Fired from Visiting Teaching

Posted by on November 15, 2012 in Relationships | 45 comments

For almost a full year now, every visiting teaching message has been a tutorial on effective visiting teaching. We have been uplifted, motivated and inspired by many tales of amazing visiting teachers. For a change of pace, I offer my own story.*

I believe in visiting teaching in principle.  In practice, it has never quite worked for me.  Take this example: when I was a new resident at an apartment building, my visiting teachers asked me, as all visiting teachers do, “Do you need anything?” And once, only once, I tried a radical experiment. I told the truth. I said that I didn’t know very many people in the area and I would love it if my visiting teachers (who happened to live in the same building) would come over to play board games or something for an hour or so sometime.

I can’t describe the horror that flashed across my visiting teachers’ faces. They clumsily stammered and blushingly backtracked from their original question. I realized too late that the question was supposed to be hypothetical.

Later, I moved into a house in a neighborhood with lots of elderly people. In principle, I like that visiting teaching provides opportunity to befriend people from different demographics. In practice, this kind of idealistic multigenerational exchange never happened.

A much older woman was assigned to be my visiting teacher. She would call me and say something along the lines of, “We are planning our visiting teaching appointments. We are going to be doing our route on Tuesday morning. Can we come to your house at 10 o’clock?”

I would respond, “I’m sorry. I work on Tuesdays and Thursdays.”

“We have already made appointments with two other women and we are going on Tuesday morning,” she would repeat, this time more firmly. “Can’t you get work off?”

No, I could not, nor would I take work off for a visiting teaching appointment.

In the end, with an exasperated sigh, she would ask me when I got off work.

“I am off at six but—“

“Fine,” she would interrupt.  “We will be waiting at your door at 6:30.”

This news would disappoint me, because after work, I like to do things like eat and use the restroom and verify that my kids haven’t spilled cereal all over place before I entertain visitors, but at this point I’d be sick of arguing and give in.

This conversation played out pretty frequently. From my perspective, since I was only in the office two days a week and was available five days of the week and almost every evening, I couldn’t understand why my visiting teacher could not find it in her heart to visit me on one of the times I was actually home. In my frustration, I often suggested that my visiting teacher just skip my visit this month, but she had a strong testimony of visiting teaching and insisted on meeting the quota.

The actual visits did not go any better than the phone calls that preceded them. Most of her time at my house was spent complaining about its unorganized state (we were remodeling at the time) and the hyperactivity of my two-year-old (who liked to show off when company was present).

Of course, it’s not like I was any better at visiting teaching my own charges. I was assigned to visit an elderly shut-in. Unable to leave her home, this naturally social woman craved companionship. She was obviously excited whenever her visiting teachers arrived. Sometimes she would come prepared with notebooks full of her own poetry sitting by her side so that she could read them aloud to us.  She would talk to us for hours, reminiscing about the experiences she had as a younger woman.

There was one problem: this sweet old lady hated children. In fact, she once threatened the young men and young women in our ward with a gun when they attempted to wash her windows as part of a ward service project.

The first time extenuating circumstances forced me to bring my two-year-old along, she ungraciously put up with my child’s obnoxious presence. Like my own beloved visiting teacher, she spent our time together pointing out to me that my daughter probably had ADHD and needed medication. Or better parenting.

When my newborn son was born, I really had a quandary. As a new infant, he would not tolerate going without breastfeeding for three or four hours while I visited a talkative invalid.

Shortly after his birth, the first time I attempted to visit teach, I left my baby home.  He was traumatized and I leaked milk all over myself.

The next month, I brought him with me. I thought, he’s just a tiny baby. He sleeps most of the time.  I will discreetly nurse him while I listen to her poetry. No one will even notice he’s there.

She noticed. She was not pleased. She sent me home. No visit.

My visiting teaching companion worked every day, so she was only able to visit after 5:30 in the evening. The elderly poet insisted that we come right at 5:30, as soon as my companion got home from work. My husband was not always home from work that early. And if he wasn’t, I had no choice but to put my two kids in the stroller, walk over there, apologize, and go back home.

Finally, I explained to my Relief Society presidency that I felt like the woman I was visit teaching would prefer to be visited by a person who did not have any children.

