Daughters in My Kingdom: “Pure Religion” – Watchcare and Ministering through Visiting Teaching (Chapter 7)

Posted by on March 14, 2013 in visiting teaching, women | 3 comments

“Relief Society sisters exemplify pure religion …. As they visit the fatherless and widow in their afflictions …”

This chapter is all about Visiting Teaching: its history and its components today – and full of stories about women visiting and serving each other in miraculous and powerful ways.  These stories are both the strength and weakness of the chapter:  strength because there are many (and varied) stories to draw from in discussion, but weakness because they are extraordinary stories rather than ordinary, making them somewhat un-relatable.

The lesson opens strongly with Jesus Christ, our great example of love and kindness. “He showed us how to minister – how to watch over and strengthen one another. His was a ministry to individuals, on by one.”  The word “watchcare” is new, but I like because it captures the ideas of loving, knowing, caring, and serving – in the Saviors name.

History

It is a little-known and interesting fact that at its genesis (1843), Visiting Teaching involved assessing temporal needs and collect donations.  These donations were gathered locally and carried individually, basket to basket – providing aid and relief for the needy.

In 1944, eight years after the implementation of the Church’s welfare plan, Visiting Teaching changed to focus on service and spirituality. General Relief Society President Amy Lyman questioned the Relief Society’s role in collecting donations – and it was decided that the Presiding Bishopric would take on welfare responsibilities.  The Brethern then dictated a new role for the Relief Society: “You will be a service organization, not a financing organization of charity relief.”  Some women thought this would be the end of Visiting Teaching, but the Relief Society Presidency saw it as a rebirth

For Discussion:
We may wonder today as we look back on this change if the Relief Society gave up autonomy to its male counterpart in Priesthood leadership – or whether was a necessary step as the church grew and expanded.

Visiting Teaching Today

This part of the chapter discusses the continuing effort of Visiting and is broken in to five parts.

  1. Commitment / Dedication
    This section discusses the ongoing effort to reach, love, and serve the women we are assigned through Visiting Teaching;  “An ongoing assignment; it is never really completed.”
  2. Seeking Spiritual Guidance
    Here we understand that Visiting Teaching is a spiritual ministry, involving prayer and spiritual preparedness – a requirement to try to ascertain and meet spiritual needs of those we teach.  President Spencer Kimball observed: “God does notice us, and he watches over us.  But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs.”
  3. Teaching Truths / Bearing Testimony
    A continuation of spiritual ministry highlighting that testimony is an effective medium to share the gospel and make others feel loved at church.
  4. Giving Temporal Help
    Visiting Teachers can be first responders in time of need – including family deaths, births, moves, and other transitions.  They can give temporal aid at these times and inform the Relief Society Presidency of ways in which ward members may be of service.
  5. Helping to Bear Burdens
    “We cannot always lift the burden of one who is troubled, but we can lift her so she can bear it well.”

The chapter wraps up with a reminder that Visiting Teaching also blesses the Visiting Teacher.  As she serves, she feel connected to other women in her ward – and her faith grows as she sees other examples of faith and goodness.

There are two side-bars in the lesson (page 115 and 123) which I think are worth reading and incorporating into lessons or discussions.

1. Questions Visiting Teachers Can Ask

These are thoughtful questions and are intended to lead to opportunities for visiting teachers to give comfort, share relevant gospel teachings, and provide meaningful service.

2. How Visiting Teachers Love, Watch Over, and Strengthen a Sister

Again, thoughtful suggestions that can lead to solid ministry, service, and watchcare.

 

 

 

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3 Comments

  1. Nice job, friend!

    I decided not to complain (as much) about visiting teaching once I saw that we used to have to solicit donations. Sheesh!

  2. This is so interesting! I am also –distracted– with the idea of always asking for money as a part of visiting teaching. I am so glad that is not the case now. But before the general building program, the sisters did spend a large amount of time donating skills and goods and selling items in order to make money to pay for church buildings. I think it had a greater influence on women outside of the “jello-belt”- but still… seems like for a few decades after the 1958 building program, Relief Society women outside of majority-Mormon areas still did a lot of “fundraising”- it just switched to financing the construction of chapels and temples.

    It just brings back the point that so much of the stability, survival and financing of the church and its members rested on the shoulders of women. This is such a powerful part of church history, such a powerful part of visiting teaching.

    Thank you for such a thought-provoking post!!

  3. I love that you use the word ministry to describe Visiting Teaching. I didn’t really understand that until I was pondering Sheri Dew’s recent talk at TOFW about how LDS women serve in capacities that requires ordination in other traditions. I used to want to be a minister of another church before I joined the LDS church, and I felt a degree of loss thinking that I would not have the same degree of influence as I would have as an ordained reverend. The lay church however is inspired and I love that in this sense, every member of the church acts as a minister to other church members. And I saved a whole lot in school loans. (kidding!) I feel like I missed out on the training still and I hope that the church will give higher quality training to home and visiting teachers so that our “ministry” can be more skilled and appropriate for those we serve and counsel.

    I did however see the power of the lay ministry a couple of weeks ago at church when my 3 year old got up in front of the congregation to bear her testimony. It was miraculous to me because she has a special needs diagnosis of selective mutism. There is shy and then there’s selective mutism and she has it, but somehow, in that moment, she was free from the anxiety that usually keeps her from interacting with non-family members and she spoke to almost 300 people. I thought for sure she would run away screaming from the pulpit once we got up there, but she actually spoke into the microphone, the words that she had shared with me in our seats a few minutes prior. That wouldn’t have been possible in my former church.

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