Why the Home Teaching Program Does More Harm than Good

This article is written by Hal Mitchell, a frequent sponsor, and contributor to LAMP.  Below, he freely expresses his feelings and opinions on the LDS Church’s administration of its own Home Teaching program.

I am the world’s worst home teacher. Every time I go out it is never because I am concerned about the welfare of individuals, it is without a doubt because I am worried about being embarrassed for not doing it and having to face the scolding wrath of the brethren at church. If I do it and no one calls me about that month to ask me how if I did it, I am disappointed. I only did it to get a pat on the back anyway. I have never done it for the Lord or for the good of his kingdom. When I go, I feel like I am imposing upon some poor member, whether active or inactive. I thank the poor souls from the bottom of my heart for having to suffer through a visit with me so I can get an “attaboy” from leaders of the ward. The people I visit are definitely doing me a favor, not the other way round.  I never pray for them with real intent, because I am afraid God will smite me dead for being so phony.  When on rare occasions,  a person I home teach asks me for help to move, or chop weeds, or redo their roof, I secretly feel like they are taking advantage of me. Why can’t they hire a gardener or a roofer? I feel the same way when home teachers come to my home. I am doing them a favor. I would never feel comfortable asking them to do something that would really help me. I am self-reliant, and if I want advice, I have people in my life I can ask, or pay a professional, but my home teachers have never, and would never, be on that list. I don’t want them to think I am needy, and in my heart, if they ask me for help I consider them needy. 

In many ways, I wish my home teacher was never someone I really liked or admired. Otherwise, I would worry that men I truly wanted to be friends with were coming to my home out of their sense of duty, not because they enjoy visiting with me. Our potential friendships are complicated because they are coming for one main reason, which is to be obedient to the rules of our church, not to find a new friend.  That is a reason I hate the home teaching program. There is no love in it. It is a duty; you do it to show your loyalty to your leaders who beg you to do it. We do it for them and them only. The reports submitted are centered around whether I did my home teaching, not around any kind of good being done during the visits. Why is it that way?

Whenever home teachers come I eye them suspiciously. I know they are no different than me, and we all believe that compliance will somehow bring us the blessing of not being embarrassed by telling your leader you are a deadbeat. That is the blessing of doing your home teaching. We are told that even though we may not do it for the best reason, just because we are doing it makes us eligible for someday doing it for the right reason, and then we will receive spiritual blessings perhaps.

When home teachers come, and at the end when they ask if there is anything they can do for us, I know they are praying we will say nothing so they can go home in peace and not feel encumbered with more responsibility than just saying they went, did the visit, and all is fine at the Mitchells. I go out home teaching and I let someone home teach me, but there is nothing more to the program than that.  We’re just being a part of the home teaching cooperative. We all agree to help each other out by letting each other come to our homes and waste a little time so we can all get credit for doing our duty.

If I were a genuine person, and if I had an ounce of integrity, I would tie the Ensign to a brick with a pretty bow just to show that I care, and huck it out the window of my car onto the lawn of my home-teachees as I sped by.  In that way, I don’t impose on their time; I don’t feel like a phony pretending to be their friend, and I get to count it for the monthly home teaching report. I don’t offend the Lord because now I am being genuine as a true blue deadbeat home teacher.

In April 1987 President Ezra Taft Benson gave a stirring talk on the subject of home-teaching. It contains much information and makes a passionate case, illustrating the blessings and goodness that can come if priesthood members would just comply. I believe it is important that all read it again, to see the expectations, but consider reasons why the program fails to accomplish what President Benson and possibly even the Lord wanted someone to learn from this message.

I will, therefore,  include the talk in its entirety and insert my comments in red.

My beloved brethren of the priesthood, it has been a joy to be with you this evening and to be instructed by these choice men of God. I have felt of your power and faith, and I commend you for your attendance here tonight.

I rejoice in this opportunity to say a few words to you tonight. I feel impressed to speak to you about a priesthood program that has been inspired from its inception—a program that touches hearts, that changes lives, and that saves souls; a program that has the stamp of approval of our Father in Heaven; a program so vital that, if faithfully followed, it will help to spiritually renew the Church and exalt its individual members and families. Why does this not happen in today’s church, or at least the 33 wards I have lived in throughout my life?

