An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Visiting Preaching

A friend told me about an experiment she tried as president of her ward Relief Society. She wrote a letter on paper approximating official church letterhead and read a fabricated statement from the First Presidency stating that the visiting teaching program was being discontinued. The immediate reaction from the sisters in her ward was relief and joy. But as they discussed the implications, concerns were voiced:

Keeping in touch with less active sisters.

Being aware of the needs of sisters in the ward. 

Meeting the needs of the aged and ill.

Just as my friend had hoped, the sisters in her ward concluded that while visiting teaching does take time from their busy lives, it fulfills a need. I forgot to ask my friend if anyone mentioned missing out on the lessons—for my money, the least valuable part of the visit.

The only part of visiting teaching I actually dislike is calling and setting up appointments when it’s my turn. I seldom attend Relief Society, so visiting teaching allows me to get acquainted with women with whom I likely wouldn’t have more than a nodding acquaintance. I find the VT messages trite at best, offensive at worse. Rather than reading quotes from general authorities about the topic, I initiate a conversation to let the sisters and my partner share their thoughts. Since I’m not invited into these women’s homes to present heresy, I refrain from comments that could be perceived as a teensy bit negative such as, “Elder So and So’s conference address was a load of crap.” Or even, “I don’t think we have to support our leaders when we think they’re wrong.” If I can’t find something constructive to say about the topic, I let my partner and our visitee do the discussing and confine my remarks to, “I’m glad you’ve had such comforting experiences with priesthood blessings.”

Receiving visiting teachers is a different situation. While I’m happy to meet with these sweet sisters, their conviction that my spotty church attendance means I am in need of conversion detracts from forming a friendship. After this month’s visit, when I was subjected to hearing the entire text of Boyd K. Packer’s conference address, I have decided to request that my VTs skip reading the lesson. “I’ve already read it. Why don’t you just tell me your own thoughts about it,” will hopefully not be offensive.

I know I’m not the only one who has problems with strictly following the visiting teaching program as it is set up. The answer, I believe, is to individually modify the program to fit our needs rather than to scrap it entirely. For me, the emphasis is on visiting—not teaching—and definitely not preaching.

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Comments on: "Visiting Preaching" (6)

  1. Two of Three said:

    I am a visiting teacher, but haven’t given a lesson in years. I prefer chatting and getting to know the sister. The VT program is not my favorite thing, but I have been assigned to some women who truly do need a friend. Not a lecture from the powers that be.

  2. Hi there! Found you on fMH!

    I think visiting teaching is a chance for some interesting, engaging, or even just lighthearted conversation with a friend. When we get too wrapped up in the “teaching” part we may loose the valuable sense of “sisterhood” that really can form. The best vt experiences I’ve had are with those who have truly become my friend in the process, not with those who learned something from my lesson.

  3. As an inactive member who couldn’t even tell you what ward I’m in, I find VT and HT to be an invasion. My VT is a neighbor and we agreed that once a month I would say to her “I’m doing fine. Count it.” Works every time. HT is different. The Elder is an old friend of my husband so they end up talking about hobbies and mutual acquaintances. They are nice and not preachy. But come to think about it, they (the couple) haven’t been here for months so I have a suspicion that hubby stopped it. Or maybe they count it when they see each other, which is often. I’ve grown to like the couple very much now that we see them as friends and not church callings.

    My own personal story about HT: When we married 19 years ago I moved into hubby’s home that he had lived in for 20 years. The HTs knew him well. They came every last Sunday of the month but never learned my name and barely acknowledged my presence. In fact, a couple of times when they prayed they blessed “Bro. Hubby and his home”. Hmmm. That didn’t sit right. After a year I made it clear that I would not be around for these visits and the unwelcome lessons. Ugh.

    I believe VT and HT can be good if done correctly. Too bad that rarely happens. At one point I considered having my records removed simply to be done with it. Can’t do that as long as Mom’s alive.

    • I know what you’re talking about. I’ve had HT who ignored me and spoke only to my husband and kids. Did he think it was inappropriate to even speak to a woman other than his wife? I agree, HT and VT can be great if done right–as friends rather than obligations.

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