Not Good Enough to Bless Him

I posted this on my blog a few weeks ago, but I wanted to get a widder perspective, since it was a unique experience for me.

My brother-in-law’s wedding was a couple of weeks ago. We flew out Thursday to find that everyone in my husband’s family was sick with the flu or phenomena or something. Literally, everyone was coughing and throwing up and the whole bit. So on Friday we spent the whole day setting up for the wedding reception, and were planning on going to the sealing, luncheon, ring ceremony and reception the next day. But my husband woke up at 11:30 on Friday night barely able to breathe. I spent the rest of the night awake on the couch to make sure he was okay.

The next morning it was pretty clear that we weren’t going to make it to the wedding. K was barely able to stand, and looked ready to die. So we told his mom that he didn’t feel up to it. She asked if he wanted a blessing, and he said yes. His older brother and grandfather gave him a blessing and I stood off to the side and watched.

This made me really angry. As his wife I can stay up all night with him, I can stay home with him and get him what he needs, I can worry about him, I can take him to the doctor, get him to take his pills, I can do everything but call on the power of God to help him. I’m not good enough to do that. I can take care of him physically, but I’m not allowed to invoke the name and power of God to heal him. As a wife, that made me really mad. He’s my husband; he’s the most important person in my life and I would do anything for him. But as a woman the church does not allow me to. They deny me the ability to bless my husband. I have to stand aside and watch while men do it.

I don’t deny that his brother and grandfather had a right to bless him. They are his family and love him. If he had wanted them to do it instead of me, he has that right. I don’t want to deny anyone the right to bless those they love. But I am denied that because of my gender. I’m good enough to do everything else expect use the power of God to bless. It felt so wrong to me to be excluded from that, not by the choice of the person being blessed but by the rules of an institution that chooses to deny half the population the ability to access the power of God to bless the lives of others.

Many insist that women are not second class citizens in the church. This is an instance where I felt very much second-class. The only reason I could not bless my husband was because of my gender. My relationship with him, my worthiness, my connection with God were all overshadowed by the fact that I have different sexual organs then my brother-in-law. I am excluded based on my gender, which is the definition of a second-class citizen.

How do you feel in situations like this? Any similar experiences or different perspectives on what happened?

I'm a graduate from BYU in theatre education and history teaching, currently living in Utah and working at a library company. I've been married since 2009. I love to read essentially anything. I'm an earring fanatic, Anglophile and Shakespeare lover.


  1. Unfortunately, this happens in other countries as well. In fact, UAE countries women are still considered property of their husbands. And husbands are allowed to treat them badly.

  2. Honestly, not having the priesthood has never bothered me (for me, it’s always been the way we conflate priesthood and decision-making power) — but then again, I’ve never been in a situation like this.

    I had a seminary teacher tell me once that a righteous woman’s prayer and a man’s priesthood blessing had the same authority, so if a woman was ever home with a sick child or husband with no one around to perform the blessing, a prayer would work just as well. On one hand, I believe that in God’s eyes, the prayer *would* be just as good …. but honestly, I think he must have been making that up, because if that’s the case, what is the point of the priesthood at all? Why can’t we just pray for all blessings?

      • Err, I’ve had people as if they can pray for me many times.

        Read Hebrews about prayers of faith (and other things).

        As to what is the point of the priesthood at all? one of the points is to give us rituals to strengthen our faith.

  3. But isn’t staying up with him all night, making sure he takes his medicine, caring for him in ways no one else could just as valuable and as special as giving a blessing? Your taking care of your husband in every other possible way is an act of faith that completes the priesthood blessing and makes it powerful. It is true charity in action, it is true faith in action.

    I feel like when we as women see the priesthood through a glass ceiling we’re missing the big picture. What is Priesthood and why do we have it? My understanding is that the priesthood has no beginning and no end and is centered around the Savior. It is meant to give structure through a proper line of authority from God Himself. It is not meant to be a power that controls others but a method of service to others. Charity, the pure love of Christ (how you treated and cared for your husband) is also centered around the Savior and around selfless service.

