Quite a few years ago one of my sons was struggling on his mission. He had been called to a Spanish-speaking mission where over half of the population spoke English. Their mission rules instructed that if a missionary found an English-speaking investigator who wanted to continue with the lessons, that they must turn that investigator over to the English missionaries.
The end result of this rule was that he worked for nearly two years without success at finding a Spanish-speaking person to embrace the gospel. He was a great missionary who kept the mission rules, worked hard and listened to the Spirit. He watched many of his English-speaking investigators be baptized by other missionaries. This was of course a blessing to him, but he yearned just once to be able to complete the process all the way to the waters of baptism. I believe it was a righteous desire.
I got a call from his mission president informing me that my son was considering coming home early. I discussed this with the president a long time. In the end, after a long discussion that yielded very little, he suggested I call my son and gave me the phone number.
I dialed him up immediately. He was expecting my call. We talked a long time. He told me that he only told his mission president that he wanted to go home early to try to instigate a change in the mission rules. It hadn’t worked.
As we spoke, it came to me that my son needed a priesthood blessing. My mind rolled around the possibility of flying to his mission field, but the Spirit just said to give him one now, over the phone.
I asked him if I could give him a blessing over the phone. He said, “can you even do that?”
I replied, “we’ll know by the fruit,” and asked him to bow his head.
The blessing was accompanied by the Holy Spirit. There was a sweet and comforting feeling present. The blessing wasn’t long, but promised him that if he was faithful to the end, that he would find and baptize someone who would rejoice in the gospel now, and with my son in the eternal world.
My son’s only comment was to ask me if I realized that he only had eight weeks left on his mission. I had been unaware of the exact time remaining. Eight weeks really is not enough time to find, teach and baptize someone. Still, we both had felt the Holy Spirit during the blessing.
I said, “go and find out what the Lord can do.”
A few days later they found a young man who was humbly seeking the truth. They taught him, and on the last full day of his mission, they baptized him. It was a life-altering experience for my son, and I’m sure for his investigator.
What did this teach me? It reinforced many truths.
Foremost is the truth that when the Holy Spirit speaks we may act with confidence, no matter how unlikely the outcome may seem.
Another is that God has the ability to sanctify and honor a priesthood blessing done over the telephone – when He instructs me to use that method.
An ancillary principle is that established procedure is less important than obedience to the voice of God. We must be very careful on this path, as the sides fall steeply away, and there is danger in choosing to act other than by the book. But, when it is right, it is right. Walking on the water seems to defy every form of procedure we understand, yet it can be done when we are walking to Him according to His bidding.
It also taught me that I, as a father, am never powerless to bless my children. Even separated by thousands of miles, I can reach out to them and pour out a blessing that will bless and change their lives. I have seen sadness, pain, fear and discord all turned away by priesthood blessings done this way.
I don’t recall a time when I was instructed to use this method for anyone other than members of my immediate family. In fact, I have often instructed non-family members to seek out their local priesthood authorities, even when I was standing right in front of them.
In the last twenty years I have given no more than a half-dozen telephone blessings, and every one of them has opened the heavens and poured out much-needed blessings. There has never been a dull thud, and I have never abused the privilege, or sought it. But, each time the Holy Spirit has suggested it, I have obeyed, even when it required some faith, even courage to propose and accomplish it.
The last thing this has taught me is that faith, truth and priesthood power is living and dynamic. “Dynamic” means it changes. If need be, when it is right, it will operate any way Christ sees fit. “Living” means that it flows from a living and loving Savior, who has blessed me many times, even though I have rarely felt his hands upon my head.