About a month later, new visiting teachers were assigned to me. They were both women with young children. Neither was shocked by the state of my house and their own rowdy children played with mine during our visits. While I was ashamed of myself for my failure at multigenerational exchange, I had to admit that with visiting teachers that were closer to my own age, I found that being visiting taught wasn’t so bad after all. And I’ve been conscientious not to mess up this good situation; at the end of each visit, when they ask me if I need anything, I always give the right answer.

At the same time, my visiting teaching companion was assigned a new partner to help her teach that invalid poet. I searched the roles for my new visiting teaching assignment.  I didn’t have one. I had been fired.

That was four years ago. Since that time, the old Relief Society presidency has been released and a new one has taken its place, but I have never again received a visiting teaching assignment. The new presidency either knows that I was blacklisted or hasn’t noticed that I do not have an assignment. Every now and then, my husband points out that I should probably talk to them about this and get myself back on the roles.

I just can’t bring myself to do it.

*Did your search engine lead you to this post when you were actually trying to find good advice about visiting teaching?  Oh dear.  But don’t fret.  We at the Exponent have our own visiting teaching expert, Spunky.  I refer you to her.

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45 Comments

  1. Oh April, this makes me sad. I would love to have you as my visiting teacher! The fact that you listened to her poetry for hours is extremely compassionate. I wish she (and your visiting teachers) could have treated you with the same compassion.

    • Thank you Emily U! Maybe someday, if fate ever moves you into my ward, I’ll ask them to put me back on the roles so I can be your VT. I would love that.

  2. The first time I went to a single’s ward, I was 23 and had just survived 5 years of teaching in the primary. I went to the single’s ward once or twice – no one spoke to me at all on their own – and when I stopped and asked questions about perfectly legitimate things – like where the classes were located (it was in a large institute building) I got an EYE ROLL and and vague directions – down that hallway. Well, feeling not welcome I didn’t go for about a year – 8 months into that year I got a phone call asking me if I had done my visiting teaching. Surprised I said, no, I didn’t even know I was a visiting teacher I haven’t been to church in a while. Well… you should do your visiting teaching – here are the people and their numbers and your companion’s name and number. click. Seriously – if someone hasn’t gone to CHURCH in a while, do you think they’ll do their visiting teaching to people they don’t know? No questions about me, or why I hadn’t gone or if I was going to a different ward – this was when there were single and university wards. I thought it was completely odd. But, visiting teaching is what actually got me going back to church. A few people I actually knew moved back into the ward and got put in as the RS President – and she called me up and chatted with me for a while and then asked if I would like to be a visiting teacher with someone who I actually knew and was friends with. Now that I knew people I knew were in the ward – it was much less scary going – and yes I was a VT for a while. So thank you K.P.

    • Your experience is very similar to what DH often experiences with home teaching. He doesn’t attend LDS church very often, and when the contact he gets from them is “have you done your home teaching” it really bugs. Makes him feel like they don’t care about him, just about what he can do for them, or about the numbers. But we do have a home teacher who obviously CARES about us, and isn’t ticking something off his list for the month, which is wonderful.

      There is a certain subculture in the LDS church that assumes some kind of uniform commitment and takes it for granted. Sort of like being in a family where you assume your siblings can’t disown you no matter how rudely you treat them. I wish that culture could be replaced with an attitude of actually SEEING individuals, not taking anyone for granted, and showing compassion.

    • I remember being called and asked if I had done my visiting teaching for the month. I told them I was not a visiting teacher. They told me they had me on their list as a visiting teacher and so and so was my companion. I told them that no one had asked me to be a visiting teacher, and I did not go. Somewhere in there, the Relief Society president formally asked me to be a visiting teacher.

      Up to that point in my life, I had thought no one was ever put in as a visiting teacher without their knowledge and consent.

      And to the opening poster: A sister who was near 70 was my companion when I was in my late forties. We visited young mothers and had a great time. My companion had a tendency to fold up clean laundry that happened to be on the couch. She told them she couldn’t help herself, but she did not say it in a judgmental way. We talked to the children, and didn’t have a problem with them being there. Of course, she was and is a perpetual teenager, and I refuse to grow up. So, there you have it.

      I would have asked to teach another sister long before you reached your own point of saturation. And I would have refused to see the teachers who harassed me, once they knew I was available every day but two. I would have stopped answering the phone, truth be told. Your longsuffering and patience are incredible!

  3. I’m angry for you that you were ” fired”. It sounds to me like you did an exceptional job at trying to be there for your sister, even if it meant carting two children along. That’s no easy task. Visiting teaching (both the giving and receiving) is HARD.

