Sunday, January 23, 2011

High Council Speaker- Brother Wallace : "Home & Visiting Teaching"

Brethren, We got the great blessing today of seeing Brother Wallace from the High Council. I seriously loved his talk, and felt for those of you that were unable to attend, you would love to read it, so here below, is the transcript. Thanks again to Brother Wallace, and the Lubbock Stake High Council!

Home and Visiting Teaching (Plainview Branch)

      Good morning, Brothers and Sisters.  What a blessing it is for me to be here with you in the Plainview Branch.  This is actually the first time for me to be attending your services, although I believe my wife has been here several times in calling as Stake Young Women’s President, and I am grateful for this opportunity.  I appreciate the wonderful talk by Bro. Tombs.  I have known him and his brothers since we moved here 8 years ago, and I was blessed to be one of his Priesthood leaders until about a year ago when I was called to the High Council.   
     I must admit that there are many of you here today that I do not know, but I hope that will soon change soon as we serve together as a Stake to bring about the work here in this part of the Lord’s vineyard.  I know it probably feels at times, like you are out of touch in the Stake, being so far from Lubbock, but it is my testimony, that most of the growth of the Stake is going to come and is coming from outside of Lubbock, within our branches.  I grew up in several small branches, one in upstate NY and the other while living in Philippines many years ago.  I also served in many very small branches while on my mission, and I know that when the members work together, and do all they can in their callings and in obeying our Heavenly Father, that each branch will become a ward, for that is how the Lord blesses us.  I am excited that part of my responsibilities as a High Councilor is my assignment to the Quaker Heights Spanish-Speaking Branch, and watch their growth as the Lord blesses them.
     With that, I also bring you the love of our Stake Presidency, and remind you of their great concern for you and your families.  As members of the Stake High Council we are continually encouraged to strengthen our testimonies of the Lord’s vision for this stake.  In addition, we are also asked gain a personal vision of our own callings and assignments while called to serve.  I would encourage each and every one of you, as members of this Stake and Branch to gain your own personal vision for you and your families, and especially to gather your families together and develop a Family Mission Plan so that you can share your testimonies with those you love and associate with.  As you do, blessings will be poured out from Heaven upon you and those around you, and this branch will grow.  May I also echo the words of President Shumway that every one of “you belongs here; that you belong in this church, in this ward, and with these saints”.  If there is anything holding you back from all the blessings of our Heavenly Father, I would encourage you to look inside yourself and commit to do better, to utilize your strengths in overcoming your weaknesses.  I can personally testify that while it is not always be easy, it will be worth it, and Heavenly Father will pour His blessings upon you and upon your families.  I support our Stake Presidency and their sacred callings, and know that through Priesthood authority that our Stake will grow, especially as we collectively put forth our hands, and love and serve others.
     Our message this month, as assigned by the Stake Presidency is on The Blessings of Home and Visiting Teaching, and perhaps how we as individual members can gain a testimony of this inspired program.  Now, I’m not going to stand here and tell you that we all need to do our home and visiting teaching.  Well, maybe I am, because that’s the message that our Stake Presidency wants us to give, and it is something I need encouragement with as well!  I think that what President Harold B. Lee said in 1964 is very fitting to what our Stake Presidency envisions for the growth of our stake, especially in relation to the vines.  Pres. Lee stated that “Missionary work is but home teaching to those who are not now members of the Church, and home teaching is nothing more or less than missionary work to Church members.”     That’s pretty simple.  As home and visiting teachers, we are as missionaries to the members, bringing our families the Word of God.
     Growing up in the church, I have been a home teacher since the time I turned 14, when I was assigned as a junior companion to Bro. Sharp, a High Priest.  It was during those days that I learned a lot about preparing gospel lessons, making phone calls to set up appointments, and I have great memories of traveling to the furthest borders of our ward (approximately 40 miles), to a small, old farmhouse where a very old couple lived.  I remember home teaching Bro. and Sis. Paige even during snow blizzards, when the snow was piled along the road side so high it was like traveling through a tunnel.  I also remember warm and tasty pies and cake that Sis. Paige would serve us.  Often, following that visit we would travel another 30 miles in another direction to visit the Bradley family that lived on the eastern shore of one of the Finger Lakes.  Our total round trip was well over 100 miles, and embarrassingly, I often fell asleep on the final leg home.
     Before continuing, I first must make a confession.  And that is, that I have not always been the best home teacher, and even today, I still struggle with this responsibility.  With our fast-paced lives, it is difficult to find the time, especially with all our family responsibilities, with school activities and work; and even our church callings many times get in the way.  When do we have time to relax?  At our house, often our home teachers want to visit us at times that are inconvenient.  At times, I feel as if I am bothering those that I home teach.  I know them well enough, and talk with them often, especially at church, so, isn’t that enough?  Why do I need to go visit their homes monthly?  And well, sometimes, I feel that we are doing it just for the numbers.  Well, Brothers and Sisters, those are my excuses, so what are yours?