I am speaking about priesthood home teaching. With all my heart, I pray that you will understand, by the Spirit, exactly my feelings about home teaching. 

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. It has the potential to be a sacred program, but the way it is currently administered, it is far from sacred. No Elder or High Priest who struggles to get it done each month looks at it like it is a blessing in his life. It is a bane. It is a hammer to the head over and over again, and we feel like phoneys when we do it because we know we are doing it for the almighty report. Why do you have us report, President Benson? Leaders have given lesson after lesson making members feel guilty for not doing it. There are no inspiring lessons on how to do it, or how to be a better teacher, or how to break down barriers. No training is given, no inspiring accounts of how someone felt inspired to call someone to be a home teacher to a particular family or person, no honest discussion of why priesthood holders fail month after month in achieving the ideal, no discussion on quality home teaching or using the spirit to discern who may want to be home taught and who doesn’t.

Home teaching is not to be undertaken casually. A home teaching call is to be accepted as if extended to you personally by the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ? So when I hear from my leader that they have changed all the home teaching beats, I get a little piece of paper with a few names I have never heard of, and one or two that I have heard of. That is how the Lord Jesus Christ does things of such grave importance as you say? The leader knows just as little as I know about the people, and has no insight into the whys of where they are spiritually. The leader does not even know if they want to be home taught, but for some uninspired reason, that is never taken into account. It’s hard to imagine the leader  making the call to  be a home teacher as the Lord would do when he knows nothing about the people and doesn’t motivate by saying he felt inspired that I might receive joy by visiting these people, or is aware of special needs that I have been called to provide for a specific reason.  But despite this, leaders complain that the call is carried out with no spiritual zest, testimony, or conviction. What could leaders do to change that, or is it just the fault of deadbeat members like me?

The Savior Himself was a teacher. The only perfect man to walk the face of the earth was a humble, dedicated, inspired teacher who brought to His followers salvation and exaltation. The Lord never uttered the word exaltation anywhere in the Book of Mormon nor the Bible.

Oh, that all the brethren of the Church would catch that vision of home teaching! Yes, I agree, but it starts with you President Benson. You talk like it is us, the faithless members, but you have sabotaged a good idea into a program that everyone in the church hates to talk about, and which causes anxiety when it is presented. The ones who do it don’t need to be scolded and the ones like me who don’t do it don’t seem to improve with scolding, so what is an inspired answer?

Tonight I am not teaching new doctrine, but I am reaffirming old doctrine. Quoting from section 20 of the Doctrine and Covenants, revealed to the Prophet Joseph in April of 1830, the Lord declared to the priesthood: Not really. He is talking about the duties of the teacher in the Aaronic priesthood. Who came up with the idea that a 14 or 15-year-old could or would be allowed, or listened to, if he set out to do all these things mentioned in this scripture? This is the classic home teaching scripture used to motivate and deliver the task into the minds of all home teachers. The only problem is it is not inspiring because it is not written for all.  It is for Aaronic Priesthood teachers, and we all laugh a the thought of them doing this, but that is what the scripture says. Why do we take this out of its original context? How can a scripture be motivating to me when you know it isn’t written for me, it is written for a 14 to 15-year-old who has never, and will never do the things the D&C says he is supposed to do. There are other scriptures written for every other priesthood office, so why do we focus on this one when it is for teachers, and in the LDS church, those teachers are 14 and 15 years old, and we all know they aren’t really expected to do this under any reasonable scenario.

Watch over the church always, and be with and strengthen them;

And see that there is no iniquity in the church. …

And see that the church meet together often, and also see that all the members do their duty” (D&C 20:53–55).

And visit the house of each member, exhorting them to pray vocally and in secret and attend to all family duties” (D&C 20:51).

Brethren, that is priesthood home teaching. OK, but here in D&C 20:55 is a pernicious philosophy, that extracts the spirit of the Holy Ghost and replaces it with evil destroying the vision Ezra Taft Benson is trying to establish. The philosophy is, “SEE that there is no iniquity, SEE that the church meet together often, and also SEE that all the members do their duty.” The word see in this context means to compel or to make sure.” How do we cultivate spiritual motives of love, unselfish service and love of the Lord when we are compelled? That is an evil practice (Section 121: 36-39). The D&C endorses monitoring or compelling people to do things rather than allowing the true believer to do what they believe in their hearts.