    Didn’t Paul say something about no matter how much priesthood or power we have, we have nothing without charity? The Savior asks all to come unto him, repent of their sins, and become perfected in him. To me, having the priesthood doesn’t change that commandment. It doesn’t make anyone better than anyone else. It’s a mantle of responsibility meant to bless others and help maintain personal faithfulness. But it by no means is meant to tell us as women that we’re not good enough.

    No, I can’t give my husband a blessing using the priesthood. But does that mean that I am cut off from calling upon the powers of heaven to heal him? Absolutely not. The power of faith is available to anyone. The priesthood is useless and empty without faith. The power of personal revelation is available to anyone. We all have the right to connect to God through his Spirit. I’m a daughter of God, darn it! I was created in His image, my very DNA holds the seeds of eternal goddess-hood. My Father is the creator of the universe and he does not esteem my brothers above me. And I won’t either. I will love them and support them because that is what my Savior would do, not because I am beneath them, because I most certainly am not beneath anyone.

    I feel like one day, when mortality is over with and we’re all looking back at our earth experience, we will realize how little we ever understood about anything. You and I have an eternity ahead of us that we know very little about. What we do know, however, is that our potential is limitless. Not having the priesthood need not be a snag to be caught up on. Your faith and your acts of charity, in my opinion, can and will call upon the powers of heaven just as any priesthood could. We are definitely good enough for that.

    • That is a beautiful description of the Priesthood. I respect that, and I’m glad that you don’t feel any less for not being granted the priesthood. Please try to understand, and forgive me though, it is really tiring being told “You have all the power and authority that a priesthood holder has. You just can’t call it priesthood…or hold any callings that require priesthood authority…and if you are called to a church calling, any big decisions you make will need to be approved by a priesthood holder. ” It just feels so false to me. And all the flowery language that the church uses towards women about how we have vast scope and power feels like a pacifier when compared with it’s policies. I now believe I do have great worth, and vast scope and power. I never felt that way growing up under LDS church policies, or seeing the example of my father, or hearing stories about my polygamous ancestors though.

      • I feel very similar, Annie B. The positive rhetoric is abundant. But I don’t see the rhetoric in action very often. It especially hurts me that non-doctrinal issues of inequality at not addressed.

      • Laura, I’m also glad you’ve found a way to make priesthood make sense to you. But no matter how you explain it, I did not feel as though I had power, I did not feel as though I was equal. Intellectually I can understand where you are coming from, but that is not how it felt to me. I agree with Annie B. and Taylor; explanations like that don’t work for me, because that’s simply not how I feel in priesthood situations. All the explanations don’t make me feel equal or powerful. I just feel as though people are trying to make me feel better; it doesn’t work.

  4. you can say a prayer for him, invoking any and all blessings you felt inspired to say, even touching him while you pray. I agree with you, that you felt upset. But think outside of the box. Both you and husband will feel a measure of peace and right-ness when you “bless” each other through prayer.

      • I’m also wondering the same thing. As I mentioned on Defygravity’s original blog post, if you say a woman’s blessing is just as good as a man’s this does two things. First, a blessing would be redundant if a women’s prayer is just as powerful and/or meaningful. Secondly, this notion seems to diminish priesthood power for the same reason.

        However, in the church, I rarely see a women’s prayer as having the same status as a priesthood blessing–sure, I hear people say a woman’s prayer is just as good–but I don’t really see a majority people who actually treat a woman’s prayer in this way. Usually, a priesthood holder is called in. In my experience.

  5. Yep! Nothing prevents a man from performing the same duties that you perform (staying up with him, etc.), but your body parts prevent you from doing what men can do in the Mormon church.

    No way around it, and frankly, I’m tired of doing the mental gymnastics (e.g., “But, women can bear children!”) required to justify the unethical, unequal treatment of women in the church.

  6. In the early days of the church, women traveled through pioneer camps and to other sisters homes with oil and laid their hands on other’s heads to provide healing blessings. It was considered a special gift of the women. Indeed, women participated in blessings with their husbands until in the 50s, maybe 60s, the Church put out a new handbook stating that women should no longer participate in priesthood blessings. Why the change–who knows? (See the Church’s recent statement on Blacks and the Priesthood.)

