I would like to opine today on “the practice formerly known as home teaching, or visiting teaching.” Why not, everyone else has, and my thoughts, for what they are worth, can be as carefully disregarded as everyone else’s.
I will begin by suggesting that I believe the call to “minister” to one another is both a call to live a higher law as well as an indication that the Savior has confidence in our ability to do so. To be trusted by the Savior is high praise.
For years, we went visiting teaching or home teaching. It too was a call to live a higher law, but somehow far too many of us, myself included, perhaps came to see it as a yet another “check the box” item on our Latter-day Saint “To Do” list.
Take an example, for instance, completely fabricated in my fertile imagination:
1. Me: “Oh crud. Is it really the 31st?”
2. Drive to the local bakery or, go the extra mile and whip up a batch of cookies (for what is life in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints without yet more sugar). Maybe even go another mile and type up a short, massacred form of that month’s message. Scotch tape it to the plastic covering the treat.
3. Dash to knock on the door, apologize when someone appears, “I’m sorry to just show up on your porch and I don’t want to take any of your time.”
4. Thrust the goodies into the person’s hands.
6. Wait until the visiting teaching supervisor calls or, go the extra mile and call your supervisor.
7. Report completing your visiting teaching that month.
There it is, “check that box.” And no, I’m not suggesting that is what visiting or home teaching has devolved to, but for some . . .
So, now, we minister. The million-dollar question is, what does that entail? I suggest that as we step up to the plate, having the confidence of the Savior, we follow the high and holy example he has set for us.
Daily, hourly, Jesus Christ communed with his Father in prayer in pursuance of his life’s earthly mission, “to do the will of the Father.” What was his Father’s will? It was to live the gospel in word and deed by loving and serving others. What does this mean to us? It means we kneel each morning and night and plead with our Father for inspiration and guidance as to how we can minister to the needs of others that day. We listen, we obey the spirit, we go and we do. Just as the Savior did.
Here is an unfabricated example:
At age 13, Mary Goble Pay crossed with the Willie and Martin handcart companies in the Hunt wagon company, assigned to carry larger supplies for those on foot. Her family came from England knowing nothing about wagoneering or camping. In Iowa, her nearly 2-year-old sister died.
After crossing the ice-chunked Platte River on the Wyoming plains, 14 company members died, and that night her mother “took sick” and the next morning delivered a baby girl. Mary wrote, “She lived six weeks and died for want of nourishment.”
Mary got lost in a snowstorm looking for fresh water. By the time she was carried into camp, her feet were severely frostbitten. Her brother died. Her mother died. Their wagon carried her mother’s body into the valley.
There, the doctor said he had to cut Mary’s feet off at the ankle to save her life. President Brigham Young said, “Just take off the toes, and I promise you that you will never have to take them off any farther.” The doctor used a saw and butcher knife to remove her toes in the same room her mother’s body was being dressed for burial.
Mary’s feet got worse. The doctor again advised amputation at the ankles. When she refused, citing the prophet’s counsel, he said, “All right, sit there and rot.”
Shortly thereafter, one day, sitting and crying, when “my feet were hurting so, a little old woman knocked at the door. She said she had felt that someone needed her there. I told her the promise that Brigham Young had made me. She made a poultice and put it on my feet, and every day she would come and change the poultice. At the end of three months, my feet were well” (see "I Walked to Zion: True Stories of Young Pioneers on the Mormon Trail" bySusan Arrington Madsen,published by Deseret Book, 1994, pages 91-95).
Mary was ministered to by “a little old woman … who felt that someone needed her (at the residence where Mary was staying).”
In the dictionary, ministering is defined as “attending to the needs of someone.” Jesus’ Atonement will ever stand as the ultimate, matchless act of ministering. His entire life was epitomized by ministering. We now have the privilege, indeed the call, to go and do likewise.
Lead image by Ravell Call, Deseret News
Kristine Frederickson writes on topics that affect members of the LDS Church worldwide in her column “LDS World." She teaches part-time at BYU. Her views are her own. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org