This is a “tradition” within the LDS religion of which I had forgotten. I haven’t forgotten because I am no longer a member. I have forgotten because I haven’t seen one of these specimens for at least seven years, although I have been officially “unassociated” from the religion for only two years. Shockingly enough, none of them sought me out after I moved back to Utah. None.
Visiting Visitors, or as they are known on the records – Visiting Teachers, are the Sisters in the Church (the Brothers are called Home Teachers. Go figure.). Visiting Teachers are responsible for keeping in contact with the families and reporting back to the Relief Society President who reports to the Bishop. It is all very organized.
Now, Teacher is a very loosely applied term. The idea is that they check in every month, share a message from the Prophet and General Authorities with the Sister whom they are teaching. In the process of teaching they are meant to make sure all is well in the household and that nobody is in need. If they are in need, that is reported to the proper authorities to be handled in a most organized way.
So, the thing is, the teaching does not necessarily occur all the time. Also, sometimes the visiting doesn’t occur until the last moment on the 31st. It’s not the delay or procrastination that gets to me. It’s the teaching – or the lack thereof. Tonight, my father’s wife was visiting and being visited at the same time. Tonight Sister Doe who teaches Sister Smith who teaches my father’s wife who teaches Sister Doe all joined together at my father’s house. It was a double whammy show. Teach and be taught – all at the same time.
The Sisters were here at the house for forty-five minutes during which time, my daughter and I were eating dinner in the kitchen, next to the living room. Therefore, I was able to listen to the lesson. I heard lots of laughter – irreverent, boisterous, unladylike laughter. I heard stories of Christmas shopping sprees and ideas of gifts still to be purchased. I heard of tales of past adventuers over Christmas. I heard of plans for adventures for this year. I heard about whose children are coming to stay, whose are not and where the absentee children will be.
My daughter said, “Mom, didn’t Grandma say they are Visiting Teachers?”
“Hmmmm…” she mused for a moment. “Doesn’t that mean they should be teaching something?”
“That is the original point.”
The conversation in the living room went on without any mention of gospel principals or testimonies or parables. Until three minutes before they were to leave when I heard a blurb about charity and prayerfulness. It was a quick mention with lots of “ye’s” and “thou’s” and so I assumed it was a quote of a scripture. Then they all stood, put on their coats and left.
Oh yes…. that is the protocol that is followed more often than not. Although this calling is one that is meant to uplift and educate the Sisters – through teaching and being taught – it is usually relegated to rushed phone calls to stick to the letter of the law or the teaching is an obligatory side note in an otherwise jovial, friendly visit.
And then I remember the oft-quoted statement which is meant to make reasoning – although I perceive it as a blatant excuse – for the foibles of the members: “The Church is true. The people aren’t.”
Yeah… that statement still gets me riled.