July 2013 Visiting Teaching Message: Teaching and Learning the Gospel
When I was in Young Women I was called as the Beehive President. The bishop had given the Beehive adviser the responsibility to select who would be called, and she felt I was the right choice. I was sustained and set apart. And then the adviser taught me that as Beehive President, I conducted the class and the meetings. She was the adviser. After I started the class, I would turn the time over to her. In this, she taught me leadership.
As a Laurel, I was called as a Stake Representative for a multi-stake Priest-Laurel Conference. I naively thought I would have input in the conference, but I did not. None of the youth did. Clearly my former Beehive adviser’s teachings had not extended to the multi- stake youth leadership. My assignment was to welcome all to the conference at the opening dance, then put together a paper program for one of the firesides. I did so. I welcome everyone to the dance, and noted there was an error on most of the programs, posters and signs. “This is the Laurel-Priest Conference,” I said to both groans and applause, “there was a mistake and it was written backwards in some places.” The adult male priesthood leader looked aghast and never spoke a word to me. Some Young Men said that no one would ask me to dance. I had a boyfriend there. He asked me to dance. And I asked him to dance, too. For the fireside program, I typed the cover to read “Laurel-Priest Conference,” included all other requisite information and gave it to an (adult) stake leader to make copies. He did so. As is. Outside the meeting room entrance, some priests started scribbling on the programs, writing “Priest,” in front of “Laurel.” They were reprimanded and shuffled into the meeting. Their scribbled programs were immediately rubbished. On the drive home from the conference, my ward Laurel adviser congratulated me on making the statement. Her sincere support taught me that it was okay to speak up, that I was not alone. That I was safe.
As a freshman at University, I recall a sacrament meeting where the speaker was a recently returned missionary. She read a scripture and added female pronouns, enunciating the female pronoun inclusion. The idea of female inclusion distracted me. I can’t recall the topic of her talk. But she taught me that the scriptures really were meant for me. ME. A female. REALLY! I wish I had gotten to know her. I think we would be good friends today.
All of these women can be accused of teaching and supporting me in degrees of feminism. Regardless of how one views feminism, each of these women taught me that I counted as an individual, and as a daughter of God. They taught me that my thoughts were important, that I am special to God. In this, and in truth, what they really taught me was the gospel.
I believe that is what this month’s message is also teaching me. The message is simple and works for me:
Jesus Christ was a master teacher. He set the example for us as He “taught women in multitudes and as individuals, on the street and by the seashore, at the well and in their homes. He showed loving-kindness toward them and healed them and their family members.”1
He taught Martha and Mary and “invited them to become His disciples and partake of salvation, ‘that good part’ [Luke 10:42] that would never be taken from them.”
In our latter-day scriptures, the Lord commanded us to “teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom” (D&C 88:77). Of teaching and learning doctrine, Cheryl A. Esplin, second counselor in the Primary general presidency, said, “Learning to fully understand the doctrines of the gospel is a process of a lifetime and comes ‘line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little’ (2 Nephi 28:30).”
I believe that when we, as women, stand up, support and protect each other, we teach. All of the examples I included above were tiny. But. They influenced me, and powerfully stayed with me- compared to countless other teachings that have faded from distinction in my mind.
But this is a really fun thing to consider in this message: One of the included scriptures is Doctrine and Covenants 42:12–13. It reads:
12 And again, the elders, priests and teachers of this church shall teach the principles of my gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, in the which is the fulness of the gospel.
13 And they shall observe the covenants and church articles to do them, and these shall be their teachings, as they shall be directed by the Spirit.
Previous to the message of this month, on occasion when I have read or been taught this coupled scripture I have presumed that the “elders, priests, and teachers,” referred to males, because those are the titles of male leadership ranks in the church priesthood structure. But clearly, the unknown author of this message (is it President Monson?) is suggesting that women are included in this list, even only as teachers.
And yet… the antecedent verse 11 states:
Again I say unto you, that it shall not be given to any one to go forth to preach my gospel, or to build up my church, except he be ordained by some one who has authority, and it is known to the church that he has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church.
To be clear, verse 11 is not included as a reference to this particular Visiting Teaching message, but it is compatible with the concept that we, as women, we are, individually, SOMEONE (“not given to any one”), and that perhaps there is some kind of informal authority and ordination that comes with the office of teaching, and thus, visiting teaching (“has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church”).
This message is teaching us that we need to become scriptorians, that we might learn, and then teach others. It is expressing to us that the title of teacher is ranked with traditionally “ordained” priesthood titles, and that authority comes in the position of teacher. In this, I can’t help but wonder…. Are women meant to be ordained as visiting teachers? Just as in Paul’s day? Is this message preparing us for this?
I love the women who have been my teachers. They have prepared me well for a lifetime of church service, or studying and seeking out what Christ would have me do, and for seeking personal, spiritual answers to my challenges. The final statement in this message reminds me of the things the women at the start of the post taught me:
When we engage in the learning process by asking meaningful questions and then listening, we can find answers that meet our personal needs.
In short, YOU count. YOUR thoughts are important. YOU are special to your Heavenly Parents. They know you, and They love YOU.
Is there a specific learning experience or teacher at church that taught you something simple that had a life-long impact?
How can studying the scriptures give you spiritual, personal and political confidence?
Should women be ordained as visiting teachers? Are we already spiritually ordained?