    These thoughts remind me of an experience I had many years ago, which occurred before Sis. Wallace and I married, and blended our two families together, and it was one that taught me a great principle.  At the time I was a single father, living in Upstate New York trying eagerly to complete a Ph.D. at Cornell University all, while raising my two young sons.  I was living on the second floor of a tiny apartment located in a small village about 15 miles from the campus.  The apartment was old, but had a small balcony with an old iron railing just outside the living room.  Being a poor student and single father, I was pretty stressed out and needed as much sleep as I could get. 
     Early one spring morning, however, around 5:00 a.m., I was awakened by a loud rattle coming from outside my apartment.  The noise that I heard startled me enough that I was concerned that there may be construction or something else going on outside on my balcony.  As I lay there in an early morning daze, I also thought that perhaps I had been dreaming and being tired, I tried to drift back asleep.  Almost immediately, the rattling startled me again.  This time, with my heart racing, I jumped up from my bed and walked to the sliding glass door, and peered outside in time to see only the passing of a tiny bird.  Not noticing anything out of the ordinary, I wandered sleepily back to my bed.  About 5 minutes later, when I had almost drifted back to sleep, the rattling shook the house again.  Confused and annoyed, I walked back out to my living room to see what the noise was.  Again I saw nothing except a little bird flying away. 
     Now I was getting frustrated and being too lazy to walk back to my bedroom, I just laid myself down on the nearby couch.  As I lay there in an early-morning daze, I was startled a third time by the rattling.  This time, however, I was prepared to catch whoever was disturbing my early morning sleep.  Without moving, I slowly and carefully opened my eyes and was surprised to see only a tiny little woodpecker sitting on the balcony’s old iron railing.  I thought to myself, could he be making that loud racket?   
     As quickly as I asked myself that question, the answer came with a resounding boom and rattle of the railing.  I watched in amazement as this little woodpecker quite rapidly and uselessly pecked at the iron railing.  Once my amazement subsided, I started to get irritated, so I jumped up and opened the sliding glass door and scared him off into the nearby woods.  This effort of mine would have been sufficient had this happened for just one morning, but this foolish little woodpecker came back and repeated his merciless rattling every morning for the next 2 weeks.  
     I knew that my patience was being tested, but this foolish little woodpecker also got me thinking about my role and effort as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ.  I have often pondered to myself, why did this crazy little bird peck tirelessly at an old iron railing instead of a nice soft tree?  Am I like this little woodpecker, foolishly pounding my head against the “old iron railings” in my own life?  Am I doing all I can to increase my faith, to serve others, to be obedient and to keep my covenants?  Am I doing the best at my church callings?  Am I a good home teacher?  Or, am I making poor choices like this woodpecker by choosing “old iron railings” instead seeking out the softer wood of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and doing all I can to assist in bringing about the “immortality and eternal life of man”?
     As earthly members of Heavenly Father’s kingdom, and especially as home and visiting teachers, we are asked to be instruments in God’s hands.  Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles states:It is not … enough for us to be convinced of the gospel; we must act and think so that we are converted by it…  This is achieved not just by doing what is right, but by doing it for the right reason—for the pure love of Christ … Charity, ‘the pure love of Christ is not an act but a condition or state of being.  Charity is attained through a succession of acts that result in a conversion.  Charity is something one becomes”.  How then, Brothers and Sisters, do we become “charitable” home or visiting teachers?  Does it make it harder to be charitable because we do it out of assignment?  Are we fearful to teach the Word of God?
    Alma, that great servant of the Lord in the Book of Mormon stated, and let me paraphrase him:  O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth…!  Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder… that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth.”
     As instruments and servants of a loving Heavenly Father, our errand as home and visiting teachers for today is clear.  God sends us an authorized message, through living Prophets and Apostles and each month they speak to us, through articles in the Ensign and Liahona; which contain the living and  most current messages that we are asked to bring to those we visit and home teach.   When we are thoughtfully and spiritually prepared, we do speak “with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth”.
     Brothers and Sisters, none of us is perfect; we all have “old iron railings” which may be shortcomings that impede our path to receiving the full blessings of the gospel.  Some of these “old iron railings” come in the form of excuses we use to avoid strengthening our commitment to the gospel.  They come in the form of disobedience to the commandments, or by not reading our scriptures or praying daily, by not having regular family home evenings, or by not serving others by doing our home and visiting teaching.  
     Perhaps we struggle with our role as a home and visiting teachers, and don’t think that what we do makes a difference.  Perhaps it doesn’t, but more than likely it will make a difference.  We usually never know how what we do impacts those whom we serve!  I remember back to when I was living in New York, and was assigned to serve as a senior companion along with my oldest son.  Just like in my youth, again I had to travel over 40 miles to home teach, this time a single mother living out in the country.  I remember complaining silently to myself that it was a long way out there, but, having been a single father, I knew somewhat of her needs and felt a particular responsibility to her.  My son and I home taught her for over a year.  We didn’t do anything really special for her, we helped out on her house or moved a few things here and there; we gave her a blessing or two, and taught her a few gospel lessons.  But we didn’t know the impact we had in her life until just before we moved, when she thanked us for being great home teachers.  Did I do anything out of the ordinary?  Did I “go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice [that shook] the earth”?  Probably not, but just my actions of being there was enough to show that I cared, and that she felt and was loved as a daughter of God.
