Agreeable, Vol I.

11Welcome to Agreeable, a bimonthly advice column in which I will tell you, dear Reader, as to whether your planned course of action is “agreeable” or “hmph”. Direct your questions (max 200 words, please!) to the admin address (see ‘About’, above) with the subject line “Agreeable”.

I work in an office where there are many LDS people, but also many (possibly a majority) who are not LDS. For the most part the non-Mormons are pretty cool and don’t take the LDS culture too seriously (for example, one guy has a big poster of Captain Moroni on his office door and people either ignore it or make fun of it). The guy in the office next door to mine, though, is pretty hard core about proselytizing. He frequently quotes scriptures in business meetings and will tell people that they should repent. It bugs me, not because I disagree with him but because there’s an office policy against evangelizing in the workplace and it’s also possibly against the law. I have mixed feelings, but I’d like to report him to the folks in H.R. — what do you think?


Hmph. How does that work? I’m an MBA, I’m a regional director of sales, I’m a Mormon! On-going, uninvited proselytizing of co-workers is a breach of workplace norms. If your company has a policy against evangelizing at the water cooler, this guy may end up speaking with H.R. sooner or later. If someone has confided to you that this guy is really bothering them, or worse, discriminating against them on the basis of religion, encourage that person to see H.R. and offer to act as a witness. But unless you know something specific you should resist that other thing Mormons are famous for–tattling for things that don’t concern them. It sounds like Mr. Zealous bothers you not because he is creating a hostile work environment, but because you are concerned his boorish behavior reflects poorly on you. You should give your co-workers some credit. They ignore or joke about Captain Moroni and they are likely doing the same to Captain Garments. It’s easy to stereotype Mormons if you only know one, but the office gentiles associate not only with your proselytizing friend, but you and the other half of the office. Take a page from your co-workers. Ignore him or make fun of him.

Our family attends church regularly, loves the gospel, goes to the temple, etc., etc. But here’s the problem: we don’t like having home teachers. Frankly our schedule is already packed with work and kids and life, and the last thing we want to do is to clean up and take time out to have them over to share a First Presidency message that we’ve already read. I know that our current HTs won’t really understand, but I want to tell them to spend their time visiting people who really need it and leave us alone. Is that cool?

11Agreeable. Home teaching is about serving one another, not making lives unnecessarily more complicated. Feel free to have a frank conversation about your family’s real needs and how your home teachers can best serve them. At the same time, remember that the sociability among the saints plays a big part in making church wonderful. The ties that bind don’t develop if you don’t get to know people at more than a superficial level. Things are going well now but it would be good to have a comfortable relationship with your brothers in the gospel should you ever need to call on them for help. Monthly First Presidency messages can feel stale, but quarterly joint service projects would be good for your family, home teachers who want to feel useful and some of those people you mentioned who could really use the help.


  1. With regards to the home teaching question, perhaps you could have referred to the talk given Pres. Monson in the Priesthood session of the most recent General Conference –

    “The bishop of each ward in the Church oversees the assigning of priesthood holders as home teachers to visit the homes of members every month. They go in pairs. Where possible, a young man who is a priest or a teacher in the Aaronic Priesthood accompanies an adult holding the Melchizedek Priesthood. As they go into the homes of those for whom they are responsible, the Aaronic Priesthood holder should take part in the teaching which takes place. Such an assignment will help to prepare these young men for missions as well as for a lifetime of priesthood service.

    The home teaching program is a response to modern revelation commissioning those ordained to the priesthood “to teach, expound, exhort, baptize, … and visit the house of each member, and exhort them to pray vocally and in secret and attend to all family duties, … to watch over the church always, and be with and strengthen them; and see that there is no iniquity in the church, neither hardness with each other, neither lying, backbiting, nor evil speaking.”3

    President David O. McKay admonished: “Home teaching is one of our most urgent and most rewarding opportunities to nurture and inspire, to counsel and direct our Father’s children. … [It] is a divine service, a divine call. It is our duty as Home Teachers to carry the … spirit into every home and heart. To love the work and do our best will bring unbounded peace, joy and satisfaction to [a noble,] dedicated [teacher] of God’s children.”4”

  2. I’m sure he would have referred him to that resource had his home teachers been around to share it with him. Alas!

  3. A Mormon version of “Thatz Not Okay,” one of my favorite columns! I find this planned course of action agreeable.

  4. Great new feature! Agreeable.

  5. Agreeable, yea verily so

  6. Why can’t people (and it seems Mormons in particular) just say what they want. If you don’t want home teachers that bad then tell the Bishop or Elders Quorum President. Sure, it may ruffle some feathers but people, we can deal with this…
    I personally think that as inconvenient as home teaching can be, for all parties involved, that there are some real direct and indirect benefits. But…to each his own.

  7. I like your vibe, Mathew. Regarding home teaching, I may be straying here, but I find it’s often way better to ask families what they want to hear and talk about rather than assuming the First Presidency message is always the right one for each. I’ve had parents ask me to emphasize something they’re already trying to teach their kids. One sister doesn’t know the Restoration very well, so we talk about different parts of it for each visit.

