The Protection of a Father's Blessing

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Merrill Bateman

When our oldest children were ready to begin formal schooling, Sister Bateman and I decided that a father's blessing would be given to each child and to the mother at the beginning of the school year. The family home evening preceding the start of school would be the occasion. We began the practice when Michael, our oldest son, turned five and was about to enter kindergarten. The practice continues to this day, although there is only one son at home. He is a student at BYU. When all the children were home, eight blessings were given on that special Monday evening.

The year Michael was about to enter the third grade holds special memories for us. During the summer he had participated in Little League baseball. He was a backup catcher and an outfielder on his team. For his age he had some athletic ability and was a good player. At the time he loved baseball. When we gathered together for family home evening just before the start of school, Michael announced to the family that he was too old for a father's blessing. After all, he had completed his first season in Little League, he had played well, and blessings were for younger children.

Marilyn and I were stunned at first. We encouraged him by suggesting that a blessing would help him with his schoolwork. It would provide him with protection. It would help him in his relationships with his brothers, sisters, parents, and friends. But our encouragement, along with considerable coaxing and cajoling, failed. He was too old. Since Marilyn and I believe in agency and were not about to force a blessing on an eight-year-old, all of the children except Michael received a blessing that year.

The school year proceeded normally. Michael and the other children did well and the family enjoyed their associations together. As the following May arrived, it was time for Little League baseball to begin. Following the last day of school, Michael's coach called a team practice. Michael's anticipation could not have been greater. His dream was about to be realized. He was to be the starting catcher. The baseball diamond was located in the river bottoms not far from the mouth of Provo Canyon and a few blocks from our home. The boys and the coach walked to the field. Following the practice the boys and coach started for home. Michael and a friend decided to run on ahead of the coach and the other boys. In the process they had to cross University Avenue not far from the mouth of the canyon. As they approached the highway, Michael's friend looked each way and noticed a car coming from the north. Michael failed to look and darted onto the highway just as a 16-year-old boy, out for his first drive in his brother's car, came speeding out of the canyon.

I can't imagine the fear that must have struck the young driver's heart as he saw the small boy in front of him. The driver slammed on the brakes and swerved in an attempt to miss the boy. The side of the front fender and grill hit Michael and threw him down the highway, where he landed in a heap of broken bones.

Sister Bateman and I were visiting parents in American Fork when the police reached us by telephone with the news. We were told that Michael was in an ambulance on his way to the hospital and that he was in critical condition. Before leaving American Fork, I called a friend and asked him to meet us at the hospital to assist in giving Michael a blessing. The drive from American Fork to Provo was the longest 20 minutes of our lives. During the drive Marilyn and I prayed fervently, asking the Lord to preserve the life of our son and bless me with an understanding of the Lord's will for him. In those 20 minutes we learned what it means to pray with "real intent" (Moroni 10:4).

As we parked the car by the door of the emergency room, we saw the police and a young man leaving the hospital. He was crying. The police recognized us and introduced us to the young man as the driver of the car. We put our arms around him and told him that we knew it was not his fault. We then entered the hospital to find Michael. We found him in a room with doctors and nurses feverishly attending to his needs. He had received a concussion and was irrational and crying for his mother. His scalp was laid back on his head, and the broken bones were obvious. My friend had arrived, and we asked if we could have two or three minutes with him alone before they took him to the operating room. They agreed. Again I prayed with all the fervency of my being that his life would be preserved and that the blessing would reflect the Lord's will. My friend anointed and I sealed. As I laid my hands upon his head, a feeling of comfort and peace came over me. Words flowed and promises were made.

For the next four weeks Michael lay in a hospital bed with his head bandaged, his arm in a cast, and his leg in traction. Each Wednesday evening following the Little League game, his teammates would file into the hospital room and give Michael a rundown. Each week tears would well up in Michael's eyes and run down his cheeks as he saw his teammates enter the room and heard the boys relive the game. He would have given anything to be able to participate. After four weeks Michael was put in a body cast that went from his chest to his toes. On two or three occasions we took him to a game to watch his friends play. Another four weeks passed, and the body cast was replaced with a cast from his hip to his toes. Two days before school was to begin the cast was removed, and Michael began the long process of exercising his leg to obtain full use again.

As the family gathered the next night for school blessings, is there any wonder as to who wanted the first blessing? A nine-year-old boy, a little older and a lot wiser, was first in line. Michael is not the only member of our family to learn from the experience. All of the other children have talked about the protection that may come through a father's blessing. Over the years they have come to understand that accidents are not always prevented by priesthood blessings, but they have also learned that more than one type of protection is available through the priesthood. Today our grandchildren are recipients of priesthood blessings. The tradition is in its second generation. We hope that this practice, like the family, will prevail through the eternities.

BYU Dev., Jan. 6, 1998 "The Eternal Family"