Sunday, January 23, 2011

Thoughts on Home Teachers

I've had some really positive experiences with the home teaching program. Well, let me rephrase that. I've had some really positive experiences with being on the receiving end of the kind of love that all Christians should have, and some of these experiences were facilitated by the home teaching program.

That said, I haven't had a home teaching visit in over a year, and I'm perfectly fine with that. I go to church every week. (Well, almost every week. Sometimes I'm too sick to go.) I have a temple recommend and a testimony. Scarce home teaching resources could be better used elsewhere.

But, since I'm single, I get turned into the ward's pet project. It has been years since I've had a home teacher who acted like I was normal. He treated me like a person instead of focusing on my lack of a husband. When he got reassigned, I got a series of home teachers who acted like I have contagious single cooties or something. I started to make excuses for them not to come over, and they got the hint.

Really, there's nothing I need from home teachers that I can't get elsewhere. I have friends and family, both inside and outside the church, to help me out when I have a problem. I have friends and family members who hold the priesthood and can give me a blessing if I need one. I know how to read the First Presidency message in the Ensign.

I don't have anything against service. Last summer, one of my law school friends went through a really nasty divorce. We helped her move, helped her get settled, and provided listening ears. Basically, we did everything a home or visiting teacher would do, but we did it without being assigned. Another law school friend needed to move because the landlord was selling the house. The catch - his wife was gone for the summer on an internship on the other side of the world, so he had to pack up and move by himself with a 4 year old and a 10 month old. Once again, we pitched in to watch his kids, help him pack, and help him get settled.

I guess it's the fake assigned friend thing that doesn't sit right with me. The law school stuff happened organically as an outgrowth of friendship. The home teaching stuff feels scripted and a bit fake. I never feel the need to tidy up the apartment and hide my sister's coffee when my friends come over, but if my home teachers come over, I would.

This evening, I got an e-mail from my new home teacher. He introduced himself and asked if he could come visit next Sunday. I was polite. I thanked him for contacting me, told him that I was doing fine and that I was going to be out of town next Sunday. Then I explained that I don't really want home teachers. I said that since Sunday is my only free day between work and school, that I like to keep it free for rest and family visits. I told him that if he really feels the need to visit me that he can have 5 minutes in the foyer after church, but that's all I can give him.

If he turns into a friend, maybe I'll invite him over. If not, he'll continue to get the foyer.

(For what it's worth, I feel the same way about visiting teachers, though I generally feel guiltier about giving them the foyer treatment. The last time my visiting teacher came over, she brought her kid, who terrorized my cat and kept getting dangerously close to my knick-knacks. Foyer treatment it is!)


C.J. said...

Home teaching often *does* start off as stilted, uncomfortable, scripted, and fake. But hey, it's no easier for the home teacher than it is for you. It's not easy to call or email someone you really don't know, and maybe have nothing in contact with, and ask to come to their house. Have a little pity! So, your new home teacher isn't so hot at making friends; only one of us was ever perfect, and none of us are Him.

Home teaching often presents as a good opportunity to cut each other some slack. We're commanded by the Prophet to both receive, and engage in, home teaching. Much like what ward we go to, or who we have to deal with on various committees, etc, it's really not up to us. We learn to make the best of the hand we're dealt and, through that experience, we grow.

It's possible that your home teachers, too, focus on your lack of a husband because you focus on it. I'm not *at all* excusing treating you as a one-dimensional cardboard cutout, or a project. What I'm saying is, home teaching is (initially) based on some *very* limited personal interaction. People go with what's obvious. The other, deeper stuff comes later.

On your blog, for example, many of your posts have been about dating and marriage. So, based on that, I'd probably try to engage you in that discussion, too; it seems like it's something that matters to you.

There's definitely that "one size fits all" contingent in the church, but that doesn't mean *everybody's* like that :-)

Jessica said...

"We're commanded by the Prophet to both receive, and engage in, home teaching."

Something about that sentence just seems off. Really. I don't think it is as cut and dry as that.

HT's and VT's can do more harm than good sometimes. Members covenant to help build the kingdom. That leaves a lot of room for personal revelation.

Stephen M (ethesis) said...

I've had times when I felt like you, and years when home teachers just did not feel like coming and so they did not.

It is a learning experience.