    I think it is a disservice to think that your nursing, loving, and praying over your husband has any less power than the priesthood blessing received from his family. I have always that that somewhere in striving for “equality” we actually negate the strength of women’s position and of the innate spiritual power of daughters of a heavenly mother and father. Would a loving and just God (eternally sealed man and woman) leave their daughters helpless and alone while bestowing their power only on sons? Ridiculous. I don’t know why the priesthood is set up the way it is–I don’t know if it is because in mortality men need the increased responsibility and duty to serve, or what. I doubt that is the case. My inclination is to believe it is a remnant of thousands of years of sexism and the very patriarchal nature of western history generally. But I hope you can rest assured that your prayers and, yes, even blessing of your husband carry every bit as much weight and power as a formal priesthood blessing. The answers to rest just aren’t revealed yet.

    • This still doesn’t address the issue that the husband’s brother and grandfather could have stayed up with him all night too, gotten him medicine, and otherwise nursed him yet DefyGravity couldn’t give him a blessing. The abilities aren’t reciprocal.

    • I agree that it is a remnant of sexism that is not divinely inspired. But there are many in the church, including the leadership, who think it is a divine mandate that women don’t hold the priesthood. And clearly my taking care of him was not good enough in the eyes of my member in-laws, or else they would not have thought a blessing necessary. So I don’t dismiss what I do for my husband; members of the church do when they offer blessings after prayers, etc. have already taken place. There is hierarchy of access to God set up, with priesthood blessing set up as more powerful then prayer or anything else, and women are excluded from the more powerful part of calling on God. It is the institution of priesthood blessings that I have a problem with. I don’t believe God thinks blessing are more powerful or valid, but I believe church members do, and are excluding women from that. Hope that makes sense.

  7. I think the difference between priesthood blessings and prayers can be really stark for certain people: people for whom ritual is a very important spiritual language, people for whom touch is an important love language, etc. If prayers are “just as good” why bother with the oil and a blessing? Frankly, I think it’s because some people just feel the Spirit more when there’s a ritual and it’s not fair to deny that to some people because of their sex.

    • I agree. I have gone to the Priesthood preview in our ward, since I had to bring the cookies, for the last 3 years. And every year I learn something new. For example, I can do all the principals of the priesthood, but no one tells me I can, but really they are very universal.

      How poorly we educate our women and girls about their spiritual development and relationship with God outside of service and forgetting themselves.

      This year the talk was on authority and power. I was just struck at who decides who has authority and who has power. That an institution can think it has authority, does that make it real? Do I have authority because I am a child of God? Do I decide because I want to have God’s power and that gives me authority to use that power that I have been given?

      I believe that God does not want the priesthood restricted like humans restrict it. And not ever based on race or gender. But I have no idea how to do that with in the “authority” of the church. Sometimes I really do not know if the Chruch has the authority to decide what does and does not happen in my home, maybe the family needs to tell the church what it should be doing to support the family. Isn’t the family the central building block of the whole gospel anyway?

  8. I rarely ask for a priesthood blessing anymore. I’m married to a nomo after a lengthy marriage to a “righteous” pr. hood man. When married to X, I had many children and he would seldom give them blessings when they were sick: would tell me they weren’t sick enough! I had better results in determing what to do for them by my fervent prayers. At present I refuse to ask for a blessing from a man who doesn’t really know me. If I ask the older brethren who have known me for decades, they will respond but then I have to listen to their litany of health issues. While their words are comforting, because it’s what I’ve heard fro years, I have little patience for their “get the job done” attitide. If I ask the younger ones, they don’t know me at all but are willing to give the blessing then start bs-ing with my nomo husband. I’ve decided that my heart-felt prayers are heard by HM & HF. One of my daughters explains it by saying men need togive pr.hood bl. to be charitable and women need to ask for pr.hood blessings to be humble…not that I agree. She is a single mom and rarely asks for a pr.hood blessing either. Says she feels more self-sufficient with prayer. Yet – I just had an emergency appendectomy last week and as soon as I had the dianosis and right before surgery I did call an old friend in the ward who sent two older brothers to the hospital. The words I’ve heard dozens of times comforted me. I did however cut one brother off when he began to tell me about his ruptured appendix when he was younger! Bottom line is to listen to the Spirit and know that our prayers are ALWAYS heard.

