“I Chose a Different Lesson,” Ensign, Mar. 1992, 59–60
I accepted my call as a visiting teacher in a small Idaho town with some trepidation after receiving the names of the three sisters on my route. I was a newlywed, inexperienced at life; the three sisters I was to visit were all talented, capable, and happily busy with their large families.
What could I possibly have to offer in the way of inspiration to these women? I wondered. For quite a while I felt inadequate. Then came the obvious answers to this question: love, support, and service. However, I was searching for something more. I loved them, yes, but my “grand schemes of service” were limited to a loaf of bread, an occasional plate of cookies, and my expected monthly visit.
One morning as the time approached to go visiting teaching, I began thinking about one of my sisters in particular—Jennifer.* My lesson, prepared the night before, seemed inadequate. I felt impressed to choose another topic, “Overcoming Adversity,” for Jennifer. I began to look up scriptures and resources on this subject. I even made a special handout for her that I had found in the Family Home Evening Resource Book.
I questioned my choice of subject matter as I gathered up my materials, scriptures, and handout. Jennifer had seemed to be doing just fine the last time I talked to her. Temporarily without a visiting teaching partner, I took a moment to pray for the Spirit to be with me.
When I arrived, I carefully climbed the icy steps, then I took a deep breath before knocking on the door. Jennifer greeted me with her usual smile and invited me in. We began chatting, and from all outward appearances, she seemed happy. Why did I feel a prompting that Jennifer needed this particular lesson? I wondered to myself. She seems just fine. How could I talk about the steps to overcoming discouragement? At that moment I felt that my lesson might sound like a lecture or, worse yet, might seem as if I had presumed that she wasn’t handling her life very well.
Still unsure of myself, I told her that I had felt strongly that she needed to hear a particular lesson, but that after talking with her, I wasn’t sure it was appropriate to her situation. I explained how I had prayed to be in tune with the needs of each of the sisters I visited, and I told her how forcefully the idea had come to me to choose a different lesson for her than the one I had originally prepared. I explained that I had hurriedly found scriptures, extra resources, and pertinent information in the hour before leaving for my appointment with her.
Jennifer asked me what subject I had been impressed to discuss with her. When I told her the topic, “Overcoming Adversity,” the smile slipped from her lips and tears welled up in her eyes. She told me how hard she had been struggling the last couple of weeks, while her husband had been working out of town, and she mentioned other circumstances leading to her discouragement.
I then proceeded to share with her the message I had felt so impressed to prepare. Before I left, we knelt in prayer, and Jennifer thanked Heavenly Father for knowing her needs. I will never forget that humbling moment when she confirmed that she needed to hear the things I had been prompted to prepare. That day I received a glimpse of the joy and purpose of visiting teaching, and of my own importance when I am “on the Lord’s errand.”