Well it is once again the end of the month. And as all of you Elders know this is crunch time to get those last few home teaching visits in. We all feel the pressure. Go and visit some people we hardly know. Then we read a message from the Ensign and ask if they need any help. But if we’re really late we’ll buy some cookies and drop them by their house for a quick, “How are ya?”
But should home teaching really be like this? Should we hear, every week, “Be sure to get your home teaching done.” And then the guilt trip when it’s the first and the Elders Quorum President stands up and tells how poorly we did at home teaching. So just what is home teaching? Well I’ll tell you.
I’m going to work backwards from where we are know to the origins of home teaching so you can see just where we have come from.
First we’ll start off let’s start with 1980 when Brother Ezra Benson made the First Presidency Message the official message for the Home teachers.
In 1963 the name of the program was changed from Ward Teachers to Home teachers. There were new duties involved in Home Teaching.
The cause of this change was from about a year earlier. Brother Thomas Monson became a member fo the Adult Correlation Committee of the Church. This committee was assigned to prepare a “new” concept of Home Teaching.
The name of these pre-correlation programs changed from Acting Teachers to Ward Teachers, in 1912. And before that, in1909, the Block Teachers name was changed to Acting Teachers.
The origin of the Block Teachers was in the 1850’s when groups were organized according to neighborhood blocks. This reformation in the 1850’s resulted from the saint’s move westward. And also due to the inability of the Teachers to perform their duties. Like the Elders of today the Teachers couldn’t get their “Home Teaching” done.
“Teachers,” you ask. “What do teachers have to do with home teaching?” “I thought Teachers just stood at the doors during the sacrament.” This is where we look to the scriptures, which just so happen to contain the duties of the Elders, Priests, Teachers, and Deacons. I suggest you read the following scripture but for your convenience I have made a neat little table that compares all the duties. Just scroll down and you’ll see it.
Doctrine and Covenants 20:38
38 The duty of the elders, priests, teachers, deacons, and members of the church of Christ–An apostle is an elder, and it is his calling to baptize;
39 And to ordain other elders, priests, teachers, and deacons;
40 And to administer bread and wine–the emblems of the flesh and blood of Christ–
41 And to confirm those who are baptized into the church, by the laying on of hands for the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, according to the scriptures;
42 And to teach, expound, exhort, baptize, and watch over the church;
43 And to confirm the church by the laying on of the hands, and the giving of the Holy Ghost;
44 And to take the lead of all meetings.
45 The elders are to conduct the meetings as they are led by the Holy Ghost, according to the commandments and revelations of God.
46 The priest’s duty is to preach, teach, expound, exhort, and baptize, and administer the sacrament,
47 And visit the house of each member, and exhort them to pray vocally and in secret and attend to all family duties.
48 And he may also ordain other priests, teachers, and deacons.
49 And he is to take the lead of meetings when there is no elder present;
50 But when there is an elder present, he is only to preach, teach, expound, exhort, and baptize,
51 And visit the house of each member, exhorting them to pray vocally and in secret and attend to all family duties.
52 In all these duties the priest is to assist the elder if occasion requires.
53 The teacher’s duty is to watch over the church always, and be with and strengthen them;
54 And see that there is no iniquity in the church, neither hardness with each other, neither lying, backbiting, nor evil speaking;
55 And see that the church meet together often, and also see that all the members do their duty.
56 And he is to take the lead of meetings in the absence of the elder or priest–
57 And is to be assisted always, in all his duties in the church, by the deacons, if occasion requires.
58 But neither teachers nor deacons have authority to baptize, administer the sacrament, or lay on hands;
59 They are, however, to warn, expound, exhort, and teach, and invite all to come unto Christ.
|Ordain other elders, priests, teachers, and deacons.||Ordain other priests, teachers, and deacons|
|Administer bread and wine.||Administer the sacrament (when there is no Elder present)|
|Confirm those who are baptized into the church, by the laying on of hands.|
|Watch over the church||Visit the house of each member:
– Exhort them to pray vocally and in secret
– Exhort them to attend to all family duties.
|Watch over the church always:- Be with and strengthen them.- See that there is no iniquity in the church.
– See that there is no hardness with each other.
– See that there is no lying.
– See that there is no backbiting.
– See that there is no evil speaking.