Thomas S. Monson agrees with this notion and clarifies the extent of what is meant by seeing to it that things are done in the church:

When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates” (see Thomas S. Monson, in Conference Report, Oct. 1970, 107).

Why would spiritual leaders distract true believers, by giving them an ulterior motive of doing something good to be seen of men? If someone truly understands President Benson’s vision, why do they need to be monitored? Did Alma and Ammon need to be monitored, or was their conversion sufficient to provide adequate motivation? Maybe Brother Monson is not looking to distract the true believers but to compel those who are not true believers. Is that the Lord’s way, to compel his children, or to encourage a change of heart? In Moroni 7: 8, the Book of Mormon explains the imprudence of this practice when Moroni says:

For behold, God hath said a man being evil cannot do that which is good; for if he offereth a gift, or prayeth unto God, except he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing.

For behold, it is not counted unto him for righteousness

8 For behold, if a man being evil giveth a gift, he doeth it grudgingly, wherefore it is counted unto him the same as if he had retained the gift, wherefore he is counted evil before God.

9 and likewise also is it counted evil unto a man, if he shall pray and not with real intent of heart, yea, and if profiteth him nothing, for God receiveth none such.

The offering of service, like a gift, must, therefore, be offered with a true intent, not be done to fill out a report, or satisfy the request of a bishop or quorum leader. Compulsion is not condoned by God, despite what Joseph Smith and Thomas Monson have taught. 

 

When you have a converted soul, like both Almas, Paul, the Son’s of Mosiah, Captain Moroni, and countless others we have read about in history, there are great people who do noble acts of kindness and bravery from convicted hearts. Greatness can never come to a soul if there is not personal conviction. Monitoring and reporting spiritual acts is corrupting to personal conviction. As the Lord says, it cometh of evil and he accepts none such (vs 9 above).

This kind of teaching was done in Christ’s time by His early disciples. It was practiced in Book of Mormon times. In the first chapter of Jacob, we read:

For I, Jacob, and my brother Joseph had been consecrated priests and teachers of this people, by the hand of Nephi. This is another great idea that is not followed. Why aren’t home teachers set apart after an interview, if it is the most significant calling, and comes from the Lord Jesus Christ? Why does one just get a slip of paper with a few names on it? Why isn’t it treated by leaders as sacred? Do they pray before making assignments? If they received revelation they don’t share it. Why don’t they ask if the home teacher is willing in his heart if it is a truly sacred calling? Do they want to know if the home teacher has conviction? It seems if it is as important as Ezra Taft Benson wanted, one might think inspiration would be used for choosing the right families or individuals for the home teacher?

And we did magnify our office unto the Lord, taking upon us the responsibility, answering the sins of the people upon our own heads if we did not teach them the word of God with all diligence” (Jacob 1:18–19). How beautiful this is described in the Book of Mormon. Why is it not that way in our day? What is missing?

From the beginning of this inspired program in our day, leaders of the Church have emphasized over and over again the importance of home teaching.

President Marion G. Romney, in general conference, declared:

Home teaching, properly functioning, brings to ‘the house of each member’ two priesthood bearers divinely commissioned and authoritatively called into the service by their priesthood leader and bishop. These Home Teachers—priesthood bearers—carry the heavy and glorious responsibility of representing the Lord Jesus Christ in looking after the welfare of each Church member. They are to encourage and inspire every member to discharge his duty, both family and Church” (address given at general conference home teaching meeting, 8 Apr. 1966, p. 3). Such an important calling should have training seminars if it is that important. In my 40 years as a home teacher, I have never heard of a training seminar available as referenced above.

