President Kimball Speaks Out on Administration to the Sick

Spencer W. Kimball

“We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelations, visions, healing” (A of F 1:7). As the Savior sent out his Apostles to proselytize the world after his ascension, he gave them this commission:

“Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

“And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;

“… and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” (Mark 16:15–18; italics added.)

The Lord was promulgating an eternal principle that where his priesthood was and where faith was found, there would be the signs of power, not for show but for a blessing to the people. This eternal principle was understood by the disciples of the Lord in early days. James said:

“Is 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. …

“… The effectual prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:14–16.)

When John the Baptist, languishing in prison, sent messengers to the Lord to inquire, “Art thou he that should come or do we look for another?” (Matt. 11:3), the Lord’s answer relayed back was, “Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see;

“The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Matt. 11:4–5).

In his commission to the seventies, whom he sent out into every city and place whither he himself would come, he gave the commission to “heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you” (Luke 10:9).

And when the seventy returned again with joy saying, “Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name,” the Savior said:

“I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.

“Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall by any means hurt you.

“Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:18–20.)

“And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them” (Mark 6:13).

The use of oil in administration and blessing seems to have been a practice from earliest times. Jacob poured oil on the stone he had used for a pillow when he had spiritual manifestations. Oil was used in the anointing of kings. When Saul had been called to be king over Israel by the Lord, he was anointed by Samuel of the tribe of Benjamin.

He “was a choice young man, and a goodly: and there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he: from his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people” (1 Sam. 9:2).

“Now the Lord had told Samuel in his ear a day before Saul came, saying,

“… thou shalt anoint him to be captain over my people Israel, that he may save my people out of the hand of the Philistines: for I have looked upon my people, because their cry is come unto me.

“And when Samuel saw Saul, the Lord said unto him, Behold the man whom I spake to thee of! this same shall reign over my people.” (1 Sam. 9:15–17.)

Samuel sent Saul to the high place to eat with him and promised to answer the query in his mind and heart concerning the whereabouts of the lost asses Saul was seeking. When they came down from the high place of the sacrifice, Samuel accompanied Saul on his way, and when they were at the edge of the city, the servant was allowed to proceed, but Saul was kept back to hear the “word of God.”

“Then Samuel took a vial of oil, and poured it upon his head, and kissed him, and said, is it not because the Lord hath anointed thee to be captain over his inheritance?” (1 Sam. 10:1).

This is precious: “And the Spirit of the Lord will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them [the company of prophets], and shalt be turned into another man.

“And it was so, that he had turned his back to go from Samuel, God gave him another heart.” (1 Sam. 10:6, 9; italics added.)

In the famous 23rd Psalm the use of oil is indicated: “Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over” (Ps. 23:5).

The use of oil in healings was mentioned many times but not always. Whether or not they used oil in these cases is not known, but the custom and practice is established. Blessings may be given with or without oil.

The administration proper is an ordinance of two parts, the anointing and the sealing. An elder pours a small quantity of oil on the head of the one to be blessed, near the crown of the head if convenient, never on the other parts of the body, and in the name of the Lord and by authority of the priesthood, he anoints the person for the restoration of health. The sealing is performed by two or more elders, one of whom, as mouth, seals the anointing and gives an appropriate blessing, also in the name of Jesus Christ and by authority of the priesthood.

Sometimes when oil is not available, or two brethren are not present, or when the sick one has recently been anointed, a substitute program is followed whereby one or more elders give a blessing, likewise in the name of the Lord and by authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood. He will pronounce such blessings as seem appropriate and as the Spirit moves.

Then there is the prayer that is unlike the administration; it makes request to the Lord to heal and may be offered by any soul who has a desire to do so and is not an ordinance in the same sense. The prayer is a request for the Lord to act, whereas the blessing or the administration is given by the brethren in the name of Christ.

It is felt that sometimes the holy ordinance is abused. One person I know left a standing order for the elders to administer to her every day for the several weeks she was in the hospital for a broken limb. It is felt by many that too frequent administrations may be an indication of lack of faith or of the ill one trying to pass the responsibility for faith development to the elders rather than self.

