30 years of home teaching: inaugurated in 1964, home teaching stresses 'watching over Church'

Thirty years ago this month, the Church inaugurated home teaching, replacing the old ward teaching program.

Home teaching throughout the Church began full scale in January 1964. The designation "Home Teaching" was "made after prayerful discussion by the Co-ordinating Council and by the First Presidency and the Twelve to emphasize an enlargement of responsibility previously in what we have called `Ward Teaching,' " said Elder Harold B. Lee, then of the Council of the Twelve, as he addressed the April 1963 general conference.

"Emphasis [is made] on the responsibilities of the entire priesthood to `watch over the Church' as commanded in the early revelations - to be concerned with the whole family as a group and as individuals."

In the old ward teaching program, an adult senior companion and a youthful junior companion carried a booklet of preprinted messages. These were perforated so a copy could be left in the home. Ward teachers visited their set of families, often without appointments, and generally read the message verbatim. "That's sure true," someone would say after the message.

"It certainly is," someone would respond. Then the conversation usually moved to another subject.

Home teaching brought many changes. Each quorum became responsible for its own members. Heads of households were instructed that they were responsible for the spiritual welfare of their families.

"The home teaching manual of 1963 stated, "Home teaching is the first step in a priesthood- and home-centered program of gospel teaching and gospel living. It recognized the home as the basic institution of learning, the family as an eternal unit.

"Through love, selfless service, example and teaching, the Home Teacher represents the bishop with the families assigned to him and aims to help build an active testimony of the restored gospel in each individual and greater solidarity in each family."

In addition, the manual noted:

"Home teaching correlates all activities of the priesthood and other Church organizations in relation to the home."

Such concepts as holding interviews with the head of the family, making appointments, teaching by inspiration, calling specialists to help a family deal with a particular problem, and home teaching interviews by priesthood leaders were introduced.

"The responsibility to do home teaching is inherent in the call of every man to the Melchizedek Priesthood and in the call to the office of Teacher and Priest in the Aaronic Priesthood," said Elder Marion G. Romney of the Council of the Twelve in 1966.

"Every such priesthood bearer, in order to magnify his calling according to the `oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood,' is obliged to respond to the Home Teaching call when it officially comes to him. . . ."

(General Conference home teaching meeting, April 1966.)

In his priesthood session address in the April 1987 general conference, President Ezra Taft Benson emphasized:

"Home teaching is so vital that, if faithfully followed, it will help to spiritually renew the Church and exalt its individual members and families.

"Brethren, home teaching is not just another program. It is the priesthood way of watching over the Saints and accomplishing the mission of the Church.

"A home teaching call is to be accepted as if extended to you personally by the Lord Jesus Christ."


Home teachers: Things to do

Accept your calling to home teach as if from the Savior Himself.

Know well those to whom you are assigned.

Consult with and be close to the head of the family.

Do the little things that mean so much to a family: know all their names, remember birthdays, other events, etc.

Be a genuine friend.

Use the First Presidency message from the Ensign as appropriate.

Read the scriptures; deliver the message and teach with the Spirit.

Live the kind of life that will invite the Spirit to be present.

Magnify your calling; do not settle for mediocrity.

Visit early in the month; return as often as needed.

Make appointments before going home teaching.

Train young companions well. Teach them to enjoy home teaching as you do.

Encourage and nurture each person you home teach.

With the approval of the head of the family, hold a prayer with the family.

Set a goal to visit each family each month.

Attend a home teaching report interview each month with your designated priesthood leader.

From President Ezra Taft Benson, April 1987 general conference address; Melchizedek Priesthood Leadership Handbook, 1990.

(Additional information)

Families: Things to do

Make home teachers welcome in your home.

Invite all family members to be present when the home teachers visit.

Have prayer with home teachers.

Rely on and invite home teachers to assist when you have a special need.

Call upon the home teachers to assist with organizational resources of the Church to help solve individual and family problems.

Utilize the home teachers to help your family reach its spiritual goals.

Always notify your home teachers when you are planning to move, or when a family member leaves home.

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