Sing With Me

Every time I hear the song “Love is Spoken Here”, my mind travels back thirty years to the Primary room in the chapel we attended when I was a small child. The song was new and had been approved for that year’s sacrament meeting program, so we were all busy learning it with the help of a poster board covered in pictures that were meant to represent the words of the song. I can understand why song leaders now are counseled against creating rebus-style learning aides, because even three decades later I still picture a drawing of a glass of water when I hear the phrase “and the things they teach are crystal clear.” Singing time is powerful and some of my fondest memories of Primary are based on music.

When the “new” Children’s Songbook for Primary came out I had just graduated and moved on to Young Women’s. I can still remember when we received a new songbook in the mail and how wonderful it was compared to the old orange book. There were so many new songs, plus the pictures and layout were so pretty. The other day I was playing through the songbook and realized how many songs I used to sing (that are still in the book) that just aren’t emphasized in Primary as much as they used to be. Here are some of my favorites from days gone by:

Give Said the Little Stream: I always loved both the tune and the words of this song. Although it is still around in LDS culture, I know my kids don’t sing it as often as I did while I was growing up, and the three times I’ve served in Primary we rarely used it at all. I’m not sure why; it’s a fun song to sing and it has a great message as well.

Children All Over the World: I loved the different languages in this song and always looked forward to singing it. But, it is a hard song to learn and has not been emphasized in any of the recent Primary Programs so I can see why no one sings it anymore. I still think it is due for a revival since it does teach the doctrine of prayer as well as the unity of all Church members worldwide.

I Wonder When He Comes Again: I don’t think I really understood what this song was talking about (the Second Coming) until I was an adult, but I loved the tune and the words and would sing it often.

Oh, What do You do in the Summertime?: This song is so much fun, but I think that it has gone the way of many songs that don’t have to do with doctrinal topics. Plus it is fairly American-centric in many of its images so it really wouldn’t work in a lot of other cultures. I will probably teach it to my kids just for fun, even if they never get to sing it in Primary.

I Am Like a Star: I think this is a very sweet song and a lovely tune, so we really should sing it more often. Now that we don’t have class names and ‘class songs’ this one gets forgotten and not used much, but I still think it is a great song.

Genealogy (I am doing it): I’ve noticed that in newer versions of the Songbook they have changed this song to “Family History”. I imagine that’s easier for kids to say, and it goes along with new Church conventions in calling it ‘family history’. I just always loved saying ‘genealogy” even if I didn’t really know what it was.

I now have my own children and I have also spent most of the last decade serving in Primary. There are plenty of songs that my children still sing that I remember fondly, like My Heavenly Father Loves Me, I Love to See the Temple, Book of Mormon Stories, and so on. I also love some of the newer songs, like Scripture Power, My Eternal Family, On a Golden Springtime, He Sent His Son, When I Am Baptized, and A Child’s Prayer. However, I don’t think my children know as many Primary songs as I did as a kid and I feel like there are many songs in the book that go unsung. I understand the emphasis on teaching doctrine through music, but miss some of the sillier songs and the songs about nature that we used to sing much more often when I was a kid. Now as an adult leader I feel like the time in Primary on Sunday flies by quickly and there just isn’t very much time for singing. If it were up to me, we’d just spend forty minutes singing and I’d probably include some songs about pansies and birds and hinges because those are just as important.

What are some of your favorite Primary songs, either ones that you remember from childhood or that you learned as adult? Have you ever been touched by a particular song?

About Jessie

(Blog Team) served a mission in Spain and graduated from BYU with bachelor's degrees in Spanish Translation and English, as well as a master's in Spanish Literature. She works full-time at a university library and full-time as a mother to her three children and their two cats. When she has free time she likes to eat and sleep.

32 thoughts on “Sing With Me

  1. It’s not a primary song, but I was saddened when “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” wasn’t included in the current hymn book version. As a convert who was baptized many years ago at the age of 15, I have lived and embraced the beauty of LDS hymns. Not having had the primary experience until I was called as a teacher at 22, the primary song which has touched me the most is “A Child’s Prayer”, especially when sung In 2 part harmony.

  2. I just got called as the primary pianist in my ward, and I completely agree with you. I really miss a lot of the other songs—so much—but it really feels to me like they are just pushing “learn the songs for the program” so hard that there isn’t time for anything else at all. We will spend the entire singing time just singing one song OVER and OVER! I’m really kinda sad about it.

  3. I spent 3 years in Primary music callings in my last ward and I agree with Peyton 100%. We’re so busy trying to learn the songs for the program every year that we don’t have time for anything else.

