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Enlightenment about what God expects, about what God provides, about how God wants us to proceed is required if we are going to achieve a high level of ministry in the giving, receiving, and using of evangelist’s blessings. Unexamined belief can lead to partial benefit or malpractice and misuse. Today’s inquiries are more than dialogue questions. People are searching that they may experience adequate ministry. In this feature I am relating the evangelist’s blessing to the inclusive ministry of evangelists and other ministers as well as looking at God’s intent for persons.
1. What does the word “bless” mean?
Jesus Christ used this term often. In the Sermon on the Mount he listed the “beatitudes.” Each opens with the word “Blessed.” Some modern translations give this phrasing, “Happy is….” This expressed the basic meaning of blessedness. To be blessed is to be happy.
God wants humanity to be “blessed” – that is, to be happy. This, of course, leads to the question, What constitutes happiness? So God gives us counsel about what constitutes the happiness of enduring, expanding quality. God advises us how to manage our lives in order to achieve this kind of happiness.
In his Sermon on the Mount Jesus pointed up the spiritual quality of happiness. He said, “Blessed are the…,” then designated certain qualities that would bring blessedness (happiness) into a person’s life. And what he said was out of the ordinary.
Jesus did not measure happiness in terms of material possessions. He never made these unimportant, but he made them to be the means, not the measure, of being happy. He always called persons to get into his ongoing cause – the cause of bringing to pass “abundant life” in others. This required that they “lose” themselves in his “great work” if they were to be “blessed.” The person who makes themself the center of their own little universe is not going to be happy.
The evangelist’s blessing looks to the patterning of one’s life so they will develop the kind of living that truly expresses blessedness – and thus achieves happiness. It says, “Blessed shall you be if…”
2. Should specific favors be sought or expected in evangelist’s blessings?
This is much the same as praying. The mature person does not battle with or bargain with God for things they set up as “blessings.” They converse honestly and endeavors to get God’s point of view. They seek to accord with this larger overview of living. They do not say, “Come across with what I am asking for, and I will do so and so for you.”
The mature person never asks for specifics and then parades how their prayers were answered. They are not concerned with getting favors from God; they are looking to fellowship with God. As they come for the evangelist’s blessing, they have concerns, needs, and desires. These they lay before God, but they do not set up a statement of demand that God come through with a new car or an increase in income. Neither do they ask for prestige or personal gratification.
No, “blessings” are not measured in terms of getting what one asks for.
3. Shall the evangelist’s blessing be obtained when a person is concerned with some one question or situation?
Yes and no. A growing person always has questions and seeks solutions to problems. The mature person does not come for an evangelist’s blessing expecting God to tell them in detail what to do. It is not a bulletin that provides answers to questions about ordering one’s living. Rather is it directive to help them to work out their problems in the viewpoint of God.
Some do want such definiteness because they are confused. Some want solutions so they will not have to work at problem-solving, which can be pretty exacting. Some want specific directions so they can place the responsibility on God for whatever happens. Some want the thrill of saying, “God spoke to me.” More developed persons pray for the insight and resources that will enable them to make decisions, to accord with God. They realize that God needs people with competency that will come as they do a good job in making choices – as they co-labor with God.
Not infrequently recipients of evangelist’s blessings receive counsel in this field. They are advised that God’s refraining from giving solutions with specific outlining and directing is not because God does not care for them but because God does care and wants them to develop their powers. Sometimes persons of limited capacity and maturity need the specifics and directives that chart their course. God ministers to them accordingly.
Once a young woman requested her evangelist’s blessing. As we conferred, I discovered that she was quite perplexed and discouraged because she and her fiance had broken up. She wanted encouragement and direction concerning this specific situation. As we conversed we agreed that her blessing was to concern her total life program, not this one incident. Before she left I prayed a benedictory prayer. The evangelist’s blessing came a year later. It looked to her total life plan, not to easing distress in a specific romantic situation. And it proved a “blessing.”
4. Do different persons receive different kinds of counseling?
Yes. God ministers to persons as individuals, and there are no duplicates in the world. Jesus ministered this way; he summoned persons by name. It is significant that in the Palmyra grove experience Joseph Smith said he was called “by name.”
There is no such thing as running off several copies of an evangelist’s blessing, addressing these specifically, and handing them out. There is no mass production in this ministry. The evangelist is to live with this specific person and to live with God who reaches out to this person in his specific individuality.
Some persons are spoken to with the specificness used in counseling small children. Others are directed in developing the insight and overview that will enable them to chart their own lives.
