More than 'just visiting'

Hospitals and museums post regular visiting hours so they may run smoothly and so that visitors do not overstay their welcome. Those same guidelines could easily be applied to home teachers and visiting teachers: Invite the families to establish a time for you to visit, and don't overstay your welcome.

As Church members complying with the spirit of the gospel, we accept the responsibility to visit one another, to offer solace in times of trouble, to comfort those in distress and to present the hand of fellowship to those struggling in the gospel. No set amount of time is required for each situation. One visit, in many cases, is not going to do the job.Cynics might say that home teachers and visiting teachers merely "keep tabs" on Church members. How misinformed and wrong they are. The purpose of the visits is not "just visiting." The purpose is to fulfill one of the basic missions of the Church - to perfect the saints.

If the home teacher or visiting teacher views his or her calling as an imposition, or worse, a drudgery, the cynics have reason to be skeptical. But when home teachers and visiting teachers view their callings as the sacred responsibilities they are, wonderful things happen in the lives of those who receive the visit as well as in the lives of those doing the visiting.

The Savior declared, " . . . he that receiveth light and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day." (D&C 50:24)

The beauty of the programs of the Church is that visiting teachers and home teachers can structure their visits toward individuals and families, and because each family situation is different, home teachers and visiting teachers must be flexible enough to adapt to varying circumstances. Lessons directed toward families with small children do not work well for single members with no children. Circumstances of young newlyweds differ vastly from those who are retired.

When he was still a member of the Twelve, President Harold B. Lee said, "Home teaching, in essence, means that we consider separately each individual member of the family. . . . Home teaching [and visiting teachingT is to help the parents in their efforts to teach their families the fundamentals of parental responsibility, as contrasted with merely bringing a gospel message to the entire family." (Conference Report, October 1967, p. 100.)

Circumstances may dictate that some home teaching visits are conducted informally and spontaneously because an individual may feel estranged from the Church. But for the majority of Church members, the home teaching and visiting teaching occurs in homes throughout the world. These visits include prayer, a message, the bearing of testimonies and words of friendship and encouragement. Eternal principles are reinforced, testimonies strengthened and assistance rendered. The visits leave both teacher and recipient better off.

The Savior reminded His disciples, "He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me." (Matt. 10:40)

Beyond the monthly visit, acts of Christian service are rendered; fathers know whom to call when blessings are needed; sisters know they have willing hands and a listening heart within reach.

During a recent football season, a stake president watched as a young member of his stake was severely injured on the field. The boy was removed by stretcher and taken a short distance to the nearest hospital. Concerned that the boy needed a priesthood blessing, the stake president went to the hospital. As he entered the emergency room, he saw the boy's father and the family's home teacher administering to the young man. The father knew whom to call first, even though his priesthood leader was seated only several rows away in the stands.

"I know thy heart and have heard thy prayers concerning thy brethren. Be not partial towards them in love above many others, but let thy love be for them as for thyself; and let thy love abound unto all men and unto all who love my name." (D&C 112:11)

Visiting teachers and home teachers can heed the counsel in the New Testament: "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction and to keep himself unspotted from the world." (James 1:27) And from the Doctrine and Covenants: "Behold the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind." (D&C 64:34)

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