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In the days leading up to General Conference, I started hearing rumors of some “big” announcements that would be made during this weekend’s meetings.
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I hate the unknown, and I’m not going to lie – I was stressing out about it (don’t ask me why!)
After following the #LDSConfRumors hashtag on Twitter (some hilarious things – but be careful, plenty of negative) and talking with some friends about what it might be, I felt confident it was going to involve a change with the Home and Visiting Teaching programs.
I felt that particularly after Sister Oscarson’s talk about helping the Young Women to be more involved, and then, of course, after they combined the Elders and High Priest into one quorum, I knew there was a bigger change to come.
Throughout conference, I felt there was an overwhelming message of unity – something that I have felt very strongly about in recent months. I serve as the Relief Society Activities Committee Leader, and I’ve gained a stronger love and desire to help unify the sisters in our ward.
No one wants to feel like they are a number or a project. We all just need a friend and to feel loved.
I’ve struggled myself with feeling included or wanted in my ward – despite having three callings (as well as a visiting teaching route), my parents being in the ward, and knowing many, many people in the ward (since I had been in that ward since I was 16 and the stake my entire life) – I have often felt alone.
In some of my lowest moments of loneliness, I heard the words that President Hinckley’s father told him on his mission, “Forget yourself and get to work.”
Over the past few months, I’ve discovered how many others have felt lonely, not included, or like they don’t have any friends. It was really eye opening to me, as some of these people are individuals who I thought seemed surrounded by friend.
I realized that we all just want to belong and feel loved.
And although I can be introverted and often fall short – I’ve been trying harder to love those around me, and I’ve noticed a difference. It’s hard for me to reach out to people, because I’m always worried that I’m going to be annoying them, or they’ll think, “Oh no, that crazy Katie person is texting me again”, but I’ve been trying to be the kind of friend I wanted to find.
ANYWAYS. Back to the changes.
When President Nelson made his “brief announcement” in the middle of the last session of General Conference, I was overwhelmed with a confirmation from the spirit that this change was inspired.
And I won’t lie – I let out an audible cheer when they said the monthly reporting was going away.
I eagerly waited to hear what the changes would be and how I could apply them to my life and others. As Forrest can attest, after conference ended yesterday, it was all I could think and talk about.
I have spent some time reading the FAQ page that the church has put on, talked with others, and read others thoughts on what they feel the difference is – as well as what Visiting Teaching and Home Teaching meant to them.
So here are my initial thoughts and feelings. We’ll receive more direction in the coming weeks and months, so obviously take what I say with a grain of salt – but I hope this will help you get excited about the new changes as well.
- Visiting Teaching and Home Teaching has always been an inspired program. Throughout my life, I’ve seen my parents diligently do both of these programs, and I’ve seen it bless their lives immensely – as well as those that they teach. I know many people who have been blessed by those who have taught them – myself include.
- I know a lot of people feel that the program is exactly the same. “It’s how we are supposed to do it anyways!” Which, at the root of it, I do believe. We should have always been ministering, listening to the spirit, and being involved in their lives. And I’ve seen many people do this as they’ve taught their brothers and sisters.
- With that said, I believe the changes are inspired, and I do feel that the purpose of the program has changed. The biggest “complaint” I’ve heard from others over the years about Visiting and Home Teaching is feeling like you are just a number or a person to be checked off. It was often about getting that visit in before the last day of the month. Many people have felt that it was a “one and done” thing, and then they were left unthought of for the rest of the month. I’ve felt guilty in the past when all I could do that month was send a note or a text, and I was told, “Well that’s okay once in awhile, but next month you need to be better.” Because, as some of you know, I really struggle with my health, and sometimes it was all I could do.
- I believe with the new program, we are encouraged far more to get to know one another and their needs.
- I’m so glad that they have done away with all the reporting. I feel that this takes away the thought process that we only need to check in once a month.
- I also am glad that we don’t necessarily have to teach a lesson – I think a lot of people appreciate the messages, and we are, of course, encouraged to teach one if we feel so inspired. However, I always felt a little weird teaching the message, like I was lecturing the person. I much prefer to be able to talk about gospel topics as they come up, and be able to gear that more toward the person.
- I feel that this is patterned after how the missionaries are now taught to teach the Gospel, and how our Sunday lessons have evolved in the recent years as well. Follow the spirit.
- Most of all, I think we are being led to become a more Zion-like people. I felt that a lot throughout conference – we need to be come one in spirit, mind, and purpose.
Ideas on how to Minister More Effectively
- Send text messages throughout the month – just ones of encouragement, to say hello, and to check in. In this world we live in, it’s easier than ever to connect with others.
- Follow those you minister to on social media. I loved how they talked about all the ways you can connect with someone through important moments in their life. I find it easier to know what’s going on with people – and be able to know when to help – by following them on social media. Obviously following them on social media isn’t enough, but it can help you get to know them better 🙂
- Don’t just stop at your assignments! If you feel like someone else in your ward might be in need of some extra friendship, reach out to them.
- Pray for guidance
- Walk around your neighborhood if you live somewhere that your ward members are in your area – some of the best conversations can happen in the front yard.
I’m excited to hear more guidance on this as we move forward in the coming months. I would love to hear your thoughts!