On Home Teaching, Covert Information Gathering, Crappy Elders Quorums, Crappy Priesthood Lessons, “Checking a Box” on the “Exaltation Checklist,” Ward Council Gossip, Stewardship, Being Shepherded and Being a Shepherd, Praying for Those Who Desperately Need It, and Having Charity
Ken K. Gourdin
One of my fellow posters at Mormon Dialogue and Discussion opined on his Crappy Elders Quorum, its Crappy Lessons, his Crappy Ward, his Crappy Ward Leadership, and his Crappy Ward Council. (Other than those things, which according to him, leave a teensy, weensy, itty, bitty little bit to be desired, his Ward is Great!
A word of explanation: in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a Ward is a congregation that is defined by geographic boundaries which is presided over by a lay pastor called a Bishop. One of the offices in the Church’s lay Priesthood is that of Elder, and Elders are organized into groups known as Quorums. Exaltation is being welcomed back into the open arms of the Savior once one’s mortal sojourn is complete, one duty of the Priesthood is to conduct regular (usually monthly) visits to specific members of the Ward, in part in order to check on their welfare and to report to leadership any needs that aren’t being met, and lay people are asked to fill positions in the Church such as Elders Quorum President and so on.
In part, he said:
I find it to be a major invasion of privacy for people to invite themselves into my home, pretend to care about me, all the while not-so-covertly gathering information that they can take back to the [Elders Quorum President] which may ultimately find its way to everybody at Ward Council. Meanwhile they get to literally check the box and thus ensure they are one step closer to salvation.
Crikey (RIP, Steve Irwin ), I’d hate Home Teaching and Elders Quorum, too, if that’s the way I felt about them. One can have 100% Home Teaching every month for however long one’s been assigned to do it and still not be any closer to salvation/exaltation. As for covert information gathering, if you and your family honestly don’t need any help, I’d say that’s great: One fewer thing for the Bishop and the Elders Quorum President to worry about (and having spent several years between the two assignments at the elbow of a Bishop and an Elders Quorum President, respectively, I’d say that the fewer things they have to worry about, the better.)
As for any such issues being discussed in Ward Council, that might be a no-win proposition: Half the families in the Ward are upset that the Bishop doesn’t know about their issues (because their Home Teachers, who feel the same way you do about Home Teaching, haven’t troubled themselves to do it so that they can find out about those issues) and the other half of the families in the Ward are upset that the Bishop does know about their issues but can’t do anything about them unless he does it himself, since, according to you, he’s not supposed to bring them up in Ward Council. If you were the only one in your Ward who felt that, “If I have a problem, I simply want to be able to go to the Bishop and have him resolve it without involving anyone else,” I suppose that wouldn’t be a problem: the problem arises because a sizable minority to a majority of the members of your Ward feel the same way. Jethro told Moses that wasn’t a good approach, and if it wasn’t a good approach 3,000 years ago, that hasn’t changed.
Home Teaching is your chance to be a Shepherd. If you felt the way the Good Shepherd feels about the rams, and ewes, and lambs in His flock (the ones who are supposed to be in your flock, too, because He has asked you to look after them), would you feel the way you do about Home Teaching? How did the Savior respond when the lawyer asked him, “Who is my neighbor?” If you care for your Brothers in your Quorum the way the Good Samaritan cared for the injured Jew (and if you felt that they care the same way for you) would that change your attitude and approach to being a member of the Quorum? And being Home Taught is your chance to be a sheep, though, as I said, if you don’t need any help, and if you call your bishop and say, “Hi, Bishop? This is Brother Jones. I just called to tell you that my family and I don’t need any help,” I guarantee you, there will be joy and rejoicing in the Bishop’s household over that phone call. And even if you’re right that everyone else simply is “going through the motions,” (though I’d be loathe to reach such a conclusion myself, since it would require me to know someone else’s [everyone elses!] heart) does that mean you have to, as well, or can you be “the little leaven” that leaveneth the whole lump”?
As for the quality of the manuals, of the lessons, and of the instructors, I agree: they can leave something to be desired. But if I’m entirely dependent upon a manual and/or on an instructor to give me Living Water, can I change my approach to that, as well? Who’s supposed to be teaching me, a manual, an instructor, or the Holy Spirit? And if I have the last of those three assets, even if I don’t see the first two of those things particularly as assets, would those first two things matter so much?
Even if you’re absolutely right that Home Teaching, the manuals, the instructors, the leadership, and everyone else in the Quorum or Ward absolutely sucks, if nothing else, that’s an excellent opportunity for you to develop charity: You can and should pray for your crappy instructor, your crappy Quorum members, your crappy Elders Quorum presidency, and so forth. Believe me, they need your prayers, whether they realize it or not: And I’ve never met a Bishop, and I’ve rarely met an Elder’s Quorum President or an Elder’s Quorum instructor who doesn’t realize how much he needs your prayers; they appreciate those prayers. I know I have, and I would. Beyond that, the only thing you can change is you.
I wish you well.