By Cordell and Janice Vail

26 Oct 2003

Copyright 2003 by Cordell Vail, all rights reserved

A weekly email gospel message for the descendents of Ammon and Winona Vail

Can a woman "Bless" the sick?

Again I share with you a letter I got from my web page on the Internet and the answer that I wrote back. I wanted to share it with all of you because I think it is so pertinent to our time.


Brother Vail,

I happened upon your website while I was preparing to teach a Relief Society lesson. I was very interested to read your references to women laying on hands to bless. I have been a member of the church all of my life, graduated from BYU, and have never heard this taught. I am curious to know why you think the church no longer teaches this? I went to the and found the following in the "Family Guidebook":

Administering to the Sick

Only Melchizedek Priesthood holders may administer to the sick. Two or more of them normally perform this ordinance. However, a Melchizedek Priesthood holder may perform it himself. If he does not have any consecrated oil, he may give a blessing by the authority of the priesthood.

A father who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood should administer to sick members of his family. He may ask another Melchizedek Priesthood bearer to assist him.

The ordinance of administering to the sick has two parts: (1) anointing with oil and (2) sealing the anointing.

Anointing with Oil

The anointing is done by one Melchizedek Priesthood holder.
He: Puts a small amount of oil on the person's head.
Places his hands on the person's head and calls the person by name.
States that the ordinance is performed by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood.
States that he is anointing with consecrated oil.
Closes in the name of Jesus Christ.
Sealing the Anointing

One or more Melchizedek Priesthood holders lay their hands on the head of the sick person.
One of them acts as voice and:
Calls the sick person by name.
States that the ordinance is performed by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood.
Seals the anointing.
Pronounces a priesthood blessing as the Spirit directs.
Closes in the name of Jesus Christ.

Was Joseph Fielding Smith wrong? If he believed it was appropriate for women to do this, why does an official church publication now say that only Melchizedek Priesthood holders may do it?This really bothers me. How do you resolve this disparity for yourself? I would appreciate hearing your thoughts.


My answer to her:

I think that one of the difficult things for me in our day and age (rather than in the time of Adam or Noah or Christ) is how the church has had to "hold back" things or not teach things openly that we know to be true to keep the world from persecuting us so our missionaries can do the work needed to bring the second coming. Joseph Smith and Brigham Young in particular started to teach a few of those things and they were written down in the history of the church but we do not openly teach them even now. I assume President Hinckley knows many things that he does not or can not share with us at this time. (My opinion)

An example of that would be the fact that we know full well that polygamy was (and still is) a commandment from God but because of persecution the Lord finally told Wilford Woodruff that if it was not rescinded it would destroy the church. Isn't that interesting in our time when over 50% of all couples now living together are not married and more than that percentage are not faithful sexually to their partners. Yet they object even to the point of destroying our church if a man were to have more than one wife and be faithful to them both and take care of the children in every way. Men who they themselves have illegitimate children would be the persecutors.

Another example is the fact that the church finally had to take away long garments because they were being abused by the fundamentalist. The fundamentalists (members of the Labaron's, Allred's and other fundamentalist movements) would buy them and wear them. Elder Mark E. Peterson told us in a talk he gave that the church knew that because of the fundamentalists strict beliefs in the original teachings and not changing them, the fundamentalists would not wear short garments. He told us the church decided to quit making and wearing long garments (and it was his responsibility to be over that at the time he gave the talk and gave the instructions with the First Presidency's approval to do it). So the church just quit making the long ones. Then the Allred fundamentalists built a factory out in Woods Cross North of Salt Lake and starting just making their own. That ended the issue of people buying and wearing long garments when they were not members of th! e chur ch. Does that mean we do not believe in long garments? Or does it mean we had to change the "POLICY" of the church, not the doctrine but the "POLICY" of the church to allow the church to go forward.

If you are old enough to remember, there was a time when Sonja Johnson and her followers started there charades about women holding the priesthood. At that time they started standing up in conference yelling when the brethren would read the name of the Prophet to be sustained. At that time, many things in the church were changed including the wording in the temple ceremony related to the covenants women make with their husbands. Those things that were in the ceremony that so many women started to complain about are still in the washing and anointing ceremony. I guess the church knew those kind of complaining people are not faithful enough to go do washing and anointing so they have never noticed that wording there and so the church did not have to change the wording of the washing and anointing ceremony.