     Am I now perfect in my home teaching?  No, but I should be.  And it shouldn’t be that hard for me.  I am assigned to home teach my Bishop and his family, and the family of a member of the Stake Presidency, and a Sister that wants no contact from the church, and to a brother that is also assigned to visit our family as well.  It should be easy for me then, shouldn’t it?  But I still struggle to be a good home teacher. 
     In 1998, President Thomas S. Monson stated the following regarding home teaching:  Let us review the counsel of the Lord and His prophets concerning this vital endeavor.” …Priesthood holders [are assigned] as home teachers to visit the homes of members every month.  They go in pairs; often a youth holding the Aaronic Priesthood accompanies an adult holding the Melchizedek Priesthood.  The home teaching program is a response to modern revelation commissioning those ordained to the priesthood to “teach, expound, exhort, baptize, and watch over the church … and visit the house of each member, and exhort them to pray vocally and in secret and attend to all family duties; … to watch over the church always, and be with and strengthen them; and see that there is no iniquity in the church, neither hardness with each other, neither lying, backbiting, nor evil speaking.”
     President David O. McKay admonished: “Home teaching is one of our most urgent and most rewarding opportunities to nurture and inspire, to counsel and direct our Father’s children. … It is a divine service, a divine call. It is our duty as home teachers to carry the divine spirit into every home and heart. To love the work and do our best will bring unbounded peace, joy, and satisfaction to a noble, dedicated teacher of God’s children.”
     Finally, I have another personal story that relates to us, as Member’s of Heavenly Father’s Church, and our need to follow righteous pathways and do what is right.  I was born and raised in upstate New York, and during my high school years, our LDS ward was blessed with pretty good athletic young men.  One year, we had a very good Young Men’s softball team.  We beat everyone we played within our Stake and within our Region.  As a result, we were blessed to travel to the Church Area Championships in South Carolina.  What a great adventure for my friends and me!  Our leaders, which included my father, loaded all of us and our equipment into 3 station wagons (which were the precursors to today’s mini-vans and SUVs), and we made the long journey southwards from Upstate New York.  As luck would have it, we met our athletic match in South Carolina, and failed to move on at the tournament.  Disappointed in the loss, but happy with our adventure, we began our long journey home late in the evening after the tournament.  As luck would have it, our vehicles were soon enveloped by a thick fog that slowed our journey down to almost a standstill.  Concerned for our safety, our leaders stopped and pulled off to the side of the road to discuss our predicament (remember, it was the mid 70s and we had no cell phones in those days).  Perhaps somewhat foolishly, they decided the best course was to continue onward into the foggy night.  In making that decision, they all agreed to follow the lead car’s taillights, thus ensuring each other that this would be safest in keeping the cars together.  We traveled this way for several hours, and when the thick fog lifted, we discovered that all three cars had somehow become separated in the fog.  Without anyone to follow, our car pursued its own path and headed towards home.  Soon after our arrival home, the second car drove safely in.  But the third car was nowhere to be seen.  After almost 8 hours, the third car, with a very exhausted driver and youth arrived safely home.  But where had they been, we all wondered?  Had they broken down on the highway somewhere, or had they just pulled to the roadside and slept for a while?  Reluctantly and feeling somewhat embarrassed, they explained the reason for their lateness.  According to the plan, their driver had been following the taillights of the car in front of him.  Somehow, in the thick of the fog, he had become confused.  As soon as the fog lifted, they realized their mistake when they sheepishly noted that they were completely in the wrong state, and that what they thought were the taillights of the lead car, had actually been the taillights of someone heading in the opposite direction. 
     Brothers and Sisters, how many times do we follow the wrong taillights?  How many times are we led astray, and follow paths that lead us to a loss of the Spirit?  Only by keeping the correct taillights in front of us, will we be blessed.  There are times when the taillights are easy to follow, and there are times when Satan tries to confuse us by laying thick fog between us and the taillights.  Heavenly Father’s joy in this life is that we wade through all the thick fog, discern the correct taillights to follow, which lights, of course, are the doctrines and principles found in the True and Everlasting Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Those lights are followed by being obedient, by keeping our covenants, by reading our scriptures and praying daily alone, and together as a family, and yes, one of those taillights we need to follow leads us directly to those that we home and visit teach.  The Lord promises us in the Doctrine and Covenants that He is “bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.”   
      I have a firm testimony of home and visiting teaching.  Again, I am not always the best at doing my home teaching, but I am very thankful to those of you that are, that emulate the Savior.  Our example of what home and visiting teachers exemplify, as even the Savior himself said: “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?  And: “Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?”  We may be home and visiting teachers to lost souls, but every soul is in need of nurturing.  I am thankful for home teachers that watched over my mother in her last years while I lived and raised my family some 2000 miles away. 
     Bare a strong testimony of the calling of a home and visiting teacher.  Testimony of the love our Savior Jesus Christ, and the restoration of the Gospel on this earth.

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