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HOME AND VISITING TEACHING
Mormons are commanded to Home Teach and Visit Teach. Males are considered Home Teachers, women are considered Visiting Teachers. Two Mormon Church Members are assigned by Mormon Leaders to visit as little as one family or as many as five familes per month. They are instructed to bring a small gospel message to each of the families. Generally these meetings are "chit chat" sessions with a prayer and a message thrown in.
| Mormons are commanded to Home Teach and Visit Teach. Males are considered Home Teachers, women are considered Visiting Teachers.
Two Mormon Church Members are assigned by Mormon Leaders to visit as little as one family or as many as five familes per month. They are instructed to bring a small gospel message to each of the families. Generally these meetings are "chit chat" sessions with a prayer and a message thrown in.
In all reality, Home Teaching and Visiting Teaching is a control mechanism. Reports on the level of belief and activity of the visited families is reported to the Bishop. The Bishop can then assign more members or visit the the families directly in an attempt to increase activity.
Currently, most Home Teachers and Visiting Teachers fail to visit the families regularly and it is estimated less than 20% fulfill their monthly HT and VT quotas.
| Now, we are told that as HTs, we need to "probe" into the home teachees' life. When they said, "we are fine," we are told not to accept that in face value. One leader said, "there are always something underneath which we need to unearth. There is always something we can do to help them."
We need to "probe" further: (1) whether they have been reading scriptures, (2) whether they have been attending temples, (3) whether they have been following other commandments, (4) if they are not doing so, what we can do to "HELP" them, (5) whether they have any questions in following the commandments.
In short, we need to nip any doubts at their buds. The church must be losing people. We now need to check on every active/inactive member, and interrogate them on a monthly or bi-weekly basis, not just in a twice-yearly temple recommend interview and a one-year tithing interview.
Of course, all the findings will be reported to the higher authorities.
It is fast becoming a police state.
Wonder whether others have received similar instructions.
| As an adult member (I resigned at 48), I was amazed at the consistent phenomenon of home teaching in every ward I ever attended. Typically, averages are low and it remains a circular topic in quorums throughout the church. How can we improve our home teaching? Blah, blah, blah.
I came to the conclusion that the system is flawed, not the people. If it was REALLY important, it would get done every month. Assignments would better tracked and there would be effective follow-up. To me, the program seems to be a tool to exert guilt over individual quorum members.
What's worse is, even if you get 100%, the leadership is never quite satisfied. There are still things that you can do better. I've sat in lessons where they say, you need to call your families on a weekly basis or drop in two times a month. At that point, it sounded more like Big Brother than friendshipping , because at the end of the day it's still an assignment.
In fact, any gauge of activity can be turned against you. Leaders like to ask these types of questions: "How many times did you go to the temple last year? Well, you know you should go once a month minimum! How many times have you read the Book of Mormon? When was the last time? How often do you pray? How often do you bear your testimony to your family?" Mormon leadership is obsessed with checklists and worthiness interviews.
In general, members are chastised more than praised. That's my impression. If the church wanted to lift its members, they should work harder on building them up vs. tearing them down.
| I just feel the need to share what happened tonight to everyone in this board, which is one of the key instrument in helping me out of mormonism. Bear with me this can be long. I left the LDS church four years ago and the new hometeachers came over again unannounced, as usual. I realized how much I've grown when I stood there at the front door conversing with these two men in their suits and ties and held my grounds without feeling intimidated nor afraid to say exactly what I think anymore. What a great accomplishment for me to not lose my composure and see the dismay and frustration (maybe even anger) in the face of the older guy. The younger guy was actually very pleasant to talk to. I might have even planted a seed.
