At the recent District Conference of the Shanghai International District, Elder Randy Funk of the Seventy shared an experience he had as a new bishop. As he reviewed the names of their less active members, he felt that he should go visit one particular family, but others told him that he shouldn’t since this family had asked to not have home teachers sent anymore and apparently didn’t want to be bothered. He took that into consideration but still felt he should go. When he arrived and explained he was from their LDS ward, he was surprised at how warmly he was greeted. The family invited him in and treated him like a friend. Eventually he asked them if they would mind having home teachers come. “Sure, of course! We’d love to have them. We just haven’t seen any for quite a while.” Elder Funk then brought up the comments he had heard from the previous home teachers about not wanting home teachers any more. The family was surprised and explained what happened.
On their last visit, the home teachers came just moments after the family’s dog had thrown up in front of the door into the home. They had just notice the problem and were about to begin cleaning when the home teachers knocked at the door. “Sorry, but don’t come in!” A momentary inconvenience was mistranslated into a permanent ban on contact from home teachers, who dutifully respected the bogus injunction.
I hope that kind of mistake is rare, but it may be part of a painfully broad class of mistakes we make.
How many misunderstandings have allowed us to completely drop people from our circles of friendship who otherwise might have appreciated and needed some degree of contact? How many others would welcome contact and fellowship when the circumstances are right? Thank goodness for leaders who, seeking guidance from the Spirit, dare to go out and visit members that might otherwise be forgotten. Of course, there are people on our records who don’t want any contact, and we need to respect their wishes as well, once we understand them, while still leaving the door open for their return.