President David O. McKay stated: “Home teaching is one of our most urgent and most rewarding opportunities to nurture and inspire, to counsel and direct our Father’s children. … It is a divine service, a divine call. It is our duty as Home Teachers to carry the divine spirit into every home and heart. To love the work and do our best will bring unbounded peace, joy, and satisfaction to a noble, dedicated teacher of God’s children” (quoted by Marion G. Romney, in an address at general conference home teaching meeting, 8 Apr. 1966, p. 7). Again I am shocked that president McKay would speak of a program in such lofty terms when in no way shape or form does the church invest time or energy into training. It’s funny because it is described in the sermon to sound like it is as sacred as a call to serve a two-year mission. In that calling you spend 3-12 weeks in a mission training center, many months thereafter as a junior companion, learning how to teach, and to learn the skills of a labor that literally consumes every minute of every day, six-plus days a week. A missionary feels the weight of what is expected, and many shrink from the weight because it is so consuming. The church offers no training, no preparation, no gospel awareness, no assessment of interest or willingness on the part of the home-teacher. Every male is a home-teacher. How can that be a sacred, holy calling when it is handled by leadership in such a perfunctory manner? When I was told I was being called to be a missionary I got a letter signed by Spencer W. Kimball telling me I was called by the Lord to a sacred service. I believed him. I have that letter to this day. I gave the time of my mission my all and felt the spirit with me, guiding me, sustaining and teaching me. Is home-teaching as important? If it is why don’t our leaders treat it differently?

My good brethren of the Melchizedek Priesthood and the Aaronic Priesthood, home teaching is an inspired program. If it is so inspired, why is the report required by the church just a yes or a no? Did you do your home-teaching? Yes, I threw the brick.  What does the Bishop do with the reports he receives from the quorums? He turns them into the stake? What does the Stake do with the reports? They turn them into the area supervisor? I don’t know. Is there a divinely guided person in Salt Lake waiting for the monthly reports so they can store them in a holy place somewhere waiting for judgment day so the Lord can study them? That is why it is so important to know what counts and what doesn’t. Why does the church require reports that help no one, and corrupts a potentially inspired program?

It is the heart of caring, of loving, of reaching out to the one—both the active and the less active.

It is priesthood compassionate service. Why are priesthood bearers so evil that we resist compassion but favor complying? We would rather get a report filled out than to do something good apparently. If not, why are we asked to document compliance but not compassion?

It is how we express our faith in practical works. Faith in whom, In our priesthood leaders or in the teachings of Jesus?

It is one of the tests of true discipleship. Discipleship of Jesus when we accept service done grudgingly?

It is the heart of the activation effort of the Church.

It is a calling that helps to fulfill the scriptural injunction: “Out of small things proceedeth that which is great” (D&C 64:33).

There is no greater Church calling than that of a home teacher. Why do you say something like this when everyone who has gone home teaching knows it is not so. The vision is understandable, but to say there is no greater calling? I have never seen a home teacher’s coffin solemnly carried out of the conference center by the 12 apostles after a lengthy nationally broadcasted service extolling his innumerable virtues. There is no greater Church service rendered to our Father in Heaven’s children than the service rendered by a humble, dedicated, committed home teacher. No doubt.

There are three fundamentals that are essential to effective home teaching. May I discuss these briefly.

First, know well those you are to home teach. It is essential to know them well, and if leaders are inspired they should choose compatible personalities so this can be achieved. home teachers should be skilled teachers, not just the next guy on the list who needs a route. This can only happen if the home teacher is genuinely converted to the inspiration of his calling and the family must be willing also. Does every active and inactive member desire the home teaching program?

Really know them! You can’t serve well those you don’t know well. President Marion G. Romney emphasized this:

Each pair of home teachers should become [personally] acquainted with every child, youth and adult in the family to whom they are assigned. Why does President Benson assume that every home teacher has the ability and the desire, and each member of each family has the desire to become personally acquainted? 

To perform fully our duty as a Home Teacher we should be continually aware of the attitudes, the activities and interests, the problems, the employment, the health, the happiness, the plans and purposes, the physical, temporal, and spiritual needs and circumstances of everyone—of every child, every youth, and every adult in the homes and families who have been placed in our trust and care as a bearer of the priesthood, and as a representative of the bishop” (priesthood home teaching seminar, 9 Aug. 1963, pp. 3, 4). Again, he is being presumptuous to assume that is achievable or even desirable in every case.

And the key to effectively working with the family is to be close to the father. Know his righteous desires for his family and help him to realize them. And I would urge you to do the little things, the small things that mean so much to a family. For example, know the names of all the family members. Be aware of birthdays, blessings, baptisms, and marriages. On occasion, write an appropriate note of commendation or make a phone call congratulating a member of the family on a special achievement or accomplishment.