  9. This is a thoughtful post, and I just read something you might find interesting, from the mouth of Joseph Smith himself (from the book ‘Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith,’ pages 224-225):

    “No matter who believeth, these signs, such as healing the sick, casting out devils, etc., should follow all that believe, whether male or female. …And if the sisters should have faith to heal the sick, let all hold their tongues, and let everything roll on.”


    “Respecting females administering for the healing of the sick, there could be no evil in it, if God gave His sanction by healing; that there could be no more sin in any female laying hands on and praying for the sick, than in wetting the face with water; it is no sin for anybody to administer that has faith, or if the sick have faith to be healed by their administration.”

    Interesting, isn’t it? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • I”m so sad we’ve lost that. I’m pretty sure if I tried that now, I’d get in trouble with the church. I feel we’ve lost something as women have lost access to these spiritual gifts in the eyes of the church, and women who feel as though they are called to these spiritual gifts they are often condemned or attacked by the church.

      • I have a really hard time not making Brigham Young a scapegoat for that loss. It seems like women had more freedom to seek after and practice spiritual gifts while Joseph Smith was still around. The more I read trying to find things to redeem “Brother Brigham” the deeper the hole gets. It makes me sad.

        I too feel a strong desire to participate in ritual blessings. I feel really “on the fence” about it because of the fear that somehow it will make church leaders angry with me.

        • sigh *
      • The move away from women anointing and blessing the sick didn’t happen under Brigham Young (though plenty of other lamentable things re: women’s place and role in the church did). It happened in the early 20th century. Specifically, in 1946 a letter to the RS Presidency from Joseph Fielding Smith (who was then an apostle) revoked institutional sanction for the practice of women washing, anointing, and blessing the sick. This is usually seen by historians of Mormonism as part of the mid-20th century move to centralize power. Another manifestation of that move re: the Relief Society and women was the fact that RS lost its autonomous nature in the mid-20th century. Instead of being an independent organization with its own budget and the ability to make decisions about how their money would be spent and what their curriculum was, etc., it was all brought under the central umbrella of correlation. Wards had to send all their RS budget money to Salt Lake for it to be redistributed.

        So women continued being able to wash, anoint, and bless the sick well into the 20th century. It’s only during the latter half of the church’s history that they have not had that authority. That’s not to say that women in the early church were necessarily ordained to the priesthood, nor is it to say there were no gender problems in the 19th and early 20th century church. There were plenty. But in some ways, the women had more autonomy, at least over themselves, than we do now.

      • Amelia – I know that BY wasn’t the one who actually had women stop practicing blessings and anointing. I guess what I meant was just that he’s sort of (with some of his awful attitudes about women) the beginning of the end for me.

      • I’m certainly with you on that one, Emmaline. He had no compunction about disbanding the RS to keep the women in their place. Kind of sheds some light on either the “divinely inspired” status of the RS or on the extent to which Brigham’s ego interfered with his prophetic calling. If he could suspend RS it was because 1. it wasn’t a divinely sanctioned organization; or 2. he was enough of an egoist to ignore the fact that it was divinely inspired.

  10. I can definitely relate to feeling sometimes like a second-class citizen in the church. My husband was sealed the other day to his mom, step-dad, and siblings. There were only three spectators there–me and one set of grandparents. My husband’s grandpa got to be a witness, but they had to call in a random male temple worker to be the second witness, because apparently neither I nor my husband’s grandmother are good enough (or trustworthy enough?) to sign a paper that says we witnessed a sealing. I was pretty bothered.

    Also, on the way out, the sealer shook each of our hands. To my husband, he said, “Thank you for being worthy to be here today.” When he shook my hand, I thought he was going to thank me for being worthy too, but what he said was, “Thank you for keeping him worthy.” I looked him in the eyes and replied, “I let him take responsibility for his own worthiness.”

    Maybe I shouldn’t have let those things bother me so much, but sometimes it seems like the rest of the country (and much of the world) has moved beyond treating women as inferior beings, and the church refuses to even try to catch up.

