Years ago I had a calling as a ward mission leader.  During that time I became acquainted with a long-time investigator who was coming around to the decision to be baptized.  We met on many occasions and I got to know her pretty well.

Her baptism was a joyous occasion.  We all could feel the special spirit of the ordinance and her non-Mormon family and friends who came to witness the event were also very moved by the experience.  After her baptism, as is the custom, she was confirmed in sacrament meeting (in front of the congregation).  However, due to an error in the prescribed wording of the confirmation, she was asked to come to the bishop’s office where they confirmed her again, privately.

Afterwards, as she described her confirmation experience(s), she said she was surprised because the wordings of the blessing portion of the two confirmation experiences were very different, both in tone and in content.   During the first (public) confirmation, the words of blessing were very positive and uplifting.  During the second (private) confirmation,  the words of the blessing took on a more ominous tone of warning and admonition.  She related to me that in the second blessing she was essentially told that difficult, dark times were ahead of her.

Shortly after her baptism, this convert moved outside the geographic boundaries of our ward.  For some reason she resisted my attempts to provide her with the address of the chapel nearby where she would be residing.  I got the distinct impression that she had decided she would not be attending church there.  I later learned that after living in a few different places, she moved in with an old boyfriend, a potential choice that she had talked about with us previously.  It was sad to see, as I knew over a period of years previous she had obtained a testimony of the church, had a full understanding of the significance of the baptismal covenant and of the law of chastity.  She herself had said that to make that choice would be “breaking the baptismal covenant.”  Yet she chose that path anyway.  After seeing these events unfold, it seemed to me that the reasons for the warning/admonition portion of her blessing(s) had been answered or fulfilled.

However, the point of this post is not to discuss her choice to move in with her boyfriend.  Rather, it is to consider the potentially different nature of public and private priesthood blessings – and what that means to those who participate in the bestowal and reception of priesthood blessings and ordinances.

It seems possible that there are advantages and disadvantages to public versus private priesthood blessings.  If a blessing is public, then the advantage is that all those who are witnessing the ordinance are able to feel and partake of the Spirit of the ordinance that is taking place.  The disadvantage is that a public blessing might preclude or omit inspired utterances that are too private and personal to be said in front of a large group of people – things that might under other circumstances be deemed necessary and essential to express to the person receiving the blessing.

Then we might consider the opposite scenario.  The disadvantage of a private blessing is that fewer people are able to benefit from the spiritual experience.  The advantage of the same is that the more personal counsels and admonitions (inspired by the Spirit) might gain expression and the person receiving the blessing leaves the experience with that much more inspiration/instruction.

I am wondering what experiences others have had that might reveal insight in regards to this sort of question.