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Fether

Blessing of “release”?

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My wife rotates between 5 Latter-day Saint films every Sunday. Today it was time for our 30th run throw of “Love Kennedy”. At the end *SPOILER* the father gives Kennedy a blessing if release. My uncle also “released” my grandmother and often talks about doing so when she comes up in conversation (my uncle is a bit of a strange person and often misinterprets culture and official teachings)

Where does this come from? And what is the purpose?

I didn’t find anything from official sources. I found one persons description that it was a way for a family to release an individual from this life as if it being released from a calling… but that seemed inappropriate.

Is there any backing in this? Or was it just done once by someone of note and everyone was like “that’s cool, I’ll do that!” And it became a cultural thing.

Edited by Fether

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I’ve never heard of it being a cultural thing or a common thing. But in the case of Love, Kennedy, the father, after doing everything he could to try and save his daughter, he finally prayed and accepted that she was going to die, that her time on this Earth would be short.  I would hope, and assume, that anyone who would state in a blessing that they are released from this life would only be doing so when moved upon by the Holy Spirit.  
My father died of cancer over 8 years ago.  His diagnosis took the whole family by surprise, as he exercised, took good care of himself, and there wasn’t any history of cancer in his family.  But not only was he diagnosed with cancer, but he was diagnosed with a very aggressive case of melanoma.  He died 6 months after his diagnosis.  My father was a good man.  He was genuinely kind-hearted, and we were all very close to him, so it was hard to see him deteriorate.  But, oddly enough, all of my siblings and I never really felt compelled to pray that he would be okay.  I think we started to, but we quickly realized that we needed to pray that we could accept the Lord’s decision in this, that our mother would be comforted as she dealt with this, and that my father’s suffering would be eased.  My mother and I were at his bedside when he died.  He was barely conscious at this point, and breathing through a ventilator.  Minutes before he passed, I was compelled to call my mother into his room.  We felt that it was time.  So, my mother told him that if he sees a light or if someone is calling his name, that it was okay to go.  When she said that, he took one last breath and left this mortal realm.  Perhaps this story is not the same as giving someone a blessing of being released, but I do understand the thinking behind it, but it’s certainly not something to be taken lightly.
 

 

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I don't know of any doctrinal backing to the idea. It seems to me to go against what we're taught that such blessings are for. I have long been uncomfortable with the "blessing of release". But I haven't really perceived it as a big thing, commonly done, or anything like that.

My father-in-law died rather suddenly and more or less unexpectedly in 1998, within a couple of days. My wife prayed fervently for his recovery, but at some point felt she needed instead to pray for his release. The act of praying for his release didn't act as a catharsis; she mourned his death and deeply grieved for over a decade after its occurrence, and still does at times today. So make of that what you will.

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I don't know that I believe in an actual blessing of release as an authoritative act. I think at the point where a release is the Lord's will it may be manifest to loved ones but the blessing is more for the benefit of everyone else and so "releasing" an individual is more of a letting go by the loved ones. 

It does seem like I remember a quote about people having to suffer longer than need be because everyone keeps praying for them to not die but I could be wrong.

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43 minutes ago, laronius said:

It does seem like I remember a quote about people having to suffer longer than need be because everyone keeps praying for them to not die but I could be wrong.


This is actually hilarious xD I don’t know that That is how prayer works, sounds like a tongue and cheek comment by a grumpy old man on his death bed

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I asked the same question on a larger forum here: https://www.mormondialogue.org/topic/73846-a-blessing-of-release/?tab=comments#comment-1210040156 

There are a few insights in it some may find interesting. I imagine more people will share their thoughts since it is a much larger forum

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Just to make sure, we're talking about a blessing given to someone dying/seriously ill/injured, where the blessing talks about the upcoming ending of their mortal life, yes?

(As opposed to a blessing given to someone having difficulties because they are being released from a church calling, which is something that exists too.)

Edited by NeuroTypical

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What is the purpose of a blessing? When we look at the purpose of a blessing we can see that a blessing can give comfort to a loved one before they pass from this life. We have a tendency also to try to coin phrases (i.e. blessing of release) when it is simply a blessing of comfort given by a loved one. I don't find anything wrong with it, unless it becomes a religious hobby for some.