  4. I’m so glad I’m not alone. I always feel like a veritable grump, and I believe passionately in the THEORY of visiting teaching. But the practice . . . . well, let’s just say I’m happy to be companionless with one assignment to VT my neighbor whom I already visit frequently, and to be visit taught not at all since I asked to be taken off the list during my divorce.

    Should I ask to get back on? Probably. But like you said, I can’t bring myself to do it.

    The only thing worse than not having help when you need it is to have people pretending to want to help when you need it.

  5. For me, visiting teaching has two separate parts: those whom I teach, and those who teach me. After many years of difficulty in scheduling I finally asked the RS Pres if I could visit teach without a companion. It has been great. I feel that I visit with most of my sisters much more now that it’s just two schedules we have to iron out. The hard part of VT is that I haven’t had visiting teachers who visit regularly for the past 10 years. I think I’ve been visited maybe 9 or 10 times. Some say that it’s because I’m “so busy” that they figure I am never around. Maybe they figure I am doing “fine” and don’t need VT. True I am busy, not true that I am too busy for visits. I am a very outgoing person and ironically feel devastatingly alone with regards to my church life in my ward. I don’t know that VT would change that much, but it’s a part of it I suppose.

  6. One important thing I learned about visiting teaching was to be honest when something is not working. I worked full while raising 2 young children on my own due to divorce. I had a night route and was given 5 names of sisters I was assigned to visit after I got home from work. For the most part I enjoyed visiting teaching, I had a wonderful neighbor who volunteered to watch my my kids while I was visiting teaching….but that said….5 was just way too many! I called the relief society president and told her I needed to cut back to 3 or I would not be able to visit teach. She was very accommodating. She told me she would rather I be honest I about my limitations. I continued to do this with other relief society presidents, some were more understanding than others, but all followed through with my request to be assigned no more than 3 sisters.

    • I’m glad your experience with honesty about what isn’t working in visiting teaching came out better than mine did!

  7. I had a similar experience as the OP- I was new in the state, let alone ward, and when I was asked “Is there anything we can do for you?” I replied that I would love to have some people to go to see (insert chick flick that my DH refused to see here) with, I was greeted with cricket sounds. I think they would have rather I had said “weed my garden” or “buy me a diet Pepsi” than “hey, just be a friend”.

    Anyway, I struggle with getting my VT done every month. It kind of depresses me that I am the same sort of burden on someone else.

    • I am so sorry you had that same experience! I told a friend about my experience asking VTs for friendship and she came to the same conclusion you did. She thought that if I had said that I was moving and needed them to pack up and scrub down the whole apartment, they might have agreed.

  8. I sincerely don’t want to make light of the situation, but the OP has some really humorous experiences. It’s like a comedy of errors.

    That being said – I am sorry that we have all been hurt. I remember a post by someone named Heather O from years ago. Basically she said, “Have you ever had an experience where you needed help, and you prayed, and you knew that God could prompt someone like a visiting teacher to come help you at that moment, and you’d have a wonderful faith-building story about God knowing each of us personally, and no-one came so you had to handle it on your own, and you found out that you were stronger than you knew?” That post stayed with me, because this always happens to me. I don’t get the help I need, and I don’t have any cool stories about miraculous visiting teaching. But every time I don’t get the help I need, I tell myself that this is one of those situations Heather O talked about. I laugh sarcastically at how my life is absolutely not an Ensign story, and then I plow through the real-life messiness.

    I guess I’m trying to say that I understand what all you ladies are saying – I’ve been there, too!

    • Don’t worry about making light of the situation. I make light of it all the time. If your life isn’t an Ensign story, you might as well get a good laugh out of it.

    • I had a companion who would always stand me up, so I stopped asking her to go with me. I had the best time visiting. I visited an “older lady” (the cutest little old lady you could know, who had been a plural wife; she and her husband had joined after the other wife had died, since it was against church policy to join otherwise, unless he divorced one of them, and he was not willing to do that) – and I visited a mother of three young children. Because there was only me, the young mother opened up about some of her problems. We became good friends. To this day, I am good friends with the whole family, even though we had our ups and downs.

      I have always felt that the lessons were superfluous, as if I was somehow “holier than thou”. I would have much rather preferred to forgo any lesson at all.