– See that the church meet together often.
– See that all the members do their duty.
|Take the lead of all meetings||Take the lead of meetings when there is no elder present.||Take the lead of meetings in the absence of the elder or priest.|
|Conduct the meetings as they are led by the holy ghost.|
|Invite all to come unto Christ.||Invite all to come unto Christ.|
|Assist Teachers in their duties if occasion requires.|
So as we examine the duties of the various offices we can see that while Elders are called to watch over the church that duties mainly falls upon the Teachers. And only the Priests are specifically told to visit the house of each member.
Can you imagine a bunch of 14 year old going around and being with and strengthen church; seeing that there is no iniquity, hardness, lying, backbiting, and evil speaking in the church? Can you imagine 14 year olds calling up members and making sure they meet together and are doing their duties? Well all I can say is that when I was a fourteen year old I was only worried about going to school, playing Nintendo 64, and watching Star Trek. It was enough to get me out the door to a Young Mens activity, let alone making sure my fellow church members were not lying, backbiting, or evil speaking.
With the inability of the teachers to fulfill their duties because of age, the duty would then seem to fall on the Priest. Now Priests are only two years older than teachers so it’s not much of an improvement. So without the Priests doing it, it falls to the Elders. Which is why our modern program of Home Teaching is the responsibility of the Elders.
Now I hope that most of my readers will already know that the Aaron Priesthood was not supposed to be a Youth or Training program. If you don’t know: THE AARONIC PRIESTHOOD IS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE A YOUTH OR PRIESTHOOD TRAINING PROGRAM! When the Aaronic Priesthood was organized it consisted of men. After the Saints moved west the leaders of the Church wanted younger men to have Priesthood responsibility. A policy was made to have young men hold at least the office of Deacon. With the organization of the Young Mens’ Mutual Improvement Association the Aaronic Priesthood increasingly became associated with the Youth. Today The Aaronic Priesthood is the part of the Young Mens Program. When boys turn 12 years old they are ordained as Deacons. When they are fourteen they are ordained Teachers. After turning 16 young men are ordained as Priests. Then after turning eighteen or nineteen they are ordained Elders.
This policy runs contrary to scripture which says that:
Doctrine and Covenants 20:60
60 Every elder, priest, teacher, or deacon is to be ordained according to the gifts and callings of God unto him; and he is to be ordained by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is in the one who ordains him.
Now the scriptures don’t say that a young man age 12 can’t be ordained to the office of deacon. But it doesn’t say that he must. It says that each person is to be ordained according to the gifts and callings of God unto him. What I find odd is that today God has seen fit to give all LDS 12 year old boys the gifts and callings to be a deacons. Then suddenly when they turn 14 years old the gifts and callings are changed to those for a teacher and so on.
Isn’t it strange that there are no matured men who have the gifts and callings to be a Deacon, Teacher, or Priest? What is even stranger is that God would give the office of Deacon, Teacher, and Priest to those people who are LEAST likely to be able to fulfill the duties of those offices.
What in essence has been done is that we’ve created a problem(Youth Aaronic Priesthood). Now we have had to create a program(Home Teaching) to fix that problem.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Elder’s can’t “watch over the church.” But Teachers are supposed to be in charge of that responsibility. Instead today we have Elder’s in charge and Priests and Teachers helping.
Now lest look at some examples of Teachers faithfully fulfilling their duties. George A. Smith recounted the episode during April Conference in 1856
The wife of Thomas B. Marsh who was then President of the Twelve Apostles, and Sister Harris concluded they would exchange milk, in order to make a little larger cheese than they otherwise could. To be sure to have justice done, it was agreed that they should not save the strippings, but that the milk and strippings should all go together. . . . Mrs. Harris, it appeared, was faithful to the agreement and carried to Mrs. Marsh the milk and strippings, but Mrs. Marsh, wishing to make some extra good cheese, saved a pint of strippings from each cow and sent Mrs. Harris the milk without the strippings.
Finally it leaked out that Mrs. Marsh had saved strippings, and it became a matter to be settled by the teachers. They began to examine the matter, and it was proved that Mrs. Marsh had saved the strippings and consequently had wronged Mrs. Harris out of that amount.
