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Fount of Many Blessings

By Hildie Westenhaver

My husband was laid off from his job several months ago. He’s gotten a few consulting jobs but we’re still wondering what and when will be coming our way employment-wise.

An opportunity to volunteer in the Bishop’s Storehouse came up last month. My husband signed up right away. “I need all the blessings I can get,” he told me, as if I hadn’t been thinking the same thing. As if I hadn’t been thinking that when I offered to go on splits with the sister missionaries. As if my husband hasn’t thought that as he’s prepared his lessons every day for early morning Seminary.

I have to admit that I don’t really understand the concept of blessings.

HYPOTHESIS #1: I do a little favor for Heavenly Father, He does a little favor for me. I’m used to thinking that a blessing is a big deal. But maybe a blessing is the cosmic equivalent of finding a penny on the ground. Are blessings like the sprinkles on an ice cream Sundae? A nice little touch but nothing compared to the ice cream and hot fudge?

HYPOTHESIS #2: Trials are like a debt. The main way to get through my trials (and out of debt) is through time. Just like making a house payment every month will eventually eliminate the burden of a mortgage, with the passage of time all my problems will eventually work themselves out (some trials may not end until after death, but they will end). Everything passes: unemployment, bad relationships, sadness. They all stop at some point. Time heals all wounds, right? But there is a faster way to get out of debt and through my trials: blessings! Blessings are like some sort of Heavenly currency that will pay off my debt faster than normal. Ergo, the more blessings I can rack up, the faster Heavenly Father will help my husband find a job.

HYPOTHESIS #3: Blessings have nothing to do with my everyday life and are only used to build myself a mansion in Heaven. Therefore blessings are really only redeemable after death.

HYPOTHESIS #4: Shut up about the blessings, Jennie! You should just volunteer to help people because it’s the right thing to do, not because you’re expecting something in return.

I feel like I should go with Hypothesis #4 and be good merely because I’m supposed to, not because I’m greedy for blessings. But then there are scriptures like Malachi 3:10 that promise if we pay tithing the Lord will pour out blessings upon us. Or D&C 130 which says that blessings are predicated on obedience. Obviously the Lord knows we weak-willed people aren’t going to do something without some sort of incentive.

Are we to consider blessings something to be earned? Are they the carrot dangling from a stick, urging us along in the Gospel? If not, what are they?

About Hildie Westenhaver

(Blog Team) was born and raised in Detroit, but is happy to call Austin, TX home now. She majored in Art History and Geography at BYU and graduated a week before having her first baby. There have been five more babies since then. Hildie is an avid baker and tries to fatten up the people she loves.

28 thoughts on “Fount of Many Blessings”

  1. Starting backwards rather than "how does one get blessings" is "what is a blessing anyway?" My personal definition of blessings are "opportunities, skills, or objects given for personal growth or service." Within this definition the only difference between "trial" and "blessing" is whether we determine something to be a "good thing" or a "bad thing." Solomon was blessed with gold and wisdom – things we'd conventionally call "good" – but they ultimately became a trial which lead to his demise.

    Blessings aren't necessarily handed over in a pretty, bowed package. The blessing of musical, academic, or athletic talents can take years to develop. Likewise, blessing that might be labeled "virtues" such as patience or wisdom also take a great deal of experience and endurance. The blessing of financial security and monies often seem to materialize sporadically; and these often seem like a direct present. The blessing of perfect health seems to be the hardest one to obtain and frequently seems to be denied those who need it the most.

    Now, how do we get given blessings? With my mortal eyes it seems like in the same way that a parent blesses a child. You want to give the best things to a child, but often the child's behavior and readiness dictate what you can give them. An ice-cream sundae is a wonderful treat – and granted on condition that the child has finished his or her dinner. A permanent marker is the best for coloring on cardboard – but can be a dangerous tool in the hands of a child who has not yet mastered the concepts of permanence or appropriate writing surfaces.

    That is to say, we don't necessarily "earn" blessings but we become "qualified" for blessings. The "payout" for the blessings are completely subject to the will and timing of God.

