I am many things. To name a few, I’m a daughter, an aunt, a sister, a sister-in-law, a church youth leader, and a visiting teacher. Most of those titles may make perfect sense. But what’s a visiting teacher?
Visiting teaching is a responsibility in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Members of the church visit other members of the church once a month. We check on their temporal and spiritual well-being. I know it was divinely inspired. It is the life blood of the church.
I have had my share of awkward moments as a visiting teacher. When I returned from my mission, I was called as a visiting teacher. Since I was fresh from the mission, I still lived by mission rules. I made my partner at the time have an opening and closing prayer for each visit. She never said a word but I remember the confused look on her face when I asked the sister we were visiting if we could have an opening prayer. It wasn’t until months later I realized that was more for missionary discussions than visiting teaching assignments. One prayer a visit is sufficient.
Once a month, my visiting teaching partner GK and I visit four or five ladies assigned to us. We call it a route. When done well, a visiting teacher could be an angel among women ministering to her fellow sisters in the gospel. When done adequately, it becomes all about the percentages (for example, visiting all the sisters on a route for the month would be reported as 100% visiting teaching). When done poorly, the sisters on a route have no idea who their visiting teachers are.
I have this belief that someday I’m going to be accountable for all my stewardship positions I held on earth. So at some point, I’m going to have to give an accounting for what I did as an aunt (I hope my nieces and nephew will give me a break), a sister (oh boy), and so forth. I have this picture in my head of me standing at the judgment table with all the ladies I ever visit taught sitting on the witness stand. They are going to be brutally honest and give a full report.
The first question directed to them will probably be, “Do you know this lady at the judgment table?”
That has me worried because most have no idea what my name is. For some reason, I become known only as “GK’s partner” or if I’m lucky, “Sister Lee.” I think it’s because my first name is hard to pronounce. But everybody knows GK.
Then the questioning will begin.
Sister So-and-So might recall the time GK and I were visiting her and were taken into the barn to see her horse. Barns smell. My mother’s family were ranchers and we would go visit them on a ranch. I’ve never been fond of the smell of animals. They stink. So I knew when Sister So-and-So’s granddaughter led us into the barn, it was going to smell like, well, horses. I didn’t want to go in but GK was already following the granddaughter into the barn. The only thing outside of the barn were three big dogs the So-and-So’s mercifully put in a pen. They were barking at me and if I could talk dog language, I believe they were saying, “Fresh meat!” I decided to follow GK and the granddaughter into the barn.
The horse was pretty and the barn stunk. “It’s albino,” GK whispered to me. “Look at the eyes.” I nodded and tried not to breathe. We had to walk the full length of the barn to get to the horse and I looked longingly at the door on the far end.
The granddaughter got three hay cubes from a pile and handed one to GK. “You can feed her,” she held a cube flat on her palm. I about gagged when I saw the horse’s tongue come out and touch the small hand as the horse ate it up. She gave a cube to GK and tried to give one to me but I declined. GK laughed at me and fed the horse. The granddaughter tried again to get me to take the cube. There was no way I was going to let a horse slobber on my hand so far away from home and without my hand sanitizer. I refused again.
Sister So-and-So and her husband joined us at this point and also laughed at me. I don’t find horse slobber endearing so I endured the gentle mocking.
The So-and-So’s grandson was busy at the time. He was letting the dogs out of their pen. I could hear the barking and knew that they were moving. Sure enough, they were at a dead run straight for us. GK stepped behind me a little bit letting me stand between her and the oncoming dogs. When I asked her about it later, she didn’t deny it.
What should I do? Jump in the stall with the horse or let three dogs tear me from limb to limb? It was a dilemma. I decided to face my fate with the three dogs. Just before they got to me, Brother So-and-So stepped in front of them. They stopped running and only one dog jumped on me. No biting and all my limbs are still attached.
GK and I left shortly after and I was just happy to still be in one piece.
Or, at judgment day, the witness could be Sister Whozits. I liked Sister Whozits even though she had no idea what my name was. She still doesn’t to this day. Her granddaughter was in Young Women’s and I was always referred to as, “Your Young Women leader.”
Sister Whozits never came to church. But she let GK and I visit. She bore her testimony and knew the church was true, she had a picture of the First Vision hanging on her living room wall, and she let her granddaughter join the church. The only time she ever came to church was the day after her granddaughter was baptized which was years after GK and I visited her.
What will I have to report about her? Did I do all I could to invite her to join us?
Or what will I have to account for with Sister One-Time? We finally got in to see Sister One-Time who also doesn’t come to church. After about an hour, I got the strong impression that we needed to leave her with something more than just a friendly visit. When she went into the other room to get something to show GK, I told GK my plan. She quickly shook her head and told me not to do it. After all, we just barely got in. But I was determined to make this more than a friendly visit.
Sister One-Time joined us again and I waited for an opportunity to bear my testimony of Joseph Smith as a prophet of God. It was at the very end as we were getting up to leave, I said it. We never got back in to see Sister One-Time and GK has never let me forget how I scared her off. Who knows if I did the right thing?
There have been many more adventures while visiting teaching. I always say I know I’m not the perfect visiting teacher, but unfortunately for the sisters on my route, I do have a testimony of it. So I will come to their houses even though it is usually pole-vaulting out of my comfort zone to do so. And maybe they won’t always remember my name, but I hope they will recognize my face and say, “I know her. She was my visiting teacher.”