An appeal was taken from the teachers to the bishop, and a regular Church trial was had. President Marsh did not consider that the bishop had done him and his lady justice, for they decided that the strippings were wrongfully saved, and that the woman had violated her covenant.
Here we see that it was the teachers who were the investigators in the incident. The Teachers had to investigate and determined who was right and wrong in the incident. Do you think our 14 year olds could go to two members who were having an argument and settle it? It’s part of the duty of a Teacher.
In 1892 William Cahoon wrote of an experience that happened to him while he was a Teacher. The event happened when we was about thirty years old.
Before I close my testimony concerning this good man, I wish to mention one circumstance which I never shall forget; I was called and ordained to act as a teacher to visit the families of the saints. I got along very well till I found that I was obliged to call and pay a visit to the Prophet. Being young,… I felt my weakness in visiting the Prophet and his family in the capacity of a teacher. I almost felt like shrinking from duty.
Finally I went to the door, I stood there trembling, and said to him:
‘Brother Joseph, I have come to visit you in the capacity of a teacher, if it is convenient for you.’
He said, ‘Brother William, come right in. I am glad to see you; sit down in that chair there and I will go and call my family in.’
They soon came in and took seats. He then said, ‘Brother William, I submit myself and family into your hands,’ and then took his seat. ‘Now Brother William,’ said he, ‘ask all the questions you feel like.’
By this time all my fears and trembling had ceased and I said, ‘Brother Joseph, are you trying to live your religion?’
He answered, ‘Yes.’
I then said, ‘Do you pray in your family?’
He said, ‘Yes.’
‘Do you teach your family the principles of the gospel?’
He replied, ‘Yes, I am trying to do it.’
‘Do you ask a blessing on your food?’
He answered, ‘Yes.’
‘Are you trying to live in peace and harmony with all your family?’
He said that he was.
I then turned to Sister Emma his wife, and said, ‘Sister
Emma, are you trying to live your religion? Do you teach your children to obey their parents? Do you try to teach them to pray?’
To all these questions she answered, ‘Yes, I am trying to do so.’
I then turned to Joseph and said, ‘I am through with my questions as a teacher; and now you have any instructions to give, I shall be happy to receive them.’
He said, ‘God bless you, Brother William; and if you are humble and faithful, you shall have power to settle all difficulties that may come before you in the capacity of teacher.’
I then left my parting blessing upon him and his family, as a teacher, and took my departure.
This is an excellent example of what should be done when visiting the homes of members. Teachers aren’t jut supposed to rattle off an article from the Ensign and then ask what they can do to help a family. They are supposed to inquire as to the activities going on in that home. They are supposed to ask meaningful questions about the daily religious activity of members. They are supposed to make sure that parents are fulfilling their duties as fathers and mothers.
Also we should expect those Teachers who visit us to ask us those meaningful questions. Would we be offended if a “Home Teacher” asked us if we bless our food? Would we think they are sticking their nose where they have no business, if they asked us if we are being good parents? If we do not let those Priesthood officers fulfill their duties then we are part of the problem. If we are content with getting the First Presidency Message in the Ensign, which by the way, if you haven’t noticed, comes in your copy of the Ensign too; then we are part of the problem.
The only way that we as a church can receive the blessings of unity and fellowship is by being obedient to the revelations we have received. If we continue to pawn off the Teacher’s duties on the Elders then we can’t receive those blesings.
So what do we do? Well the first thing is to get the Teachers to fulfill their duties. We need the Teachers to take the lead in Home Teaching. If you are an Elder and you have a Home Teaching companion that is a Teacher. That Teacher needs to be in charge. We need to Teach the Teachers in their duties, which is the responsibility of the Teacher’s Quorum President(D&C 107:86). There are so many other things that must be done but I think most of them would bring a rebuke from the higher ups. Probably the best thing is if you are an Elder talk to your Elder’s Quorum President. Tell him that you would love to do your Home Teaching. But then say you will only participate if it is run according to the Scriptures. You will only help if the Teachers are in charge and you are their assistant. That the Teachers must ask meaningful questions that help fulfill their duties as given in the Scriptures, no more of this Message from the First Presidency stuff. I have no idea what will result from this but I’m going to try it with my Elder’s Quorum President, so I’ll tell you what happens. I pray Heavenly Father will bless you with the courage to stand up for those correct principles of the gospel in the face of an ever correlated church.