  8. Agreeable Scott! Collectively we as members need to do a better job of speaking up. That young man Jason references does need to be taught to engage in meaningful service. Visiting the home of someone who doesn’t want them there to give them a message they aren’t interested in listening to is the way to teach that to him. Politely but firmly making your boundaries known is an invaluable skill. Managing your relationships people!

    Spot on Ben. Listening to the needs of your families rather than rote performance of a duty ought to be the goal. I don’t think anyone would disagree with the concept–but it’s all in the execution isn’t it.

  9. Edit: Visiting the home of someone who doesn’t want them there to give them a message they aren’t interested in listening to is NOT the way to teach that to him.

  10. Mostimportantly says:

    As an HR Manager (which I was) I can say that if you came to me I would have first asked if you had talked to the annoying member. Religious discrimination is against the law, but it is not clear that this is going on unless another employee feels his behavior creates a hostile work environment or they have been adversely impacted by his faith (denied a promotion for not repenting or something). HR is there to deal with things when you and your managers have made reasonable efforts to deal with it yourself and have not been able to. If you don’t like Peter Priesthood’s proselytizing, go ask him to stop and explain your reasons.

  11. RE: Hotmeteaching. I wonder if the member requesting that HT’s not come is actually doing his own hometeaching? I can imagine the rationale: I don’t really need my HT’s to come. The families I’ve been assigned to home teach are like me. They probably don’t need me to visit them, either. President Monson was pretty adamant about HT’ing at conference. Anyway, if your life is too busy to give your home teachers 15 minutes of your time then perhaps your priorities are amiss. By denying your home teachers the opportunity to visit, you deny them the blessings that come with serving you in that manner. Ultimately, you should visit with your Bishop and let him know your family is not interested in being home taught. Better that than to give your HT’er the run around or bag out on appointments. BTW – you might consider inviting HT’s over for dinner where message could be shared through a meal. You’ve got to eat, anyway, and you kill two birds with one stone.

  12. IDIAT, do you, sir, still beat your wife? Introducing loaded speculation into a discussion about a person’s concerns just isn’t helpful. Victim blaming is almost a spectator sport within Mormonism but if someone has a problem our reflexive reaction probably shouldn’t be to wonder if they are leading a pious life. The idea that we are denying someone blessings by not allowing them to come unwanted into our homes should be taken behind the barn and put down as painlessly as possible. The purpose of home teaching is to make sure that the home teachee’s needs are being met. That makes sense. Changing the rationale when someone expresses a disinterest in meeting with their home teachers is manipulative. Politely restating one’s boundaries is a good way to clamp down on that sort of passive aggressive behavior.

  13. Every home teacher should have the well being and best interests of their home teaching families as their top priority in executing this service. A home teacher who is mindful of this would respect the family’s wishes who express their preference not to receive visits and lessons. That home teacher can still watch over and protect that family even in the absence of such formal visits. The only problem comes with our corporate-style reporting system. A home teacher more interested in “looking good” to quorum leaders (or a Bishop with that perspective) might feel robbed by such a family because he might feel that he cannot report back to the quorum that he has hometaught that family each month. But what does that say about us if that is our perspective and concern? Nothing flattering, I think. Let’s return our concern directly to the families we are assigned to hometeach and fulfilling their needs. When we visit them, let’s ask them their preference for how the time together is spent: do they want us to teach a formalized lesson based on the First Presidency message in the current Ensign every time we come? Do they want us to teach a lesson about something else? How can we best be of service?

    I’ve been successful hometeaching inactive members before because I had a good example of this kind of hometeacher who did this for us — on the first time he visited us, he asked if we typically wanted a lesson from the Ensign or some other kind of lesson or discussion. We felt that he really respected us. I’ve applied this to my hometeaching as well. Most active members have said they want the standard routine — a quick lesson from the First Presidency message of the current Ensign. A couple have said they didn’t need or want that lesson but would love a lesson based on conference talks of my choosing from the most recent General Conference. Inactives whom I’ve hometaught have sometimes been open to a lesson, sometimes they’ve just wanted to chat. A couple of times I’ve simply called and said, let’s go see a movie, and those have been some of the best hometeaching visits I’ve had. I guarantee those people would not have welcomed a hometeacher or hometeaching relationship on other terms, but going to a movie? That works. . . .

  14. Here’s to more home teaching done over dinner or in movie theaters!

  15. @IIDAT: 15 minutes?! I want whoever is home teaching you. I’ve lived in lots of wards and had lots of home teachers and always consider myself lucky if I can get rid of them in triple that time.

  16. Mathew – I quit about the same time I heard my home teachers knocking on the door. When did you stop beating yours?

  17. IDIAT – he hasn’t. It’s really quite unfortunate and shame on you for bringing it up.

  18. I’m currently putting my HTs at arms length because they have boundary issues – they don’t seem to understand that they aren’t allowed to insert themselves into situations where they are not welcome. We’ll see how it works with the next pair.

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