With your home teaching companion, regularly review pages 8 and 9 of the Melchizedek Priesthood Handbook for some excellent suggestions on how to be helpful to those you home teach.

Above all, be a genuine friend to the individuals and families you teach. As the Savior declared to us, “I will call you friends, for you are my friends” (D&C 93:45). A friend makes more than a dutiful visit each month. A friend is more concerned about helping people than getting credit. A friend cares. A friend loves. A friend listens, and a friend reaches out. Again, both parties must be converted to this principle for the ideal described to be achieved. He used the word genuine which is impossible if one follows, the compulsion of the program to achievement percentages on a report. Again, if we are to be genuine, we should eliminate reports of monthly percentages. How is genuine friendship measured in percentages?

We remember the story President Romney used to tell about the so-called home teacher who once called at the Romney home on a cold night. He kept his hat in his hand and shifted nervously when invited to sit down and give his message. “Well, I’ll tell you, Brother Romney,” he responded, “it’s cold outside, and I left my car engine running so it wouldn’t stop. I just stopped in so I could tell the bishop I de my calls.”

We can do better than that, brethren—much better. Why is the bishop asking for reports? Since the bishop does ask for reports, he should be happy because he has a home teacher who is very report conscious, but then someone says that is not good enough. So why ask for reports if you want to teach conversion? Whose idea was it to require a report? It wasn’t the home-teacher. Our disgusting home teacher has been deceived by his leaders who ask for reports. He delivers and they are not satisfied.

Who needs to change their ways? Yes, you leaders can do better. Take away the temptation to serve men, and their shallow meaningless incentives that lead one away from God.

The second fundamental to effective home teaching is to know well the message you are to deliver in each home. And know that it is the particular message the Lord would have you give to the families and individuals you have been asked to serve.

Home teachers should have a purpose or goal in mind and should plan each visit to help meet that purpose. Before making their visits, home teaching partners should meet together to pray, to review instructions from their leaders, to go over the message they will take to the families, and to discuss any special needs.

Home teachers should present an important message that they have prepared or that they bring from priesthood leaders. We strongly recommend that the home teachers use the monthly message from the First Presidency printed in the Ensign and the Church’s international magazines. The head of the family may also request a special message for family members.

And, as a vital part of that message, whenever possible, read together the scriptures with the families you home teach. Make this a regular part of your visit. Especially read together verses from the Book of Mormon that will fortify your message, always remembering the words of the Prophet Joseph, that “a man would get nearer to God by abiding by [the] precepts [of the Book of Mormon], than by any other book” (Book of Mormon Introduction). Your families need the continual strength of the Book of Mormon. How marvelous and fun would this be if you could have a receptive family and a qualified home-teacher who loves the gospel message and can connect well with his people.

May our message be like Alma instructed the teachers of his day: “He commanded them that they should teach nothing save it were the things which he had taught, and which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets” (Mosiah 18:19).

Carry the right message, and then teach with the Spirit. The Spirit is the single most important ingredient in this work. Through the Spirit, the individuals and families you teach will know of your love and concern for them and will also know of the truthfulness of your message and will have a desire to follow it.

As home teachers, live the kind of lives yourselves that will invite the Spirit. Live the gospel so you can effectively teach it. This should be a requirement to be a home teacher. Do you study the gospel and why? Is it to be the all-star in Sunday School who knows all the answers or is it to draw you closer to God?

Alma instructs us:

Trust no one to be your teacher nor your minister, except he be a man of God, walking in his ways and keeping his commandments. Yes, how important that the home teacher chooses this amazing calling for himself rather than it be imposed upon all male adults, who may or may not have the skills, desire or testimony to achieve the awesome ideal proposed here. Not every male in the church has the ability to be an effective home teacher and making him turn in reports and monitoring him does not change that fact. Church leaders are not aware of this fact it seems.

Therefore [Alma] consecrated all their priests and all their teachers; and none were consecrated except they were just men.

Therefore they did watch over their people, and did nourish them with things pertaining to righteousness” (Mosiah 23:14, 17–18).

Also remember that, whenever possible, praying in the home should be a part of every home teaching visit. As you may be called upon to pray, pray with the Spirit, pray with real intent, and invoke the Lord’s blessings upon the individuals and families you are teaching.

