Hashtag So Blessed
There is a trend in today’s society to talk about how “blessed” a person is. There’s even a hashtag, “so blessed,” that precedes a post or photo about how blessed a person perceives herself to be. The main problem I see with this general categorization is that frequently, the “blessing” a person is referring to has to do with material wealth or increase, or a improvement in health, or other similar things.
But are those really blessings? Perhaps. After all, according to Doctrine & Covenants 130:20-21, all blessings are predicated upon obedience to a given law. However, I think it is generally assumed that when we are generally “obedient,” any good things that happen are a result of that obedience. When actually what that scripture says is that the blessings come as a result of the law that we keep. In other words, monetary increase is a direct outcome of hard work. The law in that situation is the work, and the outcome is material increase.
I propose that there is a deeper definition to blessings than simply, “If you are obedient then good things happen.” First of all, if we believe that’s all blessings are, then we are setting ourselves up for a miserable life of constant comparisons. If I do not have the same lifestyle, for example, as other people around me, I might begin to wonder if those people are more “righteous” than I am. Which could lead me to believe that God loves them more than He loves me.
That simply is not true. A “blessing” is not only a manifestation of God’s love. A blessing is an outcome of obedience to a law. In other words, blessings can be defined as simply as “consequences.”
Who Is Blessed, Then?
If blessings are the output of obedience to a given law, then, what does it mean to be “blessed?” The Topical Guide, “Blessed,” gives us some ideas. Here are some examples from entries under that topic.
- Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, Ps. 1:1.
- Blessed is the man that trusteth in him, Ps. 34:8.
- Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, Ps. 94:12.
- blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended, Matt. 11:6 (Luke 7:23).
- More blessed to give than to receive, Acts 20:35.
- Blessed is the man that endureth temptation, James 1:12.
- Blessed are the poor in spirit, Matt. 5:3 (Luke 6:20; 3 Ne. 12:3).
In fact, that last one from the Beatitudes deserves a deeper look. Here’s what the Beatitudes are in context, from Matthew 5:3-11:
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
Note that nowhere in there does it say anything like, “Blessed are you because you got a new car.” Or, “Blessed are you because your house is nicer than the one you just moved from.”
In fact, many of those descriptions of who the Savior considers to be blessed sound to me like they’re fairly uncomfortable. Those who mourn are blessed, for example. But why are they mourning? Mourning implies a sadness, a loss of something or someone dear to them. How is it possible to feel blessed when you mourn?
And what about being meek? That doesn’t really sound like a blessing. It sounds more like setting yourself up to be mocked for your beliefs.
“Obedience to the Law”
What I see in these descriptions is the cause/effect correlation between the law and the blessing as described in D&C 130. The description of the person – those who mourn, the merciful, etc. – describes what the person has been through so she can receive the blessing, which is the second part of each verse.
So for those who are merciful, or who obey the law of being merciful to other people, the blessing they receive is to obtain mercy for themselves.
Those who seek to establish peace shall receive the blessing of being called the children of God.
Anyone who is persecuted for righteousness’ sake shall receive the blessing of entering into the kingdom of heaven.
You are blessed when you do the work, or obey the law that the blessing is based on. Yes, righteousness factors into that, but not because a person is more “righteous” than another person. The blessing comes after and as a result of the work. Blessings are not an indication of God favoring one person more than another.
Blessings: I Do Not Think That Word Means What You Think It Means
I’m going to take this another step further and say that maybe, just maybe, to be blessed means to be challenged and tried. For example, Jesus said that those who mourn are blessed. But what happens to make a person mourn? Generally we think of it in the context of someone dying, and that’s not usually on someone’s Top 10 list of things to enjoy. Yet, here is Jesus saying that mourning is a good thing. It’s good because the outcome of enduring the challenge is good, not necessarily because the event itself feels good.
“Whatever your work may be, endure at the beginning, endure through opposing forces along the way, and endure to the end. Any job must be completed before you can enjoy the result for which you are working.” (Russell M. Nelson, “Endure and Be Lifted Up.” April 1997 General Conference.)
Let me share with you a secret from my own life. I’m single. Okay, that’s not really a secret – everyone who knows me knows that I have not yet been married. And even for those days when my married friends wish they could go back to (what they remember as) their carefree days of being single, it doesn’t always seem like a good thing to be, especially in a church that values eternal marriage and families above all else.
Blessings Equal Opposition
Here’s the secret: I’m glad I’m single – not because I see marital challenges and problems all around me (which I do) – but because if I weren’t, I would not be able to experience the growth and development that I do. This isn’t to say there aren’t days I wish I were married, because of course I do. What it does mean though, is that it’s a blessing (for me) to be single, because it means that I get to grow and improve in ways I would not if I were married.
And isn’t that what a blessing is? It’s an indication of positive growth. However, that growth doesn’t come simply because I go to church and read my scriptures or whatever else I think is the ultimate checklist of “righteousness.” Growth can only come because of a challenge, or some form of opposition.
Speaking about the early pioneers, Elder Robert D. Hales said, “…they were willing to endure all manner of hardships…They faithfully endured opposition, trials, and tribulation in their lives and, in doing so, were not only personally strengthened by their experience, but they also strengthened those around them by their example.” (Robert D. Hales, “Behold, We Count Them Happy Which Endure,” April 1998 General Conference.)
To be “hashtag so blessed” doesn’t mean to enjoy luxury and comfort, it means to undergo challenges and trials. Next time you count your many blessings, think about how many of those blessings came because you thought you were simply checking an item off some imagined “perfection” checklist. Then look at the blessings that really matter, those ones that bring tears to your eyes when you express thanks to Heavenly Father. I’d be willing to bet that those blessings are the ones that came as a direct result of enduring a challenge well.
Blessings Are Merely Tools
The blessings come because you’ve been tried and choose to rely on the Lord. Because blessed are those who have learned and continue to rely on the Lord, for they shall find solace, comfort, and a home with Father and the Savior in the end. Those are the blessings.
All of those blessings that Jesus recites as consequences are really the same thing: nearness to the Lord. Blessed are the meek, those who mourn, the poor in spirit, peacemakers, merciful – not because they are more righteous, but because they used the tools they were given and the challenges they endured to help them draw closer to the Lord.
The tools you get here on Earth (a house, new car, or even good health) are not the end (or really blessings), but the means to enable you to serve in the kingdom. If you have your earthly things in order so that you have sufficient for your needs, you are then enabled to serve in the kingdom. And service in the kingdom forces you to rely on the Lord. That’s what Jesus wants us to understand: all blessings can be wrapped up into one – that of learning to rely on the power of His atonement.
The bottom line is, blessed are those who see opportunity all around them to develop a strong relationship with Father and Jesus. Nearness to the Lord is the only real blessing, the only one that matters.