The purpose of this lesson is to help us understand and fulfill our responsibilities as home teachers.
As teachers, priests, or Melchizedek Priesthood holders, we may be assigned to be home teachers. This assignment gives us an opportunity to magnify the priesthood by teaching, visiting, watching over, and assisting Church members.
Elder Boyd K. Packer said, “I have heard men say in response to a question about their Church assignment, ‘I am only a home teacher.’” He then explained that home teaching is one of the most important priesthood assignments in the Church. Home teachers are guardians of a flock. They are appointed where the ministry matters most. They are servants of the Lord. (In Conference Report, Oct. 1972, 104; or Ensign, Jan. 1973, 90.)
Show visual 6-a, “Home teachers are assigned by their quorum leader.”
Melchizedek Priesthood quorum leaders give home teaching assignments to quorum members after consulting with the bishop or branch president. A member of the bishopric or branch presidency assigns teachers and priests of the Aaronic Priesthood to be home teachers. Priesthood leaders usually assign two brethren to be home teaching companions, with Aaronic Priesthood brethren serving as junior companions.
The following story shows the importance of home teaching:
As home teachers, Brother Earl Stowell and his companion were assigned to visit some less-active families. Brother Stowell related: “We arrived at this particular door. Being short, I usually tip my head back to look someone in the face. But this time I had to drop my head as the door opened, and the doorway framed a little man no more than five feet tall.
Show visual 6-b, “Little Ben.”
“He was thin [and old], but his erect stature and energetic movements let us know every year had to fight to sit on his unbowed shoulders. His tiny piercing eyes were set wide apart. His mouth was a straight gash, set low in his face, and running from ear to ear, or so it seemed. His skin was as grained leather.
“We said we were neighbors and members of the Church, that we had come by to get acquainted. He seemed uncomfortable as he invited us into a tiny living room, well-furnished with ash trays. … He said he drove a truck. I imagined a pickup; it turned out to be a big dump truck. I was amazed.
“‘Drivers are usually pretty hefty. How do you—’
“He cut me off. ‘I got a twelve-inch crescent wrench on the seat by me. The other guys know it. That makes us equal.’ …
“As the months slipped by, we began looking forward to our visits with Ben. [One evening when we visited him, he was tired from working on his truck] so we stayed only a few minutes. As we approached the door, little Ben looked up and asked, ‘When yuh goin’ to start tellin’ me what I ought to be doin’—stop smokin’, start comin’ to priesthood and church, and all that?’
“‘Ben,’ I told him, ‘both of us would be more happy if you were doing those things, but that is for you to decide. We’d just be insulting you if we tried to tell you what to do when you already know. We come to see you because—well, because our family isn’t complete without you.’ He hung onto my hand. …
“A phone call later that week asked, ‘What time is priesthood meeting?’ I told him and offered to pick him up just for company.
“‘No, I know the way and no one has to drive me where I ought to be.’
“I found him standing outside the church. ‘Maybe I hadn’t better go in until I quit smoking,’ he said. I told him it would be easier to do with the Lord’s help. He said, ‘I smoked since I was eight, and I’m not sure I can quit.’ I told him I thought he could.
“He was soon dubbed Little Ben, behind his back, and in spite of his almost total lack of formal education, his size, and his age, he soon made firm friends and was in the thick of any project undertaken by the elders quorum.
“Then one evening I got a phone call. ‘I got to talk to you.’ His voice sounded as if he were on the edge of hysteria. ‘They want me to be a [home] teacher. I can’t do that. I smoke and I don’t know nuthin’. How can I teach people what I don’t know? … What am I goin’ to do?’
“I too was shaken. Little Ben was special to us, and we didn’t want him to get lost again. Inwardly I began to pray as hard as I could. Then I took a deep breath and began, ‘Ben, did we ever try to tell you what to do?’
“‘No, you just showed I was important to you, made me feel important. Maybe that was why I started going to church myself.’