      When my companion was the older lady I mentioned in a comment above, we did give the lesson. I didn’t want to, but felt she thought it was something we had to do – but our focus was on “how are you” and other topics. We often visited for a while. In fact, in one place a sister in law was temporarily staying there, and when she moved into her own place she requested that we be her visiting teachers. When we were reassigned, we still stopped off to see her as if we had not been (but were relieved of a lesson).

      The last visiting teacher I had was my neighbor. I told her I didn’t like lessons, but just seeing if I was okay was good enough. She and her husband helped us a great deal, bending over backwards, going out of their way. If there was a time when she hadn’t seen me for a while, she’d bring dinner over. That was her way of making sure she got her visiting teaching done, and it worked out great.

      Our ward has been split and we were the ones moved. I’ve not seen hide nor hair of vt or ht and am very glad of it, to be honest. Phony lessons as one sits around, tense and uncomfortable, are not my idea of “fun” regular guests.

      My oldest daughter objects to the whole premise. She calls them “assigned friends” and feels that is a bad thing. People should be friends because they want to be, not because they have been assigned to be friends, is her perspective.

      • Okay, that belonged at the very bottom of the thread of comments. Instead it ended up as a reply to a post I had decided not to reply to. Ugh!

  9. I guess I do have one humorous/awful visiting teaching story of my own:

    It was in 2000, when President Bush was running the first time. It was the night before Election Day, and my visiting teaching companion told our visiting teachee, “Make sure you vote tomorrow, and vote for the right one!” Later in the car, I decided to go for it. I said, “Who is the right one?” Well, that started a two-hour “discussion” that ended in her yelling, “How do you know Black people want to go to college? Have you asked every Black person?” It was kind of awesome. But horrible, too. The horrible part was that I had engaged in the discussion just to see what she would do.

    I told the Relief Society President that my partner and I had gotten in a big fight, and our partnership was changed. A few years later, my former companion apologized and said she had felt bad about it ever since. Looking back, I should have apologized for antagonizing her and poking at her, just to see her reaction.

  10. I feel like I’ve never truly gotten onto the visiting teaching train. In college I felt forced to do it because I was good friends with the RS Presidency. I would go sit on some stranger’s couch for a half an hour feeling awkward. Now, as an adult, I’m one of the very few working moms in the ward and I travel a lot. I just don’t have time. I have asked not to be a visiting teacher as well as not to be taught. This is the first time I’ve truly felt content!

  11. “Finally, I explained to my Relief Society presidency that I felt like the woman I was visit teaching would prefer to be visited by a person who did not have any children.”

    I’m sorry, but to me this sounds like you were asking to be released. You didn’t get fired, you quit. It is up to you to restart again.

    • I did also explain that I was happy to continue visiting teaching, but that it would be better to have an assignment where occasionally bringing my children would not be a problem. That said, it is possible that the RS presidency member I spoke with didn’t convey the whole message, or thought I was delicately trying to quit, or thought that occasionally bringing children is altogether inappropriate and equated what I said with a resignation. Whatever the case, I agree with you that I could be proactive and get back on the roles. But as I mentioned in my post, I can’t bring myself to do it.

    • I do not see this in any way as a resignation; who would you think this is a resignation? Not all women have children, not all women like children. If the woman pulled a gun of the YW/YM for washing windows, I can’t imagine her distaste for children is a surprise…. in pointing it out, it seems to me that April was doing exactly what a visiting teacher *should* do: reporting on the special NEEDS of the women she visits.

  12. I fired myself from visiting teaching. I don’t do it, I know I won’t ever do it, so I asked to be taken off the list. Every now and again, they ask me if I am ready to do it again. I politely decline, and we move on. In principle, I agree with the program, too. However, in practice, I find it is a very limited group that actually benefits the way the program intends. I don’t mind being visit taught (I don’t love it), but if they stay over 30 minutes, I politely tell them I’ve got something else I need to do, and thanks very much for coming. It works for me.

  13. I’m another of those who like the philosophy behind visiting teaching, but generally find the practice onerous. However, one of my best visiting teachers embodied all that I could love about VT. We met up for lunch about once a month. We’d just … talk. She didn’t prepare a lesson that she felt obligated to unload on me, and I didn’t have to smile politely during a presentation. We just shared, and became good friends. That has been infinitely more useful to me than a whole truck load of prepared lessons about why I should pray or increase my food storage.