Yes, the second fundamental to effective home teaching is to know well your message, teach it by the Spirit, and make praying and reading the scriptures an integral part of that message.

May I now suggest the third and final ingredient to effective home teaching—and that is to truly magnify your calling as a home teacher.

Do not settle for mediocrity in this great priesthood program of home teaching. If our leaders were not mediocre, the members would not be mediocre. Why might a member choose to be mediocre? Could it be due to setting number goals and measuring progress in percentages that might lead to mediocre spiritual results? Tell us what the spiritual purpose reports serve in the kingdom of God? Did Jesus keep a running tally of his multitudes and the number of people he converted to his doctrine? Did he ask his disciples to report percentages? Maybe he wanted reports on individual’s specific progress, but he did not monitor or ask for statistical reports.

Be an excellent home teacher in every facet of the work. Be a real shepherd of your flock. Make your home teaching visit early in the month, allowing enough time for additional follow-up contacts as necessary.

Whenever possible, make a definite appointment for each visit. Let your families know when you are coming, and respect their time. If we respect their time, it would make sense we respect their desire to not be visited. I remain unclear on what the rules are on this point. It is stressful and virtually always unfruitful to visit a person unwilling to be home taught.

Melchizedek Priesthood bearers, when you have an Aaronic Priesthood young man as your companion, train him well. Use him effectively in working with your families and in teaching them. Have these young men feel of your love of home teaching so that when they become senior companions they will love their callings and magnify them as you have.

Remember, both the quality and quantity of home teaching are essential in being an effective home teacher. You should have quality visits, but you should also make contact with each of your families each month? Does the brick count? As shepherds to all of your families, both active and less active, you should not be content with only reaching the ninety and nine. Your goal should be 100 percent home teaching every month. Why do you believe spirituality can be achieved by setting a numerical goal? Who made the decision that a month is the right interval? Shouldn’t there be a purpose followed here rather than a goal?  Isn’t the purpose to teach the gospel and to love them, or is the purpose just to visit no matter what the benefit or detriment may or may not be? Don’t you see how the numbers will become the focus instead of the quality of the work being done? The brick on the lawn is the best way to achieve the numbers wanted, but putting emphasis on numbers is evil before God, so in that scenario, there is no influence of the Holy Ghost, and the Lord says it is counted, yes, but it is counted as evil. It seems that despite how inspired a potential a program may have, our leaders cannot resist the urge to reach a percentage. Numbers once again are our motivating force. Why do you criticize the Romney home teacher who just wanted 100%? You just said we should aim for that.

So that this can be quality home teaching, we urge priesthood leaders not to assign more than three to five families or individuals to a pair of home teachers. This may be a challenge in some cases, but we would invite you to give prayerful consideration to these assignments. If our leaders are prayerful do they share the struggle they have with the Lord or is there just pressure to get the assignments made, so the monitoring can start.

Keeping faithful track of each member you are called to home teach is essential. The Book of Mormon beautifully teaches this principle. In the sixth chapter of Moroni we read:

And after they had been received unto baptism, … they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith” (Moro. 6:4).

This is a beautiful scripture because it is the willing new convert who wants to learn and grow in the gospel. Having a skilled willing teacher available to teach the new members should be inculcated into every ward.  

Brethren, may we remember all of our individuals and families and “number” them each month and nourish them by the good word of God to keep them in the right way. That is a fun job if all are willing.

We call upon quorum leaders to conduct spiritual monthly home teaching interviews, receive a report on the home teachers’ activities, evaluate current needs, make assignments for the coming month, and teach, strengthen, and inspire the home teachers in their sacred callings. Such interviews with home teachers provide a setting for leaders to measure progress and better serve the individuals and members they have been called to serve. This also does not have any training associated. This interview is just asking if one’s home teaching is done. Quality does not enter in.  It is a person wanting to know if the brick at least landed in the yard.

May I close by bearing you my personal testimony regarding home teaching. I can remember, as if it were yesterday, growing up as a young boy in Whitney, Idaho. We were a farm family, and when we boys were out working in the field, I remember Father calling to us in a shrill voice from the barnyard: “Tie up your teams, boys, and come on in. The ward teachers are here.” Regardless of what we were doing, that was the signal to assemble in the sitting room to hear the ward teachers.

