In blessing an infant, should both the naming and blessing be addressed to our Heavenly Father?
, instructor at the Salt Lake Institute of Religion, University of Utah; and bishop, East Millcreek Sixteenth Ward.
The current counsel in the Melchizedek Priesthood Handbook Section 8, “Ordinances,” (p. 24) regarding the blessing of infants is as follows:
“1. Take the child in the arms of those officiating, or place hands on the child’s head if an older child.
“2. Address our Heavenly Father as in prayer.
“3. State the authority (Melchizedek Priesthood) by which the ordinance is performed.
“4. Give child a name.
“5. Add such words of blessing as the Spirit dictates.
“6. Close in the name of Jesus Christ.”
In most ordinances and blessings, or in “setting apart,” priesthood bearers are instructed to address the recipient personally rather than the Lord, as in prayer. As agents of the Lord, priesthood bearers then actually give or pronounce blessings under the inspiration of the Lord, rather than merely ask for such blessings.
In the ordinance of blessing infants, however, especially in giving the child a name, we are counseled, as seen above, to address our Heavenly Father, perhaps because, among other reasons, the infant does not understand our speaking directly to him. Still addressing the Lord, priesthood bearers are authorized to give a name to the infant rather than merely to ask that a name be given (“We give this infant the name of …”)
Similarly, in the blessing part of the ordinance, it seems to me that Melchizedek Priesthood bearers are authorized by the Lord not merely to pray for blessings, but to pronounce or give blessings directly as the Spirit suggests. This procedure is consistent not only with the instructions in the Melchizedek Priesthood Handbook, but also with D&C 20:70:
“Every member of the Church of Christ having children is to bring them unto the elders before the church, who are to lay their hands upon them in the name of Jesus Christ and bless them in his name” (italics added).
Thus, it does not seem necessary to address our Heavenly Father in the blessing part of the ordinance, any more than it is necessary to address him when giving other types of blessings. In a practical sense, my own experience and the experience of some other priesthood bearers suggests that one may not be inspired of the Lord on some occasions to give specific blessings or promises. In such cases, it would seem appropriate to ask for the Lord’s blessing.
Practically speaking, it seems to me that the ordinance could appropriately include both the asking and the blessing forms. That is, priesthood brethren may both bless the child as inspired to do, and also ask or plead for blessings as inspired to do so. Even prayers ideally may be heaven-inspired (see 3 Ne. 19:24).
It is an awesome responsibility to be a priesthood agent of the Lord, to act in his behalf, and to try to make one’s words and doings what the Lord would do if he were here. A father, especially, who is to bless his child, has the delight and responsibility to prepare himself beforehand by pondering and by fasting and prayer, that he may be sensitive to the suggestions of the Spirit when giving the blessing.
Of great import is that the Lord has given us the privilege of performing the ordinance of naming and blessing our children (though it is not an ordinance of salvation). How blessed we are to be able to present our little ones before the Lord, our families and the Church, and then consecrate them to the Lord. How blessed we are to be able to name them, plead over, pray for, and, yes, to bless them directly and personally in harmony with our finest desires for them, by the authorization and wisdom of heaven.