    Right now I’m assigned a companion, and we have two sisters that we visit. However, our companionship splits the responsibility down the middle, and we each visit a sister. The sister I “visit” is a good friend, and getting together with her is what I would do even if I wasn’t assigned to her. So, I get the “credit” of doing my visiting teaching. Pretty smart RS president!

    • I agree , my favorite, visiting teaching experiences have been where there was no visiting teaching message, just people talking, sharing food, be it dinner, whatever.

  14. April,

    I think you are an awesome visiting teacher! I also think the people who have been assigned to visit teach you are horrible. Seriously, it freaked them out to play board games? Or to come on a day that suited you? Or judge you for (what amounts to) a healthy two year old? Ugh. Talk about the letter, rather than the spirit of the law. Bah.

    With that, good for you. As in– they probably haven’t noticed that you are “off” the VT list, and it sounds to me like you are best served in this way, so… don’t rock the boat, especially since it isn’t where your heart is.

    In short: Fired? No. Liberated? Yes. Enjoy!

  15. I was looking around about a certain topic that was weighing heavy on my mind about the sisters in my ward. Just so happened I came across this post and the Exponent. I read many posts and I must admit, I am disappointed in this blog.- I can appreciate people having opinions and sharing them when constructive. However, this post and several others ,are just LDS women complaining and trying to find validation about their complaints in open forum. This discussion discourage others from doing the right thing, even when we have a hard time doing it. Keep in mind sisters, you have covenanted to visit teach. (think about the temple) He needs disciples, FOREVER. Not just when its convient. Thus as Elder Holland reminded us, we drop our nets, (stop being offended) and do what he asks. HIS plan is to visit teach. Seems like the spirit has nothing to do with it in many of the cases mentioned…thats the real problem. As a RS Pres. I can tell you that this attitude is prominent. It is evident that VT can be tough at times. But in reality, what does it cost you? A few annoying or uncomfortable moments? Please! What is your discipleship worth to you? And this is the voice of TRUE LDS women?— sad,sad,sad.

    • Please review our comment policy, particularly point 4, “Try to stick with your personal experiences, ideas, and interpretations. This is not the place to question another’s personal righteousness, to call people to repentance, or to disrespectfully refute people’s personal religious beliefs.”

      It is not ok to questions others’ dedication to the gospel or Christ here.

    • Arizona Lady,

      You are in serious violation of the comment policy in sections 1, 3 and 4.

      You mention that you were searching in regard “a certain topic that was weighing heavy on my mind about the sisters in my ward” and happened upon this blog. Yet rather than reading, learning, or sharing about whatever it is that is “weighing heavy on” your mind, you have judged and criticized. With this, I can’t help but question your intent in your calling. Are you as judgemental and critical of the women in your ward? Is this the real issue in what has been “weighing” on your mind?

      You are welcome here when you come seeking for light, knowledge and sharing. I sincerely hope you come back with an open mind to seek for edification and empathy. But should you choose to come back to judge, you will be moderated. You owe April and the women here and perhaps even the women in your ward an apology.

    • Perspective from a HPGL – for what it’s worth.
      Given your parting comments I’m not sure that you will come back to read this response, but here goes anyway. Reading between the lines it appears that you are frustrated that the sisters in your ward aren’t “getting with the program” as you would like them to. You want them to enjoy the full blessings of discipleship and in your eyes they don’t seem to want the same thing. As their leader you are searching for answers. The story and posts on the VT issue could be read to provide greater insight into the struggles faced by the sisters in your ward as they try to faithfully do their duty. However, some, including you, read this as an indictment on the character or faithfulness of the sisters. Given your purpose in coming to this page, perhaps that isn’t surprising. You were looking for reassurance but instead were confronted with the harsh reality that for most sisters their lives are not always as portrayed in the lesson manuals or church magazines. They have real problems and real challenges as they try to balance all of the competing interests in their life, while not being overwhelmed with the weight of guilt that presses down on them in the Mormon culture to be perfect in every way. Despite your best efforts you will not be able to change that. Essentially you have a choice. You can give 100% of your time to love and support the sisters in your ward in their challenges or you can give 100% of your time wishing they were people that they are not (which by the way they will understand as judging their fitness as a woman in the church). The answers to the questions you are asking are not programmatic. It would be easy if it worked that way but it doesn’t. The answers will come as you increase your capacity to love the sisters just as they are. They already know their shortcomings. Highlighting them won’t help, but your loving support will give them hope that their challenges are not going to overwhelm them. Discipleship, like life itself, isn’t easy but it is much harder when someone is constantly reminding you of your flaws.