    I think it's the legend of Mary Fielding Smith insisting on paying her tithing because she deserves blessings that perpetuates the concept that "if I do x than I will be blessed with y." (I use "legend" as I've only heard this story through hearsay and have not personally read it in a credible source.) It is true that we are promised that as we pay tithing that the windows of heaven will be opened and blessings will be poured upon us. I think the story of Mary is a wonderful demonstration of her faithfulness, obedience, and action rather than an illustration that "do x and get y."

  2. I am not sure, but I think that almost the only blessing we can look to earn is confidence that we are on a path that is pleasing to Heavenly Father and becoming who He wants us to become. Taking service opportunities that help us live closer to the Spirit can do that. Maybe the Spirit will guide you and your husband to a great employment situation next month. Or maybe it will simply help you to have the peace that you need to get through the next month without the hope-for good news and without regrets about what you might have done differently.

    On my best days I serve because I want to serve – not thinking of it as a sacrifice or imposition. On the other days I try to serve because I want to want to serve. I try not to get too tangled up in what other results I hope for from that service.

    I don't know where that fits with your list of hypotheses. 🙂

  3. I think most people who talk about "getting blessings" for good behavior subscribe to your #1 or #2.

    In my opinion, the "blessings" that you get from doing charitable work is really just one blessing: a better relationship to and with God. As we serve His children the way He serves us, we understand Him better and become more like Him.

    That strengthens us to get through the hard times and gives us the perspective we need to enjoy life.

  4. We recently have been going through some trials and I felt like I needed to do my best in my callings, visiting teachings, scripture study, etc. It helped to focus on service and feel the spirit more. Although our trial is ongoing, 8 months now, I can see prayers being answered in ways other than I have been praying for.

    Good luck to your husband, I hope he finds steady work soon!

  5. A current apostle, possibly Richard G. Scott – I don't remember, said the blessings mentioned in Malachi associated with the payment of tithes and offerings are more to do with spiritual blessings than temporal blessings.

    For me, what comes with service and obedience, is a more deeply rooted testimony; insights from a different perspective than just what I am going through right now; a deeper commitment to the Church and following the prophet – all of which help me navigate and handle trials and challenges in a way that I hope is becoming more congruent with what Father would have me do.

    After 32 years of building a business, we are experiencing financial challenges to a degree we never have before. But here a little and there a little, I recognize opportunities (or blessings) for work that come. Perhaps the recognition wouldn't be as acute if not for being committed to do what I have made covenants to do – no matter what the outcome.

    And to me that's the key – obedience and service because of covenants that bind us to Him – "no matter what"

  6. I feel like my blessings are more visible when I am partaking in service. It's not that I beget more, but I see more clearly what I already have.

    Yes, PROBLEM A might be all-consuming and dire, but by focusing on others and forgetting (for a small time) about PROBLEM A, I see that God has given me BLESSINGS A-ZZZ.

    Currently, I find myself slurring my words and replacing words when I speak due to a medical issue. It is very frustrating and embarrassing. Sometimes it is so bad that I want to hide in my bed and cry a little. Ok, a lot. But when I give myself a little push to get out of the house and bring some joy to someone else, I realize that God is letting me still use my hands to type, to bake, to hug, to hold, to turn pages of a book, to clap along with my baby.

    Would I have realized that if I hadn't "served"? Perhaps. But perhaps the blessing I received was clarity.

  7. Thought: The blessing we received when my husband was out of work for 6 months (years ago) was a closer marriage. The job eventually came, yes, but that wasn't the "blessing."

