Be Mannerly

March 10, 2009 | 34 comments
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In the spirit of President Hinckley’s six be’s, I’d like to submit some suggestions for visiting/home teaching etiquette. Here are my 12 be’s of assigned teaching. Please add your own!

 

Visiting/Home Teachers

  • Be Punctual
    If you say you’ll be there at 4:00, just do it. And if you can’t, at least call so I don’t have to force my children to keep the Playmobil guys off the floor for two whole hours.

     

  • Be Available
    Some of us are needy. What we need most is your time. If you have the misfortune of being assigned to someone who blogs, you can be assured they need to have actual, face-to-face interaction (whether they admit it or not). Give them at least the time to relearn basic personal skills and vocabulary.

     

  • Be Barren
    Leave your kids at home when you come. I really want your undivided attention—and I want to give my undivided attention, too. I’m selfish that way. If you have to bring your children—I get it, I have six kids and I homeschool so they are always around—bring something for them to do or watch them with an eagle eye. I really don’t want to spend the hour after you leave re-organizing the playroom. And I may actually have breakables below the three-foot level. I shouldn’t have to redecorate my home just because your sweet little Buddy has learned to crawl.

     

  • Be Prepared
    I don’t care if you give the lesson or not—the entire 2004 “Feeling the Love of the Lord through…”series had me utterly baffled. But if you do, at least pick out something that might be remotely relevant to me. For example, a lesson on humility would be a waste of time. I’ve already perfected that.

     

  • Be Helpful
    Really, I’m fine, but if you sincerely desire to do something useful, please don’t ask, “Is there anything we can do for you?” I have no idea how to answer that. (Do you?) Instead, say something like, “What do you need the most right now?” or “What are you most worried about?” That might result in a workable answer. (By the way, “brownies” sums it up nicely.)

     

Visiting/Home Teachees

  • Be Home
    If you agree to an appointment, at least stick around for it. We feel kind of stupid standing on the porch with our bosoms burning.

     

  • Be Forgiving
    Knowing how to serve someone whose house you would never otherwise be invited to can be tricky. So give us a break and try to pretend that we’re doing some good. Someday it might work out that way.

     

  • Be Tubeless
    It’s hard to give a spiritual message over The Young and the Restless. At least without a Freudian slipping out. If you can’t TIVO, just reschedule. We’ll understand. Or pretend to.

     

  • Be Pet Free
    I know you love your dogs and cats, but would it be too much to ask that you take them out of the livingroom while we’re there? I don’t know what to do when the dog sniffs my nether regions. And when the cat climbs up my sweater or pounces on my head, I am left wondering how politely to respond. Particularly when all you say is, “Oh! He likes you!”

     

Auxiliary/Quorum Leaders

  • Be Practical
    Fast and pray all you want, but at least consider the logistics of the assignments. When Sam was assigned to a companion who lived 20 minutes away (one-way) and had no transportation, he was also assigned to teach ten families who lived between West Palm Beach and Pompano Beach. Would have been fine if he didn’t also have, say, a full-time job.

     

  • Be Fair
    Everyone is a child of God. But some require more assistance than others. If you’ve got a number of ward “projects,” spread the joy of service around!

     

  • Be Fun
    I know you want to mix it up, but every few years, let me have either visiting teachers or teachees who are remotely in the same life phase that I am. It’s good to get me out of my comfort zone, but sometimes I just want to hear, “I know exactly what you’re going through!”

     

Reader Additions:

  • Be Brief
  • Be Gone
  • Be Yourself
  • Be Personal
  • Be Active
  • Be Creative
  • Be Dressed
  • Be Friendly
  • Be Encouraging
  • Be Brave
  • Be Flexible
  • Be Sensitive

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34 Responses to Be Mannerly

  1. Michelle Glauser on March 10, 2009 at 6:46 am

    I never enjoyed my visiting teaching as much as when I wasn’t lined up with people in the same phase of life as me. I think we can relate and help through other experiences and through the simple gospel.

  2. Ardis E. Parshall on March 10, 2009 at 7:29 am

    Funny, true, and doesn’t beat us up, whether we’re teacher or teachee. This ought to be printed as a pamphlet and passed out to all the women in the church!

  3. SC Taysom on March 10, 2009 at 9:11 am

    Amen to all of those. I think I would add one: Be Brief. No need to rush, but like all military expeditions, these visits should have an exit strategy. Or at least a previously agrred upon timetable for withdrawal.