  16. I love Visiting Teaching – in theory. In practice, I’m awkward, self-conscious, and feel like a bother when I’m trying to arrange visits. I’d love to help, but I don’t know how, and I don’t want to be pushy and kind of insert myself into someone else’s life. I guess it’s a confidence thing, and I should just try to fake it ’til I make it. I’d like to care about this person, but I don’t know her, and I don’t want her to feel like I’m only trying to get to know her because I was told to. I’m too good at giving in to excuses.

    Two other YSA girls are assigned to visit teach me, and when I have approached them about planning a time, it’s never quite happened.

    I guess I’m just not sure how to connect properly, from either side of the visiting teaching experience.

  17. I used to be very hit-or-miss with visiting teaching. I’d do it for a while and then I’d forget and despite my good intentions, the month would slip by. I felt awkward and it was difficult to bring kids along. Plus, I have a very demanding ward so I had six women on my list and it felt overwhelming.

    But then I was called into the RS Presidency. And man did I begin to appreciate good visiting teachers. The ones who care and know what is happening with the women they vt are so needed. And because our ward simply doesn’t care that much whether there’s a message shared or whether a formal visit takes place, but rather that women feel loved and cared about, vt has sparked some genuine friendships. When I visit teach, I do it my way: usually no lesson but real attempts at a personal connection.

    That said, I’ve only been visit taught in my home maybe three or four times in almost 8 years. And it’s a bit of a relief. Yes, when I was horribly ill with my last pregnancy it would have been nice to call someone for help. But not having to listen to vt messages every month balances it all out.

  18. I just want to tell all my visiting teaching stories now…
    When I was first married, I worked two jobs, went to school more than full time, and I was never home. My visiting teacher yelled at me for not making time for her. I told her she was not allowed to come to my house, but she could tell the president she came anyway.

    Then I moved, still worked 60-70 hours a week, and was still in school full time. My VT were really good. I told them my schedule – they asked if I would prefer they not come, and I said yes. They dropped little notes and gifts off at my house every week. And they called me on the phone regularly to see if I needed anything… one day, while my abusive husband was away, I needed help getting myself together so I could leave him. They were there. It was such a tumultuous time of my life – I don’t even remember their names… but I am sure grateful for all of the bottles of soda and bread and their presence when I was all alone.

    When I started to first question the church, I told my visiting teacher she could come, but I didn’t want a lesson. She asked me why, and I shared with her that my abusive ex had used scriptures and conference talks to justify his behavior. I couldn’t stand listening to it. She was great. We just sat and chatted and played with her little boy. I felt like I had a real friend.

    When she moved, the next set told me they HAD to give a lesson. I told them not to come back. Shortly after that, I left the church. (Nothing to do with visiting teachers… it was just time for me to move on.)

    When I went as a visiting teacher, I meant it when I asked, “Is there anything I can do?” and I’ll always be grateful for the women who meant it when they asked me that question.

    • Wow, Jen! It sounds like your VTers weren’t all great, but the ones who were great were really great. I’m so glad that some of them were so helpful and understanding.

  19. My current visiting teachers always come see me, but it’s almost like they prefer talking to each other to talking to me. They are both stay-at-home-moms with small children and I am getting my Master’s degree with no plans for kids in the next few years. They spend a few minutes asking me about how school is, but I just feel like we really aren’t connecting and that makes me a little sad.

    My last visiting teacher was also a stay-at-home-mom, but she always taught by herself and I felt it was much easier to talk to her because of it.

    • I had that same problem with my last set of visiting teachers. They came over and talked to each other; it was kind of absurd. I finally asked to have my visiting teachers changed after one said that women weren’t emotionally stable enough to hold the priesthood, then told me I’d agree when I grew up. It became clear that this woman and I were different on fundamental levels, and that she didn’t respect me because I am much younger than her.

      I’m all for getting to know new people, but that needs to go both ways. If your visiting teachers aren’t comfortable with or interested in getting to know you, that’s not your fault.