I learned a valuable lesson once long ago from a sweet lady, Sister Lucy Grant Cannon, who became violently ill while visiting her daughter in Arizona. We elders were promptly called, and we administered to her. The next day she was asked if she wished to be administered to again and her reply was, “No, I have been anointed and administered to. The ordinance has been performed. It is up to me now to claim my blessing through my faith.”

Sometimes when one still feels the need of further blessing after having recently had an administration, a blessing without the anointing oil is given.

The need of faith is often underestimated. The ill one and the family often seem to depend wholly on the power of the priesthood and the gift of healing that they hope the administering brethren may have, whereas the greater responsibility is with him who is blessed. There are persons who seem to have the gift to heal as indicated in Doctrine and Covenants, section 47, and it is understandable why a sick one might desire the person of his choice who seems to have great faith, proven power, and in whom the recipient has confidence, but after all, the major element is the faith of the individual when that person is conscious and accountable. “Thy faith hath made thee whole” was repeated so often by the Master that it almost became a chorus. Though he was the Redeemer and “all power is given me in heaven and in earth,” yet his oft-repeated statement was, “Thy faith hath made thee whole.” “As with your faith, so shall it be unto you.”

The centurion approached the Lord in Capernaum, appealing for restoration to his grievously tormented servant at home:

“I am not worthy that thou shouldst come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed” (Matt. 8:8).

He likened the spiritual power of Christ to his own military power. Christ, astonished, said:

“I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.

“… Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed the selfsame hour.” (Matt. 8:10, 13.)

There is the woman whose serious affliction had continued 12 years; she pleaded, “If I may but touch his garment I shall be whole.” She touched the hem of his garment and recovered from that hour: “Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole.” (Matt. 9:21–22.)

And again in the land of Gennesaret all who were afflicted touched the hem of his garment and all were healed, “made perfectly whole” (see Matt. 14:35–36).

Blind Bartimaeus also received his sight after his persistent, faithful efforts to reach the Lord. Again, as sight came to the man of Jericho, the Lord said, “Thy faith hath made thee whole” (see Mark 10:46–52). A seeing man became an ardent follower. “According to your faith be it unto you” (Matt. 9:29). The Lord said to the two other blind men whose eyes he touched and healed, “Believe ye that I am able to do this?” (Matt. 9:28). And two more blind could see.

The Canaanitish woman, willing to accept the crumbs of the blessings, was rewarded in the restoration of her afflicted daughter when the Redeemer promised, “O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto you even as thou wilt” (Matt. 15:28).

When the Lord saw the monumental faith of the palsied man and his friends who made a hole in the roof and lowered the sick man on his bed through the aperture to the feet of the Lord who was speaking to a full house, the Lord said, “Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee,” and the sick one walked forth, carrying his bed. How could such faith go unrewarded? (Matt. 9:2; see also Mark 2:1–5.)

Because individuals have preferences, it is sometimes found that certain officials are besieged constantly to give blessings. When one is ill and weak and terrified, it is natural to want elders in whom he has much confidence because of their righteous living and their proven faith and devotion. It should be remembered, however, that not only the General Authorities or the stake or ward or mission authorities have the priesthood with power to heal. Numerous brethren throughout the Church, including home teachers, have the authority to bless, and their administration or blessing, combined with great faith from the blessed one, can bring about spectacular healings as evidenced by the numerous wonderful healings brought about through the ministrations of young, inexperienced missionaries.

The question is often asked by wondering or skeptical people: Why are there not the spiritual manifestations today, including healings, as in the days of the Prophet and the days of the Savior?

The answer is clear: There are infinitely more healings today than in any age and just as wondrous. The religious history of the Savior’s ministry and the period following is written in a few short chapters, and as John said, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written” (John 21:25).

As the years of history were condensed, it would be expected that only the most spectacular of the healings would be chronicled, giving the impression that all miracles were spectacular ones and all who asked were healed. Little mention is made of the possible numerous times in Christ’s and the Apostles’ times when the blessings were not so outstanding, when a headache was stopped, when a recovery was greatly speeded up, or when agonies were relieved. Today the libraries would bulge their walls if all the miracles of our own time were recorded.

