Revealing and revelation: Thoughts for Home and Visiting Teachers

After thinking about how ‘taking care‘ is a sign of sacred space I want to examine another feature of the sacred, namely revelation.

Hermanowicz, a specialist in sociological methods which are interpretive rather than statistical, argues that the interview is an intimate encounter with the aim of encouraging or facilitating the interviewee to uncover themselves.  Hermanowicz explicitly uses a sexual/romantic metaphor to explore this dynamic between the interviewer and the interviewee. This uncovering is both a process by which the interviewee articulates hidden or less visible parts of their life but also involves a process by which the interviewee comes to share components of their experience which they had not been fully aware of before.

Obviously such intimacy involves a form of trust and care which must be respected by the researcher.  It is clearly inappropriate to abuse that uncovering.

Here I want to draw a comparison between this form of uncovering and revelation. To uncover is to reveal; and this revelation is both to the interviewer and also to the person who is speaking. When God is revealed to us it is not in the form of theological propositions: rather God is revealed to us (cf. Bro. of Jared).  God shares with us him/herself; revelation is a self-giving act.

I want to propose that Home and Visiting teachers should aspire to this kind of experience in their visits. It occurs to me that revelation should be the goal of our time together and that this should be a kind of uncovering (predicated on mutual trust and respect). The key difference between HT/VT and the interview setting described above is that the uncovering should not be unidirectional. All participants should be willing to enact and accept this form of revelation.

Using this as a criteria suggests the ability to move beyond vague notions of ‘having the spirit’ with us in a visit (seemingly defined as the nice feeling that attends being cared for) and toward a more specific conception of what it means to enter a form of shared life. Admittedly these experiences are not common, for a variety of reasons, but using this notion of revelation as our aim might help us to focus upon those things which will appropriately facilitate intimacy and fellowship. Focusing upon this form of revelation might lead us into different answers when we ask ourselves about the message we are to share, the service we are to perform, where we should meet and when.

Revelation is, in part, revealing ourselves to another while also coming to a deeper awareness of ourselves. I believe HT/VT can provide a space in which we are safe to experience this form of revelation.

Comments

  1. dude… HT/VT and sexual/romantic intimacy in the same post just gives me the weeby jeeby creepies

  2. This is a really important post, Aaron. I think that there is a tendancy to accept the institutional forms of ht/vt without putting in the work to establish the trust and love required for the powerw thereof (as they say). It takes a significamt amount of time to establish that level of trust I think.

  3. There is a confusion here between humans revealing themselves (non-physically) and God revealing himself (non-propositionally).

    Just as revelation is herein being naturalised so is ‘having the spirit’!

    What is being advocated here is actually to re-cover what has already been uncovered in relation to revelation.

    Revelation is communication between God and man not merely between caring humans. Additionally, the notion of revelation suggested here is actually as vague and general as the dispensed notion of ‘having the spirit’ (as defined) is.

    D&C 50:13-22 (or 100:5-8) says what the objective of HT/VT etc should be and it says it much clearer than this does.

  4. Still it is true that trust is essential in this genuine sacred revelation-receiving experience

  5. The teachee also has a right, even responsibility, to invite the teacher(s) to be more engaged in the HT/VT spiritual relationship. That is hard to do, there are no instructions on how to do it tactfully, so we usually end up just going through the motions. We then end up with a formulaic visit — lesson read, sitting and smiling, with the perfunctory “if there’s anything you need….” After a period of time (months, years), there is a change and both move on to the next assignment.

    Perhaps as teachees we need to pray for the revelation on how to ‘increase the spirit’ also, rather than just cast our teacher(s) off as just wasting our time.

  6. StillConfused says:

    I am with comment number 1 on this.

    My sole request with HT and VT is/has been/will always be, please do not wait until the very end of the month to do it with me. That is an extremely busy time for me professionally. I am sure you could come up with some metaphors for that but I will hold my tongue.

  7. I love this, Aaron – and I agree completely with J’s #2. One of the biggest impediments to the type of revelatory experience you describe with HT/VT is the too often changing of the “partnership” (the visitor and the visited), which weakens the trust factor inherent in open sharing – most particularly with regard to the visited who need the most understanding and help in not-so-obvious and easily discernible ways.

    It’s really hard for many of the visited to participate in the creation of this kind of relationship when they rarely see the visitor(s) (or only see them at the last minutes) and, thus, can’t build the trust and love necessary to reveal what needs to be revealed to make the relationship important and impactful. I believe the visitor must be the primary revelator initially in order to make this happen – but I also believe it is vital that it happen if we are to realize the full import of what HT/VT can be. (and I say that as someone who has sturuggled for decades to practice what I just preached)

  8. Interesting post Aaron. I think my own experience VT is usually often a one way conduit of trust. The VT wants the other person to trust them and tell them things and want to help, but doesn’t want to be as revealing to the teachee about herself. I think this dynamic often hinders the revelatory process, but certainly I feel like I’ve been able to bless the lives of sisters and I get to know them as revelation from God comes as to what they need, and I get to know them.

