Banal Blessings

June 18, 2004 | 2 comments

You’ll never win at conversation until, like me, you master the art of making each of your topics a Rorschach-blot in which your fancy can find the next topic and smoothly transition to it before your opponent can even decide which of the thriteen absurd things you’ve said is in the most plain error. It is in precisely that manner that my previous post on understanding blessings led to this post on banal blessings as day leads to night.

Well, then. A great many blessings are banal. Sure, sometimes they change lives. A close female relative became a computer programmer because her patriarchal blessing told her to. It was the last thing on her mind, as you might imagine. It did her no end of good. Sure. But what about all the other blessings that promise a temple marriage some day, or happiness if you live the gospel, or that God loves you? They all say that, and so do the scriptures and the talks and the Primary lesson manual even, and the question is, why do we need a blessing, a personalized communication from God, to tell us the standard things that are shouted from every page of the scriptures and thundered ( well not thundered, exactly) from the pulpit. Maybe some people don’t read their scriptures or pay attention in Church, maybe a LOT of people, but that can’t be the whole explanation, can it? After all, even the scriptures repeat themselves. Good chunks of the Doctrine and Covenants consist of the same blessing given to different people.

Eugene England says he got over being bored in church when he stopped looking for new truths and started getting intensely interested in whether the speaker believed in the old ones. Each repetitive testimony was a brand new link between him and the speaker. Ah, you believe too? You are my brother then.

I recieved a blessing two weeks ago. At the end of the blessing I was told over and over that the Father and the Son loved me very much. I knew it already–I can read the canon as good as you, you know–but to hear it from their own lips (or the lips of their servants, it is the same) . . . . I walked out of there full of wonder. Me? Me?

2 Responses to Banal Blessings

  1. Kingsley on June 18, 2004 at 8:23 pm

    Wittgenstein disliked long, rambling letters full of the latest gossip & intricate detail about the life of the writer: he liked short, to-the-point letters that contained very basic but fundamental expressions of love, concern, interest, e.g.:

    “Wittgensein: How are you? We think of you often. We are doing well, and keep you in our prayers. Love, X.”

    He often told of his need for such sentiments, how they had a curiously fortifying & pleasant impact on his soul. Just the basics: light & air: bread & wine.

    It is nice to hear these things from God from time to time, too.

  2. Grasshopper on June 19, 2004 at 9:03 am

    Is there a difference between “banal” and “common” or “shared”? I’m reminded of the letter Joseph Smith wrote to his uncle Silas:

    “I may believe that Enoch walked with God, and by faith was translated. I may believe that Noah was a perfect man in his generation, and also walked with God. I may believe that Abraham communed with God, and conversed with angels. I may believe that Isaac obtained a renewal of the covenant made to Abraham by the direct voice of the Lord. I may believe that Jacob conversed with holy angels, and heard the word of his Maker, that he wrestled with the angel until he prevailed, and obtained a blessing. I may believe that Elijah was taken to heaven in a chariot of fire with fiery horses. I may believe that the saints saw the Lord, and conversed with him face to face after his resurrection. I may believe that the Hebrew church came to Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels. I may believe that they looked into eternity, and saw the Judge of all, and Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant. But will all this purchase an assurance for me, and waft me to the regions of eternal day, with my garments spotless, pure and white? Or, must I not rather obtain for myself, by my own faith and diligence in keeping the commandments of the Lord, an assurance of salvation for myself? And have I not an equal privilege with the ancient saints? And will not the Lord hear my prayers, and listen to my cries as soon as he ever did theirs, if I come to him in the manner they did?”

    I don’t care if my blessing is just like somebody else’s — in fact, I hope for the same blessings Abraham received — because my blessing is mine.


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