Poll: Visiting teaching

Diversity is the spice of life. But there are times that we just want to be surrounded by people that share our perspective or that we think we can understand based on shared experience or background. These types of relationships can be comfort food for our souls. The foreign richness of a life that looks completely different from ours can stretch the limits of our palette, but it can also cause indigestion in the form of awkward silences and ill-placed advice. It can take a while to move away from our comfort zones and get used to new flavors and perspectives, but it can be very rewarding to increase our awareness and tolerance of what we may not be exposed to on a regular basis.

Of course, often times, it is simply the schedule and location details that prove problematic in diversifying our relationships, even those that are assigned through church. Sometimes the differences (whatever form they come in) work, and sometimes they don’t. But what would your ideal VT companionship look like at this time in your life? Would you like your visiting teachers to be similar to you in some way so that they can understand where you’re coming from? How about the women you teach? Is it harder to help them when you don’t feel like you can relate to them? How do similarities and differences affect our ability to serve those around us? Should they even be considered when matches are being made?

If you don’t currently participate in the program, imagine what you would like your matches to be if you did, or share with us any problematic or successful partnerships you had in the past.


Corktree is exploring life and spirituality in new ways and new environments while studying midwifery, reiki, yoga, homeopathy, herbology and evolutionary nutrition. She has 3 daughters and one son, which add up to what now feels like an enormous family of 6.

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17 Responses

  1. EM says:

    I’m really conflicted about Visiting Teaching. In all my RS years I’ve never had a single Visiting Teacher who I’ve related to. Most of them have been busy-bodies, or will sit on my couch and read the entire message or will have conversations among themselves – that was annoying. My time is too valuable to be bothered with these types of sisters who don’t put any effort into their assignment. I believe that there are some sisters who really need to have that contact, and there are others like myself who don’t. I’m a Visiting Teacher and do mine faithfully with a dear old lady and we have fun together – I give the lesson and she makes the appointments – works great. I really think though that the Visiting Teaching program needs an overhaul. I think on the advise of a bishop and RS president only those sisters who really need to be seen on a regular basis should be visited, the others no visits. I have a large enough circle of friends that I don’t need anyone else showing up on my doorstep at the last moment and give me a message that I already now. Those of us in our area know very well that at a moments notice we can go into action if need be; we know each and every sister. In my experience, Visiting Teaching has always been problematic and about the numbers. And in my experience, similarities work a lot better and only if a sister wants to be a visiting teacher and wants to be visited. Not every sister has to be a visiting teacher or be visit taught. And the same should apply to Home Teaching. I think where possible, husband and wives should be companions and do both.

  2. kew says:

    Ooh, I like the “rare” option! Right now I have a companion that is similar in age to me, but a SAHM pregnant with her third. We’ve been assigned to be companions for about six months. She seems to be the really active, spiritual type, and she has NEVER mentioned visiting teaching to me. I would go if she set up the appointments, but if she’s not going to mention it, neither am I.

    • alex w. says:

      I’m in a singles ward but in a similar situation. My partner has never contacted me, so if she doesn’t care…

      When I was in a ward that I felt more welcome in (and when I was more involved), I had a really good VT group, and I enjoyed it. But since I generally feel like a project in my ward, it’s tough to care. (We have a sign at the front that says “no sister sits alone, so sister goes unknown.” Honestly, I usually just want to keep to myself at church. I know that’s antisocial and uncomfortable for others, especially in LDS culture, but when people sit by me just because I’m on my own, I hate it. But this is a tangent for another day, perhaps.)

  3. Since I’m no longer a TBM, I don’t have much in common with any of the women in my ward. But I do enjoy meeting these women in their homes
    and finding out about their families and their interests. As I get to know these women, I find them much more interesting than they appear in RS.

    I don’t give the message–I mention the topic and ask for their take on it. I generally don’t offer my contrary opinion since I’m not in their homes to undermind their faith.
    I have asked my visiting teachers not to read the lesson to me.

  4. Rachel says:

    I greatly prefer to go by myself. I have much better conversations when it is one on one. I think the relationship is easier to build, to find out what is realllly going on in that setting.
    I’ve always been the person in the VT partnership who gets it done. My life is busy/structured by working 4 days a week, I have always asked the RS to give me women who will let me come during the day on Fridays while kids are at school. If they’ll do that for me, they can give me several people and I’ll have a meaningful visit each month. If my partner comes, fine; if not, all for the better, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve told the RS I prefer to be visited quarterly, and if you say hi to me/email/call/go to the temple with me that totally “counts”.

  5. EmilyCC says:

    I was recently called as the VT coordinator in my ward (sigh…never been one for vting), so I’ve been thinking about this a bit. My last RS pres wanted the companionships as homogeneous as possible: singles with singles, same ages, same races. I wasn’t a fan of that, so I’ve tried to mix around companionships.

    I have decided that if I’m “mentoring” a convert or new RS member, i.e. just out of YW’s. I like an established route, people who can help me show the new companion the joy of vting. That’s what I’ve done for a while in the program (didn’t ask, just keep getting assigned those who are newer to vt).

    Now, I’m taking on a much harder route, so I asked for a companion who I like and can be comfortable and frank with as we go out. It helps me get more excited to go vting when I can go with a friend.

  6. Laura says:

    I’d settle for people who would let me come visit, be reasonably polite, and at least vaguely respect the concept of personal boundaries. My companion and I started with a list of nine sisters. Only one was active, and she didn’t seem to like having us come, and forget about what few appointments we did manage to schedule. Seven of them either stood us up more than once, never answered phone calls or door knocks, and/or less-than-politely made it clear we were unwelcome. The last one let us come visit, but she lived in a public facility for the mentally ill that was truly creepy (and we had some really unpleasant experiences with some male residents). She called us a lot–at all hours of the day and night–and was frequently rude or talked about inappropriate things. Small wonder my companion–who was VTing for the first time–was less than thrilled about VT and never took the initiative to set things up.