    • Isn’t it interesting how things like this that seem so innocuous on the surface (he’s thanking you and your husband for good works) reveal the double standard in the church (You don’t have to worry about worthiness because a) you’re just inherently good and have it easy, b) you’re like a child and can’t sin, c) it doesn’t matter because your husband will just bring you along; your husband, on the other hand, needs someone to keep him in line because a) he’s inherently more inclined to sin and it’s so hard for him, b) he’s an adult with temptations and will sin because of it, c) it matters because a woman can’t go to the temple absent a priesthood figure)?

  11. I apologize if I’m going over ground here that’s been well trodden elsewhere-I’ve just discovered this site. I’d also like to say upfront that I have not been active LDS since my late teens, largely due to issues like these, so that may skew my views here somewhat.

    Over the past few years, though, I’ve found myself wondering something. If we believe that men and women have differing but complimentary roles (that overlap more often than not) then shouldn’t there be differing but complimentary priesthoods with overlap in areas like healing the sick? A full priestesshood that needs restoration in the same way that the full priesthood did? It seems like the ban on women holding the priesthood would make sense under these circumstances. It also seems like the type of revelation that would be unlikely to come from current priesthood holders, partly because their need for answers here is likely to be less. Even more importantly, though, it seems like it would be a question of stewardship. If the restored priesthood was revealed to a man, priestesshood would need to be revealed to a woman. Under these circumstances waiting for the GAs to reveal anything new regarding women and the priesthood seems counterproductive. Totally speculative I know, but a recurring thought that I’ve been having for quite a while now.

    • I have the same thought. Sometimes I think that it will not happen in the current state of the church. It makes me sad, but times change and I think when enough women start having these conversations change will happen. I hope anyway.

    • I’ve also had similar thoughts. But with everything in the church handled by men, it is likely that such a revelation would be dismissed by them because they didn’t gt it. It makes me sad that this is the current situation, with men in total control and free to ignore female voices.

  12. We should always remember the equality towards either men or women. Because without women, men would be nothing. Our planet would not progress like these. Women deserves respect and love.

  13. I enjoyed this post very much. Like others here, I would not have bothered to ask for a blessing for him, I would have just prayed as I see my blessings through prayer to be the same; (as TopHat pointed out, the “laying on of hands” seems a bit more ritualistic than anything in many cases).

    I am a little creeped out by the idea that a grandfather et all have a “right” to offer a blessing. Why do you think this? Because it is a blood line? I don’t think anyone has a right to offer a blessing on anyone else, unless they were asked– so on that train of thought, if your husband asked YOU for a blessing, I would find that you more than had a right, but that you would have a spiritual, partnered obligation to do so. That’s just my wacky head. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • I agree people should be able to pick those who bless them. I’m not sure it would have occurred to my husband to ask me; he’s still young in the ways of my rabid feminism. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m not sure if he asked his brother and grandfather specifically, or they just were the only men there who weren’t the groom or also really sick… I wonder what would have happened if he had asked me to do it?

  14. Ladies, Sisters,

    You can say a prayer for those who are sick.
    The annointing and blessing of the sick is a priesthood ordinance. We have all the blessings of the priesthood without the responsibilities.
    I think you might want to read the Proclamation on the Family.
    You are not a second class member, just one with different responsibilities.
    I fear that some of your comments are first steps to leaving the church and the truths you embraced when you were baptized.

    • “I fear that some of your comments are first steps to leaving the church”

      I wouldn’t attempt to speak for everyone here, but at least in my case it’s having someone with whom I can talk about these issues that’s keeping me IN the church.

      Your attitude of “If you are hurt by or disagree with inequality in the church, your testimony must not be strong enough” is one I run into much more frequently, and it does nothing to help me feel welcome at church.

      • I am in a similar boat as you, Emmaline. The only reason I’ve been been able to keep an open mind about the church is because of the understanding, sympathetic women and men I’ve come across online.

    • We are speaking out against things we find harmful and/or contrary to Christ’s teachings. We are communicating our hurt and frustration at policies that we believe are not of God but are of the philosophies of men. This is me upholding the truths I embraced at baptism.

    • Sharon, your variety of judgmental condescension is simply not welcome. We are happy to have you participate in the conversation, but that’s not what you’re doing here. You’re just telling everyone else who is participating in a way you disagree with that they are 1. wrong; and 2. bordering on apostasy.

      Our comment policy calls for those who participate to respect each others beliefs, feelings, and ideas without calling into question their righteousness or spiritual health. We’d appreciate it if you would abide by that policy.