If I was sick and I had my choice to have a blessing from anyone on this earth including President Hinckley, I WOULD CHOOSE MY WIFE. She can not bless me by saying "in the name of Jesus Christ ".... or "by the power of the priesthood". She can not even say "I BLESS YOU". But she can, and has on many occasions by her faith prayed and ask the Lord to bless me and I was healed by her faith. Women never were allowed to "BLESS" someone by the power of the priesthood or in the name of Jesus Christ. They just prayed by their faith and healed people, and it was called "giving a blessing". Eliza R. Snow (Joseph Smith's wife) and Zina D. Young (Brigham Young's wife) in particular used to go around doing what was called "BLESSING" people. But they were not giving priesthood blessings. They were just praying for people and by their faith healing them. It says in their journals that some times they even put .... (NOTE THE WORD HERE: PUT) consecrated oil on the person but they did not anoint them with the consecrated oil because they had no priesthood authority to do that. And they did not consecrate the oil themselves. A priesthood holder had already done that earlier. They just put it on them to help build the persons faith. I see no restrictions against women praying for someone to heal them, even today in th! e chur ch doctrines. Women never were able to cast out evil spirits by commanding them in the name of Jesus Christ. But by their faith they can pray and ask God to make them leave. They did it then and they can do it today by that means. Even a child can do it (again experience talking here).

But because of Sonja Johnson and other women's lib people in the church (my opinion here as to why the church did it... it may have just been a coincidence it happened right when she was on the rampage)......, the church has had to be very careful about saying anything that would imply a woman was doing anything that represented using the priesthood. Because some of these women who followed Sonja Johnson or others like her, started to give blessings by the power of the "PATRIARCHAL" priesthood they held from their temple marriage and in the name of Jesus Christ, the church had to take a step away from that. There were a whole group of people in Manti Utah that started doing that and were excommunicated. I know several women today in the church who feel they can give blessings or say I "BLESS YOU" or do things in the name of Jesus Christ because they are members of the church. They simply are wrong.

In my paper you will see documentation of instances where the First Presidency, General Relief Society Presidency and other early brethren sent out letters saying women could "bless" the sick but they were not giving them the right to say "IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST".... They were only saying a woman could participate by their faith in asking for blessing upon the heads of the sick. They were only saying they could pray for the sick and heal them by her faith. In the instances where Joseph Fielding Smith said a woman could lay hands on the sick with her husband he specifically says USING HER FAITH. He never meant to imply she was sharing her husbands priesthood with him. He never said they could do it by commanding or Blessing in the name of Jesus Christ or by the power of the priesthood. Those words are reserved only for the priesthood.

You ask if Joseph Fielding Smith was wrong and why the church does not publish this now. I can only assume that because of women's liberation movements in our country the church has had to be more careful in what they say or openly teach. That is why the church (Elder Oaks and Elder Holland in particular who wrote the new manuals) have asked us to be so careful to not bring ANY outside material into our lessons. If it is not in the lesson manual we should not be using it in our lesson. I think (my opinion again) that is to try to help members of the church to learn not to teach things that are not appropriate to be taught right now. Not that it is not true, but just not appropriate to be taught. Many people have lost their testimony by studying things form the past church history and felt they could not accept that teaching. There is nothing that I know if in church history that I can not read or study. The church is not hiding it. They are just asking us to try to focus on ! the ba sic church doctrines and stop spending so much time on the mysteries that are not important. If we can do that, the Christian world will be more accepting of us and let the missionary work go forward (again this is ONLY my opinion as to why).

One last example, and I think it is a perfect example of that, is the fact that two different times in general conference Orson Hyde taught that Christ was married and proved it from the scriptures. The first time in April conference he gave the talk then in October conference he stood up and said some people did not understand what I taught and he taught it again. But we do not teach that at all any where in the church now. If we did it would be just like polygamy, the Christian world would use it to destroy the church. So even if we know it to be a fact, we find it inappropriate at this time to teach it. It would bring missionary work to a dead stop.

So for now we have to just be more careful what we say and what we teach and not be so open about what we know to be "THE FULLNESS OF THE GOSPEL" and the gifts associated with it. (Again that is only my opinion not church doctrine).

Hope that helps. If not write back and we can talk some more.

Your Brother in the Gospel
Cordell Vail
Seattle, WA

NOTE: Nothing in any of these Sunday Sermons is intended to represent the official doctrines of the Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They are strictly instructions and teachings from Cordell and Janice Vail to their family.

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