Some are advised specifically in some areas, while others are not. More than one person has been counseled to control and manage well their “temper.” Others need to be advised to stand up and speak forth surely and wisely.
One person was advised to give attention to the management of his money with plan for reserves for operation, and to expend his funds for what would be worthy. (They were inclined to let money slip through his fingers.) Another was told to use their means as a stewardship and to give accordingly. (they had a tendency to hoard things to themselves.) God cares for both people.
Some persons are advised very specifically to study and fields of study are indicated. One youth was never directed to study – they did not need to be told to do this. They did need advice about what to do with their studying.
An evangelist’s blessing has to be appreciated in terms of the nature and needs of the person receiving it.
5. Is there a recommended age for receiving one’s evangelist’s blessing?
There is no hard and fast regulation in this matter. Here again I recognize the wide differences in the life experiences of persons. If I say that a person may receive their evangelist’s blessing when they are sufficiently mature, I would not be designating some chronological age. One youth of sixteen may be more mature than a person of twenty-six. Some adults achieve little spiritual maturity. What regulations we have are for guides, not for limitations.
While Elbert A. Smith was presiding evangelist the men of the Order of Evangelists stated the policy that evangelist’s blessings would not be given to persons under a certain age. Once he wrote, “It is not considered advisable to give the blessing to those under fifteen years of age, though there may be some exceptions.”
Blessings are given to youth with adequate background and intent and to persons in what we may call the sunset years. In these latter cases the blessing may function as a benediction upon their lifework.
Our basic concern is not with chronological age; rather is it with spiritual age and needs and fitness.
6. Will the evangelist’s blessing lay bare my life? Will I be chided for what has happened to me thus far?
This question is asked by some who have lived in ways they would like to forget. The evangelist, as counselor, is not to expose a past simply to bring out sordid events and unsavory qualities of character. They should deal with these only to further healing, to promote self-understanding, to effect honesty with God. The person may need to “come clean” with the evangelist in order to find peace and freedom from guilt. There is wonderful release in realizing that someone knows and still cares. And there is need of this relationship with God. The wise minister wants the candidate for a blessing to see themselves honestly and to recognize their potential for becoming more than they have been.
Sometimes the recipient of a blessing is helped to see that they are forgiven. Sometimes the person is told that repentance involves righting things. Once a young man in professional calling received their evangelist’s blessing. He came with a sense of regret about his past and with a fear that he would be severely rebuked. Shortly after the blessing had started the evangelist said something like this,
“Your Creator speaks to you today with understanding love about your past, with forgiving love about your shortcomings in previous days. God bids you understand this that you may minister to those who are inclined to blunder along life’s way, as you once did, and to reach out to them in helpful ways. Your Creator bids you come to God today confidently and wholeheartedly.”
This man told how nervous he had been as the blessing began and how he feared what God would say to him. He said that after this expression of God’s forgiveness and invitation he felt at home with God. He was ready to use the counsel.
Once a young man told me after receiving his blessing a friend had said that in his evangelist blessing he would probably get “a good whipping.” He confided to me that he had been on a long recess during which he had “been around.” I recalled this phrase in his blessing, “Your Creator invites you to return and take your rightful place among God’s people.” An invitation rather than a rebuke had been spoken.
Readiness for an evangelist’s blessing involves honesty in coming to God. The blessing will refer to the past only as it points the way to a better future.
7. Is it all right to prefer a particular evangelist?
Again the answer is yes and no. This depends on the situation and the motivation. There is no place for “favorite preachers” in this matter. And there is no place for the view that the recipient should search for an evangelist who does not know anything about them. This view is to be discounted. Such a view interprets the way of spiritual inspiration on a low level. It applies an unsound criterion of evaluation. The evangelist is to be a person who lives among the people, and members come to them for counsel and for benedictory ministry out of their consociation. Today few evangelists would give blessings to persons who come to them because they are strangers.
There are sound bases for preferring particular evangelists. There is diversity of callings and capacities among these ministers. This is set forth in counsel received by the church in October 1958: “While there is but one office in the Order of Evangelists, there are multiple functions. All my servants who have been called to this office will not be equally proficient in each of the separate functions.” A person may have problems and needs that call for ministry for which some evangelist may have more-than-ordinary qualifications. And some evangelist may have shared the life story with a closeness that increases their competency.
The basis for such choices would be in the competency of the evangelist to minister in a counseling and benedictory way – not because of being a stranger, not because of “liking them,” not because of his meeting my notions of “spirituality.” The choice would be because there can be rapport, because there is suited fitness for the ministry to this person, because there has been a sharing which would be well continued.
