What can I do to magnify my calling as a home teacher?

“What can I do to magnify my calling as a home teacher?” Ensign, Aug. 1993, 53

I’d like to magnify my calling as a home teacher by serving beyond the required monthly visit, yet I sense that my assigned families don’t particularly need or want extra help. What can I do?

Richard J. Marshall, Young Men president, Valley View Ninth Ward, Salt Lake Holladay North Stake. Before we assume that a family or individual we home teach does not need more attention than our brief monthly visit, we could ask ourselves questions like these: Do we really know them well enough to know their needs? Are we sincere in our offers to help? Do we sound them out with sensitivity and tact? Do we ask the bishop for insight into the family’s true needs? Further, do we spiritually prepare ourselves for each important monthly visit?

Just because a family appears to be getting along well does not mean that they cannot benefit from our ongoing care. The Lord knows their needs and will guide us in helping meet them if we are prayerful and diligent. Sometimes those needs cannot be fully addressed in monthly visits.

Appearances can be misleading; for example, a family that sits across the room from us, each smiling and nodding, may not in fact be giving us their best attention. Perhaps after the cordial visit, we say to ourselves, All’s well here; no one poor or needy in this household. But isn’t it possible that someone in the home is poor in spirit, needy in faith, sick at heart, or afflicted with problems he or she carefully hides? (See D&C 52:40.)

It is possible that some of the families or individuals we home teach may not welcome our visits and efforts to be their friends as much as we would like. If they merely tolerate us, how can we carry out—let alone magnify—our charge to “watch over” and strengthen them? (See D&C 20:51, 53.)

To “perform fully” as home teachers, President David O. McKay wrote, we should be “continually aware” of the whole range of “physical, temporal, and spiritual needs and circumstances of … every child, every youth, and every adult in the homes and families who have been placed in our trust and care.” (Priesthood Home Teaching Handbook, Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1967, pp. ii–iii.) How much greater is the challenge, then, if a family allows us but a few minutes once every month to share a brief message!

Such a situation calls for special care and planning to build a meaningful relationship with the family. And that means looking for opportunities to do them good turns beyond the official visit. Any two home teachers who put their minds together can quickly generate a list of thoughtful acts of service that will not offend but will warm the hearts of even the most indifferent individuals.

President Ezra Taft Benson defined home teaching as an inspired program that “touches hearts, … changes lives, and … saves souls,” adding that “if faithfully followed, it will help to spiritually renew the Church and exalt its individual members and families.” (Ensign, May 1987, p. 48.)

If those we home teach do not want “extra” help, we need not be discouraged. They may not accept our help for any number of reasons that have nothing to do with us personally. Perhaps they refuse our help because they do not want to burden us—despite our assurances to the contrary. Though it never hurts to offer our help, we should remember that there are other ways to magnify our callings and help bless their lives.

For example, a family who declines our help may appreciate very much our ongoing attention and spontaneous personal contact. Remembering birthdays or calling or dropping them a note to commend them on a special achievement can help promote trust and friendship with the family. If we are prayerful and sincerely seek ways to help them, we can be confident that our efforts are acceptable to the Lord.

Great things happen when a home teacher is energized and constantly focused on watching over those in his care. The Lord is with his home teachers, and he will help them to be effective in their sacred calling as they serve with diligence and enthusiasm.