I want to say a big thank you to the Relief Society presidency in our ward who put together the visiting teaching luncheon during third hour today! It was a beautiful tribute to our roles as visiting teachers and sisters to one another. And that salad was delicious!
The videos, while funny, pointed out several mistakes visiting teachers make when we are just trying to get it done rather than listening to the Spirit and focusing on our sisters.
But in the last video, even though the sisters didn’t call before they came over, I loved the part where they rolled up their sleeves and said, “You take the dishes, I’ll do the laundry.” I could almost hear the words to “As Sisters in Zion” as they set out to serve their sick sister in her hour of need.
As sisters in Zion, we’ll all work together;
The blessings of God on our labors we’ll seek.
We’ll build up his kingdom with earnest endeavor;
We’ll comfort the weary and strengthen the weak.
The errand of angels is given to women;
And this is a gift that as sisters we claim:
To do whatsoever is gentle and human,
To cheer and to bless in humanity’s name.
How vast is our purpose, how broad is our mission,
If we but fulfill it in spirit and deed.
Oh, naught but the Spirit’s divinest tuition
Can give us the wisdom to truly succeed.
– by Emily H. Woodmansee
As we come to know and love our sisters, we will “have genuine concern for [them] and visit them regularly, pray for inspiration about how best to watch over them, listen with love, focus on them with sincere interest, and avoid gossip and criticism during the visit (and at any other time)” (from the Relief Society hand-out at the luncheon). In short, we will show our love by helping them with their spiritual and physical needs first.
The video of the sisters gossiping shamelessly, while the sister they were supposed to be visiting sat quietly, was somewhat comical, but mostly sad. For some of us, visiting teaching is one of the few times we get to see and talk to ladies from church. It’s natural to want to catch up on each other’s news. The same concern for each other that makes us share news like “so and so was just diagnosed with cancer” or “they could really use some extra help because he just lost his job” can turn into the dark and unhelpful conversation called gossip when we let pride creep in. We need to make sure all our conversations are peppered with the Spirit of God, so that pride has no room to enter.
From the hand-out: “Minister through Regular Contacts- Early in the month, plan when you will visit or contact each of your assigned sisters. A personal visit at least once a month is always preferable. When it is not possible to visit, use phone calls, letters, emails, or offer a service she needs.”
Even sisters who evade visiting teaching (yes, there are sisters who don’t love visiting teaching) need the love and spiritual revival that come through the visiting teaching messages. One great way to give the message, without quoting the Ensign verbatim, is to think of a way to communicate it through service your sister actually needs. For instance, in March, the message is about personal scripture study. The scriptures on audio book are available for free download. It’s easy to burn them onto a CD to share with busy sisters who don’t feel they have time to read. Alternatively, just point them in the right direction: Scriptures on Audio File- Free Download
From the hand-out: “If your companion isn’t able to go one month, it’s okay to go on your own.” This is where the old me would fail at visiting teaching. I always had some excuse why I couldn’t go by myself- kids, lack of car, etc. Even if my companion couldn’t go, I should have been doing my visiting. I think of my own current visiting teacher, Jen, who has visited me every single time all by herself. She has made a priority of it, even though she had two boisterous boys to care for, even though she had to come by herself. Her example is an inspiration to me. “What Visiting Teachers Report: Any contact made, any particular needs of their assigned sisters, how physical and temporal needs are being met, spiritual and emotional well-being of sisters, any service they’ve been able to give that can be shared, and what further assistance is needed.” This illustrates the real reason for visiting teaching: meeting the needs of our ward family.
“Learn of Needs and Offer Appropriate Assistance: Let your sisters feel that in times of distress, they can ask you for help. Help could be listening, caring for children or household needs when a sister is ill, or writing a letter of encouragement. Be quick to observe and quick to provide needed support. Keep private matters confidential. Share them only with the Relief Society president. Help the Relief Society president identify both temporary and long-term needs. Visiting teachers are a channel through which the president can be sure all sisters are cared for. When the need is serious, report it immediately to the Relief Society president. She will call on others, if needed, to give further assistance.
“Look for Specific Ways to Help: Show your sisters you honestly want to share their burdens. Sister may be more willing to accept help if you offer to do something specific. It’s less helpful to say, “Call me if you need anything.” Here are some ideas for more helpful approaches:
-I’ll be home this evening in case you would like someone to talk with.
-Would it help for me to take care of your daughter this afternoon? I’d be glad to.
-Are there any errands that I could do for you?
-I’d like to help–what needs to be done that you don’t have time for?
-I could go with you to________,if you would like.
-While being sensitive to her wishes, just do something that you are confident will help.
“Share and Testify of Gospel Doctrines: Prayerfully prepare for your visit. Ideas will come. You will know what to say or do. When appropriate, share a gospel message, especially with less-active sisters. The gospel message you provide may be the only one that sister receives. Use the monthly visiting teaching message printed in the Ensign and Liahona magazines or the scriptures, whatever best fits your sisters’ needs. Be aware of the spiritual and temporal needs of your sisters. Sometimes the most important message you can share is to do something to lift their burdens.” As was mentioned before, service teaches a gospel message, too!
I’ll end with the cute poem/song by Shel Eldredge that the Young Women in our ward sang for us today:
The Bare Necessities of Visiting Teaching
God bless! He always does!
Don’t forget to report by the 30th at email@example.com 🙂