  4. Music is so powerful. I’m currently playing the piano in Primary for my ward, and every time we sing “My Heavenly Father Loves Me” I am transported back fifty years to Wednesday afternoons, looking at the flannel board with the bird picture, and the lilac picture learning that song for the first time. It wasn’t even in the old blue Primary book, it was printed in the Children’s Friend. What amazing memories music generates.

    And bless our Nursery leaders: they made some little objects to hold and wave around and are teaching our tiny ones “Give Said the Little Stream” and “I Am Like a Star” among other great songs. Each song has its own object, so the kids get to do something and sing a song too. So cool to watch.

    One of my favorite is “Love is Spoken Here” especially when they blend the verses together for the third time through. So nice…

  5. I can’t sing “Scripture Power” without crying (which is funny, because it’s a pretty upbeat song), and I love “If the Savior Stood Beside Me.” I also love, “I’ll Walk with You.”

    It drives me crazy when singing time gets cut off during Primary. I can’t remember a single sharing time from when I was a child, but the Primary songs and the doctrines contained in them continue with me to this day. Children gain so much from music and there is some really wonderful doctrine taught in the Primary hymnbook. Like you said, I wish we would do closer to forty minutes of singing time.

  6. Thanks for all the great comments everyone. Like a few people mentioned, I wish we had more time for more songs in Primary. It does feel like we spend the whole year just working on the same 5 songs for the program and it would be nice to work on more. At the same time, it is challenging to teach such a big group of kids with wide-ranging abilities and ages. New little ones come in every year, and many teachers don’t know the songs either. I’m not sure how many kids hear much of Primary music at home either (I love it, but I’m not a singer and don’t do enough music at home like I should). I think that some songs do come and go in popularity too.

    When I was in a presidency about eight years ago, there was a big push to use more music in sharing time, not just in ‘singing time’. The idea was that music was one of the best ways for kids to learn and remember gospel teachings. In practice this was a little hard to do–we were trying to use songs the kids knew so that we weren’t spending that time learning (and trying to figure out what they did know was a bit hit-and-miss) and sometimes the person leading the sharing time was uncomfortable singing with the kids. I still think it’s a good idea, though–and so is singing during class time (I know a lot of teachers don’t think of that).

  7. I’m not following the prompt, I know, but I found it so interesting that you love “I Wonder When He Comes Again. It might be my very least-favorite Primary song. When we sang it in Primary I had no idea what it was about, but my mom sang it as part of our regular lullaby repertoire. I wasn’t a panicky/anxious kid, but it always freaked me out. It was this awful, apocalyptic song. The world was ending. The BIRDS ARE HOMELESS. How was this an ok song?!? I remember focusing on tuning out the words. My mom would usually rub my back while she sang, fortunately, so it wasn’t too hard.

    Also, about the nature songs: we still sing “Once there was a snowman;” surely there is a place for other songs, too.

    And finally, has anyone else noticed that Mormons, almost without exception, cannot pronounce “genealogy” correctly? Long E for the first syllable; it took a few weeks of library school to beat it out of me (and I have a Chicago accent, so you’d think aggressive long vowels would be second-nature).

  8. agree that songs are not just for singing time . class time and sharing time too. How do you teach children without singing?
    best Primary singing experience ever. the crusader’s hymn in harmony by two older classes. yes, I did teach it to them during primary song time and yes it is in the primary song book and they still knew all the program song perfectly. take less time with silly games, and everyone gets a turn to come up front stuff and more time singing and many wonderful things can happen. wish every primary song leader would focus on the message and tone of the song. final thought arrange for primary groups to sing in sacrament more than once a year and always have them completely prepare for a quality performance. This might even mean cutting a song from the yearly program. This is a bit of a soap box issue for me, so I had better close now. except, please, please teach the child basic performance behavior. Above all have fun.

  9. In the orange primary book there is a song called the Jolly Switzer, I never heard that one in Primary. I loved the yellow song book, I loved looking at the pictures.

    My daughter hated I Am A Child of God for years because her grandma sang it to her as a lullaby and my daughter hates going to bed on someone else’s time table. Thankfully she got over that one, and possibly grandma stopped singing it to her during sleepovers.

    We don’t know most of the songs that she requests during family home evening, but we have an app that has most of the songs and lyrics and we beam it to our tv and we have learned a few new songs that way.

    And Once there was a snowman and popcorn popping are still the best primary songs ever.

  10. I have been told that of all the things you remember from Primary, you will remember the songs most and I now know this is true. My daughter came back to the church after being inactive for fifteen years. She did not remember much doctrine at all, but she could sing all the old Primary and YW songs perfectly! The most important job in the Primary (if they could be ranked that way) would have to be Primary music leader. So thanks, music leaders everywhere!

