Learning How to Minister: Relief Society Leaders Explain Changes to Visiting Teaching

Learning How to Minister: Relief Society Leaders Explain Changes to Visiting Teaching

News Release
 

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a visiting teacher is a woman assigned to watch over and help another woman in her congregation. Two visiting teachers are assigned to each woman.

Beginning January 2018, changes to the monthly visiting teaching message will help sisters “minister” to each other in a more personal way. Rather than providing a specific message, each month a “Visiting Teaching Principle” will provide ideas to help sisters minister more effectively to each other.

“We want to help sisters understand how to really care for and strengthen each sister,” Sister Jean B. Bingham, Relief Society General President told the Church News.“The [Church] handbook doesn’t talk about our responsibilities to teach a lesson. It talks about how ‘visiting teachers sincerely come to know and love each sister, help her strengthen her faith and give service. [Visiting teachers] seek personal inspiration to know how to respond to the spiritual and temporal needs of each sister they are assigned to visit’ [Handbook 2, 9.5.1].”

The changes are meant to help visiting teachers look beyond a universal prepared message and figure out what the sister they visit personally needs.

“What are we supposed to do?” asked Sister Sharon Eubank, First Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency. “Do what she needs.”

“Since each one of us is unique, each sister will need something different,” Sister Bingham said. “In [Handbook 2], it says ‘phone calls, letters, email, or other means to watch over and strengthen sisters’ are appropriate ways to find out their needs and help them. That’s the focus—we want to make sure that we are strengthening sisters in the gospel and each sister feels valued, needed, and included.”

Effective visiting teaching can be as simple as listening with love, as Sister Reyna I. Aburto, Second Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, noted. “About two weeks after I was sustained in my calling, I went to the home of one of the sisters I visit. As she opened the door, she gave me a big hug, and asked me how I was doing. Feeling the sincerity of her question and her love for me, I broke down in tears as I shared how inadequate I felt. She allowed me to cry on her shoulder and lovingly listened to me as I let out the emotions that I had been holding inside. I came to see how I could strengthen her, but she strengthened me.”

The early practice of ministering visits started not long after the Relief Society was established in 1842. As the population of Nauvoo, Illinois, was expanding, Relief Society leaders began to use visiting committees to assess the needs of the members and gather donations of money, food, and clothing to provide aid and relief to the needy.

Although the details of the process have changed since those early days, the principles remain the same—to minister as the Savior would minister.

Most women in the Church have the opportunity to serve as visiting teachers. The visiting teaching program is coordinated by the Relief Society, the organization for women in each Latter-day Saint congregation.

The visiting teaching program is complemented by the home teaching program in caring for the needs of Latter-day Saints. Home teachers are two men who are assigned to visit everyone who lives in a home. 

Contributed By Marianne Holman Prescott, Church News staff writer

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