Why I Love Visiting Teaching
I admit I’m a fan of Visiting Teaching. I’ve been doing it all my life. My mom was the Eternal RS President and with me as her underage companion, she assigned us to visit people who didn’t really want to be visited. Or were crazy. Or both. But we always got in, often with the help of cookies, and usually ended up making nice connections. In my current ward they just rearranged the assignments and I have a GLS companion (Good Little Soldier). Which is great. Except that one of the women we teach would be more comfortable at an Exponent Retreat than at an Enrichment meeting. She’s a physician who calls it like she sees it (let’s call her OMD, Outspoken MD). So I’ve been visiting her on the sly because I’m a chicken and was afraid to bring my GLS along. But this month we had a traditional visit. Here’s what happened.
We sit and chat for a while and things go well until GLS says it’s time for the Message. Before she can even open The Engisn OMD says politely but firmly, “Let me stop you right there. Is the lesson on prayer and faith and love?” GLS looks confused, “Why yes, have you already read it?” OMD sighs. “No. But all the lessons are on prayer and faith and love. These lessons don’t work for me. I don’t find any useful religion in them.” There ensued a very awkward silence. Luckily I remembered a great conversation I’d had earlier that day with my good friend and shared it as my message.
My friend’s youngest was struggling with a particular task at school and kept praying that he would master it. He even found a quiet corner in his kindergarten class to kneel down. He cried to his mom that his prayers didn’t work because his task neither got easier nor went away. She held him tight and explained Heavenly Father answers our prayers by giving us the strength and peace to face our struggles. “Sweetie,” she said, “prayers aren’t like magic wands that makes worries disappear.” “But Mom,” he replied, “that’s how it always works in The Friend.”
I told both women that I struggle as a YW teacher and as a mom with lots of the stories in the manuals and magazines. I want to promote faith but fear that presenting only the “and everything got fixed” version of life was dangerous. The gospel is NOT an insurance policy against pain and suffering; but it is the best tool I have in my arsenal to deal with life when the crap hits the fan. I was surprised when GLS agreed with me, and shared a hard story about her mom getting cancer, twice, and her sister leaving the Church because she felt God had betrayed the family by not keeping the cancer away. OMD talked about how she was strengthened by the faith of one of her patients, a man she’d helped perform a liver transplant on the night before. He was 80 lbs, had contracted hepatitis C from a blood transfusion as a kid and had been in excruciating liver failure for a while. She marveled at his optimism, his gratitude, and his refusal to live life as if he had a death sentence, which he basically did. That was where she found her faith.
We all talked and laughed and I was so thankful that OMD spoke up and told us what she needed. And I was even more thankful that GLS was not offended but was willing to share her personal message of prayer and faith and love as well. I need to remember that just because someone tows the line and follows rules doesn’t mean they can’t toss the manual when necessary. And just because someone says they don’t believe in Visiting Teaching doesn’t mean they can’t use a good conversation with friends at least once a month. At times like this I love being wrong.
Do you “believe” in Visiting Teaching? Is it a monthly chore or something you look forward to? When does it work for you, and what do you want in a Visiting Teacher?