When attending BYU a young lady shared an interesting experience with her grandfather. Her grandfather suffered a severe heart attack and was in the ER for surgery. A blessing was given of healing and blessing toward the doctors. The doctors and everyone were amazed at how well the procedure went. Everyone thought he was going to be good. Within 24 hours of coming home, after being release from hospital, he suffered another severe heart attack. Back to the ER. Where another blessing of healing and surgery was done, and it was another picture perfect surgery (so to speak, her words). Once again, once home he suffered another heart attack and back to the hospital he went. At this moment, a doctor who was also LDS said something to this nature, "This may not be my place, but what exactly are you blessing him with, and maybe you might want to think about him."

As they thought about him, she said the blessing went something like this, "[Calling him by name], you have lived a good life. You have been a good husband, good father, good grandfather. If this is your time, you can go peacefully. We will miss you." Within 15 minutes after the blessing he passed away.

I don't see how this would have any doctrinal issues, unless it becomes a religious hobby -- tradition. It simply falls under a priesthood blessing.

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3 hours ago, Anddenex said:

What is the purpose of a blessing? When we look at the purpose of a blessing we can see that a blessing can give comfort to a loved one before they pass from this life. We have a tendency also to try to coin phrases (i.e. blessing of release) when it is simply a blessing of comfort given by a loved one. I don't find anything wrong with it, unless it becomes a religious hobby for some.

When attending BYU a young lady shared an interesting experience with her grandfather. Her grandfather suffered a severe heart attack and was in the ER for surgery. A blessing was given of healing and blessing toward the doctors. The doctors and everyone were amazed at how well the procedure went. Everyone thought he was going to be good. Within 24 hours of coming home, after being release from hospital, he suffered another severe heart attack. Back to the ER. Where another blessing of healing and surgery was done, and it was another picture perfect surgery (so to speak, her words). Once again, once home he suffered another heart attack and back to the hospital he went. At this moment, a doctor who was also LDS said something to this nature, "This may not be my place, but what exactly are you blessing him with, and maybe you might want to think about him."

As they thought about him, she said the blessing went something like this, "[Calling him by name], you have lived a good life. You have been a good husband, good father, good grandfather. If this is your time, you can go peacefully. We will miss you." Within 15 minutes after the blessing he passed away.

I don't see how this would have any doctrinal issues, unless it becomes a religious hobby -- tradition. It simply falls under a priesthood blessing.

I’m fine with blessing them with a swift and peaceful death. I guess I don’t like the wording “I/we release you from this life”. Those were the words used by my uncle and words in the movie I watched.

It suggests that the person giving the blessing has some authority to release someone from their life.

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Samuel W. Richards diary provides an interesting account (he was in NY at the time before his mission, circa 1846).

“Sister Lincoln who was very sick with a cancer” requested that he and several other elders visit. Finding her in good faith, but not expected to live, the men sang and prayed with her. They administered the sacrament of bread and wine to her. Then she was anointed with oil unto the day of her burial which was sealed by the laying on of hands and prayer.”

This isn't the only case, there are quite a few more in Church history. Wilford Woodruff diary also provides another interesting account after a meeting with the First Presidency, stating that "Church leaders were called upon Sister Gray who had a canser (sic) in the breast which was eating her vitals & rotting her flesh. Presidet (sic) Young Cannon, & myself laid hands upon her. She wished us to pray that she might spedily (sic) die as she could not live. Presidet (sic) Young dedicated her to God for her death & burial. In about 12 hours she died."

 

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19 minutes ago, Fether said:

It suggests that the person giving the blessing has some authority to release someone from their life.

I think that's the crux of it right there. If we have the authority to release someone from this life, we should carry pistols or machetes with us so we can do our duty. We don't need to lay hands on people to release them from this life—not in the sense of Priesthood ordinances, at least. The laying on of hands is an ordinance for healing and blessing.

I will not presume to judge another man's spirituality if he says he felt moved to "release" someone from this life. But in most cases, I simply don't believe it.

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With regards to prayer, the main purpose is to align our will with that of the Lord. We should not enter into prayer assuming we can convince Him of doing what we ask. Exercising the priesthood is no different.

When it comes to this kind of blessing, I would classify it as one of counsel and/or comfort. It is always best to follow the promptings of the spirit, and not presume that anyone can command or control the life of another. The spirit will let us know the words that need to be said. Life, and death, is ultimately up to God.

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2 hours ago, Fether said:

I’m fine with blessing them with a swift and peaceful death. I guess I don’t like the wording “I/we release you from this life”. Those were the words used by my uncle and words in the movie I watched.

It suggests that the person giving the blessing has some authority to release someone from their life.