When they introduced themselves, I told them that I made a request not to have any visits from them because we have left their church. They asked why and I said that there are many reasons and i don't want to ofend them with these information. They persisted and one of the reasons I gave was the segregation in Heaven... they appeared confused, so I elaborated with celestial, telestial, and terestrial. I said that I don't believe in a god that would separate us in categories of elites. If segregation is not right here on earth, it shouldn't be allowed in Heaven. Another thing I mentioned was the fact that only a man can call me through the veil to enter the kingdom of heaven, and I believe that women should be allowed through in their own merit. The older man said that is not the teaching of the church. And I said why do we practice going through the veil in that manner in the temples? The young guy chuckled and agreed with me. The older guy stepped over the boundary when he suggested that my husband is not worthy because he is not a member, but I will be allowed if I am worthy... this got my hair to stand up alittle but I kept smiling and told him that men don't need the priesthood to be a good person and that my husband is more than worthy. He is more compasionate than anyone I have ever known in the church. Maybe because he doesn't think he's better than anybody else. The older guy also said that there are many people praying for me and that he is worried about me. I told him that I take offense in that because he puts himself above me and to say that he is worried about me is disrespectful. I told him that I respect his beliefs and opinion, but he needs to extend the same by accepting that not everyone believes that their church is the only true church on the earth. When they told me I am still on the membership list, I said that I have been contemplating of removing my name, but if they leave alone, then maybe I don't have to.
I can't believe I said all that and came out not crying or sounding apologetic. I used to just agree, afraid of making waves. I went through three years of depression and being lost, but I see now that I am stronger for it. Thanks to all of you... I was a lurker, but I was taking all the posts in and educated myself. Now it's time to give back a little. I feel strong enough to talk about my experience that maybe can help someone else. I'll write my story in another thread... For now, I must review for midterms... Thank you all.
| The following is a quote from a stake directive to the local "priesthood leaders" regarding home teaching.
"Each High Priest and Elders Quorum President call in each home teacher in Home Teaching Interview (I guess that's the new term for a PPI) and say 'AS A QUORUM PRESIDENT I HAVE BEEN CALLED BY REVELATION AND BY THE LAYING ON OF HANDS TO REPRESENT THE LORD, JESUS CHRIST. IN HIS NAME YOU HAVE BEEN CALLED AS A HOME TEACHER AND AS HIS REPRESENTATIVE TODAY I SEEK A RECOMMITMENT FROM YOU TO ACCEPT THIS SACRED DUTY AND DO IT IN A WAY THAT IS PLEASING TO THE LORD. WILL YOU ACCEPT THIS ASSIGNMENT?'
Brethren, home teaching is not just another program. It 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. A HOME TEACHING CALL IS TO BE ACCEPTED AS IF EXTENDED TO YOU PERSONALLY BY THE LORD JESUS CHRIST."
Can anyone say Drama Queens? Home teaching was the biggest bore and the biggest nobody-gives-a-damn activity in the Morg. Of course going to the temple ran a close second. They can't seem to move on from step one. That is certainly in large part because they have no more steps in their repertoire.
Just a thought. Do you suppose home teaching was invented by Joseph Smith so that he could better keep an eye (and an ear) on the sentiment of the members, to see who might be becoming "disillusioned"? Kind of a semi-benign secret police force. The, of course, for any wet-work he could always call in Porter Rockwell and the Danites.
| Sunday the quorum instructor taught a lesson on hometeaching. The lesson was taken from the pamphlet "To the Home Teachers of the Church" a capsulized version of ETB's 1987 conference address. The instructor had us to turn to page 4, and we read "There is no greater Church calling than that of a home teacher." That's funny, I thought, because not 10 minutes earlier a couple of guests to our quorum were going on and on about how one was a current SP, and the other was a former SP, and they all started the back slapping. I just stared at the floor as usual during all their self-congratulation.
One of the visiting SPs spoke up proudly "One of my councilors, during his temple recommend interviews, asks the priesthood holder if they've done their home teaching that month. If they haven't, he lets them know that they aren't worthy to enter the temple." I didn't enjoy this latest round of add-on mormonism, but I bit my tongue, while many others in the room laughed and back slapped some more.
Then the instructor told a story about a "wayward" sister, whom they had only been able to contact 2 or 3 times in the past three years or so. But they had always made an attempt and dropped off cookies some months. I found this very interesting, that a member of the SP would teach that it is ok to drop off cookies as a home teaching visit, but yet six months ago my bishop was berating me for doing the same thing, and told me my visits with cookies don't count. I guess the member of the SP outranks my bishop, so cookies to families is ok again. I don't really know for sure.
