My good friend Carl, tells a story of a new Home Teaching assignment. He and his companion, his son, were given a sweet widow to visit. They made their first appointment and went to see her on the last day of the month. She sweetly invited them in and listened attentively to the lesson. When it was time for them to go she excused herself for a moment and returned to present them with a cake. A cracked, dried out, slightly dusty old cake. Carl asked, "What's this?"
"This is your Home Teaching cake. I bake one for my Home Teachers every month. I'm sorry its in such bad shape, I baked it on the first day of the month."
They never procrastinated getting to that house again.
Do you think her encouragement was out of line? I presently Home Teach a Sister who pretty much instructed me when I was to come and that is when I go.
What do we do to encourage our Home Teachers? Do we make ourselves available? Do we make them feel welcome? Do we ask them when they are coming? Do we call on them to help us when we need it? I think we should.
From the days when as a Teacher, I heard my companions ask those we visited, "Is there anything we can do for you?" Never in nearly forty years did anyone ever express a need that their Home Teachers could fulfill. There was the occasional call for a blessing once I'd received the Melchizedek Priesthood, but never anything else. That is, until I was called to Home Teach Jude. He was a tough old farmer as well as a prosperous businessman. He never came to Church. He always welcomed us in. I don't think he liked our first lesson, but he listened to it. When, at the end of the visit, I asked if there was anything we could do for he and his wife. I'd been condition to expect some answer like, "Naw, we're doing just fine." Instead Jude said, "Yessirree, there sure is!"
Timidly I asked, "What would that be."
"I'd like you to read that book about The Mountain Meadows Massacre and report on it to me next month." He went to his bookshelf, took it down and handed it to me.
I didn't know what to say, so I took it. I took it home and read it. I more than read it, I studied it. I wanted to give a report that would look favorable to the church while acknowledging the reality of that horrific event. Apparently, my report was satisfactory. Certainly, our conversation at that next visit was interesting.
I can't believe I succumbed to habit and asked again if there was anything we could do. There was. This time it was to read No Man Knows My History by Fawn Brodie. I read that too, as well as No Mame That's Not History by Hugh Nibley. The discussion the next month was quite lively, but Jude seemed content when we were finished. Perhaps I had been exonerated for actually reading Anti-Mormon literature.
One time I'd read the Autobiography of Elmer Bair. Elmer was Patriarch of the Meeker Stake in Colorado. I knew Elmer, as he lived in my daughter's Ward in Glenwood Springs. I told some of the story to Jude and Marilyn. Jude not only read the book, but got so excited they drove over to meet him themselves. Elmer, a sheep man, was 99 years old at the time. Jude started coming to Church after that.
Another time Jude had read a collection of old pioneer stories about our town. One of the stories was about a man who'd been buried alive and died in the casket. My assignment that month was to locate his grave so Jude and I could go there and pay our respects on Memorial Day. As Jude put it, "That man deserves a handful of posies!"
If we want to improve Home Teaching, lets make use of our Home Teachers. Let's make it plain that we need them. Let's make their effort worthwhile. President Spencer W. Kimball once said of our youth, that they don't often walk away and leave their duty undone if they are given something significant to do. Neither do Home Teachers. Of course it would be nice if they just saw what needed to be done and did it. Or if they received such notions by revelation. Sometimes they actually do. But, these are men after all, and quite often, though more that willing to serve, could use a few hints and maybe even the occasional 2X4.