Visiting Teaching: “A Great and Solemn Duty”
At a fireside a priesthood leader asked his audience, “How can you tell if someone is converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ?”
A discussion ensued. At its conclusion, the leader said, “I believe the most telling indicator of how we feel about Jesus Christ is how we treat each other.”
A fundamental sign of conversion is an intense interest in the welfare of others. After Enos received a remission of his sins, he “began to feel a desire for the welfare of [his] brethren, the Nephites; wherefore, [he] did pour out [his] whole soul unto God for them” (Enos 1:9). An identifying quality of the followers of Jesus Christ has always been their willingness to impart “to one another both temporally and spiritually according to their needs and their wants” (Mosiah 18:29).
Satan will try to keep us from providing this support; he attempts to separate us from one another, to make us feel we don’t have time for each other, and to distract us from gaining our own testimonies—and helping others gain theirs. Visiting teaching counters the adversary’s efforts.
Relief Society leaders can strengthen visiting teaching by:
Teaching that as followers of Jesus Christ we have committed to take care of one another.
Being prayerful in making assignments and letting each sister know why she has been selected to serve those she is assigned to visit.
Helping each sister understand that she can make a difference in the lives of others.
Making visiting teaching a subject for discussion in meetings on the first Sunday of the month.
Conducting loving and nonjudgmental visiting teaching interviews.
President Gordon B. Hinckley has admonished: “We have some of our own who cry out in pain and suffering and loneliness and fear. Ours is a great and solemn duty to reach out and help them, to lift them, to feed them if they are hungry, to nurture their spirits if they thirst for truth and righteousness” (“Reach with a Rescuing Hand,” Ensign, Nov. 1996, 86).
Making Mutual Meaningful
As leaders of young women, do you wonder what to do for Mutual every week?
“As you humbly ask for [the Lord’s] help, you will receive the guidance and insight you need to do this work” (Young Women Leadership Handbook , 2). This counsel applies to both Sunday lessons and Mutual activities.
In seeking inspiration, remember that Mutual activities—regular weekly activities held at a uniform time and place—are “to reinforce principles and teachings learned in the Sunday lessons and should include experiences related to Personal Progress” (Young Women Leadership Handbook, 8). Mutual is also a good time for teaching homemaking arts and an appreciation for wholesome music, speech, dance, literature, and visual arts.
In preparing for Mutual, determine with spiritual sensitivity the needs of individual young women. Consider, for example, the following scenarios:
Young Women leaders observe that the quality of youth talks in sacrament meeting could improve. With the help of a specialist, a class presidency organizes a workshop on the essential elements of an effective talk.
A recently baptized Beehive struggles to be active and needs friends. Her adviser learns that she enjoys dancing. The class presidency invites her to teach class members some basics of dance.
As you consider individual needs, remember that President Gordon B. Hinckley has said to young women: “There is something of divinity within each of you. … You need never feel that you were born without talents or without opportunities to give them expression” (“The Light within You,” Ensign, May 1995, 99).
As leaders, we need not try to compete with the “glitter” of the world. We offer far more than the world ever can—the Spirit of the Lord and the love of leaders for their young people. Use this to advantage in focusing Mutual activities on gospel purposes. Teach Young Women values, enrich interaction with the young women’s families, strengthen testimonies, develop leadership, improve talents, reinforce Sunday lessons, foster friendships in a wholesome environment—and have fun.
A Foundation of Faith
During the next few months, more than one million Primary children in 143 nations will be sharing their love for the scriptures in a sacrament meeting presentation. We are grateful to you, faithful Primary presidencies, who have taught the children the principles found in the 1998 outline, “I Know the Scriptures Are True.” Your personal experiences and testimonies have helped the children understand how they can use the scriptures to strengthen their lives.
Children are spiritually receptive and very teachable. All who serve in Primary can influence children in life-changing and eternal ways (see D&C 64:33). Of course, parents have the principal responsibility to teach their children the gospel, but Primary can be a valuable support. The purpose of Primary is to “teach children the gospel of Jesus Christ and help them learn to live it” (Instructions for Priesthood and Auxiliary Leaders on Primary , 1). We want to respond to our prophet and help Primary children learn to be kind and respectful to everyone (see Gordon B. Hinckley, “We Bear Witness of Him,” Ensign, May 1998, 5).
Primary presidencies will receive from their priesthood leaders copies of the 1999 outline, “Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” This outline gives ideas for 1999 Sharing Times that will help children increase their faith in Jesus Christ and act upon that faith.
We thank you for your faithfulness and for understanding the sacred responsibility you have to teach these important truths to children. As you prepare yourselves to receive the Holy Ghost by drawing near to the Lord through prayer, studying the scriptures, and living the principles of the gospel, you will be entitled to inspiration from the Spirit (see D&C 42:14). As you bear your testimonies often to the children, the Holy Ghost can work through you to enlighten their minds and hearts and give them the desire to love and follow the Savior. This foundation of faith will give our children much-needed peace and strength.
In Celebration of Sunday School
We are on the eve of celebrating the sesquicentennial of the founding of the Sunday School—the Church’s oldest formal teaching organization. Even though there have been changes over the past 150 years, the purpose of Sunday School remains the same—to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to strengthen individuals and families.
On Sunday, 9 December 1849, Richard Ballantyne gathered a group of children into his Salt Lake City home and taught them from the scriptures. His stated purpose was to “gather them into the school where they could learn … the goodness of God, and the true Gospel of salvation given by Jesus Christ” (in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 5 vols. , 3:1424).
From this beginning, the Sunday School grew rapidly. Fifty years later, in 1899, celebrations throughout the Church recognized the organization’s importance, and a box containing memorabilia was prepared, to be opened in 50 years.
Placed in the box was a letter from Sunday School leaders containing these words: “We beseech you that whatever … may be the changes wrought in the fifty years to come, that you never forget for an instant the object of the great Sunday School work, viz: To teach the children the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; to make Latter-day Saints of them.” (Adult classes became part of Sunday School in 1904.)
In 1949, as part of the centennial celebration of the organization’s founding, another box was crafted. It was made of wood from many parts of the world where Latter-day Saints lived. This box, packed with Sunday School memorabilia, will be opened publicly in April 1999. It is on display in the Museum of Church History and Art until 15 November 1998.
We reaffirm that Sunday School and good teaching are as important today as they have been in the past and that individuals and families will be strengthened in their ability to understand and live gospel principles by studying the scriptures and fully participating in Sunday School.