At the April 2010 General Conference of the LDS Church, Apostle Dallin Oaks spoke about Mormonism’s priesthood power and how it should be used to heal the sick. “There are five parts to the use of priesthood authority to bless the sick,” he said, “(1) the anointing, (2) the sealing of the anointing, (3) faith, (4) the words of the blessing, and (5) the will of the Lord.” Mr. Oaks’ discussion of four of the five parts brought no surprises, but his remarks concerning the part he called “the words of the blessing” did raise some questions in my mind.
Mr. Oaks explained that the words spoken after the anointing has been sealed or affirmed “can be very important” but they are not an “essential element” of the ordinance. He said,
“Ideally, the elder who officiates will be so in tune with the Spirit of the Lord that he will know and declare the will of the Lord in the words of the blessing. Brigham Young taught priesthood holders, ‘It is your privilege and duty to live so that you know when the word of the Lord is spoken to you and when the mind of the Lord is revealed to you.’ When that happens, the spoken blessing is fulfilled literally and miraculously… For a variety of causes, every elder experiences increases and decreases in his level of sensitivity to the promptings of the Spirit. Every elder who gives a blessing is subject to influence by what he desires for the person afflicted. Each of these and other mortal imperfections can influence the words we speak.
“Fortunately, the words spoken in a healing blessing are not essential to its healing effect. If faith is sufficient and if the Lord wills it, the afflicted person will be healed or blessed whether the officiator speaks those words or not. Conversely, if the officiator yields to personal desire or inexperience and gives commands or words of blessing in excess of what the Lord chooses to bestow according to the faith of the individual, those words will not be fulfilled. Consequently, brethren, no elder should ever hesitate to participate in a healing blessing because of fear that he will not know what to say. The words spoken in a healing blessing can edify and energize the faith of those who hear them, but the effect of the blessing is dependent upon faith and the Lord’s will, not upon the words spoken by the elder who officiated.”
I had always thought the words spoken in an LDS healing blessing were supposed to be words of hope and comfort specifically given by God to the person receiving the blessing (with the priesthood holder as a conduit). So Mr. Oaks’ teaching made me wonder; because, to me, if someone is supposed to be declaring the word and will of God for me personally or for someone I love, I would expect those words to always be very important – and to be true.
LDS.org says a “priesthood blessing“ is “a blessing given by a Melchizedek Priesthood holder, by the laying on of hands and by inspiration, to one who is sick or otherwise in need of special counsel, comfort, or healing.”
The LDS Family Guidebook states that, during the sealing of the anointing, the priesthood holder “Gives a blessing as the Spirit directs.”
MormonWiki says the priesthood holder “pronounces a blessing through the promptings of the Lord. In order to give priesthood blessings, priesthood-holders must keep themselves worthy of this divine and sacred power. The purpose of a priesthood blessing is to provide healing, comfort, and counsel to the person seeking it…Through priesthood blessings, the Lord is able to communicate through words with the seeker…Priesthood blessings are always revelatory and can be prophetic.”
An LDS missionary, Stephanie, called me recently to follow up on a resource the Church had sent me. So I asked Stephanie if she could explain this part of the LDS healing blessing. She told me healing blessings reflect God’s word to the individual receiving the blessing. She added that, since we’re human, sometimes the words reflect wishful thinking on the part of the person pronouncing the blessing, but generally speaking, the words of the blessing are what God wants the person to hear (to uplift and encourage, etc).
So, according to the pro-LDS sources I consulted, the words of the blessing are meant to be a conduit of communication from the Lord to the person receiving the blessing; they are received by the person as prophetic and inspired; they are understood to be words that “declare the will of the Lord”…but sometimes, maybe many times, they don’t.
Mr. Oaks says the words are not essential to the efficacy of the healing blessing. So why does the officiator speak at all? Why even risk giving false hope or a false revelation? I have no doubt that the men pronouncing the blessings have the best of intentions, but it is a very serious thing to speak for God when He has not actually spoken (see Ezekiel 13:1-8).
Mr. Oaks told priesthood holders that they should not “fear” or worry about what to say when they ostensibly speak for the Lord during healing blessings. This is very bad — and unbiblical – advice. Would a true apostle of God give such counsel? For God Himself says,
“to those who prophesy from their own hearts: ‘Hear the word of the Lord!’ Thus says the Lord God, Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing!” (Ezekiel 13:2-3)