Pray before You Go
January 1998

“Pray before You Go,” Ensign, Jan. 1998, 65–66

Pray before You Go

Many years ago a Relief Society president greatly influenced my understanding of visiting teaching. She was an energetic, silver-haired grandmother who left no doubt about the way she felt about visiting teaching. I can still recall her standing before the Relief Society sisters, saying, “I don’t think we realize the importance of visiting teaching. I challenge each of you to pray before your visits this month. This is part of your calling and should be done with your companion.” Her voice was firm but filled with love. I knew that what she said was true, and I vowed to follow her counsel.

Although my companion had not attended Relief Society that day, she readily agreed that prayer could only help us be better visiting teachers. So before we went visiting later that month, we prayed together that we might be guided to do and say the right things.

I had made the appointments and then phoned the sisters an hour before our visits to remind them we were coming. We were surprised when no one answered the doorbell at our first stop. Not wanting to waste time, we went to our second appointment. Again, no one answered. We traveled to our third sister and found the same results. Perplexed, we went back to the first home, and still no one came to the door. My companion and I were both disappointed and were at the point of returning home for the night when I felt a strong impression to go to an apartment where a young woman who was investigating the Church lived. I mentioned this to my companion, and she agreed it would be a good use of our time.

The investigator was in her mid-20s. She and her husband had recently separated, and she lived in a small apartment with her two-year-old son. Because of the lack of response we had met with at the other homes we’d visited, I was not surprised when no one answered our first knock. But I felt prompted to knock again, even though the small apartment was dark and the drapes were pulled tight.

After knocking a second time, I heard the shuffle of footsteps, and the door opened as far as the security chain allowed. I identified myself and asked if we could visit with her. She hesitated, then let us into her dimly lit apartment. It was evident she had been crying.

She walked to a small table and turned on a lamp. In a few minutes, she began to take us into her confidence and told us about the financial stress she was under, the challenges she faced as a single parent, and the anxiety she felt starting a new job. She also told us that her car had just broken down. After coming home from work that day, she felt very depressed, so she decided to pray as she had learned from the stake missionaries. “I asked Heavenly Father to help me and strengthen me. A few moments later you knocked on my door. I know that he sent you here tonight.”

Many years have passed since that experience. Because of it, I have always tried to pray either on my own or with my companion before setting out to do my visiting teaching. The testimony and challenge of that Relief Society president changed my vision of visiting teaching forever.

And what became of that young sister we found crying alone in the dark? She was baptized a member of the Church only a few weeks later. Shortly after that, she and her husband reconciled. It wasn’t long before they moved to California and we heard from her a few times again—once to tell us her husband was being baptized and again to let us know they were being sealed in the temple.

  • Shannon Smurthwaite is ward music chairman for the Hickories Ward, Eagle Idaho Stake.