Ward treasures its 101-year-old home teacher

Walter Messinger is one of the Downey (Idaho) 2nd Ward's greatest "treasures."

At least, that is what ward members claim. Especially those who this 101-year-old man home teaches."He's a dedicated, lovable man, one who really cares about you," observed Helen Burrup, who, along with her husband, Clyde, has been home taught by Brother Messinger for several years. "He always comes at the beginning of the month and always has a lesson well prepared."

But more than just a lesson is presented at the homes that Brother Messinger and Robert Condie, his next door neighbor and companion for almost 30 years, visit. They bring with them a spirit of love.

Brother Messinger tells many stories of his 80-plus years of home teaching. He chuckles as he remembers the time he and his companion were visiting one lady and her phone rang. "We sat and waited for more than 15 minutes for her to come back," he remembered. "Finally we got up and left." However, the pair did return and finish the visit later.

Brother Messinger has a strong testimony of home teaching. "It's important for those who we visit to get the instruction that we bring and to know that we care about them," he explained. "And another thing is the understanding that we ourselves gain because we have to study and prepare for those visits."

Brothers Messinger and Condie taught five families for more years than they can remember. Currently, they are assiggned only three families. Brother Messinger acknowledges that age has slowed him down a bit. He no longer goes skating, which used to be one of his favorite hobbies. (He does, however, manage to get a fishing trip or two in every year.) And he sleeps in later than he used to. "I don't get up until 6:30 now," he admitted.

His second wife, Annie, 92, is usually up by 6 a.m., a half hour before him. The two have plenty to keep them busy after they get up. They are involved in canning projects and both are dedicated readers. In addition, Sister Messinger is a "fabulous cook," says Brother Condie.

Brother Messinger's favorite reading material is the Book of Mormon. He is well versed in the scriptures, and always an eager participant in Sunday School, according to Brother Burrup. He likes to compare the way the people live now with the way the ancient Americans lived centuries ago.

"You know, it makes me wonder why the people in those days wouldn't see the light," he said. "They were obedient and the Lord blessed them and they became prosperous and proud and then they fell away. It was a cycle. It happened over and over again.

"I guess it's a lot like the way we are today," he mused, after a pause.

But Brother Messinger is dedicated to doing all he can to help others see the light. And one of the things that he can do is home teach.

"I love being a home teacher," he said. "I enjoy visiting people because they are good people and because I love them."