Sometimes the evangelist senses an indication for call to minister to some specific persons for identifiable reasons.
Ministers do differ in approaches to counsels and benedictions. Their backgrounds for insight and inspiration are not identical. Their powers to communicate differ. Their sensitiveness to personal needs, problems, and temperaments show wide divergence. They speak in varying languages – philosophical, ethical, theological, sociological, mystical. Loyalty to someone is not on an “I like them” basis but because of their resources for evangelistic benediction in a given situation.
8. Should lineage be a matter of concern?
Fewer persons are concerned about this today than were members of fifty years ago. There arose the conception that in a redeemed condition all would be members of Israel, either by lineage or by adoption. Designation of tribes was interpreted as assuring place for redemption. Sometimes the concern was little more than curiosity satisfying. Today maturing people are more concerned with worthiness than with assignment. This is a healthy development. Occasionally there is some “tribal designation” – but only occasionally.
Recently a young woman of merit arranged for her evangelist’s blessing. The evangelist detected that she was quite interested in this matter of designation to a tribe. The evangelist sought for guidance. In the blessing this was spoken to the recipient: “You belong to that inner circle of those on whom God can rely. This is of more significance than designation to some group indicated by name.” She was satisfied with this call to steadfastness.
9. Should others read an evangelist’s blessing?
Very few, and then only when the setting of the blessing can be relived. There should never be circles for reading evangelist’s blessings. A blessing is addressed to a specific person. Only those who can reconstruct the situation are eligible to read it. No one has ever read mine.
10. Is the giving of a blessing by an evangelist to be related to other of their ministries?
It should be. The giving of an evangelist’s blessing is to be seen in the total framework of evangelistic ministry and related to the inclusive ministry of the congregation. An evangelist will do their best work when the giving of blessings rises out of their total evangelistic ministry among a people. This evangelistic quality of their office should pervade their total ministry of teaching, preaching, counseling, testifying, fraternizing, and more. Evangelists do not want to be invited into a district or branch just to “give blessings.” This separates the giving of blessings from their total ministry.
Often conferring and counseling precedes the giving of the blessing, and there can be follow-up ministry also. Once in a reunion the pastor to nonresident members had charge of arranging for evangelist’s blessings. We conferred and decided upon those who should receive this ministry during the reunion. Toward the end of the reunion they wanted to know if I had time and energy for one more blessing. This blessing was scheduled. The recipient was a man who had met financial reverses. He was advised by friends to take bankruptcy. This pastor had been with him and would continue with him after the reunion. When I had given the blessing I arranged for him to consult with a member of the presiding bishopric who was there. This effected conference and counsel on his financial matters. Three ministers, with their specialties, worked together – the local pastor, the visiting evangelist, and the visiting bishop. Here was complementary ministry.
More and more this benedictory ministry is being related to the total ministering.
11. Where is the recommended place for the giving of an evangelist’s blessing?
This is conditioned by the local situation and the places available. I prefer to arrange for the giving of blessings in a place with atmosphere and associations that are conducive to this sacrament. Factors involved are the apartness, the quietness, and the furnishings. Some evangelists have a room in their own home set apart for and arranged especially for this ministry. On some campgrounds room is provided for counseling and benedictory ministry. I prefer the sanctuary or some room in the church that has a suitable setting.
As far as advisable, blessings are given in the congregational area, in the home branch setting. Some are given at reunion, World Conference, and camp for those who do not have a home congregation and those who for diverse reasons respond to the campground or conference-room situation. As far as possible, the evangelist should function as a member of the local group, whether in the branch or in some gathering.
12. Is the evangelist’s blessing to be received as prophetic ministry?
Here again the answer is yes and no. This calls for some consideration of what is meant by prophecy.
If prophecy means foretelling the future, then the evangelist’s blessing is not to be considered as prophetic. There are those who think of getting their blessings so they will find out what is going to take place in their lives. Such a view carries the notion of fortune-telling.
And this is not the basic meaning of prophecy. Regrettably, many who read and quote the Bible pick out passages that they feel foretell what is going to take place in years to come. They consider that God has a time schedule and an events calendar. Prophecy signifies forth-telling rather than fore-telling. It implies that the prophet has been with God closely enough and long enough to sense God’s purpose, program, and intent for persons. Such a person would be able to come to the people and say, “This is the word of the Lord.” The prophetic blessing is to be an expression of prophecy. It is God’s counsel, not God’s calendar.
