Latter-day Saint Video Vault celebrates decades of uplifting, funny, weird, and sometimes cringe-worthy Mormon-related videos, most of which are now found on YouTube.
This week we dive into the ancient world of Home Teaching with Of Heaven and Home. This 30-minute film (distributed on actual film from the quality seen in the video) produced in the early 60s to help with the transition from the old “Ward Teaching” program to the new dynamic program that sounds exactly the same but named “Home Teaching.”
The film was produced by BYU under the direction of the First Presidency and Quorum of the 12 Apostles as part of Priesthood Correlation. Correlation, if you didn’t know, was the process in the 1960s of bringing all teaching, manuals, processes and procedures into a unified system for the entire world.
Of Heaven and Home teaches about home teaching by telling the story of someone assigned to be a home teacher—Dave Binford—and the family he is assigned to home teach—the Lannons.
The film opens at a hospital. Dave comes to meet John Lannon to help him give a blessing to his son, Jocko, who was harmed in a sledding accident. At first the volunteer says it is after visiting hours, but passes them both in once she is informed he is the home teacher. Such power. Reminds me of the day on my mission where I was so excited to park in the “Clergy” parking spot.
John and Dave walk through the hospital and meet Rita Lannon with their son, Jocko. They can’t minister to him yet so they go to a waiting room. John is glad Dave is there. He views Dave as part of the family and is grateful for all his service as a home teacher. Dave comforts John and thinks a prayer.
We then flash back to when Dave received his call as a home teacher. Dave is meeting with, Carl, the Elders Quorum President. Dave has never even heard of home teaching. Carl explains the mechanics of it but Dave is not convinced. Carl goes over his assignment and focuses on the Lannon family. Dad John, Mom Rita, Teenage Ted, Teenage Linda and primary age Jocko. He shows attendance records and explains what he thinks they need. It would be Dave’s job to give them a challenge. Dave has some work to do as all he knows about Rita Lannon (the mother) is that she is a “quiet, nice-looking woman.” Hmmm.
Dave arrives home and speaks to his wife. He said it sounds like a big responsibility. And it just came from the quorum president. It would be a lot harder to turn down if the bishop asked. His wife reminds him that he doesn’t “have to” do anything in the church, but he decides to do it—and then questions the spice level of the cake his wife is making. As with many of these older films, I don’t know that we ever get his wife’s name.
We see the Lannons arrive for church. Jocko doesn’t want to go in and daughter Linda tries to force him and rips his jacket in the process. Jocko says he already went to Sunday School, so why does he have to come back? Isn’t church over? Remember this is an older film and took place before the consolidated meeting block. John says not to force him so Rita and Linda go in a lone while Dave looks on.
At the end of the meeting block Dave speaks with the bishop. He asks if a call from Elder’s Quorum President is the same as from the bishop. Bishop says yes. He’s Dave’s quorum president and additionally all the assignments were approved by the bishopric before they were issued. The bishop says home teaching is important. He won’t be dealing with statistics or messages or quotas. He will be developing testimonies. Hmm. This sounds a lot like the change from home teaching to ministering to me. Dave still doesn’t think he’s qualified, but the bishop reminds him that no one is perfect but it could still be a transformative experience for both the teacher and the families he teaches.
We cut to the Lannon’s living room. John is laughing at a TV show while Rita, Linda and Jocko are around doing their own thing. The doorbell rings and it’s the Home Teachers! John quickly sets a beer behind his chair. Dave is there with his junior companion named Marty. They chat Dave periodically has Marty make notes so they can come over at the right time and not interrupt TV programs, etc. (No DVR!). John is rather stand offish the whole time. He has been through this before. Dave and Marty are not the first and won’t be the last. Dave and Marty really seem to be trying to get to know them though. As they leave John praises his children and said they are all smart and going places—not like their dumb woodworking father. Cue “Jesus was a carpenter” comment in 3, 2, 1.
Later at the Binford home, Dave is rummaging in the kitchen to make a sandwich. His wife hears the noise and joins him. He can’t sleep because of the Lannons. His other families are fine, but the Lannons really puzzle him. His wife takes over making the sandwich as Dave talks. He has to be “better than his best” to reach the Lannons.
We next see various scenes of Dave and Marty trying to be the best home teachers they can be. They teach a lesson, which puts everyone to sleep, but have other more successful forays. Marty engages Ted and Jacko in a game of darts, and Dave reads Fighting Indian Warriors by E.A Brininstool so he can engage with Jocko over his love of history.
We cut to a snowy sledding scene. Dave and Elders Quorum President Carl have taken their kids sledding. Dave is unhappy with his progress with the Lannons but Carl says he is doing great work. They see each other as friends and Dave really has made a lot of progress. He just has to keep going and keep trying.
The winter theme continues as Dave helps the Lannons set up their Christmas tree. Dave takes the opportunity to remind everyone what Christmas was all about but John says enough of his lectures about prayer and dispensations. He wasn’t, John. He was talking about Christ at Christmas! Dave and Rita exchange a look and Dave shrugs. He tells Jocko there really was a star and Jocko takes it all in.
We next see the Binfords walking into church as the Lannons pull up in their station wagon.
“One of these days [You and Ted] will have to stay,” Dave says.
“I came last week,” Ted says.
“Ted came because some girl is trying to reform him,” John says.
“No girl is ever going to reform me. Mom never reformed you!” Ted says.
John looks concerned after that comment but they drive away.
Dave shows up at one of John’s construction jobs and they chat about his history with the church after Dave negotiates delivery of scrap lumber. Dave asks him if he is really satisfied with the life he is living—he is dealing with the eternities of 5 people and not just his own. John thanks him for the thought and sends him on his way—not before he threatens to tell Dave not to come back as a joke.
On a Sunday evening Dave and his wife talk about the changes in the Lannon family as they do dishes. They are happy that Jocko seems to be doing better in Dave’s wife’s primary class. They are interrupted with a phone call. It’s John. They learn of Jocko’s sledding accident and we fade out of the flashback.
Back in the waiting room John talks of his desire for independence that is holding his family back. He finally realized that Marty and Dave kept coming back. Not because of some little amount of glory they might receive for bringing him back, but because they loved them. Dave comments how good it is to hear John speak his heart and his desire to have the Gospel in his life. The film ends as they walk down the hospital hall to give Jocko a blessing.
There you have it. A film designed to bridge the gap from ward teaching to home teaching. It could just have easily been made to discuss the change from home teaching to ministering. I am sure it wasn’t like this for everyone, but for my experience home teaching did become all about statistics for many people. Getting the visit in instead of meeting people where they are at. The film is fairly true to life. It shows the importance of building trust and knowing people instead of checking a box.