Editor’s note: “Matters of faith” is a column that provides local religious leaders a place to write about how their respective faiths provide hope, courage and strength in these modern times.
Buddy Holt was a generation ahead of his time.
Back in 1979, I served in an elders quorum presidency and I was energized by a little contest we were having within our ward. We challenged the ward high priests and Relief Society to see who could record the highest percentage of home/visiting teaching visits.
I shared my enthusiasm with Buddy, whom I worked with at the Tooele Transcript Bulletin. He listened, paused, rubbed his chin and wisely said, “I think it would be better if we just scrapped all the home teaching reports, percentages, and contests, and simply loved our neighbors.”
(As a side note, Buddy passed away at the young age of 45. His widowed wife, Gwen, married my brother Mel and overnight I inherited 10 wonderful nieces and nephews. The marriage I predicted would last two weeks is now in its 32nd year.)
As everyone in the LDS world knows, new LDS President Russell M. Nelson directed the 16-million member church to follow Buddy’s advice when announced the following last month:
“For months we have been seeking a better way to minister to the spiritual and temporal needs of our people in the Savior’s way.
“We have made the decision to retire home teaching and visiting teaching as we have known them. Instead, we will implement a newer, holier approach to caring for and ministering to others.”
President Nelson stressed we should follow our Savior’s teachings and example.
“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love for one to another.”
This change means our actions will now shift from a church program to a gospel principle. No longer will we have to deliver or receive “It’s nearly the end of the month. Did you get your home teaching done?” guilt-trip messages.
I am old enough to remember ward teaching vaguely with visits from neighbors who delivered a short, written spiritual message.
In 1963, the ward teaching program was expanded to home teaching with an emphasis on priesthood holders to “watch over the Church” as revealed in the Doctrine and Covenants.
As a teenager, I was blessed to be a home teaching companion with my dad. I vividly remember teaching simple church history lessons to the Seat, Faddis, and Cox families in the good old 12th Ward.
I also remember some people refusing to answer their door and one man emphatically telling us that they did not want any visitors from the church.
On the positive side of the ledger, I remember our home teachers comforting us when my older sister was tragically killed in a car accident and years later visiting teachers encouraging my wife when she faced a difficult personal challenge.
This should be an easy transition for all of us. After all, we will be following the direction of James he gave to Christians.
“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”
As we implement this ministering concept in our everyday lives, we will become more like true disciples of Christ.
Charlie Roberts is a former LDS bishop of the Tooele 6th Ward.