Must the bishop be in each baby’s blessing circle?
A reader writes that current church policy states that the bishop is supposed to ensure that the blessing is performed properly but does not specify whether he must actually participate.
Another reader quotes Joseph F. Smith:
â€œIn accordance with the rule of the Church, children born to members of the Church are taken to the monthly fast meetings in the several wards, and are there blessed and named by or under the direction of the bishopric. It is usual on such an occasion for the bishop to call upon the father of the child, if he is present, and if he be an elder in good standing, to take part with the bishopric in the ordinance. This is in every way proper for the blessing so pronounced is in the nature of a fatherâ€™s blessing. Record of the ordinance so performed in the ward meeting is made by the ward clerk.â€
The first sentence makes it sound like the bishop can participate or not at his option, and the next sentence makes it sound like the bishop must participate.
D&C 20:70 is about the only scriptural source we have, and it doesn’t clarify much:
â€œEvery 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 nameâ€
I don’t see any way of answering the question without answering the further question of what the meaning and purpose is of being in an ordinance circle but not actually performing the ordinance. And, since I’m not a bishop myself, this second question is actually of more interest to me. Why have more than one person participate in the ordinance? It can’t be to act as witnesses, because one could do that just as well outside the circle. It can’t be to add faith to the proceedings, because that can also be done just as well outside the circle.
Peter, James, and John all participated in conferring their authority on Joseph Smith, and though we’re not told why, it probably was because in a way they held the authority collectively as a Presidency. This doesn’t explain why we would want two elders to bless the sick, but it does explain why bishops perhaps should participate in baby blessings. Baby blessings are in part ecclesial–the child is presented to and enrolled in the church–and in part patriarchal. Fathers don’t have ecclesial authority. Bishops do.
P.S. This conversation originally broke out in the comments to a devotional post where it wasn’t appropriate. I apologize that it took me so long to put this post up and that I forgot the names of the readers who wrote in with the information I quote above. Take credit in the comments.
P.P.S. Perhaps my bishop reads T&S (queesy thought). We had the same crew for a baby blessing today as we did last time, but this time he shoved his way in.