      Feel free to share your own experience, comment productively, and contribute to the community here. But please do refrain casting judgment or calling others’ worthiness into question.

    • It is comments like that that make it hard to stay. I have read the Family Proc and did not find it helpful. I’ve pondered why women do not hold the Priesthood for a long time, and have not found an answer that makes me feel better. I feel unequal, and you seem to dismiss that feeling, assuming I have not examined things like the Family Proc. If I feel unequal, and continue to feel that wat despite all the explanations, and if people dismiss that feeling by assuming I just haven’t read the doctrine or thought about it enough, why should I stay. There are worse things than people leaving the church.

  15. The Church may not allow a woman to pray over her husband, but God has absolutely no problem with it. God does not care about gender. He hears EVERYONE’S prayers. A prayer is not more powerful coming from a man!! Read your Bible. God does not discriminate or favor someone over another person.

    • I agree. My issue is with this ritual in this institution. It is the church’s rule, which does not automatically mean God’s rule. I feel unequal in the church and their constuct of God, which may or may not actually be God.

    • I’m interested in what led you to draw your conclusion from this talk. I was skimming so I might have missed something, but this seemed to fall into the trap of seeing patriarchal relationships as equal, which I don’t inderstand. If one person presides, how is it an equal partnership? But it’s an interesting talk that tries to parse out some of the finer points of Priesthood authority. Thanks for sharing!

  16. This is interesting… from a man’s perspective (mine), I can say why I think men are called in to exercise the priesthood with a blessing…. because a man would not sit up all night with someone who is sick like you did. IMO, that’s why we have the priesthood – to be more like women.

    I had always been taught-and I believe-that in the absence of priesthood holders, a wife/mother was perfectly capable of giving a priesthood blessing, exercising the authority shared with her husband, whether he’s alive or dead.

    And like someone posted in response (I thought I saw it) – God will not honor a priesthood blessing and ignore a woman’s prayer. That’s absurd. If anything, God would honor the blessing because of the prayers of the wife/mother.

    There are a LOT of men with superiority complexes, sisters. Put them in their place. I’m embarrassed for most of us men. There should be no doubt why men have the priesthood responsibility – we need humility, charity and love hammered into us because we’re mostly dumb and egotistical.

    • because a man would not sit up all night with someone who is sick like you did. IMO, thatโ€™s why we have the priesthood โ€“ to be more like women.

      Wow – I knew when I stayed up with my wife when she was sick and when she was in labor were times I should have let the women do their work.

      I’m sorry, but the “men need priesthood to be as good as women” explanation never worked for me.

    • I’m sorry, but some of us are related to men and will not stand for them to be put down so much. “Mostly dumb and egotistical?” I do not want my son feeling so badly about himself. What a sad view on men.

    • My husband and father have stayed up with sick spouses. Growing up, it was my dad who was on call at night for kids who were sick or could’t sleep. My grandfather nursed his wife through diabetes. I just don’t think that statement holds true, and definently doesn’t in my experience. Most men I know take care of the people they care about, so I’m not sure where you are getting that men are all selfish jerks.

    • “I believe-that in the absence of priesthood holders, a wife/mother was perfectly capable of giving a priesthood blessing, exercising the authority shared with her husband, whether heโ€™s alive or dead.”

      According to that concept, this leaves unmarried women and girls, or women married to a non-priesthood holder, or an un-worthy priesthood holder, helpless and disconnected from God through lack of a priesthood holding sponsor. No, I believe God helps any who ask, and are worthy, regardless of gender or marital status. And giving men a monopoly on priesthood POWER hardly seems like a good way to teach humility. A good way to test it, definitely, even though it is, I believe, a self inflicted test. I wonder if men will pass.

  17. I have invoked the power of God to heal my husband. I did not do it through any priesthood authority, but through my right as a child of God, to access His power to heal. I believe women have this power and do not need priesthood authorization to use it.

    • That is beautiful, thank you for sharing your experience. I’m realizing too that women have as much right to Godly power, authority, and sanction as men, whether it’s recognized by the LDS church organization or not. It is a wonderfully freeing feeling and I feel closer to God than I ever have.

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