Visiting Teaching was something I found especially charming as a new convert. It was novel and sweet- having two women, friendly and attentive- drop by my house each month to share something thoughtful was a soothing balm. As a new mother, relocated a thousand miles from my old friends and support system, I really loved the kindness those women showed. In retrospect, I think they were even sincere. Mostly.
But then the shine wore off. The sisters I thought were genuinely interested, thought genuinely cared, were assigned to someone else. The visits stopped. It was the tiniest bit shocking to realize I had been an assignment. The warmth I felt at the charm of Visiting Teaching dulled just a bit. It was a surprise when I realized what life-long Mormons understand- Visiting Teachers change, and no matter how we spin it, it is, in fact, a duty. Is that bad? Perhaps not.
So what can we do about it?
The idea of Visiting Teaching is not bad- checking on one another, caring for each other’s needs, working together- all good ideas. I just fear how we carry it out is sadly lacking in our modern lives. We find ourselves giving the same photocopied message we receive, sometimes in the same day. The messages themselves are often warmed over versions of the same thing, over and over. Is that what we need? I don’t know, but it’s less than inspiring. We need to get some meat in these messages.
My subscription to the Ensign expired a few months ago, but I find I like the ease of clicking the articles I need online instead of piling up the magazines on my end tables. Today, I read the February Visiting Teaching message. The focus was on strengthening family and home. Again. Yes, I know this one inside out and upside down. I’m told I must “guard my hearth” against the evils of the big bad world. Sigh. Yes. I know. Sister Barbara Thompson speaks again of how my role is in the home and how I have a responsibility to strengthen families, regardless of how mine looks.
Deep breaths. I read on.
I appreciate the nod to history and hearing what Bathsheba W. Smith had to say 110 years ago about family, but it doesn’t escape my notice there is no mention of Sister Smith’s opinions outside of what I should be doing around my hearth. The quotes included in the bland message neglect something important- something that might be missing and leaving Visiting Teaching such a dry, dusty husk of what it could be…
There is no mention whatsoever that Bathsheba W. Smith was a leading suffragette in the west, fighting vocally for women to have the vote. She was on the board of directors for a major hospital and she was the matron of the Salt Lake Temple. Bathsheba Smith, in addition to being the General Relief Society president, was a diarist and an artist, and she drew the quite famous pencil portrait of Joseph Smith Jr. in profile. I daresay she was busy doing things besides simply watching her hearth. I like to think she might encourage me to do so as well.
That’s the kind of Visiting Teaching message I want to hear.
Maybe if women were encouraged to do something besides watch the babies, watch the hearth, watch the bad world out our window, maybe visiting each other would become less of a chore, and more of a way to connect and work with each other. Maybe not. But reading the messages would sure be a lot more interesting, and it would help me feel my church sees me as something besides and one-dimensional pot-watcher and baby-maker. My foremothers certainly did.