Instruments of the Lord

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“Instruments of the Lord,” Ensign, Mar. 1997, 27–39

Visiting Two by Two

Instruments of the Lord

Through the years, Presidents of the Church and general presidents of the Relief Society have emphasized the purpose and importance of home and visiting teachers. Following is a selection of those expressions.

President Gordon B. Hinckley

President of the Church, 1995–present

“‘The teacher’s duty is to watch over the church always, and be with and strengthen them’ (D&C 20:53). This is the mandate of the Lord. I hope that home teachers and visiting teachers will experience two things: first, the challenge of the responsibility that is in their great calling, and second, the sweetness of results from their work, particularly with those among us who are less active. I hope that these teachers will get on their knees and pray for direction, and then go to work to bring these wandering prodigals back into the fold of the Church. If home and visiting teachers respond to this challenge, I honestly believe that they will taste the sweet and wonderful feeling which comes of being an instrument in the hands of the Lord in leading someone back into activity in His church and kingdom.

“I am making a plea for us to reach out to our brethren and sisters who have known the beauty and the wonder of this restored gospel for a brief season and then for some reason have left it.

“May all home teachers recognize that they have an inescapable responsibility to go into the homes of the people and teach them to live the gospel principles more faithfully, to see that there is no iniquity or backbiting or evil speaking, to build faith, to see that the families are getting along temporally. That is a very serious responsibility; it really is. But it is not a heavy burden—it just takes a little more faith. It is worthy of our very best effort.”

President Ezra Taft Benson

President of the Church, 1985–1994

“We urge you to give renewed emphasis to effective priesthood home teaching and effective Relief Society visiting teaching. Home teaching and visiting teaching are inspired programs. They are designed to reach each member of the Church each month, both the active and the less active. Please give home teaching and visiting teaching an increased emphasis” (Ensign, Sept. 1987, 4).

“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.

“I am speaking about priesthood home teaching. …

“… 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” (Ensign, May 1987, 48).

“Remember, both quality and quantity 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. 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” (Ensign, May 1987, 51).

President Elaine L. Jack

Relief Society general president 1990–present

“Through visiting teaching we act as mothers, sisters, helpers, companions and friends, one to another” (Church News, 4 Sept. 1993, 6).

“In visiting teaching we reach out to each other. Hands often speak as voices can’t. A warm embrace conveys volumes. A laugh together unites us. A moment of sharing refreshes our souls. We cannot always lift the burden of one who is troubled, but we can lift her so she can bear it well” (Church News, 7 Mar. 1992, 5).

“We should never underestimate the value of a one-on-one visit. Just as women walked around Nauvoo gathering information about the conditions of individuals and families in that early era of the Church, so do sisters in Perth, Australia, and Papeete, Tahiti, walk to homes of their neighbors to visit and care for one another. I think it’s exciting to be a part of a worldwide association of sisters who exercise this watchful care over each other. Sometimes when I’ve gone out visiting teaching I’ve thought about that, and wondered if maybe women in Manitoba, Canada, or in Mexico or in France or even in the Soviet Union were out doing their visiting teaching at the same time I was. It’s quite a concept, to be part of something that is so much bigger than ourselves” (Eye to Eye, Heart to Heart [1992], 142–43).

President Barbara Winder

Relief Society general president 1984–1990

“Visiting teaching gives us an opportunity to learn how to follow the Savior. As we extend love and unselfish service, we become instruments of the Lord, helping in times of physical, emotional, and spiritual need to touch hearts and change lives. Visiting teaching is the very essence of the gospel and gives us the opportunity to practice the principles found in Mosiah 18:8–9: ‘willing to bear one another’s burdens, … willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times, … that [we] may have eternal life.’”

President Spencer W. Kimball

President of the Church 1973–1985

“Whenever I think of visiting teachers, I think of [home] teachers also, and think that certainly your duties in many ways must be much like those of the [home] teachers, which briefly are ‘to watch over the church always’—not twenty minutes a month but always—’and be with and strengthen them’—not a knock at the door, but to be with them, and lift them, and strengthen them, and empower them, and fortify them—’and see that there is no iniquity, … neither hardness, … backbiting, nor evil speaking’ (D&C 20:53–54). …

“To be successful, it seems to me that a visiting teacher would wish to have high purpose and remember it all the time, would want to have great vision, a terrific enthusiasm that cannot be worn down, a positive attitude, of course, and a great love” (Ensign, June 1978, 24–25).

“Blessed will be the day when all home teachers, those working on the missionary, genealogical, and the welfare and all programs, become home teachers in every sense of the word, looking after every facet of the lives of their families—spiritual, temporal, financial, moral, marital. That will be the happy day!” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball [1982], 524.)

President Barbara B. Smith

Relief Society general president 1974–1984

“We must seek out those among us with need and, using our God-given talents for charity and our means for relieving others, coordinate the two. This has been the charge from the beginning. It is the charge today. We should go personally into each other’s homes, and we should tune our souls to the point that we may find those in need and offer friendship, help as needed, and courage to meet each day’s challenges.”

President Harold B. Lee

President of the Church 1972–1973

“Home teaching, in essence, means that we consider separately each individual member of the family who constitutes the entire home personnel. Home teaching … is to help the parents with home problems in their efforts to teach their families the fundamentals of parental responsibility, as contrasted with merely bringing a message, a gospel message, to the entire family. Quorum leaders were given the responsibility of selecting, training, and supervising quorum members in visiting with and teaching assigned families of their own quorum members” (Stand Ye in Holy Places [1974], 298).

President David O. McKay

President of the Church 1951–1970

“Home Teaching is one of our most urgent and most rewarding opportunities to nurture and inspire, to counsel and direct our Father’s children in all that pertains to life. Through the priesthood quorums, and under the bishop’s direction, Home Teaching takes the message of the gospel, the message of life and salvation and brotherly love, into the home, wherein lies the first and foremost opportunity for teaching in the Church. …

“Home Teaching 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 the unbounded peace and joy and satisfaction of a noble, dedicated teacher of God’s children” (Priesthood Home Teaching Handbook, rev. ed. [1967], ii–iii).

President Bathsheba W. Smith

Relief Society general president 1901–1910

“It is good to … go from house to house, seeking out the poor, the cast down, minister to the sick, lay out the dead, gathering and distributing, as you have done, my sisters, for so many years, gifts and donations for relief.

“And yet we have a larger mission—to teach the mother to rear her young in simplicity and in truth and virtue, that happy home circles may abound in our midst” (Woman’s Exponent, Jan. 1906, 41).