The Blessing of Little Children (3 Nephi 17)
Babies and little children are innocent in the sight of God. They have no sin and therefore have no need for repentance or baptism while they are in that innocent state. Later, when they reach an age of understanding and are able to comprehend sin and the commitment associated with being baptized, they are then able to consider taking that step and giving their lives to the Lord.
For children who have not yet reached an age of understanding, The Church of Jesus Christ offers the opportunity for a baby or little child to be "blessed" by a minister of The Church. This blessing consists of a prayer that is offered by the minister, asking God to watch over that child until he or she is old enough to be capable of making his or her own decision about serving God.
The process used for the blessing of children is based on the following scripture:
"Jesus…said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them." (Mark 10:14,16)
If you've been part of The Church for some period of time, you've probably witnessed several occasions when a child was blessed in this manner. Perhaps you were even blessed yourself when you were young. Did you ever wonder whether anything is happening in heaven when a child is blessed?
When an adult sinner repents, the scriptures say that the angels in heaven rejoice (Luke 15:10). Does anything comparable occur when a child is blessed? 3 Nephi 17 gives us a possible glimpse:
The Nephites have enjoyed a blessed but emotional day with Jesus in their midst. He has shown compassion to them by healing all of their sick people. He has prayed for them with words so great and marvelous that they can't even be written down. Finally, He gathers together all of the little children who are there. Here's the description of what happens next:
"He took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them. And when he had done this he wept again; And he spake unto the multitude, and said unto them: Behold your little ones.
And as they looked to behold they cast their eyes towards heaven, and they saw the heavens open, and they saw angels descending out of heaven as it were in the midst of fire; and they came down and encircled those little ones about, and they were encircled about with fire; and the angels did minister unto them." (3 Nephi 17:21-24)
This had to be a glorious sight! It's difficult for us to comprehend just how the Lord accomplishes His mighty works, but the above gives us one visual. It may or may not work exactly that way today when a child is blessed, but we can be comfortable that the Lord is putting in place some type of plan for the child. Here are a few scriptural references that give some hints as to how that plan might proceed:
- When a child is blessed, the Lord is petitioned to provide guidance, protection, and influence for the child. Based on how quickly the Nephites saw the angels dispatched from heaven to encircle the children and minister unto them (help them), we can assume that God puts an immediate plan in place for a child who is blessed. It may even work in the way that the Nephites saw.
- The entire heavenly "team" that is used to protect children — including the angels — take their direction from God. When speaking about little children on another occasion, Jesus said that "in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 18:10).
- When the child reaches the age of understanding and gives his life to the Lord, there is joy in heaven (Luke 15:7). You can almost envision the entire heavenly team giving each other high-fives and saying, "Another success for Jesus! The child is now grown up, his name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life, and the Holy Ghost will lead him from here."
We may sometimes think of the blessing of little children as just something nice that we do for families — a way to help them celebrate in church when a child is born. But when you look at the scriptures mentioned above, it takes on significant spiritual meaning as a "call to arms" as the Lord applies heavenly resources to be involved in the child's life. What a blessing it is!
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.