One of the many ordinances performed in the Church is the blessing of babies. Like many of our practices, this has evolved throughout Church history. Early records indicate that there has been debate over blessing babies in the home. Moreover, there was a long tradition for babies to be blessed, in the home, eight days after birth that no longer seems part of our praxis. The following is the relevant council on the topic.
In 1878, John Taylor, in behalf of the Council of the Apostles, issued a message that was carried in the Deseret News and the Millennial Star that insisted that members have their babies blessed at church by the Elders:
It has been intimated to us that some of the Elders have been teaching ideas concerning the blessing of children that we deem to be incorrect. If we are not misinformed it has been taught that there was no need of parents bringing their infants before the Church to be blessed by the Elders, but it were better for the father to attend to this rite at home, for if he did not he lost a very great privilege as well as a right to, and power over his children that he might otherwise retain. This is not so. We have nothing to say against a father blessing his children…Nor do we object to the father taking his babe on the eighth day and giving it a father’s blessing. But we do not think that this privilege whether exercised or unimproved, should interfere with our obedience to that law of the Lord wherein it is stated (New Edition Doctrine and Covenants, Sec. 20, verse 70, page 117) “Every member of the Church of Christ having children, is to bring them unto the Elders before the Church, who are to lay their hands upon them in the name of Jesus Christ and bless them in his name.” (Millennial Star, April 1878, No. 15, p. 235)
25 years later, Joseph F. Smith, encouraged fathers to magnify their callings by blessing their children in their homes and not at church:
In accordance with the rule of the Church, children born to members of the Church are taken to the monthly fast meetings in the several wards, and are there blessed and named by or under the direction of the bishopric.
…However, a father holding the higher Priesthood, may desire to bless and name his child at home, perhaps at an earlier date than would be convenient or possible for mother and babe to attend a fast meeting in the ward. Many elders desire to perform this ordinance within the circle of their own families on or about the eighth day of the child’s life. This also is proper… It would be better if every elder who is a father rose to the dignity of his position, and officiated in his holy office within his family organization…The question arises, and has recently been presented in specific form, if an elder performs the ordinances of naming and blessing his own child at home, is it necessary that the ordinance be repeated in the ward meeting? We answer, No. The father’s blessing is authoritative, proper, and sufficient;
…The repetition of the ordinance of naming and blessing children tends to diminish our regard for the authority and sanctity attending the father’s blessing within the household. (Juvenile Instructor Vol. 38, January, 1903)
By 1917, the official council was a return to the two blessing system. Sadly I haven’t found the author of the following editorial:
This question comes to the Era:
“If a baby is blessed by its father at home, when it is eight days old, should it afterwards be taken to Fast meeting on Fast day and blessed there? If so, of which blessing should the official record be made by the ward clerk?”
If a baby is blessed by its father at home, a note should be made of the blessing in the family record; but to comply with the requirements of the revelation in regard to the blessing of children, found in section 20, paragraph 70, Doctrine and Covenants, it will also be necessary to take the child “unto the elders before the Church” which is generally done in fast meeting. It is evidently intended that the record to be made in the ward shall be of the public blessing. The paragraph reads:
“Every member of the Church of Christ having children, is to bring them unto the elders before the Church, who are to lay their hands upon them in the name of Jesus Christ, and bless them in his name.”
This example of public blessing was set by the Lord Jesus, as recorded in the New Testament, and also in the Book of Mormon, III Nephi 17:11-13, 23, 24. In these examples the blessing was done publicly, and that is the method that should be pursued by the parents who have children among the Latter-day Saints. This does not imply that a father should not bless his child when eight days of age, neither does it imply that a record should not be made of such blessing, for we believe that it is not only the privilege but the duty of the father to so bless his child, also to record the blessing in his family record.
This was also the last reference to the eight day blessing that I found. Buy the 40′s there are only non-instructional references to Fathers blessing their babies at church.