    P.S. Hang in there! I know how hard it is to be "out of work." We've had it happen a couple of times, but it always works out some way or another. It's like looking down the street, knowing there's a corner you have to turn, but you can't see what's around the corner and it's driving you crazy! But eventually, you get to the corner, you turn, and BAM! There's the awesomeness that was waiting for you all along. Sometimes it takes years (decades?) to get to that corner, but other times it only takes a few weeks/months. That's where patience comes in. Fun? Not really, but it's definitely a good lesson to learn. Well, for me it was, anyway. 🙂

  8. In my life blessings seem to come in clumps. Hard times followed by clumps of blessings. I remember over 30 years ago asking our bishop why since we had been paying our tithing, were we struggling so? He said sometimes the Lord saves up our blessings to pour on us later. I have definitely found this to be true.

    I also think that since we are created in God's image, we parent similar to Him. If a child is trying hard and giving back to us or his siblings (in obedience or kindness), don't we extend more to this child?

  9. My husband was unemployed or "underemployed" for most of last year. I know I felt a lot of same emotions you described. I felt as though I had done everything the Lord had asked me to do, and yet I hadn't received what I desired most. It left me wondering if I should give up or try harder to "make" the Lord bless me.

    With the benefit of hindsight, I can say that trial sort of was a blessing. Strangely, all those nights I stayed up crying and worrying actually brought me to where I needed to be: stripped of some of my foolish pride. I became willing to to work toward a solution that was not the "magical" end to my suffering but instead allowed me to carry on without the blessings I thought I needed.

    It wasn't until I found the inner reserve of strength that I could finally see the Lord's hand in my life. I had found the one sure blessing which comes to all who try serve the Lord: peace of mind.

    P.S. I also gained a ton of great side benefits. Who thought my husband would some day be baking bread for our whole family!

  10. Blesses are extra things when we serve others and do so without seeking blesses or any kind of recognition. They are a nice bonus to receive, but we shouldn't be seeking them for extra service to help us through trials.
    Let's look at this at another angle….
    My husband lost his job 22 months ago due to a chose he made. A very poor choice, which in turn affected our family greatly. Why should his choice affect the rest of us? Why should we put through suffering for his bad choice? Unfortunately it just works that way because we are packaged deal. Blessings…man I would LOVE some right now. Perhaps if you get some extras, you can send them my way.

  11. I don't think that we can cash in good works for blessings. Though some blessings come as a direct result of our good works, I think a better way to look at it would be to think "I know that somehow, in some way, things are going to be okay. I've tried hard to consecrate my life to Heavenly Father's will, and I have faith that He will cause things to work out for the best." Easier said than done, I know. A discussion of obedience and blessings would be incomplete without faith.

  12. Everything we have, all we are, our very lives are blessings. Blessings are the sprinkles on the top, the hot fudge, the ice cream, the bowl, the spoon, table…you get the idea.

    My husband has also had a few periods of un-or under employment–including the present time. What have I learned about blessings from that? I have learned to be grateful. In times of plenty I complain and worry that my van is too old and too ugly. In times of scarcity I am so grateful that my van is running well past it's reasonable life span. In times of plenty I get tired of the same old things for dinner–what, no salmon steaks? In times of scarcity I am so grateful that my children are fed and healthy.

    Someone gave a talk a while back (alluded to above, I think) which I am too lazy to look up right now, about spiritual and temporal blessings. He said that the spiritual blessing for obeying a commandment is immediate, but the temporal blessing might take a while. One thing I have notice this year, since hearing that talk, was that if I delay paying my tithing I get very anxious about money, the future and my husband's job. When I pay it immediately, I have been given comfort and peace of mind that things will be fine. This is, to me, the spiritual blessing. The well-running van, the full pantry are some of my temporal blessings right now. Someday I expect I'll have the job and savings account and all that, but like he said, sometimes we wait for temporal blessings.

  13. My understanding is that 1) some blessings are predicated on obedience to certain principles (Word of Wisdom) 2) some blessings come because we are in a position to use them to bless someone else 3) some "blessings" are simply those trials that will allow you to become stronger, or more able than you were before, 4) some blessings are extended simply because we are having a really rough time, and without them, we would be beyond our ability to endure, 4) some blessings are totally unexpected and/or unasked for.