These two faithful priesthood bearers would come each month either by foot or by horseback. We always knew they would come. I can’t remember one miss. And we would have a great visit. They would stand behind a chair and talk to the family. They would go around the circle and ask each child how he or she was doing and if we were doing our duty. Sometimes Mother and Father would prime us before the ward teachers came so we would have the right answers. But it was an important time for us as a family. They always had a message, and it was always a good one.

We have refined home teaching a lot since those early days in Whitney. But it is still basically the same. The same principles are involved: caring, reaching out, teaching by the Spirit, leaving an important message each month, and having a concern and love for each member of the family.

God bless the home teachers of this Church. You are in the front line of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Understand the sacredness of your calling and the divine nature of your responsibility.

Know well those you are to home teach. Know well your message, and deliver it with the Spirit. And finally, truly magnify your calling as a home teacher.

As you do this, I promise you the blessings of heaven and the indescribable joy that comes from helping to touch hearts, change lives, and save souls. Inthe name of Jesus Christ, amen. 

I am sure those who listened with real intent to this message were moved. How could someone dare to say home teaching does more harm than good after such stirring remarks?

I believe it is relevant to attempt to examine the psyche of those who are mediocre home teachers. Perhaps I am an expert.

Where is the sacred calling in all of this? Where is the Lord Jesus Christ and the feeling of mission? It is a program bereft of the Holy Ghost and replaced with Holy Dread. I am the home-teacher clearly without real intent and therefore grudgingly performing my duty which the Lord says is evil in Moroni 7: 6-9 as quoted above. Remember that the word grudgingly means reluctantly per Webster. How many Home-teachers do what they do with reluctance? How much evil is being done for a goal or percentage that has nothing to do with nurturing spiritual growth? Who is responsible for placing goals and percentages into the motivational fabric of a potentially inspired program? How much evil are our leaders responsible for when discipleship is replaced with worldly incentives?

In the defense of the Home teaching program, frequently an example is given of someone who goes out and because of their love, and genuine concern some one’s life is truly blessed. Some use the argument that Jesus left the 99 and went after the one lost sheep. In response to that, sometimes people do get rich in a multilevel marketing scheme despite the fact that the program is designed upon the strategy of exploiting one’s friends. I was a Boy Scout and saw how leaders and scouts cheated to achieve merit badges and to achieve advancement recognition. A program based upon the scout oath of on my honor promoted cheating among its members. Despite the obvious corruption, I have a great many fond memories in the Scouting program of learning many new things and having great experiences in the outdoors. Jesus talks about going after the lost lamb to bring him back to the fold, but remember that the lamb wanted to come back and sees himself as lost. The Lord doesn’t want us to bring people who are not willing. This is a fundamental attitude that needs to change in the home teaching program.

The following are a summary of principles to bring the home teaching program closer to its potential for doing more good than harm.

Not everyone needs a home-teacher, and not everyone has the ability nor the desire to be an effective home teacher. Call the men in the ward who are lovers of Christ’s gospel, and are effective teachers. The bishop interviews them for the very important calling. He outlines what he hopes can be accomplished with the specific families that are being assigned. Home teaching is this person’s only calling since it is so important per President Benson.

People being home taught are people who have requested it by visiting with the bishop and discussing with him their desire to learn the gospel or to receive spiritual guidance via the home-teaching program. Now Bishops would be using Home-teachers to perform specific missions.

Eliminate all monitoring and reporting of percentages. If anyone ever refers to any spiritual principle in the gospel of Christ in terms of a percentage they should be immediately reprimanded and asked to repent, and if it occurs again they should be permanently banned from any leadership role in the church.

On a stake level, have regular training sessions for the small group of men in each ward assigned to home teach.

The bishop should select potential home teachees of which he has a legitimate concern to be visited by a home teacher. His genuine concern should lead to frequent questioning of how things are going wherein he could assess the spiritual growth occurring from the dedicated home teacher’s efforts. This activity would without question, cement in the home-teachers mind the vital importance of his calling. If this cementing did not occur the bishop would release him and find the right person.

With these measures implemented, the home-teaching calling would be one requiring a degree of spiritual stature, wherein one might even strive to have the opportunity to serve in such a spiritually oriented calling, and genuine good and multiple blessings of spirituality would come from this experience.

 

 

 

 

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