  20. Count me in as one of those “love it in theory, but the practice leaves something to be desired” votes. I love, love, love my current visiting teachers. They are great. One is inactive and on their route, only comes to visit me (although I haven’t seen her in a while). Both are “non-traditional” (ie not married, SAHMs), which is a rarity in my ward. I love having them come, we talk about everything, don’t always have a lesson, but I always end the visit feeling loved and appreciated. We don’t agree on everything, but they are about the only people in the ward who know I’m a raving liberal, b/c no one else would accept me (or my kids) if they knew. They are also the only people I will talk about my struggles with work-life balance as a working mom. It’s funny though because neither of them has ever been married nor do they have any children, but they “get” me and accept me, the way that few others in the ward do.

    They expected to be removed as my VT after I gave birth to my first child b/c that was what had always happened in the past. I went to the RS pres at the time and told her I wanted to keep them. She looked at me strangely, asked me if I was sure that I didn’t want someone who knew what it was like to have a new baby, but accepted my response that I wanted to keep them. I’ve had the same VT for 5.5 yrs, through 3 RS presidents. I love it!

    OTOH, things are not so great for me as a VT. Now that I’m working, I get the pity speech from the sisters I visit. The visits feel forced and uncomfortable. I only have 2 sisters that I am assigned to visit and my husband is supportive, so he’ll take the kids so I can go any time (except work), but I don’t really connect with either of these sisters. I’ve tried lessons, no lessons, meeting outside of homes (for lunches, snacks, playtime at the park, etc), but it still feels forced. My companion and I get along fine (she was once a working mom), but coordinating 3 schedules is tough.

    Side note: I’ve asked the “is there anything we can do to help” question, and I have always meant it. No one has ever taken me up on it though. I’m sorry that you had such a bad experience. FWIW, if I got “fired from VT”, I prob wouldn’t volunteer to start again either.

  21. I’ve been the VT Coordinator for 2+ years now, and I’ve seen horrific examples of VTing and ones that make me cry as I see the Spirit at work. I think we’ve been taught that VTing should always be Ensign-worthy, when in reality, I see it works about half the time.

    We’re all imperfect and working to become better, so I think there are times we need to vent and figure out how to do better by speaking frankly with each other. And, I think this is a great forum to do so. (Incidentally, I appreciate reading the horror stories of others because they are gentle reminders for me when I go do my own visiting teaching.)

    Also, I have to plug our own Linda’s book, Chocolate Chips and Charity: Visiting Teaching in the Real World. The stories in there are beautiful and human and cringe-worthy. A well-written reminder of what we’re striving for in visiting teaching.

    Great post, April! Thanks for spurring an important discussion.

  22. Here’s what I do, and it works decently well. If I get a new visiting teacher (or home teacher, for that matter), I ask her to prepare a lesson for me on a particular topic that I have a question about. As in “hey, I’ve been wondering about doctrine X right now. Instead of the regular lesson next month, could we talk about X?” This works nicely because it’s an opportunity to tailor your visiting teaching a bit more, and because you get to know people a bit more personally. It requires a bit more of them than just reading the sheet from the ensign, but if they are giving a lesson anyway it might not be too much more effort.

    You can do it in “stages”, too, like try something “easy” first (“hey, can we talk about how to have a more Christ-centered Christmas?”) and then if your teacher seems cool you may dare venture into harder/more controversial topics. Sometimes I just keep it vague — “hey, I could use a lesson on forgiveness. Could you prepare a lesson on forgiveness for me?”

    I always try to offer this to the women I visit teach, too, and have had some success. I got to teach a new convert about patriarchal blessings since she wanted one and didn’t know anything about them, which was fun.

  23. I have been a Visiting Teacher and have been visit taught and I can’t say I enjoy it. Perhaps it’s because it’s something that I have to do. I’ve been a RSP and currently a counselor and at the moment I don’t receive nor do, instead the RSP and I make visits spontaneously which has been very successful. We visit those who have not been visited in any given month. Or I will on my own stop by a sisters home and just visit.
    I’ve had terrible visiting teachers who have come into my home and literally have sat on my sofa and talked among themselves as if I wasn’t in the room – for an hour! Needless to say I refused them the next time.
    I’m thinking maybe it’s the name VISITING TEACHING that somehow puts the hackles. I know done right it could work well, but in my experience the way I do it is the right way because it’s working for me and I know the sisters I drop in on (widows) love it because someone is making contact with them more than one time in the month. I have to wonder if the new RSGP will be inspired to change the VT up a bit because something needs to be done because in areas of the church I’ve lived in it’s a problem all over.

