But first, some backstory. Our church has a lay ministry. And the work gets done by unpaid volunteers, everything from presiding over organizations and meetings to tidying the buildings on a regular basis. The bishop is responsible for everybody within ward boundaries. Which is way more than one man can handle, and the reason that he has two counselors, and other quorums to manage various responsibilities, and home teachers and visiting teachers.
Home teachers are a pair of brethren who are responsible for one or more assigned families. They visit each family once a month, give a spiritual lesson, and counsel with the head[s] of household on matters of concern to that family. Temporal, spiritual, you name it. Does the father need a better job? Are they having family prayers and scripture study? Does Widow Jones need somebody to climb up in the roof and clean out her gutters? Are they moving and need help from the Elders Quorum for the heavy lifting?
The Relief Society has a similarly-organized program called visiting teaching. Pairs of sisters are assigned to visit one or more adult women, take a spiritual message, see if there are any unmet needs that maybe the brethren might have missed, share hugs and laughter and fellowship. The purpose is to lift and strengthen each sister, to bring the love that God has for each sister into remembrance, to comfort the weary and the grieving, and to share the joy.
I am a visiting teacher. Have been for the past 30+ years, ever since I joined the church. My companion is a feisty lady about 20 years my senior, who is a lifetime member of the church. [I am an adult convert.] One of my visiting teachers is a new member and single mom, and her companion [whom I have yet to meet, due to scheduling problems] is a young wife and mother from South America. One of the sisters I visit teach is the literal sister of a woman who was a warm acquaintance if not a close friend, in my first ward in Texas. The other grew up and joined the LDS church in Southeast Asia.
I love being a visiting teacher. I have not always been the most effective one, particularly when I was assigned to visit sisters who wanted minimal or no contact with the church, but the sisters we visit now are just delightful and make it easy for us to come visit.
Last year I was assigned to be a supervisor over sisters who wanted the opportunity to report their visiting teaching via email. I have eight routes that I supervise, and while most of the sisters are diligent about visiting their assigned people, they are not always good about reporting to me that they have done so. [I confess that for most of my VT history, I have not been good about reporting to my own supervisors, which is probably why they called me to this position, LOL.] And we are big in this church on return and report. There are statistical reports that get filed quarterly, and while visiting teaching is only marginally about the numbers, like that cartoon has it, the job is not finished until the paperwork is done.
This is what I sent out to the eight companionships last night:
I have been remiss about sending you inspiring thoughts and gentle reminders.
Some of you have already reported your visits for the month; thank you!
If you have already visited your sisters, please let me know by return e-mail. [Please, oh please, do not make me have to call for your report at the end of the month. I field at least a hundred phone calls, every day at work. When I come home at night, and on the weekends, the last place that I want to be is on the phone. Even with my friends and sisters.]
If you have not already contacted your sisters, it's not too late. There is something within each of you, that inspired the RS to assign you to the sister or sisters whom you visit. You might have strengths your sisters need to draw on, or it might be the other way around: maybe you need to see how another sister handles her life with faith and courage. The one thing I am absolutely certain of is that none of us can get through life entirely on our own. We need one another, and notwithstanding our individual weakness, frequently it is that one infinitesimally small act of kindness that proves an immediate and immeasurable blessing to our sister.
Keep the faith, sisters! Hold to the rod, and with the other hand peck out an email to your intermittently humble and frequently irreverent VT supervisor.
I thank you from the bottom of my earlobes.
When I woke up this morning, there were two new reports waiting in my inbox. And I am going to chase people around between meetings to get their reports, because I really do not want to have to call them on the 31st.
On to another topic. I was reading last week’s Relief Society lesson, which included a map of locations that figured in early LDS church history. One of them was Adam-ondi-Ahman. And I wondered how far it was from where Brother Stilts was living before he died. About 50 miles. And I was about 60 miles away in another direction, back in 1980 when we went to Kansas City for a multi-level marketing convention when I was pregnant with Secondborn.
In reading Lehi’s account of his vision of the tree of life, I thought it was so interesting that before he shared what he had seen, he first described how his wife and two younger sons would be faithful, but that he feared for the souls of his two older sons. As we study the scriptures, we are encouraged to liken them unto ourselves, to find the solutions to our problems and worries in their counsel. And Father Lehi, 600 years before Christ, was doing exactly that. How was this going to affect the people he loved most?
I love the scriptures because of the truths they teach. I love the inspiration that comes as I read and study. I love how they open up insights into my own thought processes and behaviors. Sometimes they bring me comfort like the sweetest of lullabies, as in Doctrine and Covenants 112:10 ~ “Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers.” This has cheered and encouraged me, particularly during the struggles of the last two decades.
And sometimes it is more like a swift kick in the pants, as in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”. Particularly the next to last paragraph, about those who fail to fulfill their responsibilities to their children. It is oh-so-easy to point the finger at the father of my children and forget that when I do so, there are three more pointing back at me.
A fireside is an inspirational address, less formal than our regular church meetings, and typically held on a Sunday night. We are having one tonight for the adult singles. The speaker is a woman in our ward, one whom I both enjoy and admire. So I know where I will be at 7:00pm. I don’t remember what her topic is, but I know that it will be worth my time.
Today, at least at church, it will be Stripedy Stocking #2. Firestarter is great fun, and it requires thinking, much thinking, and much consulting of the chart[s]. Neither of which is conducive to reverence in my meetings. Yes, I am supposed to be thinking, but it is not supposed to be about the work of my hands.
I absolutely have to finish that blankety-blank costume today. I wonder what the antonym to procrastination is. Anticrastination? Amateurcrastination? It is on days like this that I wish I had a parrot that cussed. Trained, of course, by somebody else, so that I would bear no responsibility for what came out of its mouth. And when I needed an expletive, I could just rattle its cage.
- Four years into widowhood, after one year of incredible happiness and nearly 14 years of single blessedness. Have given up perfect manicures and pretty hands in order to resume playing the soprano recorder and to see if I can figure out how to play bluegrass banjo. Singing in the shower. Still really, *really* love to knit!