  4. Sam B. on March 10, 2009 at 9:16 am

    On your be pet-free: yes, actually, it is (or was, before he passed away) too much to ask that I take my dog out of the living room. I could lock him in my bedroom, yes, but he would more likely than not bark the whole time you were there. Moreover, I’m afraid I live in a relatively small apartment without a backyard or a garage or anywhere else I could have put him. But he was hypoallergenic, he was about ankle-high, and he was hugely affectionate.

    What I mean to say is, you don’t want your home/visiting teachers inconveniencing you too much. I agree.

  5. Swearing Elder on March 10, 2009 at 9:51 am

    Here’s a corollary to “Be Punctual”: “BE GONE.” Seriously, enough is enough already. When you’re done, be gone.

  6. JAT on March 10, 2009 at 10:22 am

    Be Yourself

    Since I’ll be wearing what I usually wear on a Tuesday evening, why don’t you do the same? Just be yourself. Also, don’t send me generic letters or e-mails where you haven’t taken the time to personalize them to be FOR me and FROM yourself. (Last I checked that personal connection was the whole point of the program.)

  7. mmiles on March 10, 2009 at 10:43 am

    Maybe I’m in the minority here, but I love having VT in a different phase of life. I am most likely to get to know people in the same phase of life via my children, so having others to meet thatn I normally wouldn’t get to know so easily is something I really enjoy. I love visiting with ladies 3 or 4 decades older than me. They’ve usually been through it all, are very understanding, are wonderful at truly helping–and I glean as much information as I can from them. They have the best answers, because chances are, they’ve been through something similar.

    Ladies in a different phase give me something to look forward too, and know what to expect, or remind me that life is not all about my kids. Single sisters are fun to hang with.

  8. Alison Moore Smith on March 10, 2009 at 11:27 am

    Thanks for your responses. (Hugs Ardis.) SC Taysom, you’re killing me.

    Mixing the groups is good, I agree. That’s why I said “every few years.” It’s just been ages since I had VT contact (from either side) that was remotely close in life situation. I like both.

    Sam B., while not all were, “pet free” was my own personal issue. I love animals, but I don’t necessarily love them all over me.

    The inspired choice seems to put me with the people who have multitudes of animals. Last summer I visited a young woman with 23 cats (and other assorted animals) and an older woman with 4-5 house cats and a house dog (among other animals). I left, literally, with animal hair and slobber all over me–and sometimes torn or snagged clothing. A few years ago I taught a woman who had two, rare, red cats. One of them pounced out of nowhere right on top of my head with claws extended (was it the red hair?). every. single. visit.

    So, maybe if animals can’t be removed from the room, can they be kept off and/or out of teachers’ body parts?

  9. Stephanie on March 10, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Awesome. Great list. Perhaps there could be one added for the Auxiliary/Quorom leaders – something about how occassionally it would be nice to have a companion who is actually active so I don’t have to go by myself for years on end?!?!

    The best is when I visit teach someone with kids the same age, or vice versa. Playdate and VT in one.

    (BTW – I totally hear you on the “Feeling the Love of the Lord” year. I had a hard time with that, too)

  10. Ray on March 10, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    Be Creative

    What’s wrong with a visit on the last night of every other month that lasts from 11:45PM – 12:15AM? Two months with one visit!

    (j/k Bro. Flyr)

  11. Matt W. on March 10, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    Be Dressed

    If I come over to your house to visit, I don’t want you in your Garments or less. I don’t care if it is hot outside or if your husband just got home from Iraq, if that’s the case, call and tell me not to come.

  12. Julie P on March 10, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    How about: Be a Friend? Don’t just think I’m a project to tackle once a month for 15-30 minutes. Care about me. Become my friend. Call other times during the month. It’s nice to know I’m more than just a task to check off.

    Some of our (my husband and I) best friends have been made through the people we were assigned to visit/home teach.

  13. Inthedoghouse on March 10, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    I agree with Ardis, this is a pretty conclusive list both both the teacher and the teachee! I also love the list for auxiliary leaders as well. Be Fair is so important…it can be so time consuming if you are the one to get “all” the “hard” people. Great post!

  14. Adam Greenwood on March 10, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    Be Barren
    Leave your kids at home when you come. I really want your undivided attention—and I want to give my undivided attention, too. I’m selfish that way.

    Like most rules, this can vary. Two of my families get mad at me if I don’t bring the girls along.

