During Christ’s mortal life, He ministered to others. As we desire to be His disciples, we must look to Him as our example. He taught, “The works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do” (3 Nephi 27:21). The New Testament is filled with examples of Christ’s ministering. He revealed to the woman of Samaria that He was the Messiah. He healed Peter’s mother-in-law. He restored the daughter of Jairus to her parents and Lazarus to his grieving sisters. Even as He suffered on the cross, the Savior “expressed concern for His mother, who by then was likely a widow in need of watchcare.”1 On the cross, He asked John to watch over His mother.
Julie B. Beck, Relief Society general president, said: “Through Relief Society [and visiting teaching] we practice being disciples of Christ. We learn what He would have us learn, we do what He would have us do, and we become what He would have us become.”2
Ministering and providing relief to others have always been the heart of Relief Society. “Throughout the years, Relief Society sisters and leaders have learned one step at a time and have improved in their ability to watch over others,” said Sister Beck. “There have been times when sisters have focused more on completing visits, teaching lessons, and leaving notices when they have stopped by their sisters’ homes. These practices have helped sisters learn patterns of watchcare. Just as people in the time of Moses concentrated on keeping long lists of rules, the sisters of Relief Society have at times imposed many written and unwritten rules upon themselves in their desire to understand how to strengthen one another.
“With so much need for relief and rescue in the lives of sisters and their families today, our Heavenly Father needs us to follow a higher path and demonstrate our discipleship by sincerely caring for His children. With this important purpose in mind, leaders are now taught to ask for reports about the spiritual and temporal well-being of sisters and their families and about service rendered. Now visiting teachers have the responsibility to ‘sincerely come to know and love each sister, help her strengthen her faith, and give service.’”3
Our Relief Society history, Daughters in My Kingdom, and Handbook 2: Administering the Church teach us how we can follow a higher path and demonstrate our discipleship:
Pray daily for those you visit teach and their families.
Seek inspiration to know the needs of your sisters.
Visit your sisters regularly to comfort and strengthen them.
Contact your sisters frequently through visits, phone calls, letters, e-mail, text messages, and simple acts of kindness.
Greet your sisters at church.
Help your sisters when they have an illness or other urgent need.
Teach your sisters the gospel from the scriptures and the Visiting Teaching Message.
Inspire your sisters by setting a good example.
Report your sisters’ spiritual and temporal well-being to a Relief Society leader.4
We are the Lord’s hands. He is dependent upon each of us. The more we see our visiting teaching assignment as one of the most important responsibilities we have, the more we will minister to those we visit.
We will provide experiences that invite the Spirit and help our sisters increase in faith and personal righteousness.
We will care deeply about those we visit and help them strengthen their homes and families.
We will take action when our sisters are in need.
Following is the example of Maria and Gretchen—visiting teachers who understand the power of ministering. Here we can see that now visiting teachers have the opportunity to visit separately or together. They can count their “caring” whether or not they visit together and give the message. They can take appropriate action without being asked. They can actively seek, receive, and act on personal revelation to know how to respond to the spiritual and temporal needs of each sister they visit.
Rachel was expecting her first baby and had to remain in bed for most of her pregnancy. Her visiting teachers prayed for inspiration to know the best ways to help her. Maria, who lived nearby, was able to help at Rachel’s home on most days before work. One day she cleaned part of the bathroom; the next day she cleaned the rest of it. Another day she vacuumed the living room, and the next day she made lunch for Rachel. And so her ongoing ministering continued as she did laundry, dusting, or whatever Rachel needed.
Gretchen phoned Rachel often to brighten her day. Sometimes they talked and laughed. Other times Gretchen and Maria visited with Rachel at her bedside and shared their testimonies, scripture reading, or the Visiting Teaching Message. And after Rachel’s baby was born, they continued to help her.
Throughout this time, Maria and Gretchen also worked with the Relief Society presidency to coordinate other care Rachel and her family needed. The Relief Society presidency counseled with the bishop and the ward council so home teachers and others could provide additional assistance.
Ministering became sweeter as these sisters developed love for one another and as they shared spiritual experiences. As visiting teachers we can follow these same patterns and principles of ministering and receive the same blessings.
“As committed disciples of the Savior, we are improving in our ability to do the things He would do if He were here,” said Sister Beck. “We know that to Him it is our caring that counts, and so we are trying to concentrate on caring about our sisters rather than completing lists of things to do. True ministry is measured more by the depth of our charity than by the perfection of our statistics.”5
As visiting teachers we will know we are successful in our ministry when our sisters can say: “My visiting teachers help me grow spiritually. I know my visiting teachers care deeply about me and my family, and if I have problems, I know they will help me.” By following a higher path as visiting teachers, we are participating in the Lord’s miraculous work and accomplishing the purposes of Relief Society to increase faith and personal righteousness, strengthen families and homes, and help those in need.