“‘When we met you, we discovered someone worth any effort we could make. Now can you call on these people and remember how important they are? Can you just tell them they are important enough that you want to sit with them now and then and tell them about something you found that is so valuable to you, you’d like to share it with them?’
“There were several moments of silence, and then, ‘By Golly, I’ll do her!’
“At day’s end I frequently drove down the street where several of Ben’s families lived. All were confirmed inactives, mostly with nonmember husbands or wives, and strangers to the Church for many years. One evening I saw Little Ben toting the largest watermelon I had seen that season. His fingers were interlaced under it and every step was an effort. He was three blocks from the market. As I drove by, he turned into one of the houses.
“When next I saw him, I mentioned it. He hung his head, ‘Well, on my way home I passed the market. I got to thinkin’ about those kids. Their daddy is out of work. Watermelon is scarce and high this year. I knew the kids hadn’t had any. And to make sure every kid would get all they wanted, I bought the biggest melon in the store.’
“Later I saw him walking briskly in the evening heat holding a big birthday card in his hand. He explained later, ‘This one little girl has all brothers. They get all the attention. So I figgerd if I carried the card to her instead of mailing it, that would let her know she was important. Just like a few weeks ago at another place, some kids had pulled the arm off a doll. No one but the little girl seemed to care. I took her doll home, got an old button-hook out of the bureau, and fished out the spring that held the arm on. I got her fixed all right. Took the whole evening, but it was worth it when I took it back. Now when I go there, she gets her doll, sits on the floor in front of me, and leans her head against me.’ I thought I detected a catch in his voice.
“Shortly after that, I got an excited phone call. ‘A little girl I [home] teach is getting baptized!’ It was a tangible result [of his home teaching]. I too was excited. …
“In the previous five years, those families had had no Church contact other than [home] teachers and an occasional call from a visiting teacher. But eight times in the next three years Little Ben called, always excited, to tell me of a blessing to be done, an upcoming baptism, or a priesthood advancement for a young boy. I asked how he was able to touch their lives so. ‘I just did what you told me. I let them know I wasn’t better than they were and hadn’t come to tell them what they should be doin’. I was there because the good Lord had set a spiritual table for his family, and when they didn’t share it with us, it left an empty place at the table, the family wasn’t complete’” (“Little Ben,” Ensign, Mar. 1977, 66–68).
Why were Little Ben’s home teachers successful? What can we learn from them and from Little Ben to help us as home teachers?
Show visual 6-c, “Home teachers are assigned to visit families.”
The responsibility of home teachers to visit the homes of members and encourage them to pray and attend to their family duties was given by the Lord. He has called them to be “watchmen” to care for and watch after His children (see Jeremiah 31:6; Ezekiel 33:1–9).
President Harold B. Lee said home teachers should understand that their mission is to watch over, strengthen, and help members do their duty. He asked priesthood leaders to change the emphasis from being home teachers teaching lessons to being home guardians watching over the Church. When we understand this idea, we will do home teaching that will get results. (See regional representatives’ seminar, Apr. 1972, 8.)
What does it mean to be a guardian over the Church? Why is it important that the families we home teach know we care about them before we try to teach them? (Refer to the story of Little Ben.)
As home teachers we represent the bishop or branch president to the people we serve. In regular interviews with priesthood leaders we report on our home teaching visits and on the needs of these members. If members become seriously ill or have other problems that might require the attention of priesthood leaders, we should report them immediately.
As home teachers we should prayerfully determine the individual and family needs of the members we serve. Then we should plan and work to help meet those needs, providing support and encouragement. Merely offering to help is not enough.
One need that everyone has is the presence and influence of the Spirit. President David O. McKay said, “It is our duty as Home Teachers to carry the divine spirit into every home and heart” (quoted by Marion G. Romney, “The Responsibilities of Home Teachers,” Ensign, Mar. 1973, 15). To help families obtain the Spirit, we should encourage them to hold family home evening, have family and individual prayer, and participate actively in the Church (see D&C 20:51, 53–55).
