by Terri Wagner
Maybe you know what I mean. In small wards/branches, we often find ourselves doing it all...and in my opinion not doing it well. This past Sunday as part of the Relief Society presidency, I conducted, lead the music, the special number, and gave the lesson. I did it all except for play the piano, and give the prayers. I felt like the sisters were cheated. And I certainly felt that my being so distracted would result in a very poorly given lesson.
As it turned, I didn't give the lesson I planned at any rate. I had this vague idea of addressing visiting teaching concerns, a challenge at any time, but more so in a small branch with lots of inactives. I went over and over in my mind what I felt needed to be said. VT'ing even after all these years in church is an alien concept to me. I myself have been lousy at it, and "my" visiting teachers have rarely appeared. And that never really bothered me for many reasons.
I wasn't very good at it myself so how can I judge? When I needed something, I had plenty of LDS friends to turn to, life gets busy and you just don't have time, things are changing, it's hard to do...the list is endless. As a member of the RS presidency though, I felt a great burden to at least do my visits. I have no partner and about 5 sisters. At first, it was great. I had a mixture of active and inactive...I knew most of them fairly well, and I tried to do something different for the sisters much younger than me. I found myself actually enjoying it.
Then our little branch's boundaries got changed. More sisters were added to our rolls, and we had to change up the lists. This time the emphasis is on what our prophet has been telling us to do...go and rescue. Now I have a list of sisters I don't know, no one knows. So far the more part of them are not even living at the addresses we have for them. One turned out to be a sad and extremely difficult situation I had to turn over to the branch president. Bottom line: Not that I ever really liked this program, but less so now than ever before.
Armed with my own reluctance, I decided to give a lesson on what to do. My goal was to assure the sisters that any effort is helpful, that social media can be a godsend. That sort of lesson. A how to without losing your religion over it. I intended to explain why the rules have to adapted for small branches. Describe some of my good and bad experiences, and share my own hesitancy. That was my plan. With the distractions of announcements, music, and finding someone to translate for our Spanish sisters, I stood before them and what came out of my mouth shocked me.
Sisters, like everything in the gospel, we do better when we have a testimony of what we are doing or about to do. If you do not have a testimony of visiting teaching, seek for it. Ask for it. Why did the Lord institute this program? What was His purpose?
It is rare that the Spirit just takes over like that. And of course you can guess who this lesson was really for, right? Me! I left feeling like I'd been reprimanded. At first, in honesty, my I-don't-like-doing-this-any-way smartly answered the invitation, then my He-did-so-much-and-asks-so-little reminded me that sometimes the Lord asks a hard thing of us.
I thought we needed a lesson in the mechanics of how to make visiting teaching more comfortable...instead the Spirit reminded me of Joseph Smith's words: I don't govern. I give them correct principles and they govern themselves. Once each one of us, especially me, receives a testimony in this case of visiting teaching, then the mechanics can be worked out, and the results shared. I'm glad I was distracted, and grateful the Spirit gave the right lesson!