    Whatever the reason, maybe the most important point about blessings is that we remember them, show gratitude for them, and extend them to others in any way we are capable. Some day we may have purely unselfish motives for serving others, but until then, I figure it doesn't hurt to practice, even with the hope of a little blessing in return.

  14. I'm in more of the "sun {rising} on the evil and on the good, and…{the} rain {falling} on the just and on the unjust" camp (Matthew 5:45). I think much of life's ups and downs just happen because that's life. I think that during and after a trial the Lord can consecrate the afflictions for our gain, but I don't really think our trials and blessings are carefully controlled by God. I realize that others may feel totally different and could probably produce countless quotes that dispute my opinion. I think there are positive consequences that naturally result from following the commandments, but I think that much of what happens in our lives is just because we live in a messy, fallen world.

    I've heard some people talk about how often the General Authorities are wealthy and successful and how that is linked to their righteousness. I get nervous about such a connection being drawn. When I think of the "prosperity" promised to the righteous in the scriptures, I think more of the fruits of the Spirit that can fill our hearts rather than material wealth.

    I am so sorry that your husband is unemployed! I am really hoping that he finds a good job very soon. That road is one we've been on before, and it is filled with so much uncertainty and doubt and frustration. Hoping for things to work out very soon.

  15. There have been times when I've felt like a particular blessing was definitely tied to a certain action on my part, and other times when I have not. We have been blessed with general financial stability, and when I have pondered this and wondered why, I have always felt like the Lord is blessing us so that we can care for my husband's father, who lives with us. For me, the Spirit tells me that there is a direct correspondence. It's really good for me to know that, because it makes things that are sometimes challenging seem easier when I'm reminded of this.

    Other blessings or trials seem much more random, not tied to specific things, and I will be interested when I die to understand them all better.

    I don't know the correspondence of blessings. But I do know these two things: 1-God's love for each of us as individuals is powerful, and he is aware of you and your goodness and the dedicated way you care for your family. and 2-The Atonement makes the crooked straight, meaning that eventually things work out, even if we don't see it clearly now.

    Crossing my fingers and hoping that things work out soon, too.

  16. I admit, I am often baffled by blessings. Sometimes they seem to rain down and other times, trials come thick and fast regardless of our actions. Most of the time, I consider blessings the manifestations of God's love for His children, not a reward for our good behavior. At least, that's why my mind thinks. My heart often believes that the blessings I'm praying so desperately for won't come unless I "deserve" them.

    Then there are the times when I am righteous and faithful and prayerful and still, the blessing I seek doesn't come. I can think of a dozen people I know who have worked hard to serve the Lord and yet find themselves in difficult circumstances, and that doesn't make sense to me either. Why sometimes yes and sometimes no? I remember an Institute teacher explaining that some blessings are guaranteed to us, others we need to pray and work for. Maybe we can use that system to categorize things, but I don't think all blessings will exactly fit.

    The only conclusion I have come to is that the Lord will take care of me and my husband. What that will mean exactly, I don't know. It doesn't exclude trials or promise blessings, it's just the reassurance that He's there.

  17. I tend to think of most temporal blessings the way I think of most temporal trials: either the completely random stuff of life, or caused by our own actions or the actions of others. I tend to think of spiritual blessings as the promises and love of God manifest.

    As for the temporal, there are plenty of people with temporal abundance who didn’t get there by following God’s commands. Conversely, there are plenty of humble, obedient people who will struggle through life without enough of this world’s goods to ever be comfortable. It is hard for me to imagine a God who chooses that for us. I think it’s just life. While I do believe the Lord can choose to bless us with this world’s goods for His purposes, we should probably tread carefully down such a path of thought. Believing that doing A and B will bring about C can also leave us believing others must somehow deserve their misfortunes because of disobedience.

    As for the spiritual, I believe there are those blessings predicated on our obedience (increased testimony of the principles we enlist to obey, greater charity, better understanding of the Lord’s will, etc.), but others are extended simply through mercy (God’s love for His children, comfort in troubling times, etc.), though even these seem easier to access when we work to align ourselves through obedience since we are more attuned to the whisperings of the spirit.