People also need help during times of sickness. The Lord has counseled that in such times we should “call for the elders of the church” (James 5:14; see also James 5:15). As home teachers we should know when members of our assigned families are sick, and we should be worthy and ready to administer to them if they request it.
Home teachers should also provide help when an individual or family faces special challenges or becomes discouraged.
What needs do most families have? (List the responses on the chalkboard. Add other needs to this list as they are suggested later in the lesson.)
How did Little Ben meet the needs of his home teaching families?
The following story illustrates how a good home teacher helped a family:
“Brother and Sister Robertson … were a young and active couple in the Church who failed to hold family prayer or family home evening ‘because there are just the two of us.’ We had presented lessons on these subjects and encouraged them, but to no avail. …
“During the next two weeks my companion and I met several times to discuss the possible needs of our families. We pinpointed those things that we felt needed our special attention. And then on our next visit we tried our new approach. To Brother and Sister Robertson it wasn’t, ‘What can we do to help?’, but rather, ‘Won’t you meet with us next Thursday at my home and join us in a special family home evening?’ … [They replied,] ‘Why yes, thank you!’ …
“After a recent sacrament meeting, Brother and Sister Robertson came up to me and shared their sincere testimonies, telling me how the happiness in their home has increased since they have begun holding family prayer and family home evening” (Don B. Center, “The Day We Really Started Home Teaching,” Ensign, June 1977, 18–19).
The head of the family—the father, unless no father is present—has the primary responsibility for leading the family toward exaltation. As home teachers we will be most effective as we help the head of the family achieve this.
One of the best ways of finding out how we can help is first to have a private, personal visit with the head of the family. At this time, we can ask about the needs of the family and what we can do to help meet those needs.
The following account shows how two home teachers worked through the head of a family:
“Samuel Bowen was [not a member] of the Church. His wife and children were members and because of this, many auxiliary and home teaching visits were made to the Bowen family. These visits were usually directed specifically to the members of the Church in the home. As a result, Brother Bowen would excuse himself or not present himself at the time of a visit. …
“Within the last two years, a new home teacher, Brother Walker, was assigned to the Bowen family. After he met with them and had discussed the situation with the priesthood leader, Brother Walker felt strongly impressed to concentrate his attention on … Brother Bowen. In the ensuing months, he did this in a deliberate, well-thought-out manner. For example, he [made appointments] through Brother Bowen. … On these visits he would discuss how he might be helpful to each member of his family. At first, Brother Bowen was taken back by this deference to him since it was not according to the accustomed pattern, but he soon grew to appreciate Brother Walker. Many cordial visits were made to the home, but seldom was a direct gospel message delivered to the family.
“One evening Brother Walker was visiting privately with Brother Bowen in his living room. He asked, ‘Sam, how is it that with such a wonderful family in the Church and all their activity, that you have never contemplated membership in the Church?’ Brother Walker was startled by the reply: ‘I guess no one ever asked me if I was interested. Actually, I have read much of your Church literature and believe as you do.’
“A month later, Samuel Bowen was baptized into the Church, and today his family has been sealed … in the temple” (When Thou Art Converted, Strengthen Thy Brethren [Melchizedek Priesthood manual, 1974], 217–18).
Ask the assigned home teacher to bear his testimony about home teaching. Then ask the assigned father to bear his testimony about how home teaching has blessed his family.
As home teachers we are given responsibility to watch over Church members. We are to visit them regularly, teach them the gospel, and encourage them to live righteously. We should develop love for each person we serve. We should also work prayerfully with the head of each family in identifying and helping meet the family’s needs.
Prayerfully determine ways you can improve your performance as a home teacher, help your companion be a better home teacher, work with the head of each assigned family, and meet the needs of individual family members.
Discuss with your own family how you can help your home teachers.
Before presenting this lesson:
Ask a home teacher to prepare to bear his testimony about home teaching at the conclusion of the lesson.
Ask a father to prepare to bear his testimony about the effect home teaching has had on his family at the conclusion of the lesson.
Assign class members to present any stories, scriptures, or quotations you wish.