Latter-day Saint Life

Elder Renlund’s perfect response when a branch president kept giving priesthood blessings incorrectly


In the Lord’s Church today, experienced priesthood holders work with those with less experience. I had a wonderful service opportunity that demonstrated why the Lord uses this pattern to establish the Church. In a remote town, I asked a branch president—a relatively new convert and recently ordained elder—if he wanted to visit families in his branch one Saturday morning. The two of us ventured out. The first man we visited, Brother Thomas, was dying of AIDS. After offering comfort and support, I asked if there was anything we could do for him. Brother Thomas asked for a blessing. The branch president was asked to anoint and I was asked to seal the anointing. It was apparent that the branch president had never participated in blessing the sick. He held the plastic container of consecrated oil about ten inches over Brother Thomas’s head and squeezed out a very large drop that splattered on impact. The branch president then put his hands on Brother Thomas’s head and said, “I put oil on your head to heal you. Amen.” An experienced holder recognizes that this is not the prescribed language used in anointing the sick.

In this circumstance, I felt assured that God would not withhold a blessing from Brother Thomas simply because the anointing was not performed using the correct words. Recognizing that the branch president had done his best, I did not correct him in front of Brother Thomas. Rather, I put my hands on Brother Thomas’s head, asked the branch president to put his hands on mine, and sealed the anointing in the usual fashion. Brother Thomas seemed pleased. Good-byes were offered, and the branch president and I left.

As we walked away, I put my arm around the branch president and said, “You have such great faith. You brought a wonderful spirit to that blessing. I am sure the Lord is pleased.” I pulled out a copy of the white missionary handbook, gave it to the branch president, and asked him to read the instructions on administering to the sick. As the branch president read, he said, “Oh, no! I did it wrong.” I repeated, “You had such great faith and brought a wonderful spirit. I am sure the Lord is pleased.”

As we arrived at our next visit, I asked the branch president if he thought another blessing would be requested. The branch president said he thought so. I suggested that we review the missionary handbook before we entered the yard. A blessing was requested. The branch president performed the anointing, and I sealed the anointing. As we were leaving, I said, “President, you have such wonderful faith and brought such a wonderful spirit. Should we see how we did?” The branch president again reviewed the missionary handbook. As he did, he was sad to recognize that he had left out a prescribed element. I said, “Yes, but you brought such great faith and a wonderful spirit to the blessing. I am sure the Lord is pleased.”

The branch president and I visited nine homes that day and gave priesthood blessings in six. The branch president performed the third anointing perfectly. With the sixth blessing, he sealed the anointing perfectly. As I left that remote town, I left a branch president who had “become strong” and who could, as he accompanied less experienced priesthood holders on the Lord’s errand, build the Church as the Savior’s Apostles had in ancient days.

▶ You may also like: Elder Renlund's Humbling, 13-Word Conversation with His Father That Changed His Life

The Melchizedek Priesthood: Understanding the Doctrine, Living the Principles.

This insightful book by Elder Dale G. and Sister Ruth Lybbert Renlund helps men better understand the principles and doctrine of the Melchizedek Priesthood and learn how to properly exercise it in their daily lives. Section One presents the foundations of the priesthood, explaining basics about what it is, what it is for, and the commandments that govern its use. Section two gives fifteen principles that act as a "primer" for using the priesthood more effectively. Elder and Sister Renlund’s joint quest in studying the priesthood and its application offers a model for how men and women can work together in their understanding and teaching about the priesthood.

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