Home teachers and visiting teachers in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are some of God’s emissaries. They are assigned to watch over and bless certain members of their wards or branches and to report their actions to their supervisors.
Home teachers are priesthood brethren who are assigned by priesthood leaders to visit individual families in their homes each month. Visiting teachers are sisters who are assigned by ward Relief Society presidents to contact individual sisters each month. Did you notice that difference? Home teachers make actual visits to the homes of their assigned families while visiting teachers need only make a contact. Home visits are certainly preferable, but telephone calls, emails, texts, or letters are acceptable.
I have been a visiting teacher since I became a member of the Relief Society in 1972. I normally make home visits, but I also make telephone calls and write notes containing the visiting teaching message. In the more than forty years, I seldom miss making some kind of contact and usually report 100%. I consider the assignment to contact my assigned sisters to be just as critical as preparing a lesson for my 5-year-old Primary class. I am committed to fulfilling both callings.
I am amazed at how easy and fulfilling it is to be an average visiting teacher. Yet, I recently heard that only 57% of the sisters in our ward had been contacted in the previous month. I have to say that I was shocked, but I should not have been. I have gone through several sets of visiting teachers who never called, sent a message, or visited as well as some sets who visited infrequently.
I try not to be judgmental, but I do not understand how anyone can accept such an important assignment and not do it! I can see missing once in a while when children are sick or when vacationing, but I have a difficult time understanding how anyone can simply dismiss the responsibility to simply contact a sister sometime during the month.
I am an active and committed member of the Church, and I have no problems for which I need help from my visiting teachers. However, I need the social contact and the emotional knowledge that I am important enough to be a priority to them once in a while.
I have gone several years without a contact from a visiting teacher, and my family has gone years without a visit from a home teacher. The past year has been very nice in that we have had a visit from our home teachers every month that we have been home. It is nice to know that we are a priority to them. During that time I purchased an exercise bicycle from a friend that was moving. It was too tall to fit under the canopy on our truck. I called my home teachers, one of which had a truck with an open bed. They came one evening after work and moved the bicycle from my friend’s garage to my garage. The whole experience took about half an hour, but it left both them and me feeling good about our relationship.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke about home teachers in his recent General Conference address. He acknowledged that there are circumstances where priesthood brethren cannot visit each assigned family every month. Sometimes there are too few priesthood holders to visit all the families in the ward or branch. Sometimes the distance to travel is too long or too expensive. Sometimes there is limited transportation. Sometimes the assigned families live in dangerous neighborhoods.
In any of the above circumstances, the counsel given to leaders is to “do their best to use the resources they have available to watch over and strengthen each member.” After sharing this counsel, Elder Holland suggested how he would fulfill his assignment as a home teacher under the above situation. He would establish “a schedule that would get us to those homes on a calendar that was both possible and practical. Built into that schedule would be the prioritization of our available time and frequency of contacts to those who need us the most….
“While working through our schedule to visit all homes, which may take some months to accomplish, we would make other kinds of contact with the individuals and families on our list via any of the means the Lord has provided. Certainly we would watch for our families at church and, as the scripture says, would `speak one with another concerning the welfare of their souls. In addition, we would make phone calls, send emails and text messages, even tap out a greeting through one of the many forms of social media available to us. To help address special needs, we might send a scriptural quote or a line from a general conference talk or a Mormon Message drawn from the wealth of material on LDS.org. In the language of the First Presidency, we would do the best we could in the circumstances we faced with the resources available to us.”
Elder Holland called for the priesthood brethren to “lift [their] vision of home teaching. Please, in newer, better ways see yourselves as emissaries of the Lord to His children. That means leaving behind the tradition of a frantic, law of Moses-like, end-of-the-month calendar in which you rush to give a scripted message from the Church magazines that the family has already read. We would hope, rather, that you will establish an era of genuine, gospel-oriented concern for the members, watching over and caring for each other, addressing spiritual and temporal needs in any way that helps.”
Even though Elder Holland was speaking to the priesthood brethren about home teaching, he could have said the same thing to the sisters about visiting teaching. As the world darkens with the evils of our day, we need one another to strengthen and uplift us and to help us to stay strong in the gospel of Jesus Christ. My hope and prayer is that home teachers and visiting teachers everywhere will heed the counsel of Elder Holland and fulfill the assignments that they accepted to watch over and bless members of the Church.