A clarification in Relief Society visiting teaching was approved recently, according to a letter from President Howard W. Hunter, president of the Council of the Twelve.
The letter stated:"Each sister should be contacted monthly (such as a personal visit, telephone call, or letter). At least once each quarter, such contact should be in the form of a personal visit. Visiting teaching efforts should be concentrated on those who need them most. The more active and fully participating sisters may not require the same attention as those with special needs.
"All personal visits and other contacts between a sister and her visiting teachers are to be recorded. Please note on the revision of the report forms (letter dated Sept. 28, 1988) that either a visit or other contact is used in determining the number of sisters reached by the visiting teachers during a given month.
"In those rare instances where husbands and wives are assigned together, as approved by the bishop, their visit to the home is considered and reported as both a home teaching and a visiting teaching visit."
In a Church News interview, Relief Society Gen. Pres. Barbara W. Winder said this focus on visiting teaching is designed "to encourage meeting needs and placing more emphasis on ministering."
"We desire to meet the needs of the worldwide Church," she said. "We want to help show love and compassion to every sister, particularly where there are special needs, and to make it more possible for visits and contacts that will bless lives."
Sister Winder emphasized that the importance of visiting teaching is not being reduced in any way. "Visiting teaching is as important today as it ever has been. In some cases, it may be more needed now than at any time in the past," she said.
"The work of Relief Society in assisting the bishop to seek out and care for the poor and the needy is largely carried out through visiting teaching. This selfless service within a loving sisterhood can bring both temporal and spiritual blessings to the giver and receiver.
"Visiting teachers really are instruments used by our Heavenly Father to bless His daughters."
Sister Winder outlined some ways in which visiting teachers might seek the Spirit in carrying out their assignments. They should:
-Pray unceasingly for direction as to another's needs.
-Use the scriptures, letting the Spirit speak directly to their hearts.
-Testify to others of the truth of the gospel.
-Use hymns, when appropriate, to soften hearts.
-Share expressions of love for God and for others.
-Bless others through faith, love, prayers, and service.
Sister Winder and her counselors, Joy F. Evans and Joanne B. Doxey, answered questions to clarify the adjustments in visiting teaching:
QUESTION: Do these adjustments mean that only the less active are to be visited?
ANSWER: "Each sister should be visited or otherwise contacted monthly.
"Sisters with special needs, such as those who are new to the Church or the area, those who are less active, and those who are faced with challenging circumstances, such as divorce, death, and illness, may require more frequent contacts than others."
QUESTION: Are visits to the more active and fully participating sisters to be made only once during the quarter?
ANSWER: "All sisters should be visited or otherwise contacted on a monthly basis. At least quarterly this contact should be in the form of a personal visit."
QUESTION: How do we record a contact other than a visit?
ANSWER: "All personal visits and other contacts between a sister and her visiting teachers are to be recorded. There is a revision to be made of the report forms (see letter to priesthood leaders dated Sept. 28, 1988). Either a visit or other contact is used in determining the number of sisters reached by the visiting teachers during a given month."
QUESTION: Do visiting teachers still report their visits and contacts on a monthly basis?
ANSWER: "Yes. The visits and contacts are reported, then recorded by the secretary monthly on the Home Teaching/Visiting Teaching Record (PS- CLO684), to assist presidents in assessing needs. The quarterly Organizational Activity Report (PSCLO612) should reflect both visits and other contacts."
QUESTION: Do visiting teachers still give verbal reports to the president?
ANSWER: "Quarterly verbal reports on all sisters should be made to the Relief Society president and her assistants."
QUESTION: Who may assist the president in her verbal reports?
ANSWER: "The president may be assisted by her counselors. Also if necessary, she may request the help of the visiting teaching board member and secretary/treasurer."
QUESTION: Does the president need to meet with or call every visiting teacher quarterly?
ANSWER: "At least one of the partners should be contacted quarterly, to receive a report on the well-being of every sister. The verbal report also allows the president to discuss information important to the well-being of each sister contacted by the visiting teacher and lend support to the visiting teacher."
QUESTION: Are visiting teaching partners now visiting each other?
ANSWER: "No. Each sister still should have two visiting teachers assigned to her to act as a support in time of need."