    Having been through job loss as well, I’ll say that Kate H.’s last paragraph reflects the feelings I had at that time as well. The blessings given are not always what we think we most need, but He does not leave us comfortless.

  18. I don't have any answer or thoughts, but I just want you to know that I have formulated the exact same hypotheses. I don't understand how it all works, and it drives me crazy. Thanks for writing this, because sometimes I feel like the faithless-heretic-crazy person in the ward for thinking these things.

  19. Just had a thought…
    Is this our definition of blessings and trials?
    Blessing=something we want
    Trial=something we don't want

  20. One of the things I love about the gospel is that it isn't some kind of cut and dry reciprocation, wages received for services rendered. The gospel is not my job, and the purpose of blessings isn't to pay me like it is. If it was about being given what we truly deserve, none of us would have anything. The services that have been rendered to us through the Atonement are infinite and eternal–we can't pay them back.

    Because of that, I see blessings as gifts. They can be given at any time for any reason. It can be because I need it. It could be because it's supposed to play a role in a responsibility He has given me. It could be because I'm trying to repent and I need some help. But my favorites are the I love you gifts–the personal tender mercies that serve no larger purpose than to let us know that Heavenly Father loves us.

  21. I haven't read through all the comments to know if someone has already said this, but here is my own hypothesis:

    Blessings are often the outcomes Heavenly Father knows will come about from certain actions, but we, in our mortal state would never be able to see beforehand, and in many cases will not be able to comprehend in this life. For example, growth and strength gleaned from adversity, the warmth and goodness, and love that we feel when we serve others, etc.

    In other words, I think our Father in Heaven knows us SO WELL, and has the eternal perspective, while we only have the mortal. Therefore, just like as mothers we can often see the needs of our children that they cannot, He, as our perfect Father, knows what we need and how we might obtain them.

    I do also think that there are some blessings, often referred to as "tender mercies" that He sends simply because of His perfect love for us. But I wonder if even those are either given or withheld based on His all-knowing sense of our eternal needs.

  22. On a recent trip to the Temple with the Primary, The temple President pointed out three windows which he said in the temple are called the windows of Heaven. The scripture you pointed out says God will open the windows of Heaven and pour out a blessing. If you look at it from this perspective the blessings would be the temple or the blessings of the temple.
    For myself I like to leave God out of my trials because I can feel resentful or unloved when things don't happen as quickly as I would like them to. I believe God blesses us everyday in so many ways. We learn from the scriptures that God can bring trails upon those who have gone astray and in order to get in good sights with God you must repent and draw closer unto him. We also learn that trials can come from satan to test the faith of God's children. The answer to that kind of test is also to draw closer to God. So, it is a natural response to draw closer to God thru trials.
    My husband and I just passed thru a trial of similar circumstance and we are still marveling at the way the Lord saw us through it! The blessings didn't come the way we would have ever expected.
    I like this scripture, Mat 6:33 "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."
    because it says if we put the Lord first He will take care of the rest.
    I believe like the scriptures say we are all unprofitable servants to the Lord. Everything we have is a blessing and the second we try to repay him He blesses us, so we are always in his debt.
    I guess I don't believe that blessings are things to be earned or that they are ever carrots dangling. I believe that Heavenly Father loves us so he blesses us. When we choose to do the right he blesses us more. If we choose to do his will in everything He will give us the ultimate blessing eternal life with him and our families forever.
    Thanks for helping me remember.

