This April, you won’t see us blessing our daughter in a church. Her father won’t hold her up, Lion King-style, in front of an admiring audience as I sit silently in the back pew. This decision makes us atypical among our Mormon friends. But I simply don’t like the message that the typical baby blessing projects—that Jang, as the head of our household, is the only one worthy enough to bless and present our baby before the congregation.
Let me just tell you how our family works; there is no head of the household. Jang and I approach religious worship as we do all other aspects of our marriage—as equals. That’s not to say there’s no division of duties; I recently became—gulp!—a stay-at-home mom. Thus, by default, I get to make many of the day-to-day decisions on raising our kids. Jang is the “breadwinner” and full-time working parent. So, although he asks my opinion on many work-related things, he does not consult with me on most decisions about how to run his law firm. It’s not because we necessarily believe in proscribed gender roles; this division of duties, for us, is about what is practical.
But excluding mothers from participating in baby blessings serves no practical purpose. It is only about division, about demonstrating the “proper” priesthood order that governs the Church today. In doing so, I believe the Church undermines women’s roles in creating and raising that baby; some would see it as another example of how women are marginalized in the Church today.
Let me tell you the thoughts that go through my head when I think about letting my daughter be blessed in the traditional way. For nine months, I suffered intense bouts of nausea, terrible acid reflux and exhaustion, before laboring to bring her into this world. Since then, I’ve been her constant companion. Often, mine is the first face she sees in the morning and the last one before she sleeps at night. In my divine role as her mother, I’m responsible for her nurturing, care and safety. Yet, on the day when she is recognized by my Church, and given a name and a blessing, I’m essentially nothing to her; I don’t even have the standing to be able to bring her before my fellow members and say, “Look! Here is my daughter.” Nope; I’m just another face in the crowd. Any adult Melchizedek priesthood holder, although a stranger to her, can participate in this blessing circle. But not me.
I had the traditional baby blessing with my first child. I won’t apologize for this decision; my husband and I wanted to include our new ward in the blessing, because of their many kindnesses to us. Before the blessing, I remember asking the Bishop if I could record it, so that my son could later listen to his father’s words. That request was met with such a firm (if kind) no, I didn’t dare ask if I could participate in the blessing circle. Later, I regretted my choice. I now firmly believe that there is no justification for prohibiting me, or any other woman, from participating in blessing her child.
The thing is, my ideas about revelation and blessings have come a long way since first blessing our son almost three years ago. I know now that every person, whether a priesthood holder or not, has the right to ask for (even promise) blessings upon their family. I’ve discarded the image of my husband as being the head of our family and the primary source of God’s revelation for us. As my children’s mother and primary caregiver, I know their spirits and personalities more intimately than anyone. And while I emphatically believe in the sacredness of priesthood blessings, and I believe my husband will receive revelation to guide our children’s future lives, I also know I can too.
And so, we’ve made a decision; this time around, we won’t bless our baby in a church. Her father won’t carry her ceremoniously up to the mount of revelation, leaving me behind with the masses. In this at least, I will not be a second-class participant in my children’s religious lives. Not only will I hold her during the blessing, I may even say a few words about my baby as well. Because, if I speak, it will be as a mother who prays over her children constantly, and who has already called down numerous blessings from Heavenly Father for her small family. Asking God for revelation and blessings, particularly concerning my children, is something I am entitled to do as a mother, without regard for any institution (religious or otherwise) on this earth. And so, if I choose to speak, I have no doubt the Spirit can be with me, as well as my husband, to give us direction for her future life. I don’t need for it to be officially recognized by the Church for the words to proceed from God. In conducting the blessing this way, I do not feel I’m undermining my husband’s priesthood authority; I hope I am complementing it.
I hope the blessing can be an opportunity for our family to establish healthy interactions, not only with the Mormon church, but with one another as well. With this decision, I want to show my children that their father and I are equals before God, both at home and at Church. And since that equality is not apparent in the blessings that take place in Church today, our daughter’s will take place where it belongs—in our home.
And I’m recording the entire thing, darn it.