The instructor told us a story about Hartman Rector Jr. Apparently he was told by someone that they didn't want to go hometeaching, and Rector answered "It doesn't matter if you want to, what matters is whether you do it." I haven't had time to google for the exact quote, but the point was made quite clearly. It doesn't matter to the leadership whether we do our callings with pure motives and an intent to help other people. I think they just want us to be able to put a checkmark in a little box, so none of the leaders up the ladder will get upset.
The last story I remember, and I was drifting between sleep and semi-conscious anger as I sat staring at the floor, was a story about his former bishop announcing in PM that he was working with a family that was having severe problems, and started asking quorum members whose hometeaching family it was. The instructor said that the bishop really made them feel bad if they hadn't visited their families that month, because another family may be having severe problems that he didn't know about. The bishop laid the blame at the hometeacher's feet. Our instructor said he was glad that he had done his hometeaching that month. Wow. I wondered if he really thought that guilt is a primary motivator to do our hometeaching. I wished I had the quote from Elder Ballard in conference talking about how guilt is an inappropriate motivator, and the Lord does not approve of it.
All in all, I think I dodged about three lead-balloon moments. But it was tough. I haven't been to PM for many months and wondered how my first PM as a NOM would go. It didn't go too well. I was taught false doctrine, that guilt is a proper motivator, and that hometeaching is above all other callings. I kinda wished that I'd mentioned that the both the prophet who gave the talk (ETB) and the one quoted in the pamphlet (DOM) are both dead, and according to apologists and church authorities, their words can no longer be relied on as authoritative. This is getting to be tedious to attend church. I second CF's "slip slidin' away" feelings wholeheartedly. Does anybody still go hometeaching?
| I have mixed feelings about this program. I've had companions that I really dreaded going out with, and routes that took hours to complete. I had a VT in the South who was one of the most gracious, lovely women I've known. The first time I came to visit her, she had afternoon tea all laid out for my companion and me. I was really impressed, and I loved that there was a formal occasion, a reason for us to get together like that.
I've also had VT assigned to me who became good friends. We had a lot in common, and possibly would have become close anyway, but the VT assignment cemented the friendship. Our VT sessions were marathon, sometimes stretching past 2 hours of laughing and excited outbursts of sharing. I frequently told my husband, "This is what VT is supposed to be like. If I never get a good VT assignment again, I can die happy."
I hadn't discovered the bloggernacle or NOM yet, and I was so hungry to talk and share my genuine, unvarnished feelings with other LDS women. In my living room with these two women it became a safe place for sharing, a haven. We talked about our concerns about patriarchy, about the inequity in the YW and YM programs, about the wonderful role models (LDS women) we'd had.
Here in our ward, my VT's are a 70-something and a 60-something. The elder of the two is mostly deaf and has macular degeneration, so it's a rare trip out of her house to go visit teach, and I'm happy to be one of the ones she gets to visit. Her companion always asks me the same questions (Now how old is your little boy? What grade is your middle child in? How do you like it here? How long are you staying? Etc.) I don't mind answering her questions, and I usually don't mind her reading me the VT message straight out of the Ensign. She doesn't ask me to converse about it, and I can just give her a bland smile and tell her, "Thanks for the message and thanks for coming by!"
By design or by pure coincidence, my VT partner and all the women on my route are much older than I am (ranging from late 50s to late 70s)?and it is absolutely a revelation to go visiting. I've learned so much about the area where we've lived for the past 2 years that I don't think I would ever have heard except from these women. They've inspired me to delve into folklore and recording life histories. They know the art of conversation, and I feel glad to sit in on it and be a part of it. As for the spiritual message, over the past year as my beliefs have changed I've taken a sit-back-and-you-tell-me approach. I'll read maybe one quote from the message (always scanning for the token quote by a woman!) and then say, "What do you think about that?" or "We hear this all the time?I don't have anything to add, do you?" And then I smile blandly while they're offering their churchy point of view.
