Cradled in my arms, his little body twists and squirms, searching for comfort that is not there. The back arches, legs thrust into the chair, propelling him deeper into my flesh, then almost out of my grasp. Neither of us is sure which he wants more. The cramping is relentless, his stomach, long ago and repeatedly emptied, is locked into a rhythmic spasm that I know must feel like torture. I am helpless to help him. My eyes meet my husband’s as we search each other for the remedy. “Will you give him a blessing?” I ask. Silently his answer is produced, a shiny cylinder dangling from his keys. He kneels beside us and I watch intently as the golden oil collects slowly, too slowly, into a droplet, then falls almost imperceptibly into soft, golden hair. He is anointed.

I find myself wondering at the meaning of such an act. The olive oil itself is replete with symbolism, among these it is emblematic of the Savior. The oil used in anointings is pure and consecrated, set apart for holy purposes, as was the Savior’s life, just as we covenant ours will be. Our ultimate healing is made possible through His atonement, wrought in Gethsemane, or “the oil-press”. But what of the act of anointing? Said Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Anointings were declared to be for sanctification and perhaps can also be seen as symbolic of the blessings to be poured out from heaven as a result of this sacred act.”

I listen as promises of a full night’s sleep, relief, and even recovery of appetite are offered. I feel the stiffness begin to ebb in my son’s body as much as my own. This is the second time in as many weeks he has been this ill. What we had passed off as stomach flu is beginning to look undeniably more like a side effect of  medication, a medication as foreign to us as the diagnosis he received just weeks ago. His diagnosis is not one of disease or illness and for that we are undoubtedly grateful. His is a serious developmental struggle and we are still working to wrap our minds around what this means for his future. We are navigating a maze of doctors and therapists, looking for resources and answers, hoping to give him the best possible outcome. The medication was a part of that effort, showing promising help, but now this.

Having been blessed with relief from this bout of sickness I expect the blessing to end. But there is more. “I bless you that those who are involved in your care will be guided to help you develop and progress so that you may fulfill the Lord’s path for you.” My mind leaps to the anointing, the sanctification. To sanctify is also to set apart as sacred, to purify, to make productive of or conducive to spiritual blessing. In that sweet, small act, in the symbolic pouring out of blessings upon my son’s head and invoking of priesthood power, I am reminded that this little boy’s life is still able to be sanctified, set apart for sacred use and bound for holiness, just I have covenanted that mine will be. No matter the developmental prognosis, his is a promise  offered to all of us, to be given all the spiritual blessings necessary in order to fulfill the Lord’s purposes for him.

What does it mean to you to be sanctified? Have you thought about the purpose of anointing? What does it mean to you? How has the power of the priesthood offered you greater understanding or peace? Are there things you wished you understood better about priesthood blessings/ordinances?

December 8, 2010


  1. Catherine A.

    December 6, 2010

    Sunny – this is beautiful. And I mourn with you on your journey towards healing and the right care for your son. A true challenge. Your husband’s blessing was tender.

    I love your words. “This little boy’s life is indeed sanctified, set apart for sacred use and bound for holiness, just as I have covenanted that mine will be.” That is a touching reminder and image – both of you entwined in sanctification. The process never seems to be an easy one. But there is such comfort in knowing the journey is meant to make us holy. Thanks for this heartfelt post.

  2. Robin

    December 6, 2010

    this is beautifully written. I don’t know you but i want to send love to you and say that i think that your little boy is truly blessed to have you and your husband as parents. may the path forward be smoothed, may the Lord pour out his healing power in your lives, and may peace distill in your souls.

  3. Sunny Smart

    December 6, 2010


    Thank you for your kind words. We are feeling the weight of the responsibility of making the right choices for this little boy’s care. The fear of doing the wrong thing can be almost paralyzing. We feel completely unequipped to know what is best. But then, this doesn’t really differ from parenting in general. I feel mystified and perplexed by my children and their needs almost daily. At times I am overwhelmed by the responsibility to lead and guide them and I wonder if this Plan of families was such a good idea.

    But I am reminded that the Lord knows these children and has purposes for them. This life is fraught with setbacks, some of which I as their mother will cause, some of which simply come with the territory of mortality. Yet none of these is composed of weight or consequence sufficient to overpower that which is Eternal. The promise is the same for all of us, that sufficient will be provided for us to gain all that is God’s , to grow in His Light, and travel a path ultimately pleasing to Him.