I think I can understand why you may feel the way you do; however, I don't see any difference with the authority we have been given to "heal" a person in this life. If we have the authority to prevent death -- as has happened through priesthood, then I don't see anything different than releasing someone who is already on their way through the veil.

We simply recognize, in all things pertaining to a blessing, it is done by the will of God. One might think Abinadi may have stepped his bounds when he said to Noah and priests, "If you touch me you will die," (paraphrased). That is more authoritative than blessing someone to be released when they are already potentially passing through the veil.

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54 minutes ago, Anddenex said:

I think I can understand why you may feel the way you do; however, I don't see any difference with the authority we have been given to "heal" a person in this life. If we have the authority to prevent death -- as has happened through priesthood, then I don't see anything different than releasing someone who is already on their way through the veil.

We simply recognize, in all things pertaining to a blessing, it is done by the will of God. One might think Abinadi may have stepped his bounds when he said to Noah and priests, "If you touch me you will die," (paraphrased). That is more authoritative than blessing someone to be released when they are already potentially passing through the veil.

It is specifically the word “release” I have a hard time. If you are approaching it like you have some authority over their life, like a President releasing someone from their calling, that is inappropriate.

But in saying this, I remember the scene in Lord of the Rings The Two Towers where Gandalf releases King Theoden from the bonds of Saruman.


I suppose if you view it like you are releasing someone from a trap or a curse, perhaps that would be more appropriate… but when I have heard people getting blessings of release, it tends to be coupled with statements like “you work is done here” which suggests it is like a calling

Edited by Fether

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I will speak to one of my experiences.  I have a brother that is quite different and has some problems adjusting to mortal life.  I will not go into all the details other than unlike myself he had an exceptional ability to love others and make what seemed to me to be to be ridiculous sacrifices for others.  He was quite younger than me and left on his mission after I was married and living away from home.  Shortly after he returned from his mission he was taken in a drowning accident in Hawaii.  There was a lot of discussion about him being taken early.  He had a girl friend he met after returning home with whom he was getting quite serious and in time they likely would have gotten married.   My parents were devastated - especially my father that was with him in Hawaii. 

At a most awkward time my younger brother came to me with strong thoughts for my parents and family.  I was instructed by my brother that there is a time appointed for death and that he was not taken early but that his life had been extended so that he could fulfill a mission.  I learned that through righteousness a person's life can be extended and that it would be most unusual that a righteousness individual's life is cut short before completing their mortal calling.  (I say mortal calling for lack of a better description).

It is my understanding that when a righteous priesthood holder is giving a blessing that the L-rd will speak through them to all that will listen.  If an individual has arrived at the time appointed for their passing - I see no reason that G-d would not make that known through a worthy mouthpiece.  Isaiah tells us the G-d knows the beginning to the end and makes all thing known.  

I believe that Priesthood holders should and ought to have faith to say whatever is directed through the spirit in a blessing.  Including comfort both to someone passing and to their loved ones.

 

The Traveler

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1 hour ago, Fether said:

I suppose if you view it like you are releasing someone from a trap or a curse, perhaps that would be more appropriate… but when I have heard people getting blessings of release, it tends to be coupled with statements like “you work is done here” which suggests it is like a calling

Having fun here, and just adding thought, not saying this is an accurate way to interpret this. This simply was the first thought that entered my mind with the word calling.

"For many are called, but few are chosen." :)

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7 hours ago, Traveler said:

It is my understanding that when a righteous priesthood holder is giving a blessing that the L-rd will speak through them to all that will listen.  If an individual has arrived at the time appointed for their passing - I see no reason that G-d would not make that known through a worthy mouthpiece.  Isaiah tells us the G-d knows the beginning to the end and makes all thing known.  

I believe that Priesthood holders should and ought to have faith to say whatever is directed through the spirit in a blessing.  Including comfort both to someone passing and to their loved ones.

I agree completely!

It just the choice of words I have a problem with. "I release you from this life" is similar to "I release you from this calling".

I may be wrong, but if I, a Sunday school teacher, am giving the bishop a blessing, cannot release him from his calling no matter how strongly I feel I need to say it. It is a matter of authority, of which I have none over his calling.

But again, if you are using the phrase "release" like releasing them from a trap or a curse, then I can see that... but in the instances I have heard of and witnessed, it seemed very apparent by how they worded everything that was not what they were doing.