13. Should an evangelist ever make the overture for giving a blessing?
Yes, but not very often. When I was ordained an evangelist an apostle of some insight said to me that in time to come, it was likely that evangelists would take the initiative. This has happened a few times. Once I went to a man in church, stood before him, and asked him if he had ever considered receiving his evangelist’s blessing. He dropped his head and said that he had and then added, “But I have never considered myself worthy.” The blessing was given. His life was changed. Once in Mexico I asked a similar question of a young man. I spoke through an interpreter. He hesitated and then said, “Yes, but I did not know how to make the request, and I did not think myself good enough.” I gave this blessing.
The evangelist may sense with some perception that a person should receive his blessing and may discern some counsel involved, but usually they will wait until the person or the pastor takes the initiative.
The evangelist does not go out “drumming up trade,” but they can make it easier for the reticent, worthy person to make request.
14. What is the soundest preparation a person can make for an evangelist’s blessing?
The foremost essential is that the person be concerned about what they want to do with their life. This has to do with the total program and the total span of living. It carries the presumption that a person wants to line up their life with God. Their powers and potentials are to be conceived as part of their stewardship.
The person who is concerned with getting God to bless them so they can get what they want is not well qualified.
Running through all this is the awareness that blessedness comes to pass in living God’s way, which way will bring happiness that is continuing and expanding. This lifts above notions of sacrifice and surrender. It presumes that life with God and with God’s people will bring joy and hard work and creative expression and satisfaction. All this involves the “long run view.”
Often those wanting their evangelist’s blessing think of praying and fasting. These are to be examined as to meaning and intent. If praying is only beseeching that the Spirit will attend the blessing and point out things, if fasting is only denial of food, then praying and fasting can get in the way.
Praying should connote communing with God about the whole experience of receiving guidance and counsel, with the intent to increase one’s capacity and fitness to receive. The one praying should make themselves ready so God can say something of worth to them. They must get up on the mountain if they would see the overview with God. Such praying is indispensable.
Fasting has an inclusive meaning. It involves much more than going without food. Once a woman made this comment: “Last night I did some fasting. I fasted from some types of conversation on which I usually feast.” This kind of fasting made her ready for a benedictory experience.
Preparation means getting oneself in the best possible total condition. Once a young man went without food for so long that when he came for his blessing he was in a weakened condition. Concern for the growling of his empty stomach detracted from his spiritual fitness.
Each is to learn how to achieve optimum spiritual condition in his own life.
15. How does an evangelist make ready for giving a blessing?
The major preparation is in his total way of living. For most of us who are evangelists giving a blessing is an exacting experience.
Here are some essentials:
- The evangelist seeks to live with a clean pattern so their integrity affords a good framework for inspiration.
- The evangelist cultivates spiritual sensitivity that provides several channels of communication with God and multiple expressions for God to their people.
- The evangelist develops in understanding human nature and human needs and human problems. They are where the people are.
- The evangelist endeavors to express themselves clearly and consistently. They want his message to be free from misunderstanding, to be uplifting in style and spirit.
- The evangelist sees the candidate as a child of God, who is to be understood and guided into an uplifting relationship with God.
- The evangelist sees God working through them. They do not tie a person’s loyalty to them but through them to God.
Inspiration quickens the capacities of a person. It does not dehumanize. It never reduces to mechanism. The evangelist wants, therefore, to develop their powers of mind and heart and hand so that God will have more through which to express themselves. Often they will sense more than they speak, keeping some things in reserve for future guidance and testimony. Inspiration has many manifestations. The wise evangelist will endeavor to suit their expression to the person and the situation. They will keep on being a learner in the art of communing with God.
They will apply this foundational approach to this particular blessing. They will try to understand this person and to get hold of what God wants to say to this person who comes for benedictory ministry.
16. May a person receive an evangelist’s blessing when they have some patterns of living that are not so good?
The phrase “not so good” leaves ever so much leeway. And there is considerable divergence among ministers and members. I might ask, “How good is good?”
If evangelists were to hold off giving blessings until recipients were saintly in every respect, no blessing would ever be given. This applies to baptism, to ordination, and more. When the evangelist’s blessing is interpreted as a ministry in an on-going program of saintly living, it is seen as a means to help the person develop, to mature spiritually, rather than as an award for saintly living.