  23. My husband was unemployed for several months last year and it was the hardest, worst experience of my life. Sure I grew from it and I learned so much, etc (like with any trial), but it was so, so awful. We are still recovering financially and emotionally from it. And every single day he was unemployed, I had these same thoughts about blessings. If I do my part, I will be blessed, according to D&C. But what does it even *mean* to be blessed? Certainly I can't expect that I will be blessed with employment. I mean, I might be, but I can't expect it. But is there anyway to get divine intervention that results in employment? I still don't know. I certainly believe my husband's eventual employment was a blessing, but I have no idea how it came about. I don't think it was a necessary equation– like so many service hours + number of prayers + tangible amount of faith = employment. Or did I have to learn a lesson first? Or was it all coincidental? I also didn't know what to have faith in. I don't think a person can have faith they will find a job, but you can have faith that God will take care of you. (But in what way? All ways? Wouldn't that mean financially?) I still don't have the answers.
    So, this wasn't a super helpful comment, but I sincerely wish you good luck. I hope your husband finds employment soon. And, the one concrete thing I learned is "this too shall pass."

  24. So many of these comments resonated with me. I do believe that we are all unprofitable servants, and that, in that sense, we don't "earn" our blessings. However, I also know that we are blessed for being obedient. The form those blessings take, however, is often different from the one we expect.

    My husband's business has been struggling since October 2008. In the months that followed the economic collapse, when things looked very dire for us, I prayed for relief and help. Of course I wanted a quick solution and an end to our financial struggles, but that hasn't happened yet—and here we are, two years later. But in the meantime I have received so many other blessings—among them my discovery of Segullah and becoming an editor here, and an opportunity to develop latent talents, which has enriched my life so much that I feel keenly God's tender love for me and His awareness of my needs. I am learning to trust in His timing and wisdom, and to trust that the blessings He sees fit to give me are the ones that I really need. I have also found through this experience and other trials that the more I consecrate myself to Him through service and attempts at righteous living, the more I feel strengthened, loved, and able to cope with difficult circumstances—and those are blessings, indeed.

    Sending virtual hugs, Jennie. Unemployment is hard! I hope the job situation is resolved soon, and that in the meantime you feel strengthened and cared for and blessed.

  25. I read this post when it was first published, it's been in the back of my mind since then. The comments have been interesting to ponder also.

    Blessings are not the same to all people. My husband has been out of work in the past as well. We have always had what we needed, never lost a home, never tapped into our 401K. I see that as God taking care of us = blessing us. My husband thinks that because he lost his job we were not blessed. In his eyes if we had been blessed he would still be gainfully employed with the same company. If he were still there we would not be where we are now, reaping blessings only available here.

    To try and separate temporal blessings and spiritual blessing is to shortchange God. Recently I have felt that one blessing from paying tithing is understanding that my spiritual being is more powerful than my body and temporal things. If our spirits are stronger than our bodies it would logically follow that when we have a strong spirit (from doing things like service), our bodies and minds would be strong as well. Which would make us more productive in the temporal world = temporal blessings. This of course is quite a long process so we can't equate spirituality with immediate temporal success.

    (My understanding of wealthy GAs is that they need to have the monetary means to serve full time. Someone still paying on 2 mortgages would not be available for service, even if they were very worthy and able.)

    God is rich and liberally shares with us, everything is a blessing. The trick is to recognize it, and to see in what way we can use even the seemingly negative for good.

  26. As I read through my comment I realize that my thoughts on temporal and spiritual blessings and temporal success does not take into account our fallen world and imperfect bodies. Maybe in the celestial realm, when we have resurrected bodies, it will be easier to witness the temporal blessings from spiritual strength.

  27. You know, sometimes I have to side with the atheists on this one. Because sometimes, as the first commentor said, blessings seem to be denied to those who need the most–the sick or dying person, the unemployed, the person begging to make their flight so they don't miss a chance to briefly see a loved one, etc. And then other times when I haven't asked for anything, huge "blessings" come my way. Or you look at bad people who get "blessings" of wealth, health, prosperity, luck, etc. without seeming to deserve them. All that makes me think that it's really all random, what happens to us. Why sometimes you pray for a person to be healed and they are and sometimes they're not and sometimes you don't even pray and a person is healed. It really seems all random. And it really makes me wonder if there is such a thing as getting blessings for doing good deeds or being righteous, or if it's pre-decreed what will happen to us in this life and any good deeds we do are only building up blessings in heaven and/or helping us be better people in this life.

    It's all very confusing to me.


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