    I find myself mailing a lot of messages these days. Our route has changed a little bit (for the better), but it’s still really hard to find any motivation for this assignment. That’s sad to me, since I used to really love visiting teaching.

  7. TopHat says:

    I’m really split and didn’t vote yet because I need to think more. I’m a mom with very small children, so having similar/different situations have lots of pros and cons.

    For example, the pros for being paired with other moms include similar schedules, they are understanding if I need to bring kids along with me, we can do it out at a park and the kids can play, they are understanding if my toddler has a meltdown. But on the other hand, I hesitate to ask for help because all the things I need help with, they also need help with.
    For example, if I need to ask someone to watch my kids, I hesitate because I don’t want to make other moms do more “momming.” I’m sure they are already tired out and don’t want to watch MORE kids.

    I like have differences because you can learn a lot and expand your horizons. I also think that your strengths/weaknesses are more likely to balance out. But things like bringing your kids- well, I often need to do that because I’m nursing and suck- and if you don’t have kids, your home isn’t baby-proof, and I get more self-conscious about kids having meltdowns and then I can’t really visit teach well because of that. Scheduling can also be an issue.

    You just can’t win, huh?

  8. Amy says:

    Rough topic. I have always had difficulties getting my VTing done and crazy of all crazy things, a few months ago, I just called to be RS President. And I have already made big changes to my routes twice. Problem is, I can’t seem to please everyone with visiting teaching and sometimes I wonder if I’m pleasing anyone. There are some sisters who don’t really want visiting teachers (I am one of them) and some who really need them and some who really want/need them, but you don’t find that out until someone isn’t visiting them…. and with everyone’s busy schedules…it is almost impossible for some to get with a partner let alone the ladies they teach. I have put several sisters without companions upon their request, because if they can help their sisters better that way- that is what it’s about. But, coming from someone who is trying to get this program going, it’s rough!

  9. spunky says:

    VTing can be really difficult for anyone. Because I live a few hours’ drive from the sisters I visit teach and most are semi-active at best, I only go in person about once a year, and otherwise post the message on recipe cards, complete with recipe. I also send Valentines, etc.

    But- in this and other visiting teaching assignments, I have loved being in diverse groups because I see issues in same-group companionships, if only for practical reasons: for example, if a stay at home mom with young children is a companion and teaches only similar women, then if someone has an emergency, you suddenly have to co-ordinate a lot of car seats, babysitters, etc, just to shuffle children around in order to be of service to the sister and her family. I think this defeats the purpose, though it might make initial visits more comfortable.

    To be honest, at this point in my life, if practical terms were applied, I would perfer that working women were assigned to VT other working women, etc. because if you VT one sister in the day as a SAHM, but your comp works part time, and the other sister you VT works full time, it can be very difficult to work out everyone’s schedule and not make VTing a month-long assignment of hit and miss. If you have similar work schedules, it can be easier to organize, therefore easier to get to know and really serve the sisters.

  10. Caroline says:

    I’m not a great VT. My problem is that I’m not very aggressive. If I get the impression that the person doesn’t want to be visited – and most of my VTees are not practicing – then it’s hard for me to thrust myself on them.

    But then again, when I do get someone who is active and relatively easy to book app’ts with, I’m not a monthly person. I’ll do it once every three months or so, unless I have a companion who is on the ball and wants to do it more often.

    I don’t give the message. I feel like it’s weird to go from a friendship social mode of conversation to a didactic one. It’s awkward. I feel better just handing them the message and telling them that they can read it if they are interested. Or not handing it to them at all, depending on context.

  11. Carol says:

    Although I usually prefer to have visiting teachers who have a similar background to mine, I have discovered that a compassionate woman, whatever her background, age, and marital status, makes the best visiting teacher.

    My companion right now is a young married mother with two young children. One of the women we visit has poor health and her husband recently passed away after suffering terribly with cancer. I cannot imagine having a better visiting teaching companion to visit this dear sister. My companion is wise, sensitive, intuitive, and giving. She is willing to take in meals when needed, listens intently, speaks kindly, and radiates Christlike love. I will miss her terribly when she and her husband move out of state after he graduates from medical school.

  12. Hydrangea says:

    The last place I lived I ended up teaching a lady twice my age who I thought couldn’t be more different than I. I ended up being great friends with this woman. We seemed to have fun, enlightening, conversations unique to our friendship. Since then I’m way more open to who I’m assigned to visit teach.

  13. Emily U says:

    I’m a fan of Visiting Teaching, probably because I’ve been lucky enough to have had only good experiences with it.

    I picked “I don’t think it matters” in the poll because I’ve had good experiences visiting people who are different from me, but on the other hand I’ve just gotten my dream visiting teaching route, and one of the things I love about it is that I’m with sisters I have a lot in common with and am already friends with.

    My companion and I both work at the same university and we’re visiting a woman who works there too, so our VT visits will be over lunch (probably without a “lesson”). The other woman we visit said she wants our “message” every month to be a discussion of gender issues in the church. How awesome is that!?!?!

    I think VT is (or should be) about so much more than that page in the Ensign. Once I visited a sister who didn’t want lessons but wanted to do activities together, so we went to concerts, museums, and architectural tours. My VTers bring a lesson, and I always like that they do. I also love their banana bread. I think we should all ask each other what we want our VT experience to be like, then try to give the sister what she wants without judgment.

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