A few years ago a young man requested that I give him his blessing. I came to sense that he was struggling with the smoking habit. He would quit for a while and then begin again. He was losing confidence in himself. He was trying to find his place in the life of the church. Some would have told him that when he quit smoking, he might receive his blessing. I interpreted the giving of this blessing as a means to help him. In the blessing something like this was said, “Be not overanxious about the habit patterns of your life with undue attention to them and concern about them. Enter into the life of my people and give your energy and interest thereto, and in time these bothersome habits will fall out of your life.” And this happened. Had he come to cover up or to excuse himself God could have done little to help him.
Another case is different. A man wanted administration and blessing so he could get rid of smoking. He said frankly that he wanted God to take away the desire so he would not have to work at it. This was a little too exacting for him. He could not receive much with such an out- look… and he didn’t.
There is no one answer. Decisions are made in the light of the total intent and program of living. The evangelist’s blessing can be a call, an inspiration, a counsel for pulling up to higher levels of living.
17. May a person of another language receive an evangelist’s blessing when no evangelist is available who speaks this native language?
Yes. Evangelists are needed who speak other-than-English languages. Also needed are English-speaking evangelists who are sensitive to the ways and the moods of the concepts and phrasings of other languages. The evangelist needs to appreciate how language is relative, how it does not have finalities in ideas, in linguistic expression. They should strive to handle their own language so that what they say can be interpreted.
With this is required some instruction of the people in other cultures so that they can appreciate the purpose and the functioning of the evangelist’s blessing. They need to understand something about what constitutes wholesome, fruitful spirituality. This ministry must be lifted above magic, fortune-telling, and artificial inducement.
Blessings are given in other languages. Some blessings are given in the prevailing language of an area. Such was the case a few years ago when Louis Ostertag, who was born in a French-speaking section of Europe, went to Tahiti and ministered to many in the French language.
My first giving of an evangelist’s blessing when another language was involved was to Gerhard Sofke in Offenbach-am-Main, Germany, in July 1961. Anton Compier, who is skilled in several languages, stood by my side as interpreter. I would speak a few phrases or sentences in English, and he would translate them into German. On the recording, the blessing was in two languages. The copy given to Gerhard was in German. The filed copy is in both languages.
In April 1969 Gerhard Sofke was ordained an evangelist.
18. Does a member ever receive a second evangelist’s blessing?
The general idea is that the person receives but one evangelist’s blessing in their lifetime. This is wise for several reasons. It prevents the giving of this blessing from becoming an overused and cheapened sacrament. There are members who would want a blessing as often as their moods prompted them. Now the blessing is so interpreted that it deals with a plan of living for all of the person’s life-span. This wholeness, this largeness of view, is to be inherent in the blessing.
This is not a legislated decree that is like the unchangeable laws of the Medes and Persians. Occasionally situations arise when it seems advisable to provide a supplementary blessing. This may be to meet some situation in the person’s living that has risen after the original blessing. A crisis may occur. Sometimes a person undergoes a drastic change in personhood or program. Such supplementary blessings are given infrequently, however.
In a few cases the later blessing is considered the basic evangelist’s blessing. Sometimes the condition of the recipient, sometimes the condition of the minister, sometimes the situation of the giving of the blessing indicate the inadequacy of the original blessing.
Second blessings are not given because the recipient wants “a better blessing” or because they desire “an answer to a problem.”
The persons involved should have such an adequate experience in the giving and receiving of an evangelist’s blessing that no further blessing will be wanted or needed.
19. Are evangelist’s blessings the only benedictory ministry given by the evangelist?
No, there are others. Sometimes when people are going on a mission they ask the evangelist for benedictory ministry. Other experiences may also call for special evangelistic attention: the loss of one or more members of a family through a tragic accident or other cause, a call to priesthood responsibility, or assignment to some administrative capacity in the church. In the latter instance the person may come alone, or they and their life partners may come, or they and members of their family may come. Such was the case when the Kasper Anholts went to Scandinavia, when the Everett Graffeos went to Tahiti, and when the Darrel Minks went to Peru.
Sometimes when people face pressing problems they request benedictory ministry. This is not conventional administration, which tends to apply to some specific problems of health. Such ministry includes a wider range of concerns and factors.
20. What is your outlook on evangelist’s blessings?
My outlook is hopeful. The understanding of evangelistic ministry is growing. Evangelist’s blessings are now being considered in the context of total evangelistic ministry. As members come to expect more soundly, they can receive more fully. It is not only that they are asking questions – they are asking good questions. They are not wanting prognosticators but prophetic counsel. This was expressed in a recent blessing: “You come humbly, honestly to this time of commitment, counsel, confirmation, and consecration.” Such a person is worthy of blessing.