LDS Church announces new ‘ministering’ program, replaces home, visiting teaching
SALT LAKE CITY — President Russell M. Nelson dropped a bombshell at the Sunday afternoon session of the LDS Church’s General Conference Sunday, announcing that home teaching and visiting teaching, as it’s known currently, is being “retired.”
The programs have long been a source of frustrations and jokes for many members, but were designed to assign pairs of faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to visit and help other members of the church.
“For months, we have been seeking a better way to minister to the spiritual and temporal needs of our people in the Savior’s way,” Nelson announced. “We have made the decision to retire ‘home teaching’ and ‘visiting teaching’ as we have known them. Instead, we will implement a newer, holier approach to caring and ministering to others. We will refer to these efforts simply as ‘ministering.’ “
Home teaching has previously been for men of the church, who were assigned in pairs to visit assigned families once per month. Visiting teaching has been for women in the church, assigned to visit other women.
The new program focuses less on visiting people in their homes for formal lessons and more on making regular contact with and helping people, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland explained in a talk following Nelson’s announcement.
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“A new name, new flexibility, and fewer reports will not make one ounce of difference in our service unless we see this as an invitation to care for one another in a bold new holier way,” he said.
Details of the new program are available at ministering.lds.org and will be sent later today in an email to members of the church, Holland said.
Holland earned the biggest laugh of the weekend by alluding to the rush of revelation being received at this weekend’s conference — with the new presidency, new apostles, changes to priesthood quorums and now these teaching programs — and directly addressing the prophet.
“President Nelson, I don’t know how many more rushes we can handle this weekend,” he said. “Some of us have weak hearts.”
As the laughter subsided, Holland added: “But as I think about it, you can take care of that. What a prophet!”
Before being called to full-time church leadership positions, Nelson practiced as a heart surgeon.
Holland said under the newly announced priesthood and Relief Society ministering concept members will no longer use home teaching and visiting teaching language. They will continue to visit homes as possible, but local circumstances may preclude a visit to every home every month.
“However, I should stress that this expansive view of engagement does not include the sorry sentiment I recently saw on an automobile bumper sticker,” Holland said. “It read, ‘If I honk, you’ve been home taught.’ Please brethren, with these adjustments we want more care and concern, not less.”
Under this new ministering concept, Holland said: “All we at Church headquarters need to know is that you out in the wards and branches know and care for your people. We don’t need to know how you make contact, or where you make it, or when you make it, but we care — and surely the Lord cares — that you do make it and that you bless your people in every way you can.”
Holland said the new ministering concept encourages members to follow the Lord’s council to bear one another’s burdens, mourn with those who mourn, comfort those who stand in need of comfort, and stand as witnesses of God.
Sister Jean B. Bingham, Relief Society general president, said women and men will work together in the new program, which will include the church’s youth, as well.
“I get excited for those Relief Society sisters who will have the privilege of being blessed by a young women’s enthusiasm, talents and spiritual sensitivity as they serve side by side or are ministered to by them,” she said.
She said sometimes members think they have to “do something grand and heroic to ‘count’ as serving our neighbors. Yet simple acts of service can have profound effects on others–as well as on ourselves.”
Bingham encouraged church members to think how the Savior would minister to others, and ask, “How can I share the light of the gospel with this individual or family? What is the Spirit inspiring me to do?”
Combining Relief Society efforts with the now-restructured elders quorum will bring a unity that can yield astonishing results,” according to Bingham.