  15. momof3 on March 10, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    Okay everyone…there are exceptions to every thing..I think your list is a great guideline to go by.

  16. spencer on March 10, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    Ray – I had my home teacher and a family I home teach over for a New Year’s Eve party. I figured that was four hometeaching visits right there.

  17. Ray on March 10, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    #11 – Amen, Matt.

    Fwiw, having a ward-wide party of some kind every other month, similar to what I described above, would solve a ward or branch HT and VT problem with stats. Then it could focus on those who don’t attend.

    (j/k Bro. Flyr)

  18. Naismith on March 10, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    I was humbled by my 18-year-old daughter, who asked for the car to do visiting teaching and didn’t return for 4 hours.

    “I couldn’t just knife in and out like it was just an assignment. I had to listen to her music, and read her poetry, and look through her family photos.”

    All this in a tone of voice like it should have been so obvious that it would take at least 4 hours.

  19. Tracy Keeney on March 10, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    HA! Awesome, Alison! Of course, what else should I have expected?

  20. barndoor benji on March 10, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    Be Encouraging
    If my life isn’t quite up to church standards give me the message with some hope.

  21. Shelli on March 10, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    Completely on the nose! Great writing!

  22. Imperial LDS on March 10, 2009 at 11:46 pm

    #18 – That is the biggest piece of HT etiquette that I have wondered about. How much should a HT/VT visit last?

    10 Min? 30 Min? 60 Min? 4 Hrs?

    It varies per family.

    If you goto visit a widow shutin, she would love to have you stay four hours and to stay.

  23. Donna Smith on March 11, 2009 at 12:55 am

    Thanks Alison. I have a couple of comments to share. About the time etiquette. I was once told that our visiting teaching visits should not be longer than 15 minutes. My experience is that we need to become so well acquainted that we are able to plan the time that is the most comfortable for each home. I am blessed with a companion that is a real joy! She and her husband have been on a mission to Uruguay and on two separate missions to Honduras and are preparing to leave this summer for another mission. They are hoping for another Spanish speaking mission. I am a widow living alone about a mile outside of a very small rural town. The sisters we visit are also living on family farm homes. One of our sisters is 96 years old and gives us the opportunity for service for her beyond the monthly message-giving visit. Another couple always plan for us to have at least an hour visit with us. Her husband had a stroke several years ago, and we have watched him slowly recover. He enjoys the messages and contributes to the discussions. One of their sons’ home is also one that we visit. This is a situation where a daughter and her husband and two little children have come home to live with her parents. We do not need to have lengthy visits–especially no four hour ones. Another advantage to the rural thing–no pet problems. We tend to provide outside facilities for our animals. I look forward to seeing dependable teachers come to my home. My home teachers are a father and son combo. The son is one of our star high school athletes and he is able to add a great youthful outlook to our spiritual discussions. I have a great love for these programs of the Church! I would like to comment to any who are having problems with any family that does not really welcome their visit. Sometimes we really need to be patient, compasionate, and always prayerful. Sadly, every ward and branch seem to have members who have “lost their way.” I would just add to all: Keep up the good work.

  24. m&m on March 11, 2009 at 2:08 am

    This was great, Alison.

    I am actually one who doesn’t want my VTs to only stay for 15 minutes. I actually love gospel and life conversation, so I feel almost deprived if they want to leave my house quickly.

    I think I’d add to the list for those who are visited to be honest. We end up not doing each other much good if we don’t ‘fess up when we really do need some help and support. IMO, we need to help each other serve, and not assume that our VTs and HTs will be so in tune and perfect that they will “just know” when we need help.

  25. iguacufalls on March 11, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    Be brave – when the spirit moves you, don’t be afraid to invite the less active member to come to church. One member I used to home teach named me as an influence in his reactivation when all I ever did was to rib him about missing him at church.

  26. Alison Moore Smith on March 11, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    Thanks for the input everyone.

    I, too, am one of those people who really craves adult interaction. We homeschool and work at home. Our callings are with the teens. We are out and about all the time, but it’s mostly in the name our socializing our children.

    When either the HTs or VTs come, it’s a chance to have an adult conversation–about the gospel or anything. Being new to the ward, it’s also a chance to get to know and connect with others.

    You’ve all got me thinking about that and so I want to add: Be Flexible. Some people just want it over and done with. But some of us would really be served by a long chat.

