Visiting Teaching

visitteach

I edit the “Sisters Speak” column for The Exponent magazine. It’s fascinating seeing all the varied and diverse responses from different Mormon women, whether active, inactive, or ex-Mormon. This past question was about Visiting Teaching and how women make it work for themselves and those they teach. It was a “hot button” issue in the sense that the question definitely touched a nerve and got a great many people thinking and talking. I received a large array of responses of both the good and bad, even after I submitted my column! As someone who has opted out of Visiting Teaching myself, I enjoyed reading about both the successes and failures of the program. Because of how strongly people felt about the topic and because I (regretfully) didn’t open up the question on the blog*, and because I want to hear more (as most likely, do others), I want to open up the discussion here:

“Visiting teaching has the potential for so much goodness. Learning love for our church sisters, serving one another, and being physically present with others are all beautiful possibilities of the program. However, too often visiting teaching feels guilt-inducing, burdensome, fake, or superficial.

How do you make visiting teaching work for you? Do you visit the old-fashioned way, with a companion going to a sister’s home? Do you like receiving visits like that? Do you meet in groups or send an email? Have there been any times visiting teaching has failed you or been truly inspirational? If you’re not currently active in the church, do you still like playing a role in the visiting teaching program? What messages would you like to hear?”

And my own additional question: What would feminist Visiting Teaching look like, both within the Mormon and non-Mormon community? I love the idea, but am curious as to how it would play out in the real world!

*I have been soliciting answers via social media, as it’s convenient for both those who respond and myself as the collector of responses, but I realize I do a disservice to the Exponent community by not putting the question up here on the blog; I apologize, and going forward will go back to also gathering responses here on the blog, as well.

East River Lady

24 years old. LDS Convert. New York Native. Mormon Feminist.

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9 Responses

  1. I tend to think of visiting teaching and home teaching as two branches of the same program. Thinking of it that way, it is hard for me to see the program as feminist because the structure is decidedly not so. Women are required to entertain church reps in their homes twice as often as men, implying that women’s time is less valuable and that women require more supervision than men. Men teach mixed gender groups, but women only teach other women.

  2. marcella says:

    I have a hard time with the program as it is. It seems like a monumental waste of time for me to share a message with the sisters I visit and then someone (and at times it’s been one of the ladies I visit who visits me) then comes over and shares that very same lesson with me. Argh. Currently I have a lovely sister who has health issues and cannot drive. What she wants is someone she can call on when she has a need. I’m happy to do that and she’s happy for the help. This, to me, is what the program should be about – helping others and meeting their needs. Not sitting in a living room in skirt and pantyhose sharing a 20 minute lesson they’ve already taught.

  3. anita says:

    one of the aspects I enjoy about visiting teaching is getting to know women outside of my usual demographic/social circle. I am now friends with inactive women, older women, younger women, single women, and so on that I would never have met in the ward on more than a surface level if I didn’t faithfully go to their house on a monthly basis. sometimes it takes years to really become friends, but then it lasts beyond new route assignments.

  4. Chris says:

    I have seen miracles happen with visiting teaching: compassionate service, fellowshipping, activation, friendships formed. It’s more about the visit than the lesson…the chance to share thoughts with another woman and to nurture one another on a one to one basis. I have decades of great memories from serving as a visiting teacher and being served.

  5. EFH says:

    I have had positive and negative experiences with the VT. But I like the program – by that I mean the formal opportunity to visit someone and to be visited. I think it is a great opportunity to take time to socialize and talk religion and to get to know people that otherwise, I would have not get to know well. This process also makes me feel better integrated in the church.

    The way I do VT is in person or via email, depending on the sister’s preference and my schedule. It is a priority for me to socialize and get to know each other so, I spend time asking questions and welcoming questions. I share a message only if I am able to share an uplifting story or scripture that I think might bring comfort and peace to the sister. Especially stories around women. Sometimes, I don’t even use the lesson and simply keep it social. I know that it is not easy for everyone to have friends at church so I try for this women to get to know me and feel comfortable to call on me in time of need. But I always make sure that we pray at the end, often on our knees, to pronounce “a prayer of blessing” where we simply ask God to be mindful of the sister and bless her. I hope that this provokes an image in the sisters’ mind of their female power, their role in the spiritual life of the community and of sisterhood.

  6. OregonMum says:

    I was actually just called to be the VT coordinator for our ward. I like VTing more now than I used to. Having an elderly sister tell me how people with loud children should sit in the back of the hall so we didn’t disturb the people who were there to worship made me feel awful about, especially since that was when we were trying to figure out what was going on with our toddler before he got an autism diagnosis. But now (in a new ward) I think I’ve gotten it down. I only do a spiritual thought 20% of the time (all my ladies are active) and there are months when acts of service or chats at church count as contacts. I have gotten to know sisters that wouldn’t normally be in my sphere of interaction and it’s awesome. Because we’ve become friends I don’t think any of us feel that it’s a burden or that we’re a check mark on a list. I like the program.

  7. jes says:

    On a blog a while ago, someone said that they wanted the priesthood b/c they wanted to minister to people. As a compassionate service leader at the time, I thought, “isn’t that what visiting teaching is?” Going into people’s homes that you may or may not know well, serving them, learning to love them, lifting them, encouraging them, having religious discussions with them, forgiving them for their human-ness. Visiting teaching doesn’t have to be formal and stilted, although it might be awkward at times depending on the personalities involved. Yes, visiting teaching is assigned, but I don’t know of another good way to make sure that as many women in the congregation as possible are ministered to directly and personally.

  8. Emily says:

    I’ve always pretty much liked visiting teaching. I don’t feel pressured to always give a message because honestly, if you read the page in the Ensign, it doesn’t say to–it says to read and share as appropriate, and the thought questions are all directed at the teacher, not the teachee. And sometimes they are so short that there’s not much to say about them. I’m only 27, but the Ensign wording is something that has changed since I started VT. If we can’t make schedules work, I don’t stress about it for the month.

    I have had a couple negative experiences being taught. I was a counselor in RS so I saw the reports, and my VTs said they had visited me a few times. This was technically true and I considered the ladies my friends–but they never actually told me they were my VTs, so if I hadn’t had access to the reports I wouldn’t have known. There was also a sister who visited me who often wouldn’t do it til the last day of the month, and so she would feel bad and buy me a candle or a notepad, and I never wanted those things. I would have much preferred a text and knowing I could call if I needed her.

    Overall it has definitely helped me make friends, though. And I think that’s the most important goal. I think you need to make it work for you, whether it’s a monthly text or a 2-hour visit. Lots of sisters have different needs in that regard, so if you’re matched up with someone with different preferences or a totally incompatible schedule, I think it’s important to talk about it and adjust things and not feel bad asking for a change.

  9. Bonnie says:

    Curious about the author who has opted out of VT and her reasons.How was this handled with her RS Pres?

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