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On more than one occasion, I have been moved by the spirit to speak words in a blessing that I never would have come within ten miles of saying by myself.  One or two of those, have been guidance or counsel that seemed contrary to what I thought should be said.

it is one of the foundations of my testimony, that I am usually in a poor situation to judge and direct others in what they should do, but God is in the perfect situation. So in those rare, precious moments, where He wants one of His children to say something specific, that child better say that specific thing.

in other words, I’m pretty much against people giving blessings that release others from this mortal life. I am totally in favor, if that’s what God wants them to do.

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2 hours ago, Fether said:

....
I may be wrong, but if I, a Sunday school teacher, am giving the bishop a blessing, cannot release him from his calling no matter how strongly I feel I need to say it. It is a matter of authority, of which I have none over his calling.

But again, if you are using the phrase "release" like releasing them from a trap or a curse, then I can see that... but in the instances I have heard of and witnessed, it seemed very apparent by how they worded everything that was not what they were doing.

 

4 minutes ago, NeuroTypical said:

On more than one occasion, I have been moved by the spirit to speak words in a blessing that I never would have come within ten miles of saying by myself.  One or two of those, have been guidance or counsel that seemed contrary to what I thought should be said.

it is one of the foundations of my testimony, that I am usually in a poor situation to judge and direct others in what they should do, but God is in the perfect situation. So in those rare, precious moments, where He wants one of His children to say something specific, that child better say that specific thing.

in other words, I’m pretty much against people giving blessings that release others from this mortal life. I am totally in favor, if that’s what God wants them to do.

It certainly is not up to me to determine such things or to say how such things should or will be done.  However, I would point out that the Pharisees were very upset with particular words used by Jesus in his blessings - claiming that they were improper or done on the Sabbath contrary to the Law (meaning the Law of Moses).  I have determined for myself that I will avoid words and phrases that are weak such as "might" and "should try" when used as "That we might have thy spirit"  or "That they should try to keep the commandments"  rather I make a conscious effort to be more direct like "That we will have thy spirit" or "As they keep the commandments". 

However, it is my impression that we should discuss such thing - as we are doing on this forum or in a priesthood lesson and that we should not take a person aside and instruct them in their mistakes of wording in a particular blessing.  As we speak of authority - such direction is to come according to the oath and covenant of the priesthood in D&C 84.  In other words - from those that are called to such authority.

 

The Traveler

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As I sit here, it dawns on me I have stories on this topic:

1- Good story from my wife's family:

An older aunt or grandma was bedbound at the end of her life.  She'd lived quite a full life - the popular family account was that her first husband was abusive and horrible, and when he died she remarried a good guy and spent a decade or two healing.  

Hospice told people she was in her final hours, and some close family gathered around to be with her until the passing.  She had already been given a blessing that she could let go whenever she was ready.  She was moving in and out of consciousness, seeing and talking to departed loved ones, and her breath was slowing.   Then, her eyes shot open, her face displayed hurt and anger, and she said "You!".   Her breathing got regular, she came back to lucidity, ate some food, and stayed living for another few days.  When people asked her who she saw, she clammed up and refused to talk about it.  Then she began declining again.  Same story as before - she started seeing and talking to the departed again.  Whoever it was came back, and her face displayed the same hurt and anger, falling into acceptance.  She said "Ok."  And exhaled her last.  

A good lesson on the commandment to forgive all. 

 

2-  My mom had a decade-long losing battle against multiple sclerosis.  Horrible wasting disease, and over the years she slowly lost ability and control.  At one point, she was pleading to God to die.  Then she reported having a dream/vision, where a sibling who had died as a child appeared to her, fully grown, and delivered a stern lecture to her about how "he still needs you".  (I was in my early teens at the time.)  She perked up with a little newfound resolve, and did her best for another half dozen years.

 

3- I'll spare the details because it's sacred, but one of those "the Lord told me what to say" blessings was given to a man in my ward.  Elderly couple in poor health, and he was refusing medical treatment for a simple toe infection because he wanted to die.  I had to set aside a substantial part of the good blessing I had prepared, and instead gave the blessing the Lord wanted me to give.  Which frustrated me a little bit, because it wasn't anything close to the charitable and loving version of "think about your wife and go to the dang doctor, you stubborn old fool", which is what I was sure he needed to hear.  But after the blessing, we both embraced in tears, his son-in-law showed up later and "called the ambulance on him", and he's still around today, just as weird and stubborn as ever.   

I don't get it, but I don't have to.  God simply knows better than I.

 

Edited by NeuroTypical

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