  4. Shelly

    December 6, 2010

    Thank you for this wonderful post. It is something near and dear to my heart. On journey that began a little over 12 years ago when I was expecting my 2nd child. Repeatedly we were told the journey would be long, hard, but worth it. Once he was born, the long, hard journey began as well as the blessings and comfort. Each illness, surgery, brought a sweet comforting blessing, “Sean, you are a special son and missionary of your Heavenly Father. Your purpose on earth is convert those on earth who need to the gospel of Jesus Christ. This purpose will be accomplished through you and your medical issues. Many times will you be close to death, but due to the Lord’s miracles, you will continue to live on and amaze and astound those who care for you.”

    The early years of Sean’s life were harrowing and the Doctors and Nurses were amazed and astounded of his progress after each incident. Even though it had been almost 4 years since a hospital stay and 6 years since a surgery, the Doctors are continually amazed and astounded at his progress and how good his health is considering many with his condition are not doing so well. Without those blessings, I am not sure what comfort we would have.

  5. Amy

    December 6, 2010

    This just reminds me that our children are on loan to us, and our’s is the privilege of loving them and caring for them the best we can.

  6. Sunny Smart

    December 6, 2010


    Thank you. We are feeling that peace more and more, recognizing the crux of which is found not in outcome, but in outlook.


    What beautiful comfort has been given to your family. It is so inexplicably hard to watch a child suffer through illness coupled with invasive testing and treatment. We had a small glimpse of this with our first baby. Though his illness was ultimately short-lived, there was a time when we were told to prepare for the worst. When he could be administered to he was promised full recovery and I knew as much as I had ever known anything that it would be so. The following weeks of poking and prodding were still immeasurably painful to watch, but the weight of worry had been lifted. I imagine those precious blessings have brought great comfort in hours of pain and peace in place of crippling fear. Thank you for taking the time to share your experience.

  7. Paradox

    December 6, 2010

    Thank you for sharing this sacred gem from your family, and the work you have put into shaping and crafting your words so carefully.

    I love priesthood blessings. They have been an amazing source of comfort and power in my life, both in big things and in small things. I remember once when I had a terrible headache, the brother who blessed me commanded the neurons and things in my brain to return to their proper order. I felt the relief come almost instantly–as real and sure as any doctor’s touch.

    To know the Lord’s reach goes deeper than skin, then straight out into the rest of the universe–throughout every inch of space both inside and out of me… it was a beautiful vantage point. All because I had a headache. All because Heavenly Father CARED that I had a headache.

    Priesthood blessings are amazing evidence of the love Heavenly Father has for each and every one of His children.

  8. cristie

    December 6, 2010

    a sweet holy opportunity and blessing for all involved. thank you for sharing. xox

  9. Andrea R.

    December 6, 2010

    This is such a beautiful piece. I’m so sorry for all that you’ve gone through and have yet to go through. Discovering that you have a special needs child is incredibly overwhelming. I’m so glad you’ve received some peace, and I’ll pray that you will continue to receive answers on how to care for your son. I truly believe that parents are given special inspiration for their children. But, it’s still hard some days. Please don’t hesitate to call or email if you need to vent. Love you!

  10. Corktree

    December 6, 2010

    This is beautiful and heart wrenching Sunny. I hope you and your little boy find peace in this struggle.

  11. Heidi

    December 6, 2010

    What a lovely and heartfelt post. I like your comments on the comments as much as the piece itself! I am very sorry for your struggles.

    I’ve been pondering sanctification this year. The Holy Ghost sanctifies, or purifies. This is baptism by fire, which completes the baptismal ordinance. Our souls are sanctified through the sacrament. One day the earth will be sanctified.

    Achieving sanctification during earthly life is mostly through tribulation, right? I’m reminded of a verse from Hymn 85 (How Firm a Foundation — my favorite):

    When through fiery trials our pathway shall lie
    My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply
    The flames shall not hurt thee; I only design
    Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

    So mortality is really a quest for purity, but the purification process is uncomfortable. That’s my take, anyway.

