Sister Linda K. Burton: Serving in class presidencies prepares young women to be visiting teachers

A question frequently asked of Young Women and Relief Society general presidencies is, “Can young women serve as visiting teachers while they are in Young Women so they will be better prepared to serve as future leaders, mothers and missionaries?”

While it is not approved in the handbook for young women to serve as visiting teachers, there are other ways young women can effectively prepare. As a Relief Society general presidency, it is our privilege to serve on an almost daily basis with the Young Women general presidency.

We have been delighted with their focus and efforts to help strengthen the leadership in the young women class presidencies. Recently Church News articles have been written by members of the Young Women general presidency seeking to help Young Women leaders strengthen class presidencies.

Young Women leadership lessons have been posted online on to help Young Women class presidencies learn how to contribute in meaningful ways to the building of the kingdom by participating in the work of salvation. The leadership principles outlined in the online lessons for class presidencies will not only strengthen young women set apart to act in their callings as class presidency members, but will serve them well as they apply those principles in their future callings and responsibilities, including and especially as visiting teachers.

In Handbook 2, 9.5.1, we find a succinct description of the responsibilities of a visiting teacher:

“Visiting teachers sincerely come to know and love each sister, help her strengthen her faith, and give service. They seek personal inspiration to know how to respond to the spiritual and temporal needs of each sister they are assigned to visit.”

The Young Women class presidency leadership lessons are a perfect prelude to visiting teaching responsibilities as they come to know and love the young women, help strengthen their faith, serve them, seek personal inspiration to know how to respond to their needs. In doing so, young women are being prepared to serve as visiting teachers. Notice how the following principles and brief excerpts found in the Young Women leadership lessons are a wonderful resource to prepare young women to become visiting teachers.

Prepare spiritually.

“Prayerfully study the scriptures every day this week with a specific young woman in mind or a challenge you are having as a leader. Pay attention to impressions from the Holy Ghost as you look for ways to follow the Savior’s example. Share your experience with your class presidency.”

Counsel together.

“As you show concern for and counsel about ways to support and strengthen members of your class, think carefully before you speak. Communicate in ways that build trust and respect individuals and families. As a leader you are in a sacred position to keep confidential any private or sensitive information that is discussed.”

Minister to others: Watch over each class member.

“The Prophet Joseph Smith repeatedly taught the critical importance of leading others with genuine love and kindness. He said: ‘Nothing is so much calculated to lead people to forsake sin as to take them by the hand, and watch over them with tenderness. When persons manifest the least kindness and love to me, O what power it has over my mind, while the opposite course has a tendency to harrow up all the harsh feelings and depress the human mind’ (History of the Church, 5:23–24).

“Think of a time when someone showed genuine love and care for you. What did that person do? How did it affect you?”

Teach the gospel of Jesus Christ: Love those you teach.

“Charity is a gift from God and we cannot develop it without the Lord’s help. Mormon said that we should ‘pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that [we] may be filled with this love’ (Moroni 7:48).

“As you pray, keep the commandments, and study the life of the Savior, your love for all people will increase, especially those among whom you serve.” In Daughters in My Kingdom, (in Chapter 7, “Pure Religion: Watchcare and Ministering through Visiting Teaching,”) we find simple suggestions that could bless both visiting teachers and Young Women class presidencies as they “minister” to their sisters:

How visiting teachers love, watch over, and strengthen a sister:

• Pray daily for her and her family.

• Seek inspiration to know her and her family.

• Visit her regularly to learn how she is doing and to comfort and strengthen her.

• Stay in frequent contact through visits, phone calls, letters, email, text messages, and simple acts of kindness.

• Greet her at Church meetings.

• Help her when she has an emergency, illness, or other urgent need.

• Teach her the gospel from the scriptures and the visiting teaching messages.

• Inspire her by setting a good example.

As Relief Society sisters and young women, we have all received the ordinances of baptism and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost accompanied by sacred covenants to “bear one another’s burdens … mourn with those that mourn … and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things and in all places,” (Mosiah 18:8-9).

Our covenants and ordinances connect us in the work of salvation. A beloved hymn describes this connection beautifully, “As sisters in Zion, we’ll all work together; the blessings of God on our labors we’ll seek. We’ll build up his kingdom with earnest endeavor; We’ll comfort the weary and strengthen the weak” (Hymn #309, “As Sisters in Zion”).

As Young Women class presidencies and visiting teachers prepare spiritually, counsel together, minister to others and teach the gospel of Jesus Christ, they will “build up the kingdom” and help sisters of all ages prepare for the return of our Savior Jesus Christ.

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