Jacob Blessing Joseph, by Harry Anderson
As members of the church, we are privileged to have priesthood holders perform ordinances and blessings on our behalf - from new babies to grave dedications and countless others in-between.
So, it surprises me how often these ordinances are performed incorrectly. Specifically, I hear the following:
“Sister Smith, by the power of the Melchizedek priesthood, we lay our hands upon your head and bless/set apart/confirm etc.”
Oops! Can you spot the incorrect word? Power. The power of these priesthood does not make these ordinance legitimate. It is the authority that the priesthood holder has received that gives them their validity.
So, the correct manner would be to say: “Sister Smith: By the authority of the Melchizedek priesthood, we lay our hands upon your head...”
This is not to say priesthood power is not a great thing to have - it is highly recommended. The difference is nicely explained by Elder Russell M. Nelson. He said “A distinction also exists between priesthood authority and priesthood power. When ordained to an office in the priesthood, one is granted authority. But power comes from exercising that authority in righteousness. Thus, although priesthood holders have authority, they must prepare themselves to have power. That they do through making themselves personally worthy and through learning and practicing the duties and doctrines of the priesthood.” (link here)
A sad example is if a child is confirmed by his father, and the father is not worthy, the confirmation will still be valid. The child will still be a member of the church and have the opportunity to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Why? Because the father still has authority, and God is kind. The sad part is that the blessing will be devoid of any real guidance and inspiration from the Holy Ghost because there is no power in it, due to the unworthiness. (Please note that performing an ordinance unworthily not only cheats the person receiving the ordinance, but puts the priesthood holder in deep spiritual doo-doo.)
To me, one of the most difficult things a priesthood holder will ever be called on to do is to bless the sick when there is no power present. Personally, when I need a blessing, I would like the priesthood to arrive with the proper authority and a bucket full of power.
A great, little-known resource to learn about stuff like this is called The Family Guidebook. You can find instruction on performing ordinances and other great information online here.