now active in the gospel as an adult, but I did not truly understand the significance of this simple question until I heard it while sitting outside a small home in northern Pennsylvania.
During June 2015, I joined a number of my colleagues at the Priesthood Restoration Site. When I arrived on a summer morning, I marveled at how the site had changed since my last visit a number of years earlier. A chapel and visitors’ center now overlooked the site. Newly created paths led from the soon-to-be-completed visitors’ center to the reconstructed Smith home. Where once a major highway stood, all that remained was a dirt road lined with a stringer fence leading to the reconstructed Hale home. After marveling at the impressive changes to the site, our group went to work.
I don’t remember specifically what I was tasked to do that morning, but I remember being hot and dripping in sweat. Living in the western United States, I’m used to hot summer days—but not humid ones. As I worked, sweat poured from my head, my clothes were sticking to me, and I felt myself become weaker by the minute. Knowing I had five days of work ahead of me, I took my hat off, wiped my brow, and pushed on.
As the noon hour approached, I was physically exhausted, but I knew something else was happening to me. I was nauseated and perhaps dehydrated. I had been working all morning, sweating like I had never sweated before, and I hadn’t had anything to drink since breakfast. I walked to a cooler, pulled out a couple of bottles of cold water, and drank. I could feel my body thanking me for the long-overdue water, but the refreshing feeling was short-lived. “Maybe I need more,” I thought, so I pulled a third bottle out and drank more water. Big mistake! As I finished off the last bottle, I immediately felt worse. I went into the Smith home and found a bench where I could lie down. Closing my eyes, I prayed that I would feel better, but to no avail.
Fortunately, the lunch hour gave me a brief reprieve, even though I didn’t want anything to eat. We returned to the site with everyone rested, fed, and ready for more work—except for me. I began to question myself: “Why did you come? Why are you wasting the Church’s money by being here?” It was during this time that I heard one of my colleagues ask, “Do you want a blessing?”
Realizing that I wasn’t going to get better on my own, I replied, “I do.” We walked into the reconstructed Smith home. I sat on a chair, and my co-workers gathered around me. After my head was anointed with consecrated oil, my colleagues—no, my friends—placed their hands on my head to seal the anointing and give me a blessing. As I felt the weight of their hands on my head, an overwhelming sense of gratitude filled my heart. The Spirit whispered to me, “You are in a holy place.”
My thoughts went to the building I was in. In this space, the Prophet Joseph Smith translated a significant portion of the Book of Mormon. In this space, the Prophet and Oliver Cowdery discussed the need for baptism for the remission of sins. In this space, these two young men, seeking inspiration from God, determined to go to the nearby woods to pray for guidance and revelation.
I wonder if the Prophet Joseph and Oliver had any idea what would happen that day. Heavenly Father not only heard their prayer but immediately answered it.
Joseph Smith recalled:
“While we were thus employed, praying and calling upon the Lord, a messenger from heaven descended in a cloud of light, and having laid his hands upon us, he ordained us, saying:
“Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah, I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness” (Joseph Smith—History 1:68–69).
In answer to their prayer, God sent John the Baptist, who conferred priesthood authority and commanded the two to baptize each other. This event was the first of many in which priesthood authority and keys would be restored to the earth by heavenly messengers.
As my friends pronounced, “Amen,” I realized that what I had just experienced had happened because of a conversation between Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in that very same space in May 1829. I don’t remember what was said in the blessing. I wasn’t immediately healed of my illness. But I do know that I was blessed. God blessed me with a reassurance that the holy priesthood is once again upon the earth. With this reassurance came a strengthened testimony that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, translated by His prophet Joseph Smith Jr.
I know that this site is more than the two reconstructed homes. It’s more than the exhibits in the visitors’ center. It’s more than the Church’s investment of time and money to make it an official historic site. It is the place where the priesthood of God began to be restored—the priesthood that blesses the lives of millions of people around the world.