    And the thing I’m trying to reconcile about the priesthood is born of Dallin Oaks’ talk from April Conference (maybe last October?). He said that the words of a blessing don’t matter — the Lord’s will will come to pass, regardless of something promised in a blessing. I have always found so much comfort in blessings, even to the point of taking notes so I can remember promises given. But it seems that my faith in the words is misplaced. I’m still chewing on it….

  12. Melissa Dalton-Bradford

    December 7, 2010

    Bless your heart for such deliberatel living and writing. There is a glowing weighted-ness that comes through your words, proof in part of sorrow and exhaustion, but in greater measure of the grounding this mortal schooling is giving you. You write and think (and live, I gather) like a sage.

    I thought of Shadrac, Meshac and Abednego this week and their literal firey furnace. Their spot of sanctification. (As others have noted here, there are few purifiers as effective as fire. No wonder fire is often analogous with the Holy Ghost.) It is not until those three men are standing IN the furnace that the fourth being, the one “as the Son of God” is visible. Is He visible to others? Or only to the three? Or to all? Do others come to recognize God in the manner in which those :in the furnace” bear the heat? Or is it that when we are brought into that personal furnace, that our eyes are burned open, our vision changed as with lasers, and we see Him for the first time?

    Keep holding and blessing that suffering son, Sunny. Memorize his face and breathing. Are any acts as holy?

  13. Strollerblader

    December 7, 2010

    I can’t even begin to share all I feel and believe about the priesthood. I don’t know if it’s the lack of really having it in my home growing up and so I’ve put it on a pedestal, or that it’s as magnificent and powerful as I think it to be. I think maybe both.

    I have felt its amazing, unexplicable power. I have felt its peace and comfort. I have been healed through its use.

  14. anonymous

    December 7, 2010

    I was just speaking with a friend about priesthood blessings the other day. Both of us feel like our fathers were more likely to give blessings than our husbands are. We were wondering why this might be.

    My husband, a kind husband and a wonderful father, is so afraid of giving priesthood blessings. He is afraid that he will not be able to hear the Lord’s words. I’m sure this means that he offers blessings less often.

    I have often felt frustration when I have witnessed confident and faithful priesthood holders give blessings. I have another friend who’s husband gives blessings that are eloquent and powerful and so true. When she tells me about them I have felt jealous that I am not (easily) able to receive blessings like this. I have consoled myself with the thought that surely the Lord will provide what I need. If I am in a place where I need a blessing that powerful, a way will be provided. But I must say that Elder Oaks’ talk was very comforting to me…to know that my husband’s ability or inability to hear the voice of the spirit does not mean that I cannot receive needed blessings…

  15. Linda

    December 7, 2010

    Sunny –
    Thank you for sharing your poignant thoughts and experiences with us. You asked about our thoughts about anointing and priesthood blessings. This is something I have spent intimate hours involved with as an ordinance worker. One of the richest aspects of my life right now is to act on behalf of God in administering the initiatory ordinance. Hearing and saying these promises with such regularity makes me dumbstruck when I think of what that short ritual bestows. It is is thick with symbolism. My primary task is to get out of the way and let God do His work. Of course I don’t understand everything and I have plenty of questions (some of them tough ones) and it is frustrating in some ways not to have an appropriate forum to talk about this with others. If you get a chance and if the initiatory is something you’re at peace with (some aren’t), see if you can do some and steep yourself in the comfort available there. It’s not just the dead sisters who get the blessings.

  16. michelle

    December 8, 2010

    This was beautiful and it’s left me thinking more about the symbolism of some of our rituals in ways that have been meaningful for me. I’m thinking that maybe some of the process of anointing could also symbolize our willingness to consecrate our wills even as we exercise our faith.

    As someone who has struggled with health problems for nearly 8 years, I’ve come to appreciate how blessings unfold over time, how healing sometimes doesn’t come in immediate, direct ways, but it *does* come through other ways in my life as I try to both discern His will for my life and accept it. I feel like I’ve come to know Him better through it all.

    I hope that you will also feel His help and power and love as you embark on this difficult journey and that your son will be blessed with all that God has for him. I love what Melissa said, too — many of those blessings, I’m sure, will come in simple and powerful ways through the love of his parents.

  17. Adri

    December 9, 2010

    Sunny…as always you say everything in the right way. Thanks for the post. All my best to your boy!

Comments are closed.