Visiting Teaching

I love being a Mormon. I’ve been shy about this because right up until I became one, I had this idea that Mormons were crazy people. 

In our defense, if we are, it’s independent of our beliefs.

Also, it’s worth noting that this and any future post from me will never turn into a plug for conversion, so you can rest easy. But I do love the church and I am going to write about it, simply because it’s become such a large part of my life that I can’t write honestly without mentioning it. 

There is a program in the church called visiting teaching where all of the women are paired off and assigned two other women to visit once a month. The male equivalent is called home teaching. The purpose of these visits is to check in on the well-being of everyone in the church, identify areas of need and provide whatever help we can. 

Has anyone’s jaw dropped the floor yet? I don’t care what your religious beliefs are; this is an incredible system. In theory, no one would fall into the cracks. Think about the school shootings, the suicides that could be prevented, the general pain that could be alienated if everyone had at least two people coming to visit once a month. Of course that would require a genuine desire to help and awareness of the other person’s needs rather than simply going through the motions.

Problem is, many people do not visit the people the they are assigned. Case in point: me. For about a year and a half I’ve been telling myself that I’m still a new member, that I don’t really understand what I’m meant to do, so it’s okay if I don’t follow through on that particular calling. A a result, I’ve done this about three times since last May. 

Well, earlier this week I prayed to know what I’m meant to be doing in every area of life. Something like this: just tell me what to do, and I’ll do it. We’re gonna do this your way, HF. I’m ready.

Annoyingly enough, whenever I say fervent prayers, I get fervent answers. So in addition to about ten other things I was prompted to do, I felt the need to visit teach. I visit three women. One, I see at church regularly and have never actually visited. The other two live in the East side projects and never come to church. Of the two, one never responds to any communication, and the other is happy to have my companion and I over. I’d been to her apartment once before, when my companion introduced me to her for the first time.

I made a date to visit her last night at 6:30. Got a babysitter and everything. At the last minute my companion had to work late and couldn’t make it. I’ve never been to the lower east side by myself. In Manhattan the trains run north to south, not east to west, and there are no trains that go to these apartments. The last time I walked the two miles there, but with daylight savings it was pitch black, so I decided to venture on the crosstown busses.

Never done this before. Something you don’t know about me: I get severe anxiety going places I’ve never been before. I mean severe. When I went to a Brandon Flowers concert at Terminal 5 over the summer, I hauled my daughter all the way uptown, walked all the way to 11th avenue and scouted out the venue in the middle of the day simply to ease my anxiety that I wouldn’t know where I was going at night. No joke. 

Didn’t have time to do this last night. But I managed to get on the right bus, get off only one stop early, and I was so thrilled that I made it on time that I marched into the building without looking at the numbers outside. Yeah, that’s where this story is going. I knocked on this door twice, until an entire Mexican extended family came to the front door, and grandma stood four feet tall, staring up at me with disgust and saying, “I don’t know you,” in broken English. 

Backed out of there. “No. Nope. Sorry! Wrong building!” The projects all look the same. 

So this time I look at the numbers, make sure it’s the right now, and stand outside this woman’s door for a half hour, double-checking the apartment number, calling my companion , calling this woman. I stand outside, waiting for a call back, all the while getting sidelong glances from everyone around me, apparently under the impression that I’m out to score drugs or something. Everytime something rustles on the lawn, it’s a rat the size of a small kitten. 

Turns out I still didn’t get the numbers right. Misread a five for a three. We’re an hour and a half and $27 into my trip by the time I buzz the right numbers, get into the right building and meet the woman I’m supposed to. For fifteen minutes I listen to her about how her recent surgery went, how she’s recovering, the road trip she took from Florida last month, the trip to Iceland she’s planning with her niece next week, and how she’s always wanted to move outside of the city since her first visit to Utah. I have to leave then to relieve my friend who’s babysitting.

I get on the bus, transfer to the 4/5 and go home. All worth it. Without this system, I’d never go to the east side. I’d never learn (however superficially) how to use the buses. I would know this woman, wouldn’t have the opportunity to sit and simply connect with her about her life. I wouldn’t get to put aside my own fears and ineptness for two hours and focus on someone else. 

Guys, I love this church, and I love the person that I’m becoming because of it. 


4 thoughts on “Visiting Teaching

  1. First, I absolutely love the party about being crazy independent of our beliefs. Errbody got their crazies.

    Second, thank you for this message, because I have been a terrible visiting teacher since moving to the city, and one of my teachees lives down the block. Kicking my butt in gear now.

    Love and miss you!

    1. Ain’t that the truth. Yeah, we had several Relief Society lessons about how we all view Visiting Teaching with trepidation and guilt and I thought, hmmm, I ought to do something about that. Love you and miss you as well!

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