  11. I completely agree with Peyton. We focus so much on the program that we neglect the beauty of the Primary songs and the doctrine that they teach. We presume all kids know “I am a Child of God” but I’ve seen kids new to our primary looking very confused. I would love to give up a sharing time to teach some of the other songs.
    My other frustration is not having a new Primary songbook. The “new” one came out in 1989, so although new songs come through the Friend, it would be nice to have them in one spot again.
    Hmm. Apparently this touched a sore spot with many of us.

  12. I feel like we practice and practice singing assigned “program” songs each year. Albeit there are two “pick two,” that’s not much. It feels the sole month that isn’t eaten up by the General Primary Presidency’s choices is Christmas – and that’s for Christmas songs.

    One music director I worked under as pianist was fantastic for squeezing in additional songs for Senior Primary wherever she could. She taught the kids every single pioneer song in the children’s book, some classics, and a few, nice unknown ones (“The Ten Commandments”).

    In many ways I feel about the Primary songbook as I do the hymnal, “WHY is this so darn thick if we’re only going to sing the same 20 songs over and over?”

  13. Agreed. As a primary teacher in a ward that has ONLY sung the Program songs all year long, I am sick of them!

    I desperately wish the poor kids could learn something else. It makes singing time so boring when there is no variety.

    I had a Stake Primary President once who taught that the Primary Music Leader was really the Primary Gospel Doctrine Teacher because the children will remember those Primary songs their whole lives as previous posters have mentioned.

    Also, many of the songs are not just American-centric, but Utah-centric. Growing up and still living in Texas I could never relate to “Once There Was a Snowman” or “What Do You Do in the Summertime.” I can assure you that what they do in Utah in summer is NOT what we do in Texas in summer!

    Great post.

  14. I love our current Music Leader. She set a goal with the kids in senior primary to sing every song in the songbook. She passes out books for the kids to share and they draw a “song stone” that has the song # written on it and moves it from the “Songs to Sing” jar to the “We Sang These” jar. They LOVE whenever she does this! And so do the teachers! Music is such a powerful teacher. It is able to evoke feelings/thoughts/action like no other medium. Love our hymns and have many, many favorite Primary songs. I love how they teach the simple truths of the gospel in such a pure way.

  15. I’m glad I’m not the only one that thinks the primary program songs overdone. In fact that was one factor in asking to be released from my calling as primary pianist. The constant repetition put me over the edge. I can only imagine how the children feel. Actually I know how they felt–bored. I really wish they wouldn’t place so much emphasis in sharing time on the primary program. There are so many other songs the children could be learning. I do think with the right song selection both needs could be served.

    Many of the yearly new songs required for the programs are not written well. While the message may be nice, they ramble musically and are difficult for children to remember. Most of the songs in the primary book on the other hand are short and have catchier tunes which are much easier for children to recall for the program and later on in life.
    I could be wrong, but I get the feeling that many of the newer songs are chosen based on their lyrics and message rather than on their musical merit. In my opinion making the children sing a musically mediocre song will take much longer and increase the likelihood that the kids will forget them after the program. I with the primary committee would pick reliable other compositions rather than a new song with an unfocused and forgetable melody.

  16. As the long-term substitute for the primary chorister in our ward, I just wanted to chime in and say… I love the primary songs and I love the kids singing them. I don’t care if the songs are the same ones week after week or if the kids are bouncing up and down on their chairs and picking their noses while singing them. The primary program is the best meeting all year and teaching kids primary songs rocks. That is all. :)

  17. i actually like that there are songs selected for the primary children to sing worldwide. i think it is powerful to think that all of the children in the church are learning some of the same songs and learning the same message through those songs, which is tied in to the worldwide theme.

    i don’t think that having songs selected by the general primary board should have to preclude learning other songs as well. obviously, it does limit the time that can be spent on other songs, but a creative primary chorister should still be able to teach other songs to the children. they don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

  18. Wow–I didn’t realize that there were so many strong feelings on this subject (or that others felt the same way). One thing I have learned over the years is that everyone has their own idea of how to do things–I think this is one reason why we have presidencies and committees and why we change callings around often. It can be hard to work together and compromise and decide what’s ‘best’, but I have seen diverse ideas come together to make good things happen.

    Thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts–I also like it when people share ideas because sometimes there are things that I would never have considered. I like focusing on the fact that children everywhere in the world are learning the same songs–thanks for that reminder. As I’ve read through the comments, I’ve also reminded myself again why it is so important to seek the guidance of the Spirit in our callings. We are given general guidelines for how to do things, but it is so important to thoughtfully consider how to apply those to our particular areas of responsibility. Things are dynamic and what works in one ward might not work in another, and what works one year might not work the next.

  19. My favorite, hands down, “I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus”.

    Reminds me poignantly of the commandment to love and ways to express that love, every time.