When I toured the European missions in 1955, I heard the testimonies of hundreds of missionaries. In many there were repeated stories of miracles, astounding in their performance. For instance, there were many who told of serious operations required by the medical profession for serious maladies. The times were set for surgery, and after administration and prayer and fasting, the same doctors came forth with new X-rays to say that something had happened and the surgery was not necessary. It happened so many times that it could hardly be a fanatic interpretation or a zealot imagining things. All of them could not have been imagined or misinterpreted or fancied. Such cancelled operations have been reported in many countries by missionaries from many hometowns in different times and at widely separated places and under different circumstances to many people at home and abroad.

Instantaneous healings are numerous and range into the areas of sight, hearing, lameness, internal organs, skin, bones, and all parts of the body. Incurable diseases have been healed. We are grateful beyond expression for the great skill and accumulated knowledge possessed by our physicians, but it must be that numerous healings credited to doctors and hospitals have been the healing of the Lord through the priesthood and by prayer. We are generally too ready to give the credit to the physician when at best his was but a contribution, small or large.

It must be remembered that no physician can heal. He can only provide a satisfactory environment and situation so that the body may use its own God-given power of re-creation to build itself. Bones can be straightened, germs can be killed, sutures can close wounds, and skillful fingers can open and close bodies; but no man yet has found a way to actually heal. Man is the offspring of God and has within him the re-creating power that is God-given. And through the priesthood and through prayer, the body’s healing processes can be speeded and encouraged. Again, how grateful we are for the skill and patience and understanding of our great men who are trained to give us such marvelous service.

There are many who run to the doctor first and then go later to the elders when all other hope is gone. Elders are often called to the hospital to administer after the medical profession has done all it can. Then when the ill one is on his way to recovery, his recovery is credited to the scientist; or in case of death, some wonder why the priesthood did not heal him. It must be remembered that whether the Lord sees fit to heal instantaneously or gradually, whether it be through surgery and treatment or without it, the healing is still the Lord’s miracle. While the profession has worked hard to gain the accumulated knowledge of today, it must be remembered that He who created our bodies has known since the beginning how to remodel, re-create, and repair them.

When elders bless and recoveries do not follow, frequently there is not only disappointment but sometimes a diminishing of faith, especially where many prayers and long fastings have been part of the program. Again, it must be remembered that all the sick and afflicted were not healed in other dispensations either. Even the first great Apostles asked, “Why could we not cast him out?” And the answer from the Lord seemed not too condemnatory: “This kind goeth not out but by fasting and prayer.” (Matt. 17:19, 21.)

Though Peter and his associates performed numerous miracles, many of which are recorded for us, even to the raising of the dead, it is known that they did not heal all who desired restoration. Also, even the Savior with all power on earth and in heaven did not heal them all. He could have done so, that is certain, but many did not have the faith to be healed. In his own world of Nazareth he found so little faith that few of his miracles were performed there. He was the boy from Nazareth. Without honor in his own home town, “he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief” (Matt. 13:58). Others he did not heal probably because they were not to be healed.

Death is a part of life. People must die. There can never be total victory over disease and death until the end of time. Much headway has been made, and mortality tables are encouraging; more infants survive, more mothers go through childbirth successfully, and people, generally, live to a riper age than in centuries past. We are grateful to all those hardworking scientists who have contributed to this great accomplishment. But die we must; otherwise there could be no resurrection, and without that there could be no immortality and further development. We seem to be rapidly changing our mode of dying from the sickbed to the street, or the borrow pit, or the canyon in traffic accidents. But die we must.

Naturally we all properly postpone our deaths as long as possible, but the day must come. To pray for or bless even the very aged or the seemingly incurable still seems proper—for we do not know the times appointed nor when one should return to the next world. So we pray and bless consistent with the mind and will of the Lord who does know the end from the beginning and who can heal if it is right. But there will not likely be a healing if the appointed time to die has come. There have been exceptions, however, when the time has been postponed. Notable among these is the case of King Hezekiah who plied for an extension period and who was granted 15 years—after which he moved on. Many times, in our own experience, it would seem that there have been time extensions granted through monumental faith. Thoughtful folks must realize, however, that there often comes a time when it is imprudent to demand an extension of the Lord and most unsound to ask in an unqualified manner for an extension. Sometimes such could be a boomerang that would prolong, unwarrantably, the time of suffering and deprivation and, in some cases, the burden upon the family. Consequently our prayers are properly offered and blessings pronounced if there is not an unqualified demand for restoration. Sometimes the body is healed through such unconscionable demands, and the mind is left impaired. Sometimes the body, under such circumstances, neither dies nor lives. It seems to me that until our wisdom and judgment catch up with the latent power we hold, we must be extremely careful in telling the Lord what he must do. Perhaps no one would ever die if we had our way; and perhaps, sometimes, some would die too soon for their good or ours if we could reach the height of the power that lies within the priesthood.

