Home Teaching and Home Learning

In the church of Jesus Christ of-Latter-day Saints (Mormon) we have a program called Home Teaching. Every family has two men (one of them may be as young as 14) to visit them in their home, inquire about their situation, and help them in whatever needs they have. The service takes many forms. I have been on roofs cutting away big overhanging limbs, under floors thawing frozen pipes, babysitting a house full of miniature Pekinese puppies, consoling a widow whose husband had just committed suicide, and shoveling significant cubic yards of snow off walks and driveways. I consider home teaching one of the most authentic ways to demonstrate one’s discipleship of Jesus who “went about doing good.”

Home Teachers also teach. They bring a lesson of instruction and inspiration every month. Sometimes they teach other things to you if you prod them a little. I did. I said to my home teacher, “You are a man of natural intelligence and extensive learning. You are also honest and unflinching in your views even in the face of opposition. I respect that.

“You also hold views on many subjects that are essentially opposite from mine. As my home teacher, I want you to teach me why you believe these things, and I don’t. We need to have a serious discussion; even a debate. And to help me understand your positions, let me be you, and you be me.”

He agreed. It was a mind and emotion stretching experience. I think I might have scored a B or maybe stretch it to B+. Some things I assumed he believed because they were part of the package I had created for people I consider to be in this category. I carefully filed this package in a convenient place in my head. I pull it out and use it to pigeon hole people when I am too biased, uninformed, or too busy to examine them as unique individuals.  The prepackaged opinion approach didn’t seem to work this time, because I was being him, and I know I am an individual, so I had to assume that he was too. I found he didn’t exactly fit the mold I had created, I had to adjust it to fit his opinions.  They sometimes turned out to be uncomfortably close to my own.

There were other things, however in which he held positions so opposite to my strongly held opinions that I had a hard time spitting them out.  If we had had a polygraph there, I would have blown every fuse in the box.  A couple of times I unconsciously reverted to my own opinions under the pressure, and he laughed.

Neither of us made a convert out of the other. Mostly we agreed to disagree.  But that is better than duking it out in the parking lot.  I thought and felt some new things which, I believe, is a working definition of learning.

I may be a step ahead of the saying attributed to Jack Handey, “Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way, you’ll be a mile away from them, and you’ll have their shoes.”

I also learned that nobody is perfect and since I am pretty much a nobody, I should be pretty much perfect. I’ll try that on my home teacher.