I’ve given and received priesthood blessings for almost 30 years, much more so recently, and can say without any stretch of the imagination that they truly work. Most of the time they’ve had subtle, benign results, and sometimes they’ve been more dramatic. For example, all through elementary school my daughter hadn’t missed a single day of attendance. While genetics, diet, prevention and hygiene might have had played large parts in this, grade school is still a massive, malevolent Petri dish, so I’d like to believe blessings– and the faith of my little girl– were the parts that sealed the deal.
Some of the best blessings come after abrupt needs. Thomas S. Monson gave a great illustration of this when speaking of his tour in the military:
The night preceding our Christmas leave, our thoughts were, as always, on home. The barracks were quiet. Suddenly I became aware that my buddy in the adjoining bunk—a member of the Church, Leland Merrill—was moaning in pain. I asked, “What’s the matter, Merrill?”
He replied, “I’m sick. I’m really sick.”
I advised him to go to the base dispensary, but he answered knowingly that such a course would prevent him from being home for Christmas. I then suggested he be quiet so that we didn’t awaken the entire barracks.
The hours lengthened; his groans grew louder. Then, in desperation, he whispered, “Monson, aren’t you an elder?” I acknowledged this to be so, whereupon he pleaded, “Give me a blessing.”
I became very much aware that I had never given a blessing. I had never received such a blessing; I had never witnessed a blessing being given. My prayer to God was a plea for help. The answer came: “Look in the bottom of the seabag.” Thus, at 2:00 a.m. I emptied on the deck the contents of the bag. I then took to the night-light that hard, rectangular object, The Missionary’s Hand Book, and read how one blesses the sick. With about 120 curious sailors looking on, I proceeded with the blessing. Before I could stow my gear, Leland Merrill was sleeping like a child.
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 and to exercise the power of the priesthood.
Thomas S. Monson, “The Priesthood—a Sacred Gift,” Ensign, May 2007
But, what of those times when the priesthood blessing produces a result contrary to what was anticipated? Not that it wasn’t answered, but that the answer defied expectation with a vengeance?
It had been a little over a year after my conversion when I found myself a greenie missionary in my first area. My senior companion, who had been out a year, had just lost his favorite companion to me, so he wasn’t the merriest of company. He’d ride hard on the bike from one part of town to the other and berated me if I didn’t keep up. He’d play practical jokes on me all the time, the kind a teenager plays on his pipsqueak kid brother. I used to think how grateful his family must be seeing him go on that mission.
As part of my acclimation to the area, my companion took me around to member homes to introduce me. One evening we went to the home of an elderly couple and found them distraught. They just learned the wife had inoperable cancer and had 6 months to live. With his arm around his sweetheart and tears in his eyes, the husband asked if we would give her a blessing. My companion, “Elder Chuckles,” said “Absolutely! Elder T– would love to give her a blessing.” Now, he knew I, like Elder Monson, had never given a blessing before, and he was enjoying himself immensely for the fix he just put me in. He took me aside and told me how to open and close the blessing, and said I should just say what I’m feeling for the body of it. After my companion anointed the sister, I laid my hands on her head and proceeded. I told the sister that Heavenly Father was pleased with her faith and loved her very much. I don’t remember everything I said, but I do recall blessing her that she would be spared pain and heartache, and that her spirit might lift knowing that Heavenly Father had a plan for her and His love would help her bear the burden. After I closed, the Spirit in the room was strong, surprising me a great deal. The husband and wife hugged each other and wept and we quietly excused ourselves. The following morning we got the call– the sister had died that night. One moment standing, the next, bam, down on the floor dead. My companion and I looked at each other in wonder. It was only then that we had our first personal glimpse at what a powerful force the priesthood was, and what a responsibility we had to hold it.
I was never asked to give another blessing in that area.
Since that wonderful first experience, I never had another blessing reap such a climactic result and I look forward to learning why Father chose it for my first time. I have a feeling it was to further cauterize my recent conversion.
If anyone else has a story involving a blessing with profound or a different kind of result, I’d love to hear it.