Frequently, the spiritual message is tucked in at the end of the visit, and it strikes me as the low-point in the conversation. The atmosphere turns heavy and slow, and quite noticeably picks back up once we've gotten it out of the way and are standing up to bid goodbye-and come to the kitchen to taste the chutney-and oh before you go, did I show my new picture of my grandbaby?-and notice the 4-o'clocks on the way out, they finally bloomed!
As I move toward leaving church activity behind, visiting teaching and the unique connection to women in their homes is one thing I think I'll miss. Call me crazy.
| Today in our ward we had a visiting teaching conference. I don't know if this is a church-wide phenomenon but in our ward, every January, we have a VT conference in RS to "inspire" us to improve our efforts at VT. Every sister in the ward is expected to attend - men, YM and YW fill in for primary teachers, librarians, nursery leaders etc who are women with Sunday callings. The first year we were in this ward I was in nursery and I thought "How nice - a chance to go to Relief Society at least once a year." I should have known there would be an "agenda". When I realized we were just there to get a lashing about doing our duty in visiting teaching, I made up my mind I wouldn't go to another one, ever again.
But I have a client I work with who is one of my favorite people and just happens to have been called to the RS presidency in our ward. She was so excited for me to go and see this year's conference, I just didn't have the heart to ditch, like I usually do.
The first talk was about how we, as recipients of visiting teaching, need to be better! I couldn't believe it. The woman speaking talked about how we can make our VT's job easier by returning their calls to make an appointment promptly, always being ready on time when the VT's arrive, perusing the message before hand and having some comments ready and not keeping the VT's longer than 20-30 minutes (God forbid you treat them like real friends and talk longer than the church assigned time.)
IMO, this is too much. I realize there is such a thing as common courtesy but I already feel that VTs are a pain in the butt. I have to clear my schedule, not just for them to come by but to go visit others. I have to stop and make sure my house is clean enough for inspection. I have to put up with two people dropping in with their little spiritual lecture every month. And now, apparently, I'm not even doing that very well. Is there nothing the church won't berate you for?
This whole "new order Mormon" thing is unraveling fast for me. I told my DH I was still willing to go to church with him on Sunday, even though I didn't believe any more, because it was so important to him. Also, because I don't think God cares where you are on Sunday. I've been using the time to teach my children some independent thoughts about what we hear at church, rather than reinforcing the church's teachings, like we are instructed to. But I can't keep it up - the fact that every Sunday I get on here and gripe about something at church is a sign to me that I'm not going to be able to go on living a lie. Usually I feel "live and let live" and don't want to nitpick people. But dumb things are getting on my nerves too badly and this VT thing is a big ol nail in the coffin.
| I hated home teaching. In my singles ward there was a wave of disinterest. The priesthood holders dropped out one by one, leaving the burden to be redistributed over those of us still in. Every month there would be another person added to our list. By the time I left the ward I was supposed to visit 7-8 different people.
We did a group meetup to make it easier. Shortly after, we had a lesson in Elder's Quorum about how that's inappropriate and we should visit every member individually in their own home. I had never liked home teaching, but that absolutely killed it in my mind.
(The sad part was once I was actually out, I did enjoy visiting with the people; it was just the forced constraints of counterfeit "friendship" I couldn't stand.)
I avoided home teaching after leaving that ward until I was married. In the married ward I was assigned the most valiant home teacher in the ward as companion, and he dragged me along every month. The only time he would talk to me was to schedule my time and tell me whether it was my turn to present the lesson. He never asked me to set up the appointments. I think he knew I wouldn't do it.
Once when I was feeling really mad about the whole thing (still TBM) I hid from him every Sunday for a whole month so I wouldn't have to do it. One week I hid in the bathroom for an hour and a half, another I played with my kid in nursery (they needed the help anyway). Felt guilty.
When I started having doubts about the church, my wife called the Elder's Quorum President to ask him to let me skip home teaching that month. She judged (rightly) that if my companion tried it there would be a huge problem.
The next month, after I stopped believing all together, my companion came over yet again to schedule my time. This time I told him I didn't believe in the church and wouldn't be doing it any more, ever. He hasn't talked to me since.
I love a story with a happy ending. :)
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