Friday, May 13, 2011

A Calling, Home Teaching, Visiting Teaching

Last Sunday I was given my first 'Calling'.  What does that look like?  The Ward Bishop asked to speak with me, asked my husband if he would mind, to which my husband, with a big smile on his face, shook his head no and said go right ahead.  Because my husband already knows how much of this works, he was amused, lovingly so, but amused nonetheless.   The Bishop asked if I would agree to being called to be a Relief Society (R.S)  Teacher (once a month, third Sunday, even numbered lessons).  Ahh, sure, I can do that is what I said.  He talked with me a while longer, and my questions for him were along the lines of being very new to these doctrines, I was very likely to be more off track than on track in 'teaching' anything.  I have no wish to offend the sisters.  He encouraged me with some instruction in how this church conducts situations in which 'discussion' is encouraged and  some methods to ensure it remain gentle, loving discussion.    Okay, so this is my new function in R.S. meetings, and I already envision the sisters teaching me more than I would be 'teaching' them.  I'm both flattered and also mildly amused as this may be a gentle, loving method to get me up to speed in learning some of the doctrine of this church.

Tuesday night my husband went out with another male member of the church to complete 'Home Teaching Visits' to the families assigned to them.  Better that he should write or talk of his own experiences, these are not new to him, new to me as his newly baptized wife, but not new to him at all.

Wednesday night R.S. President visited me at my home to help orient me to my new function (calling).  There will be the usual formalities on a Sunday where it is announced and followed at some point by a process of 'setting apart'.  My first 'teaching' experience will be this Sunday, using the manual/book the church uses and the lesson will be on tithing.   How fitting since I still have personal issues to work through with the concept of tithing.  She and I  talked some about how I viewed tithing, especially in relation to my prior employment and the impact on families at lower end of economical scale, for which this county is particularly known.   What is the difference between a church requesting a collection and a church requesting a tithing?  Well, there is to be the crux of my 'teaching' this Sunday in giving this lesson.

She also asked me if I would be willing to be a Visiting Teacher.   Home Teacher, Visiting Teacher ...  I hear these words used frequently, and haven't figured out which is which, why, and functions.  She explained that Home Teachers are male (priesthood) who visit the family and Visiting Teachers are women who tend to the women.   I agreed to participate as a visiting teacher.  Since we are located some miles from the town served by the Ward, and we are down to one vehicle temporarily, I had some concerns about time frames.  She explains that the visiting teaching can be done by phone calls, letters, or home visits.  Another sister who lives in our little village does her visiting teaching by phone calls.

Thursday night, we had Home Teachers visiting us at our home.  Awkward as that feels to me, it went fairly well in that it was more of a get acquainted visit.  I was pleased that both of the men have formal professions one as superintendent of the local school district, and the other a retired college counselor.  I'm not going to say I was altogether comfortable with the visit, given some of the topics and at one point one made use of the word 'liberal' somewhat disparagingly.  It quickly became clear though, that his intent was in a different direction related to his professional field, and perhaps not aimed at those of us who may hold and cherish our 'liberal' views.  I wanted to be entirely honest and forthcoming in my belief set, the story of my husband's return and my reasoning for baptism into this church in sharing information about us with them.  The discussion took on a respectful tone, a sharing that I found useful, and the discussion soon shifted away from topics that are not yet comfortable for me.  As I explained, I am not a 'convert' in the traditional sense of the word and bring with me my own testimony of faith which is steadfast irrespective of the differences in doctrinal teachings.  There are aspects of this religion that I much respect, and aspects that I am not likely to value as much.  I prefer to set my own pace, and not be instructed as to what I need to or should believe, nor the manner in which to express my beliefs, although I see learning the Mormon vernacular and the symbolic definitions as relevant to shared communication.  It was a good visit, and I think I shall appreciate their future visits as appreciable opportunities.

It has been an interesting week.   I can feel myself softening a little, pulling down some of the walls.  Given that my orientation to the LDS religion has been from an unfavorable vantage point from several directions, understandably I have adopted a somewhat defensive position.   It does indeed appear that these are caring people who do have an interest in caring for one another.  I'm not yet sure that the established methodology for how the members care for each other is in the best interest of the individual or the best interest of the organization.  My thinking is that it is in best interest of the organization, rightly so, with the bigger challenge being addressing the individuals as to their best interests when those interests conflict with the organizational interests.

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