    It’s kind of discouraging to feel that you are JUST getting to know the other person when they look at their watch and say, “Oh, we have another appointment in five minutes. Gotta run!” Better, if possible to read the cues from those we visit as to how long (or short!) to stay.

    iguacufalls, that’s a great addition. I wish I had thought of it!

  27. barndoor benji on March 11, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    Within reason!

  28. Palad on March 12, 2009 at 10:50 am

    What about those people (teachees) who just plain don’t want visits? My wife and I are active in callings and church attendance, but other than that we’re relatively asocial. Our home is a place where we don’t have to deal with social interactions, and when people invite themselves over it makes us uncomfortable. I guess this would be a vote for ‘Be Sensitive’, and realize that for some folks making contact at church is received much better than doing so at their home.

  29. Alison Moore Smith on March 12, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    Palad, I have to think that over. My feelings are so opposite yours that it’s hard for me to be objective about. To me, love and service and sharing and interaction are the core of life itself, so to me opening your home to others is what makes a house worthwhile.

    That aside, I’ve never had anyone “invite themselves over.” I think that’s an unnecessarily negative spin to put on someone who says, “Could we drop by on Thursday?” It’s still a QUESTION. So, you are free to say, “We’d rather meet you at church.”

    In the past I have been assigned to visit two women who had such issues and it was a little off-putting. One woman would only allow people who had lived in Texas into her home. Seriously. The other wouldn’t allow anyone at all. She would see me at church but even when I went to drop off a Christmas goodie to her, she barely cracked the door. I didn’t want to go in anyway–Sam and I were making numerous deliveries–but the absolute rejection was a little unnerving. It almost seemed it must have been an issue of some mental disturbance, extreme house clutter, or something else.

    I guess my question is, “What bad thing will happen if a woman/man in your ward sits on your couch for a half hour?”

    Given the church’s long-standing policy of assigning visiting/home teachers, I think it can’t hurt much if those on the receiving end make the assignment as easy and comfortable as possible for the person trying to complete the assignment. Maybe things like: Be Available; Be Gracious–something along those lines.

  30. Fiona on March 12, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    I have to agree with Palad about being sensitive. A few years ago, my VTers would come to my home on the first Sunday of the month before church. That was not convenient or comfortable for me, and I told them as much. They (actually, only one of the pair) told me that Sunday morning was the best time for them, and they didn’t mind if I was in my pajamas or my house wasn’t clean, completely ignoring my protests. Their visit was obviously not about me. There was more than one month that I just didn’t answer the door when they knocked. I felt crazy guilty about it, but I really didn’t want someone in my home at that time on a Sunday.

    I think it goes without saying that being sensitive also includes being aware of your visitees needs. This same VT pair (actually, just one of the two, again) would spend their entire visit talking about her recent trips to visit her great-grandchildren or whatever, and never even ask about me or what I needed or what was going on in my life. I was recently divorced and on my own for the first time in many years, and could really have used some support. At one visit, I mentioned something about work and she was genuinely surprised that I was a “working mother”. I’m sure she knew I was divorced, so I wonder to this day who she thought was supporting me and my children.

    I still see this sister every week and she’s still just as clueless. She talks about how much she misses “visiting” with me, while I’m silently giving thanks that I don’t have her coming to my home any more.

  31. JAT on March 13, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    The end of the month isn’t the ONLY time you can do VT/HT!

  32. JAT on March 13, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    Don’t want VT’ers in your house this week? Go out to lunch or for a soda or for a walk together.

  33. JAT on March 13, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    Can someone explain to me the problem with the 2004 ‘Love of the Lord’ messages? I had trouble with the 2005 ‘Rejoice in the XZY aspect of Releif Society’ messages. I liked the months that year that were more focused on gospel principles instead of programatic ones.

  34. Alison Moore Smith on March 13, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    JAT, speaking for myself only, I felt trying to fit the message into the theme mold just didn’t work and was contrived. I understand having a lesson on charity, obedience, faith, but to extend that to lessons about “feeling the love of the Lord through charity,” etc., just seemed odd.

    2005 had the theme “Rejoice in…” 2006 went back to “regular” VT messages, but 2007 brought back the themes. That year it was “become an instrument in the hands of God by…” 2008 was back to normal where we remain today.

    I kind of feel the same way about the current RS/P manuals. Rather than giving topical lessons, they try to give topical lessons within the context of a particular prophet. Sometimes it works well, sometimes not. Some of the lessons seem a disjointed jumble of stories and phrases. More often the actual lesson material bears little resemblance to, say, the title of the lesson.

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