“Personal Interview Procedure Strengthens Priesthood Home Teaching,” Ensign, June 1975, 64–65
“The teacher’s duty is to watch over the church always, and be with and strengthen them.” (D&C 20:53.)
When an elders quorum in a California stake was reorganized a year ago, the new president was surprised to find in the quorum files a sizeable list of inactive ward members who had asked that the home teachers stop calling on them. Refusing to accept the failure imposed by this “Do Not Visit” list, the new presidency made personal visits to each individual or family on the list; as a result of these visits, several families once again began receiving home teachers.
In one of these families the father had had a problem with alcoholism for several years—a fact that the quorum president explained to the newly assigned home teachers during an initial personal priesthood interview.
These brethren considered their calling as priesthood home teachers to be a special stewardship. As the quorum president later reported, “Brother Peterson and Brother Schiefer stuck to that family closer than the family members stuck to each other.” In their regular visits they made no fuss about the father’s drinking problem, focusing instead on other aspects of gospel living. Spared this embarrassment, the father soon responded to their kindness and concern; he began to attend meetings sporadically. Brother Peterson occasionally picked up the little girls and took them to see the rabbits he was raising. They would come home excited and full of stories. Sister Peterson called the mother and made friends with her.
After a few months, the home teachers and their priesthood leader decided during a personal priesthood interview that the time had come to challenge this father to personally commit himself to the Church. This they did at their next visit, and the father accepted the challenge.
There followed a period of difficult weeks for the father, during which the home teachers met often with the quorum president and returned frequently to counsel with the father. Then, partly through the home teachers’ urging, the father decided to undergo an alcoholism cure at a veterans hospital. However, he had a siege of last-minute fright and wanted to back out of his promise. “Brother Schiefer simply wouldn’t let him. He drove him the 300 miles to the hospital himself.”
These faithful home teachers were more than rewarded recently when the father—with his family beside him—bore his testimony: “Of all the days of our lives, certainly one of the greatest would have to be the day when two gentlemen rang the doorbell and said, ‘Hello, I’m Brother Peterson, and this is Brother Schiefer. We’re your home teachers.’”
The above example illustrates two ways in which priesthood home teaching—the name we give to the divinely ordained responsibility of “watching over the Church”—functions in the Church today: (1) priesthood leaders and their representatives, the home teachers, have an obligation to assess and meet individual family needs; and (2) the personal priesthood interviews are an essential part of watching over the Church and take place as often as necessary and at any time during the month, except on Monday evenings.
Perhaps the distinguishing feature of priesthood home teaching today is that it is not a “monthly” activity. By this it is meant that it is not appropriate to think of or measure home teaching as simply a periodic visit to a family within a calendar month. Rather, home teaching is being accomplished when the family is encouraged to attend all its church and family duties. It is being accomplished when all the needs of the family are being met, and these needs, of course, simply do not arise on a “monthly” basis—they may arise at any time. Certainly no father would consider having “done his father’s duty” by visiting a child once a month; similarly, home teachers, under the direction of their priesthood leaders, plan their stewardship, assess the spiritual and temporal needs of their families, and then visit or otherwise work with them as often as necessary and do whatever must be done to meet those needs. In all of this, home teachers work with and through the father of the family.
Just as the home teachers’ contact with their families is not “monthly,” neither is their contact with their priesthood leaders through the personal priesthood interview—the process of reporting back to the priesthood leader, receiving direction and counsel, and going forth again to serve. In keeping with the spirit of the home teacher’s responsibility, the interview can, and probably should, be held any time during the month, not just at the end of a calendar month.
The personal priesthood interview is a time for reporting, reviewing, goal setting, coordination, inspiration, and prayer. If other members of the ward or stake are needed to help accomplish the goals established, arrangements are discussed at this time. Through the cooperation of ward and stake leaders in bringing to bear the resources of the Church, the spiritual and temporal needs of every family should be met.