Sunday, April 24, 2016

Spiritual Sunday: A Visiting Teaching Message

I am currently serving as my ward's Relief Society President. Today we hosted a Visiting Teaching Conference Luncheon and I was the concluding speaker. This is the message I gave.

Ministering to the Individual

What is the purpose of visiting teaching? How did it begin? What is its relevance to our lives today?

In Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1834, the saints were organized into four different wards. In each ward, the Relief Society sisters appointed four sisters to visit the sisters in the ward, assess their needs and collect donations. These sisters would report the needs and then using the donations, the Relief Society would organize service to assist those in need. This pattern continued in the 1900s. For the most part, donations collected were used for local needs. After World War II, the sisters expanded their outreach and gathered, sorted, mended, and packed over 500,000 articles of clothing that was distributed to the people in Europe.

Sisters who served as visiting teachers also looked after the spiritual needs of the sisters in their wards. “Sarah M. Kimball, who served as a ward Relief Society president in the late 1860s, shared this counsel with the sisters in her ward: “It is the duty of teachers to visit their [assigned sisters] once a month, to inquire after the prosperity and happiness of the members. It is their duty to speak words of wisdom, of consolation and peace.”9 Relief Society leaders emphasized that visiting teachers were “not only to gather means but to teach and expound the principles of the gospel.”

In 1944, Sister Amy Brown Lyman, who was the 8th General Relief Society President, began to question the practice of visiting teachers gathering donations. After much study, prayer, and thought, she and her counselors recommended to the Presiding Bishopric that this practice cease. So visiting teaching was reorganized. It became a program of visiting to assess the physical and spiritual needs of women and to serve in a personal, individual way.

As I see it, visiting teaching is a way to personally minister to the women I visit. To minister means to give service, care, or aid; attend, as to wants or necessities.

The four gospels in the New Testament record story after story of Jesus Christ personally ministering to the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of individuals. He taught Mary and Martha. He fed the crowds who flocked to see him with a miracle. He healed a woman who had suffered from an issue of blood for 14 years. He restored hearing to the deaf, sight to the blind, movement and strength to the paralyzed. To those who were trapped in the web of sin, he offered encouragement, love, and forgiveness. Story after story is told of the Savior, on the way to help someone else, stopping and ministering to a need on his way.

The Savior has shown us the pattern of how we ought to minister to one another in our service as visiting teachers. I hope that you take the opportunity to serve as a visiting teacher very personally and seriously.

I realize that we all lead extremely busy lives as we work, raise families, and care for sick or old relatives. I know many of you carry heavy burdens as you struggle with health challenges, depression or anxiety, financial worries, and worries over your family. I am aware that visiting teaching requires precious time and effort and is a sacrifice.  

Because visiting teaching is a sacrifice I ask you to carefully consider how you serve as a visiting teacher and why. Carefully consider the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the sisters you visit. Pray for guidance as you map out a plan of service. Listen to the promptings of the Holy Ghost throughout the day. Take time to prepare a spiritual message that is meaningful and individual to the sister you teach. Reach out with love and compassion. Contact your district supervision and report your service, needs and challenges, and any insights you have. These reports become a valuable resource to the Bishop and I as we consider the needs of the ward.

My testimony of visiting teaching has grown immensely over this year. I have seen the power that good visiting teachers have to lift and comfort others. I have witnessed your efforts to minister to one another. I know God lives. I know his son, Jesus Christ, is our Savior. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


1 comment:

Handsfullmom said...

Great points! Thanks for sharing.