  24. I think VT takes hard work, on both ends. If both parties aren’t humble, patient, full of love, etc., it is really difficult.
    I prefer to go without a partner. It is way easier to schedule, and I have found that more “real” conversations take place that way.
    My current thing is to ask my VTers/ees to go with me to the temple. I’m going, anyway. Come with me and we’ll chat on the way, maybe stop somewhere for a quick bite afterwards. It makes for an atmosphere of having an honest spiritual conversation.

  25. Thank you for writing a REAL story about visiting teaching! Finally – VT experiences I can relate to. My first thought after reading this was – “I am SO jealous!! I want to be fired from visiting teaching too!” :)

  26. It is funny that I should come across this blog post on this day. I just received an email from the RS President. She is struggling with my request to have a writing route. I am currently assigned 3 sisters with a companion. I have two children, I work full time, my husband goes to school three nights a week and I have my church calling. She said she has prayed about it, read the instruction manual and even talked to the bishop about it! The request is simple either I have a writing route or not. Once things calm down at our house, I would be more than willing to return to a traditional route. I feel as though my current situation as a working mother does not sit right with the RS presidency. I will be speaking to her tomorrow so I can only imagine how that will go. Thank you for your honesty and willingness to bring this discussion forth. We are not all perfect. We will not all get along and that’s okay.

  27. As a relatively new RSP planning a VT Conference for my ward sisters, I wandered in here looking for some ideas on enhancing VTing in our ward. SOOOOO glad I did! The OP was darkly humorous to me, I hope that’s not offensive.
    I once “fired” my own VTs. Here’s the tale.
    I had a very small business, five children and my VTs were clients at my shop. They were a little older than me, retired and extremely busy with travel and golf. One morning I got a phone call at home from my college daughter’s roommate that my daughter had been admitted to the hospital about 400 miles away. Because she was over 18, the hospital wouldn’t give me any information. When I got to my shop to open about 15 minutes late, my VTs were there waiting outside to make a purchase. Mind you, I wasn’t selling oxygen, or other life-sustaining supplies; it was kind of a luxury specialty.

    I apologized for being late and explained, in tears, that I was distraught about my daughter,so worried and sad.
    Up until then, they had been friendly, faithful, amusing and instructive VTs, sharing the message monthly without preaching. Although the potential for close personal friendship was not really there, I didn’t need that from them at the time.
    On that morning, they set aside friendliness and courtesy. They proceeded to chastise me for poor business practices, unprofessionalism, and discourtesy to clients for not opening on time. I sold them their product, and they left. There was no sympathy, no concern for me or my daughter, a perfect example of the worst kind of VT.
    I instantly called the RSP and asked her to keep them far from me for-EVAH!!! which she kindly did.
    That said, I have made several long-lasting and very dear friendships from being assigned to VT or be taught by people who were strangers to me when we began.
    What I have learned this morning from reading all your posts has filled my heart with a desire to match up sisters with care and liberality, both in companionships and and as teachers/teachees. As I prepare this conference, and any future lessons or messages about Visiting Teaching, I will be holding your reflections in my mind for guidance and compassion. When I have VT interviews, I will listen carefully for mismatches and heartache . I appreciate the wisdom shared here and wish all of you a good experience of Visiting Teaching on both sides in the future. I love knowing I’m a sister to all you writers; what a great conversation!

  28. Today I asked to be released from visiting teaching….but only for a few months. I have just had my second child, a fully breastfed 1-month old, and although I absolutely have a desire to get to know both less-active and regular sisters in our ward, I do not want to do that at the detriment of my children. My husband is a non-member and he was extremely upset when he found out that I had been given another responsibility on top of my current calling in the Primary. When I first told him about it, he said the church teaches about “family this and family that” but they don’t really mean it when they are making you do this – what are you supposed to do with the kids??
    Well, I did pray about it and I feel like the Lord would have care for my children. I also received the counsel that I am serving the Lord by looking after my children’s needs first, especially since both are still so young and my newborn is absolutely dependant on me.
    Once my daughter is less-dependant on me I will look to put my name back on the VT list but def not before then. I don’t think I could handle the guilt of putting my little one through the undue stress.
    Good on you for trucking through your visiting though. You sound like the type of visiting teacher I would love to have visit me.

  29. The last sister I visited asked me not to come to her house because I was to FAT to sit on her furniture … that was 8 years ago … haven’t had an assignment since …

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