A couple of years ago, President Monson told a story about an experience of his childhood.
“While I was serving as a young bishop, Sister McKee, a widow in my ward, passed away. Among her things were three pet canaries. Two, with perfect yellow coloring, were to be given to her friends. The third, Billie, had yellow coloring marred by gray on his wings. Sister McKee had written in a note to me: “Will you and your family make a home for Billie? He isn’t the prettiest, but his song is the best.”
“Sister McKee was much like her yellow canary with gray on its wings. She was not blessed with beauty, gifted with poise, or honored by posterity. Yet her song helped others to more willingly bear their burdens.”
Many of us have some gray on our heads, and I guess that all of us have some gray on our wings. But we can lift others and in doing so, we will be greatly blessed.
How valiant we would all be if the Savior visited in our homes monthly! How wonderful it would be to have him ring the doorbell when we had difficulty in our homes, when we were ill or needed guidance. But His ways are not our ways. He offers us the opportunity to become like Him, and in the quest, we learn to ACT like Him. That means that all those with gray on their wings are willing to do as He asks. We grow as we serve one another.
Sister Bonnie Oscarson, General Relief Society President, said,
“We are members of the Lord’s Church, and regardless of our individual circumstances…we have each other… As we look beyond our differences in age, culture, and circumstance to nurture and serve one another, we will be filled with the pure love of Christ and the inspiration which leads us to know when and whom to serve.”
In Doctrine and Covenants 93:45, 46 the Savior says to Joseph Smith : “I will call you friends, for ye are my friends, and ye shall have an inheritance with me—I called you servants for the world’s sake and ye are their servants for my sake.”
If we are emulating the Savior as we do our home teaching and visiting teaching, we will be blessed by the friendship of those we serve, just as they will be blessed by our service.
Elder Marlin K. Jensen said:
“If we truly want to be tools in the hands of our Heavenly Father in bringing to pass His eternal purposes, we need only to be a friend. Consider the power of each one of us, 10 million strong, of our own free will and choice reaching out to those not yet of our faith in unconditional friendship. We would no longer be accused of offering warm bread and a cold shoulder. Imagine the consequences for good if each active family in the Church offered consistent concern and genuine friendship to a less-active family or a new-member family. The power is in each one of us to be a friend. Old and young, rich and poor, educated and humble, in every language and country, we all have the capacity to be a friend.”
My Grandpa, who serves as a stake patriarch, and has been a great influence in my life, tells this story:
Several years ago, two sisters in a ward in Chicago, Illinois, were assigned to visit teach a young single sister. This inactive sister, whose name is Rae, lived in an apartment within their ward boundaries. It was difficult to meet with her for a number of reasons:
- Getting to her apartment was not easy; the traffic was a problem.
- Her schedule was erratic and she was often out of town. The sister was an airline hostess.
- They really had nothing in common with this inactive, disinterested woman.
These two valiant, visiting teachers did not give up. They were relentless in making regular visits and sharing a gospel message. Eventually, Rae was transferred to Denver, Colorado, where another set of visiting teachers encountered the same problems, but these sisters, too, were diligent in visiting Rae. Rae later married a non-member and seemed to move farther away from the gospel. Rae was not interested in activity in the church, but loving visiting teachers visited faithfully every month.
Eventually, Rae became a mother, and deep within her heart, she began to feel the spirit and became hungry for what she had been missing for several years. The teachings of her childhood, and the friendship of her visiting teachers were no longer something she could ignore. Rae returned to church, with her daughter by her side. Rae is an active member of the church who has served in many capacities over decades of activity. She bears testimony that her visiting teachers, who never gave up, were a great influence for good in her life, at a time when she was in great need. Rae is my grandma’s sister, and the entire family is grateful to faithful visiting teachers. Rae now has four grandsons, two hold the priesthood and the other two are preparing for the day when they are old enough. She has served as a Relief Society President and bears a strong and ringing testimony of the value of visiting teaching.
President Spencer W. Kimball explains:
“God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other in the kingdom. The people of the Church need each other’s strength, support, and leadership. … So often, our acts of service consist of simple encouragement or of giving mundane [ordinary] help with mundane tasks, but what glorious consequences can flow from mundane acts and from small but deliberate deeds!”
Here are some suggestions on how to serve those in your ward, and to become better friends with those you home and visit teach:
#1. Be faithful in your duty. There is something about home teachers who show up month after month with a message of love, that touches hearts. If you make the effort to go into a home every month, those people you serve will begin to trust you. They will see that you take the assignment seriously, and they will begin to feel of your love and friendship. Don’t be hesitant to share the gospel message. The words from our prophets are inspired and are meant to be shared. Sharing the message with love and an understanding of the family’s situation will strengthen testimonies and build loving relationships.
Growing up my family had very faithful home teachers that diligently came to our home each month. They were always interested in our personal lives, and shared a meaningful gospel message, and kneeled to pray with us at the end of each visit. Each birthday, we were guaranteed a card in the mail signed ‘your loving home teachers’. As I look back, I am grateful for this time that brought our family together, and the spirit in our home. I am grateful for my home teachers and their devotion in serving the Lord and our family.
#2 Learn to know them. Of course, you should know all their names, but learn about who they are. What are their interests and concerns? How do they like to spend their time? What fears do they have? Know their birthdays, and remember them on those days and other special occasions. As you come to know them, you will better understand their needs and be able to serve them.
My Grandma tells me that at a time in her life when she was very ill, and she was the recipient of other’s service, one of the nicest things she remembers was a sister who called her one beautiful spring morning with a surprise. “Don’t get dressed”, her friend said. “Just put on some sweats. We are going for a ride.” She appreciated that she didn’t have to try and put on make up or do her hair. She just climbed into the car and they drove through the countryside, enjoying the freshly-plowed fields and the trees newly green. No gifts, no casseroles, but the more valuable gifts of time and friendship. It was a thoughtful gesture that she remembers nearly 30 years later.
#3 Pray for those people who have been entrusted to your care. Pray for their temporal needs to be met and for their spiritual needs. Pray that you will know how and when you can be most helpful to them. Pray that you will love them. If you do this, you will find your mind opening up to inspiration concerning them, and you will know what to do and when to do it.
Elder David A. Bednar counseled:
Petitioning Heavenly Father for the blessings we desire in our personal lives is good and proper. However, praying earnestly for others, both those whom we love and those who despitefully use us, is also an important element of meaningful prayer. Just as expressing gratitude more often in our prayers enlarges the conduit for revelation, so praying for others with all of the energy of our souls increases our capacity to hear and to heed the voice of the Lord.
#4 The last suggestion I have is to love them. Let me share with you a quote from President Howard W. Hunter: “the world in which we live, whether close to home or far away, needs the gospel of Jesus Christ. It provides the only way the world will ever know peace. We need to be kinder with one another, more gentle and forgiving. We need to be slower to anger and more prompt to help. We need to extend the hand of friendship and resist the hand of retribution. In short, we need to love one another with the pure love of Christ, with genuine charity and compassion and, if necessary, shared suffering, for that is the way God loves us.” (The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, p. 173)
Sister Oscarson invites us “to not only love each other more but love each other better.”7 May we realize just how much we need each other, and may we all love one another better”
I have a strong testimony of home and visiting teaching. I am so grateful for the faithful visiting teachers who shared there testimony with my Aunt Rae.
For more information of my beliefs: click HERE