Viewpoint: The Healing Power of Christ

  • 25 January 2013

© 2009 Julie Rogers

Article Highlights

  • A bedridden 12-year-old girl and a sick sailor request a priesthood blessing, exercise faith, and are healed.
  • The power to heal is the priesthood of God, exercised by worthy Melchizedek Priesthood holders.
  • Priesthood blessings are available to all who ask.

“That power to heal the sick is still among us. It is the power of the priesthood of God. It is the authority held by the elders of this Church.” —President Gordon B. Hinckley, President of the Church from 1995 to 2008

In the fall of 1897, Bertha Willis, 12-year-old daughter of Joe Wallace and Margaret Willis, fell gravely ill with a form of rheumatoid arthritis. The only diversion Bertha had while bedridden for days at a time was reading from the large family Bible. With her hands swollen shut, she opened the book with her elbows and then read from whatever pages were in view. 

On January 8, 1898, she read: “Is [there] any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up” (James 5:14–15).

A few days earlier, a pair of Latter-day Saint missionaries had stopped at Bertha’s home on Shackleford Banks off North Carolina’s coast and introduced themselves to her parents. She heard that each was called “Elder.” When she read the admonition to “call for the elders,” Bertha said, “Mama, I believe those Mormon elders could heal me.”

“I guess they could, if you have the faith,” her mother replied.

Bertha sent her closest friend, Letha Brooks, to find the missionaries and ask them to give her a blessing. Elders John Telford and William Hansen, the first missionaries sent to Carteret County, North Carolina, followed Letha to Bertha’s home and gave her the requested blessing.

Several hours later, Bertha called to her mother, “Mama, Mama, come look! My fingers, they are limber! I can open and shut my hands!”

Upon awakening the next morning, Bertha’s parents were surprised to hear their daughter moving about in the kitchen, preparing breakfast. It was the first time in months that she had walked unassisted. (The above account is recorded in Joel G. Hancock’s book, Strengthened by the Storm—The Coming of Mormonism to Harkers Island, North Carolina, 1897–1905).

President Gordon B. Hinckley, in an address during the October 1988 general conference, quoted James 5:14, and said: “That power to heal the sick is still among us. It is the power of the priesthood of God. It is the authority held by the elders of this Church.

“We welcome and praise and utilize the marvelous procedures of modern medicine which have done so much to alleviate human suffering and lengthen human life.”

Of those who work in the medical field, he said: “I cannot say enough of gratitude for them. Yet they are the first to admit the limitations of their knowledge and the imperfection of their skills in dealing with many matters of life and death. The mighty Creator of the heavens and the earth and all that in them are has given to His servants a divine power that sometimes transcends all the powers and knowledge of men. I venture to say that there is scarcely a faithful elder within the sound of my voice who could not recount instances in which this healing power has been made manifest in behalf of the sick. It is the healing power of Christ.” (“The Healing Power of Christ,” Oct. 1988 general conference.)

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve wrote that priesthood blessings “are available for all who need them, but they are given only on request” (“The Importance of Priesthood Blessings,” Liahona, July 2012).

President Thomas S. Monson spoke of the willingness of one man to request a blessing and the worthiness of the priesthood holder to whom that petition was made to exercise the gift of healing. 

A member of his ward’s bishopric gave him a copy of The Missionary’s Handbook before he left home for his naval deployment in San Diego during World War II. After his company commander told the sailors that placing a hard, rectangular object in the bottom of their sea bags would help clothing stay more firm, he placed the handbook in the bottom of his bag.

One night, from an adjoining bunk in the barracks, Leland Merrill said, “I’m sick. I’m really sick.” The young man moaned in pain for about two hours, and then asked, “Monson, aren’t you an elder?” He said he acknowledged he was. Leland Merrill then pleaded, “Give me a blessing.” 

President Monson said he emptied his sea bag, retrieved the book and read how one blesses the sick. “With about 120 curious sailors looking on, I proceeded with the blessing. Before I could again stow my gear, Leland Merrill was sleeping. The next morning, Merrill smilingly turned to me and said, ‘Monson, I’m glad you hold the priesthood!’ His gladness was only surpassed by my gratitude—gratitude not only for the priesthood but for being worthy to receive the help I required in a time of desperate need” (“Help to Heal,” Liahona, Feb. 2009).

An essential way to receive God’s help is through prayer, said Bishop Keith B. McMullin, then Second Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, in his October 2008 general conference address. “We are commanded to pray to God, our Father, in the name of Jesus Christ. The admonition is, ‘Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened’ (Matthew 7:7-8). Heavenly Father answers all sincere prayers. …

“In the face of some needs, we turn to a form of prayer available only under the hands of those authorized to minister for God. Jesus Christ went forth ‘healing the sick, raising the dead’ (Mosiah 3:5), and lifting up desperate souls. With the Restoration of the gospel came priesthood power and authority to continue this aspect of God’s work” (see D&C 13; 27:12–13; 110:11–16; 128:20–21) (“God Loves and Helps All of His Children,” Oct. 2008 general conference).

Two faithful elders on an island off North Carolina’s coast and a young sailor on California’s coast serve as examples of priesthood holders who were prepared and worthy to give blessings of healing. The requests of a bedridden 12-year-old girl and a sick sailor show how such blessings come through the exercise of faith. 

May we all have faith to ask for healing blessings as we need them, and may all who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood be worthy to exercise their authority to bestow the mighty gift of healing.