  9. Can this approach really coincide with the managerial form in which HT/VT has become embedded? Systematizing and being authentic seem to pull in opposite directions. You seem to want more authenticity. I propose it will come at the cost of decreasing emphasis on systematization (which has its own benefits). Or maybe this is a case of Zion exceptionalism. Normally such a balancing act can’t be done, but in Zion……..

  10. Chris Gordon says:

    @Karmen (5), I like where your head’s at and I think that an enlightened home/visiting teachee can do much to make the programs thrive and make the visits more effective. All may be edified of all, after all. Okay, that sounded like more of an attempt to be clever than it was. I recently blew out my knee (playing church ball, of course), and had to learn to ask more of my home teachers, who were more than willing to give but didn’t know how to offer. I’ve got two small children and was on crutches for 6 months. I repeatedly invited the home teachers into our home when I sensed it had been conspicuously too long since they’d come. I asked them to share thoughts on specific things that were concerning my wife and I, I told them of our needs and they promptly went out and took care of them. In the end, I guess they should have had the capability of coming up with these things on their own, but if I wanted to receive the blessings of having home teachers, I felt like the onus was on us to maximize the program.

    @Rah (9), I think that most ward units strive for the ideal of a system that’s minimally managed and relationships can thrive organically. With the transient nature of at least a significant chunk of most wards, I don’t know how you achieve this. The recent handbook changes do allow for greater flexibility within a managerial form but not necessarily eliminating a managerial form the way you imply would be beneficial. I don’t know. I cling to the hope that a HT/VT can achieve the kind of sacred interactions that we’re looking for even within the construct of an assignment and even a short-term one. It takes willing parties on all sides.

    It’s sort of like networking (I HATE that I’m making this comparison). I used to really hate the insincere chit-chat of networking but I’m forced to do it often. I’ve come to tolerate and even enjoy networking a little bit now that I realized that it wasn’t false or insincere, but had a unique purpose that’s a little different than the organic way that most make friendships. In the case of networking, once everyone’s on the same page it’s less threatening and productive.

    I think you can achieve much of the same ends on a deeper level through the act of home and visiting teaching. I think we all hope that our visitors can be our true friends, but I don’t think that that level of friendship is a necessary element of shared revelatory experience. If the effort is undertaken righteously by all parties, the Spirit will come.

  11. When experiencing sacred space, I’m of the opinion that what constitutes “sacred” depends more on what we choose to consecrate, and less on what was previously (inherently) sacred. In this way, we are able to take something rather ordinary and make it sacred by the way we dedicate it unto the Lord. We make it special, in other words, and offer it to God awaiting Him to accept such offering. We try to do that within the culture/institution where we find ourselves: in my case, the LDS church.

    Now as to how this applies to HT/VT, we actually have the option of taking what Chris (10) said above

    “I cling to the hope that a HT/VT can achieve the kind of sacred interactions that we’re looking for even within the construct of an assignment and even a short-term one. It takes willing parties on all sides.”

    And then for the next step: Can this sacred interaction turn into the kind of revelation experience where you give of yourself, and in the process discover more about yourself? This is really good HT. I’m not there yet, for sure. Certainly worth thinking about.

  12. Steve Evans says:

    “When God is revealed to us it is not in the form of theological propositions”

    Aaron, why is this so?

  13. MJ, I believe there is a similarity between the non-physical and non-propositional revelation of a human and of God. I can accept that I am naturalising revelation but I do so because I take seriously the notion of God’s embodiment and therefore believe that there is some similarity between the types of communication of which speaking persons engage in.

    Karmen, I agree that there is a responsibility placed upon the visited to invite this kind if communication.

    Thanks for your Ray.

    Mmiles thanks for your insight.

    Rah, that is a very good point. I see them as compatible in this instance primarily because I think the experience I am describing here is only possible by supplementing the formal requirement of the monthly visit.

    David, agreed.

    Steve, I am suggesting that statements such as those outlined in the Lectures on Faith, e.g. God has all knowledge, maybe well be true, but it occurs to me that when they are used in the context of a theophany of some kind they are an effort to encapsulate the experiential component of God’s act of self-revelation. What seems important in such moments are not so much that God has all knowledge, or that we perceive that He does, but rather that he has revealed himself to us at all.

  14. Steve Evans says:

    Aaron, fair enough but I’d argue that the separation between the intellectually-spawned theophany and the experiential revealing of God is not necessarily a large separation at all. Indeed the intellectual act of trying to describe how God reveals Himself may be a revelatory experience for the thinker involved…

  15. Well said, Steve.

  16. I’m not sure we disagree (but perhaps I am mis-reading you); the intellectual *act of trying* to describe God is, for me, where the emphasis should be placed rather than on the conclusion itself. The process of engaging God allows Him to be revealed and there are evidently a variety of discourses which someone can use to position themselves in that revelatory space, and some are certainly intellectual. Although words and propositions are meaningful God does not seem to be revealed or experienced in that form even if the effort brings us to that experience.

  17. Steve Evans says:

    No, I don’t think we’re really disagreeing. Thanks Aaron.

  18. Steve, your comments always help me cut through the ambiguity of my prose and thinking; and are appreciated.

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