Home teaching is "the priesthood way of watching over the Saints and accomplishing the mission of the Church. Home teaching is not just an assignment. It is a sacred calling," President Ezra Taft Benson said in a landmark address at the priesthood session of the April 1987 general conference.
"Home teaching is not to be undertaken casually," he said to priesthood holders. A home teaching call is to be accepted as if extended to you personally by the Lord Jesus Christ."Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve also touched on this theme in the October 1992 general conference when he asked: "What sort of home teacher would the Savior be? Would He occasionally miss visiting families? Whouold He visit them without a message? Or would He minister to His families like the Good Shepherd that He is, with constant watch care and loving kindness? Deep in our hearts we know what kind of home teacher Jesus would be...Even though we could never in this life measure up completely to His standard of excellence, our attempt to do so will deal us to do far better than otherwise."
The Melchizedek Priesthood Leadership Handbook offers the following suggestion to make home teaching visits more effective:
- Home teachers are called in a private interview by their quorum leader after approval by the bishop. Priests and teachers are called as junior companions by a member of the bishopric.
- The companions make appointments at a convenient time for the individual or family. The home teachers should remeember at all times that they are guests in the home.
- Home teachers consult with the head of household about the family's needs and about the ways home teachers may be most helpful.
- Before leaving for the visit, home teachers should meet together to pray, review requenst fro their leaders, and review the message.
- During the visit, home teachers shold be sensitive to the members' attitude toward each other, ther gospel, Church activities, and church leaders. They usually present the First Presidency's message, and additional messages that may come from the bishop or other local leaders, or respond to what the head of household may request. These messages should be scripture centered.
- Home teachers should support and serve the members they visit. They are to nurture friendship and respecot of these members, showing genuine concern and interest for each of them. They become acquainted with eadch member's interests, abilities, challenges, and needs, and recognize special events in members' lives.
- After home teaching visits are made, monthly home teaching interviews (formerly called personal priesthood interviews) are held between the senior home teaching companion and a member of the quorum presidency or high priests group leadership.
At these interviews, according to the handbook, the priesthood leader "receives an accounting from home teachers about the visits and services to their assigned members during the past month." They also "consider the temporal and spiritual welfare of the members."
The priesthood leadership also motivates, inspires and trains home teachers on an individual basis during these interviews, the handbook states.
The home teaching interview is on channel of tapping a wide variety of resources within the ward through the ward's committees and the ward council. Among these committees outlined by the handbook are:
- Quorum and group committees, which may organize service projects, social events, cultural and recreational events, sporting activities and other activities. These committees complement but do not replace the work of the home teachers," according to the handbook.
- Priesthood executive committee meetings are held weekly with the bishopric, high priests group leader, elders quorum president, ward mission leader, Young Men president, and the ward executive secretary and clerk.
"Committee members should concentrate on meeting the spiritual needs of ward members," according to the handbook.
- Ward welfare committee meeting is held monthly, with the Relief Society presidency in attendance.
- The ward council, which is held monthly, helps coordinate efforts on all ward programs and activities, and discusses missionary work, family history work and activation efforts. Council members work together to "strengthen individuals and families."
A comment by President Joseph F. Smith in 1887 might well apply to home teaching today:
"We must be one. We should see eye to eye. We should help each other; help our neighbor and our brother. The Savior very beautifully describes who is our neighbor in the example of the good Samaritan. Who is your neighbor? Who is your brother? Why, the man that ministers to you in the time of need; the man that is your friend in the time of adversity; the man that extends a helping hand and saves you from error; the man that gives you the benefit of his experience. . . . He is your neighbor, your friend and your brother." (Journal of Discourses 25:224.)