Visiting Ministering: Alice Smith

Alice C. Smith was an extraordinary woman. I won’t take time to recite her achievements here but I do want to quote from one of her sermons (for the curious, we are not related-though I do possess some of her personal reminiscences courtesy of her family). This address took place October 1, 1969 and it continues to impress me. I’ve read it several times.[1]

I leave you these excerpts without comment except to say that I think the points raised are symbolic. Like loaves of bread. And that I think the sort of thing Alice speaks of happens all the time. Not every time. It will be different for different people. I’m hoping that the new organizational changes in visiting teaching will make for more outreach. Women have always been at the heart of Christianity, leading, teaching, doing. Culture from the deeps of time has hidden much of this from our discourse.

The visiting teacher should be the best friend . . . oh I don’t mean the most intimate friend, but the best friend . . . someone in whom one can confide and know that her secrets will be safe . . .
Years ago as I was leaving the chapel after a Relief Society meeting, my visiting teacher stopped me. “Alice,” she said, “you have everything you need. I wish I could do something for you.” “You do something for me every month,” I replied. “You bring me a message of love. I am comforted and strengthened by your concern for me and my family.” But she did not seem entirely satisfied. Less than two hours later she came to my door. In her hand was a loaf of freshly baked homemade bread. “After I left you today,” she said, “I remembered that you told me once that your university duties keep you so busy that you never have time to bake bread. So there is something special I can do for you” . . .

Compassion is a way of life. Years of care and distances do not matter when a visiting teacher is a concerned, loving best friend. The visiting teachers’ messages are important. The rules that govern our visiting teaching are important, but beyond and above them all and far more important is the understanding, concerned, and loving heart.

Each year as the church grows, the need for visiting teachers will grow greater. What is their future? They will help combat the loneliness which plagues our world and impersonality of the big cities. They will look after the stranger, the widow, the orphan, the wounded, and distressed, after all sisters with concerned, loving care. They will be needed as my grandmother was when she left her warm pioneer bed on stormy nights to drive miles with a horse and buggy in response to a cry of need. As my mother during the depression found the hungry, so will they. As my visiting teacher brought me a loaf of freshly baked homemade bread and love, so will they. They will help relieve physical, emotional, and mental suffering. They will aid the sinner and comfort the sorrowing. They will carry a message of gospel love to all our sisters throughout the world. As their warm, tender care spreads its web around the world, they will become a standard to the nations.

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[1] You can find the text in At the Pulpit: 185 Years of Discourses by Latter-day Saint Women.. Hard copy here, online, here. The volume provides a wonderful door through which we can see some of the on the ground application of Mormonism and the deep thinking of Mormon women of the past. It’s a resource I’m using to good effect as I work on a volume of sermon studies. But as a devotional tool, please take time to read it. It will pay great rewards of insight and encouragement. My thanks to its editors, Jenny Reeder and Kate Holbrook.

Comments

  1. Kristin Brown says:

    Maybe the remarks of Alice Smith could take the place of any handbook for Ministering. A wonderful uplifting read. Thank you.

  2. J. Stapley says:

    A great sermon from a great volume. Thanks for the highlight, WVS.

  3. Kim S Colton says:

    That’s Alice COLTON Smith; her grandmother is Nancy Wilkins Colton; and her mother is Grace Stringham Colton. They are just three of thousands of devoted visiting teachers who have ministered with love to Mormon (and non-Mormon) families across many years. God bless the Relief Society. Btw, we ARE related.

  4. MDearest says:

    I’ve been a visiting teacher or was the teachee for most of my adult life. Sometimes it was done well, sometimes it was just done, and sometimes it wasn’t. I tried to approach it with as much probity as I could muster, but I well understand the jaundiced attitude that assigned friendship induces in many people. It wasn’t until I was in VT leadership and responsible for attracting others to get on board that I completely understood the spirit of it. If I’d had this resource when I was working our ward VT, I would have put it to good and thorough use. Of all the profligate programs and policies we carry out in church, this one is essential to what the Lord asks of his disciples, and it’s good thing to be organized about it.

    I’ve been in a book-buying recess, but maybe it’s time to get this one.

  5. Kristin Brown says:

    And I have not overlooked that fact this was posted by a man. A great tribute. Thank you.

  6. DeAnn Spencer says:

    My family moved to Logan in 1963 when I was 10 years old. This is about the same time that Alice and Whit Smith moved back to Logan from Austria. The Smiths lived in our Ward (Logan 20th Ward) and I remember that my parents were friends with the Smiths. My father was also a professor at Utah State University. I remember talking to Alice – she had a beautiful cultured voice and choose her words carefully. I don’t recall that the Smiths had callings in the Ward (or maybe I was just clueless at that age). Maybe it was because Alice had an important church calling on the General RS Board. I wish I had known Alice better – or that my parents had realized how important it would have been in my life to have a mentor like Alice during my teenage years.

  7. Kristine says:

    This is lovely, WVS–thank you.