Thursday, August 11, 2016

Visiting Teaching: Making a Difference by Small and Simple Means

Two visiting teachers sitting on a couch, with one reading from the Ensign to another woman in a pink shirt.

I love to visit and I love to teach, but for some reason, I just don’t like doing them at the same time. As years have passed though, I’ve grown to love visiting teaching with all of my heart. Through the service of others and sharing friendships, my life has been filled with their beauty and my testimony has increased. Every sister can truly be a gift and a light in our lives. One of my favorite lines from the Broadway musical Wicked sums up visiting teaching for me: “Because I knew you I have been changed for good.”

As a lover of art, I’m intrigued by how simple sand, transformed by fire, creates glass. There’s a mystery to glass; it’s a form of a gas, liquid, and solid all at once. How complex! Way over my head. Once formed, glass captures light and glows from within. Depending on its use, glass can be referred to as a sliver, a shard, a piece, or a pane. Pieces of glass, arranged by a skilled craftsman, can transform a pane into the most beautiful illuminated art. Created out of thousands of little pieces carefully cut and placed together, they combine to make a masterpiece. I’m often asked where I get my creative talent. I’m never quite sure how to respond because I’ve always felt it was a gift from God. But one day I answered, “It’s in my genes. My Father is very creative. He created color, and I love it too.” I received a perplexed look, so I went on to say, “He created you too! Isn’t He amazing? How different we all are. Individual masterpieces, all daughters of God; all so different, but oh so divine!”

His vision for us is greater than we would or ever could plan for ourselves. Our testimonies become the framework for that stained glass pattern God has visualized for each of us. The best craftsmen know that in order to be strong, the solder for the framework must be built up over time. We learn this principle in the scriptures as “line upon line and precept upon precept.” Over our lifetime, our own unique design becomes a distinguishable pattern, full of color, formed from all of our experiences. As we serve others, God’s light is magnified through us. Our testimonies increase and we become more like our Father. Visiting teaching gives us the opportunity to add other glass pieces into our design, making who we are, richer, brighter, and more beautiful.

What is our motivation to visit or be visit taught? Are we doing it with a willing, cheerful heart, or are we going through the motions? Do we visit teach because we know we’ll be called and asked for our report? Or do we do it out of the pure love we have for our sisters? Are we rushing to get it marked off our to-do list, or are we finding a way to constantly gear our service to them and fulfill their needs? Elder David A. Bednar talked about overcoming the mind and changing our heart. He said, “The gospel…encompasses much more than avoiding…sin…. It…essentially entails doing good, being good, and becoming better....To have our hearts changed by the Holy Spirit.…This mighty change is not simply the result of working harder or developing greater individual discipline. Rather, it is the consequence of a fundamental change in our desires, our motives, and our natures made possible through the Atonement" (“Clean Hands and a Pure Heart,” Ensign, November 2007). So, if our hearts are truly changed, we will go visiting teaching for the right reasons.

We receive our testimony of visiting teaching by doing it the best we can. This testimony might not happen overnight and usually requires many years of service to achieve. To borrow the imagery used in our last conference from Elder Bednar, this experience may not be like a light switch, turned on instantly, but more like a sunrise, happening gradually over time. If you’ve had a powerful experience as a visiting teacher or teachee, one that’s truly affected you, then you know how it can change lives. But how do we gain a testimony like that? You gain it by opening your own spiritual toolbox. Like a true craftsman, there are four simple tools. First, love. It’s as simple as that—just love. As Mother Teresa said, “Do small things with great love.” We convert with love. We all want to feel understood and needed, accepted and loved.

Tool number two, pondering. Reflect on your sister. What would God have you do? As we read and ponder the scriptures, our minds become inspired. Passages take on different meanings as we apply them to those we serve. Look for topics to discuss or assistance the scriptures can offer for each sister. You will be enlightened. The next paragraph in the Handbook reads, “They seek personal inspiration to know how to respond to the spiritual and temporal needs” (emphasis added). If a sister struggles to open her home, could we respond by meeting her for lunch, or at the park, discussing a book at the library? Since we are all so busy, could we maybe exercise together to fulfill a temporal need? Yes! Could we build friendships as we walk and talk down the street? Likely! And don’t forget, it’s okay if your companion can’t go at the same time you can. Maybe she can go on another day without you!

 Third, pray. Pray to be filled with God’s love. If you are struggling, pray for a stronger desire to serve. Pray to know the divinity of your calling as a visiting teacher. If the sisters you are assigned to visit are hard to love, pray and ask Heavenly Father to teach you what He loves about them so that you can learn to love them too. Pray for your companion’s heart to be softened if she is choosing not to participate. Pray for insight into your sister’s needs. Pray for the heavens to be opened for her. Ask the Lord, “What is my part in Thy plan for this sister?” God’s help is available for even the smallest problem.

Fourth, revelation. Be ready and worthy to receive revelation to help your sisters. Draw close to the Savior because without revelation, we cannot succeed in this effort. Sister Beck teaches us the “The ability to qualify for, receive, and act on personal revelation is the single most important skill that can be acquired in this life” (“And Upon the Handmaids in Those Days Will I Pour Out My Spirit,” Ensign, May 2010). It is truly a skill, built over time.

Now that we have our spiritual tools, we need to do. We might start by doing the right thing for the wrong reasons, but over time, by doing, our hearts will become softened and change. As we grow, understand, and mature in the gospel, we will consistently do the right things for the right reasons. As we choose His way, he offers this promise: I will “make weak things become strong unto them.” Our testimonies of visiting teaching are not going to just magically appear without any effort on our part. Can you think of at least one thing you can do which will enhance or change your visiting teaching experience? Come up with a plan of action. Make an honest effort. Prepare to make sacrifices, be patient and longsuffering, for it might be a difficult task that requires much time. The Savior said, “Unto such shall ye continue to minister; for ye know not but what they will return and repent, and come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I shall heal them; and ye shall be the means of bringing salvation unto them” (3 Nephi 18:32).

 If you only remember one thing today, remember love. Have hands that serve and hearts that love. Love those you visit. Love your companion. Love those who visit you. Let every colorful piece fall into place in your own beautiful mosaic.

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