In the conference just held it was announced that the Home Teaching program was being retired and a program of “ministering” would take its place. I have had for a while an unresolved love/dislike relationship with the Home Teaching program. I absolutely see how it can really help those on the margins, help lower the reluctance to ask for assistance when needed, and can even help build friendships among members. But I have also had issues with the guilt that has surrounded Home Teaching and how it often was a checklist item. Even Elder Holland joked about it in a priesthood session of conference recently. I have also had home teachers that came regularly (at least twice in a year) that I really would rather they had not come as they would repeatedly made offensive remarks. It certainly is a program that has some truly heartwarming wonderful stories, but admittedly was not perfect in every case.
This change made me curious a bit about the history of Home Teaching including the “Ward Teachers” program that preceded it. Elder Holland joked in this conference talk about Home Teaching, “Entire forests have been sacrificed providing the paper to organize it and then reorganize it.” But it would have been worse if the if the Ward Teachers program had continued. I ran across where Ardis E. Parshall dug up a 1952 manual for Ward Teachers. Wow! Talk about paperwork! I wouldn’t be surprised if some of those that created this program went on to help setup the Strengthening Church Members Committee. But seriously, as documentation intensive the ward teaching program was it did seem to have a bit of a focus on employment which is good to see. I have to admit I have home taught a family a few times before I would find out exactly what jobs the parents in the family held, but I am in a location that doesn’t have much of an unemployment problem. But the ward teachers were to note if there were problems such marital issues. It is just interesting to look back on this history. I can tell you I don’t want to be reporting my state of marital bliss or discord two a random peer from Elder’s quorum and a 14 year old junior companion.
In 1963 the Home Teaching program was discussed during the April 1963 General Conference. It was then implemented in 1964, replacing the ward teaching program. On page 86 of the April 1963 conference report Elder Harold B. Lee introduces the Home Teaching program replacing Ward Teaching as part of the overall correlation program that was being rolled out. Some of the details sound a bit odd today in that the High Priests were the preferred “senior companions” for visiting the families of 70’s, High Priests, and widows while the “Aaronic Priesthood over 21″ would be senior companions for Aaronic Priesthood over 21 and the unordained.” Today it seems any male member over 21 that does not hold the Melchizedek priesthood is on a list that is being reviewed in ward council from time to time. It seems like it must have been more common in 1963.
There are many positives that I see with the new Ministering program. The inclusion of the Young Women is one of the parts I really like. But probably the biggest positive is that it tends to make the entire home teaching a bit less of a checklist.
No longer will LDS filmmakers be able to show scenes of a home teacher on the evening of the last day of the month pushing cookies through the mailslot in the front door and counting that as, “mission accomplished.” I think the filmmakers will still have other parts of Mormon culture to poke fun at.
I feel in some ways the new program places more of the emphasis on the original focus of Home Teaching. I think the checklist scaffolding was there to suggest how to accomplish the main objective of developing a friendship, but many focused on the task too much instead. On the other hand, as was mentioned in the latest Mormon Matters podcast, many home teachers (and visiting teachers – in fact probably a higher % of visiting teachers) already had moved beyond the checklist and were focusing on the relationship already. There will probably be no transition issues for these individuals.
How do you feel this new structure will change for both those that are ministering?
How do you feel this new structure will change for both those that are ministered to?