Occasionally people become oversentimental and sometimes fanatic and ascribe as a miracle everything that happens. But for every person who is overzealous or who is overpsychic or fanatical, there are numerous persons who fail to see the miracle in numerous healings. “They would have recovered anyway,” they say. I give one example:

The Lord said to his own, “O ye of little faith.” Aren’t we all? Once when far away from home, after three days of quite intense suffering, I finally admitted to my companion, Brother Harold B. Lee, that I was in distress. He gave me a sleeping pill he had, then knelt by my bed and blessed me. Though I had gone through three nights in pain and almost without sleep (it was then 3:00 A.M.), I was fast asleep moments after the blessing. I am now ashamed to confess that the next morning when I awakened, my first thought was of the potency of the pill. Then, as hours passed and I knew the effect of the pill must have passed, the distress did not return, and I fell on my knees in remorse to ask forgiveness of the Lord for having given credit to the medicine rather than to him. Months passed and still there was no return of pain or distress. I am ashamed, but I probably represent numerous people who have done likewise. O we of little faith! “Brother A. was not healed.” “Sister B. got well, but it was a long process.” “Brother C. would have gotten well anyway.”

As I went into surgery a few years ago, I was still conscious when the doctors and nurses were standing around me waiting. I said to the specialist, “There are numerous people full of faith who are praying for you this morning.” He quietly replied, “I’ll need their prayers.” It is my firm conviction that the numerous prayers were heard, that his hand was steadied and guided, that his judgment increased, and that as a result of the blessings of the Lord, healing followed and voice returned to a satisfactory extent. The skeptic might have other answers.

Sometimes I have cringed to hear elders tell of miracles in which they were the administrators. It has sounded like boasting, reminding me of the Lord’s caution to the triumphant seventies:

“Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).

I would fear to boast of miracles in which I was part for fear the Lord might be displeased even to the extent of curtailing his power entrusted to me.

The blessing belongs to the recipient, who may wish properly to bear testimony to it, but it would seem ill fitting and presumptuous to even approach boasting, for none of us can heal. Only by the priesthood are results manifested. If an elder charged the afflicted one never to mention those who laid on hands, it would further take away the temptation to take honors unto oneself. All honor should be given our Heavenly Father in every instance. Such a procedure seems to be in line with the Savior’s life, for in many healings he charged, “Tell no man.” To the leper asking mercy he said, “I will; be thou clean,” and immediately the leprosy was cleansed. Then Jesus said, “See thou tell no man.” (Matt. 8:3–4.)

I know that the healing power is in the Church and that numerous people are healed or improved or restored through the blessings of the Lord, sometimes with and sometimes without the skill of men.

We should do all we can for ourselves first: dieting, resting, taking simple herbs known to be effective, and applying common sense, especially to minor trouble. Then we could send for the elders, the home teachers, the neighbors or friends in whom we have confidence. Frequently this is all that is required, and numerous healings can be effected. In serious cases where the problem is not solved, we turn to our skilled and helpful men who can help so wonderfully. One young woman who was sent to the hospital for serious surgery, and who was jittery with fear, stated that when the doctor came to see her the night before the early morning surgery, he indicated he had been to the temple. She relaxed and felt at peace, realizing that she was in the hands of a righteous, skilled man of faith and the Lord was watching.

Let not the skeptic disturb your faith in these miraculous healings. They are numerous. They are sacred. Many volumes would not hold them. They are simple and complex. They are gradual, and they are instantaneous. They are a reality.

[illustration] Painting by Robert Barrett

[photo] Photo by Jed Clark