  20. My five year old really hates participating in music in a group setting, especially singing. I’ve tried to teach him to at least move his mouth when everyone else is singing, if only so that he’s not just frowning at them the whole time, but I’m not sure if he does so during sharing time. While I love the Primary songs and Singing Time was always one of my favorite parts of church, I think that my son would struggle quite a bit if the emphasis every single Sunday was shifted to the singing, rather than listening to the lesson.

    I Am Like A Star is one of my all-time favorites, and I miss it. And a lot of the kids here in Arizona I think are a little confused by the more seasonal songs.

  21. I love “The Jolly Switzer!” We sang that one a lot. My favorite Primary song is “I Never Saw a Moor.” It’s not in the “new” book. I miss “Sing With Me” and am so glad I own a copy.

    I know that I know far more Primary songs than my children do. Part of it is because of the Program push, but part of it is that music people in Primary could experiment more with songs they themselves don’t know. It doesn’t have to be the same five songs every week.

  22. When I did sharing time, I always tried to do some overlap with singing, so that I talked a little bit and then we’d sing. There are so many topics and doctrines in the book that this was easy to do with a little planning. Then our president said I couldn’t do it that way anymore because I was taking too much music time . . . though really I think we had more minutes singing that way.

    Anyway, I think the author and I must be exactly the same age for I have similar memories and favorites. My OLD favorite is “Where Love Is.” It is like poetry. My NEW favorite is “I Hear the Savior’s Voice” from a few years ago. I never heard our kids sing that without feeling the Savior’s voice whisper testimony to my heart.

  23. As a primary president, I definitely feel that we could learn far more than just the program songs, and I also would love to have our primary sing more of the nature songs and do a wider variety of wiggle songs. However, I also have to step back and let our music leader have some jurisdiction over his calling. I think there is a lot of time wasted in practicing the songs through ineffective means (e.g. just singing them over and over and over). They could be learned faster with specific kinds of targeted practice. Our music leader has been given plenty of ideas and resources and has been counseled on what to do, and now I get to step back and let him do as he sees fit. It is the delicate balance of being a perfectionist primary president who doesn’t want to micromanage.

    I do love that we are singing “Whenever I hear the song of a bird” this year. The kids’ hands-down favorite songs seems to be “I love to see the temple”. I don’t know if I have a favorite; I love so many of them.

  24. I’ve served as primary chorister twice, for a total of almost 8 wonderful years. I cried the second time I was released. (Not sure who was more embarrassed…me or the counselor who was releasing me!) I always felt like I was the gospel doctrine teacher of primary, and was frustrated when sharing time would go over into my time. Towards the end of my second time we switched singing time to first and that helped.

    One of the things that I loved doing was printing out songs to let the SR primary use in order to sing songs that they hadn’t memorized. Learning the program songs might take up most of the time, but once kids can read there’s no reason not to take advantage of that and sing more songs. We sang all of the Christmas, Easter, and Pioneer songs that way, as well as a song or two from the hymn book.

  25. I love the primary songs, and I’m with Laurieann…… the primary program rocks. I am just a middle aged grandma but one of my most treasured memories was with my first grandchild. He was about 2 months old. I laid him on my couch and started to sing “whenever I hear the song of a bird, or look at the blue, blue sky….” Little Ben just looked straight in my eyes and started cooing like a champ. I sang all the verses with tear streaming down my cheeks, and Ben cooing along with me. He is now 1o years old and I still think of this moment when I’m with him.

  26. I am very grateful to the people who serve in music callings. My mother played the piano at church for years, so I saw the work she put in to practice for her calling. I recognize the power of music even if I don’t have very strong musical ability. When I taught the 4 year olds over the previous year, I found myself crying frequently because of their sweet voices singing Primary songs. Thank you, choristers, pianists, ward choir members, and organists!

  27. As the primary music leader for the past 3 years in 2 wards, the best way to have your kids learn the songs is to sing them at home. The reason I can only do the program songs is that when the kids only sing them for <15 min per week [as music time has never been a priority for any president I've served under and our time always gets cut short], they don't have them learned by the time the program comes along. Now, I'm also in small wards [<10 kids in total] so I'm dealing with small numbers here, but I can point out which families are singing at home and which aren't. And I wish more did!

  28. What a great conversation! I am the Primary chorister and love it. My choir is never bored, though, even though we do spend most of our time on program songs, at least until the fall. The kids feel the Spirit often as they sing and I always point out what’s happening. I demand excellent singing and performing in every detail and my little choir rises to the challenge with enthusiasm. You’ll be happy to know, Jessie, that we are singing “Give Said the Little Stream” in our program this year, plus “I am a Child of God” in Spanish and many of the others you love. We perform throughout the year, as well; we had a Command Performance in RS last week and sang “I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus”. I didn’t grow up in Primary, so I love the memories you all have shared about the power of music to last and lift all your life.

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