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Everything I need to know I learned in Primary or, Happy 135th!

By Dalene Rowley

To celebrate the 135th anniversary of Primary, the church’s Twitter asked followers to share a favorite memory of Primary. I just now realized that when you toss in years at a time done served (mostly I jest!) spent in Activity Days and Scouting (twice), two stints in nursery, substitute teaching, and a host of other callings, I’ve spent most of my adult life serving in Primary (clearly I’m not grownup enough for Relief Society). I LOVE Primary. It amuses me, yes. But more importantly, the concepts taught in Primary are both simple true; the kids’ spirits are both sweet and strong. Yet I don’t think my favorite memories of Primary are exactly what the church’s official Twitter account is looking for. So I will share them with you. Here’s my top 5.

5. That time we talked about showing respect for God and making our way back to live with Him again by keeping a certain commandment and one of my favorite kids (they’re all my favorite) raised his hand in grave concern because, as he explained to the entire Primary, his mom breaks that commandment ALL the time. (I know and love his mom and am certain she is a good God-loving woman and I will see her in the Celestial Kingdom if by some miracle I make it there myself.)

4. Today when I had visitors share stories about answers to prayers. One story involved a sheepherder praying for help to find a rich man’s most expensive sheep and receiving his answer in an unusual way. In answer to his prayer, the sheepherder found he was physically blocked every time he tried to go the wrong direction (which was also the clearest path) and practically pushed up the hill when he finally decided to try another, more difficult, path. One of the kids raised his hand and asked why God needed to use a force field to answer that prayer.

3. Speaking of lost sheep: That one time I was nearly ready to call the police looking for a lost Primary child (the bishop’s daughter, of course). I’d seen her come in to Primary, but she was nowhere to be found. I had already alarmed alerted her mother and I was nearing full-on panic attack. Then we realized the girl was asleep across a chair and her teacher’s lap, obscured from our view by a row of chairs.

2. Tie between a. fielding questions about dinosaurs and the creation and b. playing Angry Birds during music time.

1. Two words: Zombie Apocalypse. It wasn’t much of a stretch, so I worked the words into the script for the Primary program, assigning a talk that mentioned that phrase to one of our brightest and most clever (read: smarter than me) outgoing Primary children. (Candy bars may have been exchanged in return.) The best part was when the bishop repeated the words in a relevant way during his concluding remarks and all were amused and edified. (In retrospect, I really should have held out on that for my final Primary program, because I can’t top that.) It’s a good thing Primary kids are naturally cute and precocious because no matter. The Primary program continues to be (for everyone who still has a little kid left in him or her) one of the highlights of the year.

Simple and true doctrine. Sweet and strong spirits. It can be a lot of work, but what’s not to love about serving in the Primary?

What are some of your favorite memories of Primary? GO!

About Dalene Rowley

Began blogging as a legitimate way to avoid housework and to keep a journal of sorts. In her other life she wants to be excellent at a number of things, but in this one she's settling for baking a mean sour cream lemon pie, keeping most of the points on her quilt blocks in line, being a loyal friend and aspiring to moments of goodness as a wife and mother.

12 thoughts on “Everything I need to know I learned in Primary or, Happy 135th!”

  1. We've had a lot just in the last few weeks. A couple of weeks ago I was asking the children what were some of the things they learned from Jesus. This adorable but rather shy little junior Primary boy raised his hand, but then he couldn't think of anything to say. I said, "Well, Jesus taught us how to love other people, didn't He?" To which this little guy replied matter-of-factly, "I don't like other people." I mentioned to his mom after Primary and she confirmed what he'd said: he really does not like other people.

    A week or two later we were talking about making decisions and how prayer can help us when we have important choices to make. I asked the children what were some important decisions that kids have to make. The junior Primary kids, to my surprise, were giving some amazingly insightful answers. Then another adorable little guy raised his hand and, in all seriousness, said, "We have to decide what to ask Santa for at Christmas time."

    Last one, this one is more poignant than funny: We had a boy in our Primary who most likely has some form of autism though he isn't diagnosed. He really, really struggled with Primary. For years he would fight coming to Primary and spent many weeks sitting with his Mom in Relief Society. When she made him come to Primary he would try to sneak out and run away every chance he got. His mom was naturally very worried about him and overwhelmed by the challenges he had, as were we as a presidency. My goal when I was put in as president was to get him coming to Primary regularly, and after 18 months he was coming to sharing time (though often not happy about it) but would never ever go to class. Even in sharing he was constantly trying to get out. He had not yet been baptized because his parents wanted to wait till he was ready and it was his decision. At 8.5 he decided to be baptized, and everyone was worried about how it would go. I wasn't able to attend the baptism because it was done in another state where their relatives lived. The week he came back to church after his baptism, he started to leave the Primary room during sharing time and, as usual, I followed him to make sure he didn't escape. He turned to me, looked me in the eye, and said: "I am now 8 years old. I don't need you to follow me to the bathroom." I told him that if he could be responsible and come right back, I would be happy not to follow him. And he came right back! From that time forward, he came to Primary willingly and happily every single Sunday, never tried to run away, and started going to his class on his own every single week. His mom and I talked, and we both had the same conclusion: it was the baptism. I had never before realized the power of the ordinance of baptism in that way. I call this a true miracle.

  2. One of my favorite Primary experiences happened when I was a young mother in Southern California (several decades ago). We had a large group of people who had fled Laos move into our neighborhood. They remembered the kindness of the sister missionaries who had done humanitarian service for them in a refugee camp in the Philippines, so they responded positively when the missionaries found them. For several months, our Primary had about two dozen new children join us. Their names were unusual, they were barely fluent in English, they were not at all accustomed to living in an urban setting. Our opportunity to help them learn to live in their new world and to show their parents love and kindness was a once in a lifetime experience for our ward. Eventually, a branch was formed and families were sealed in the temple. The children led the parents because they had learned about God's love in Primary. It was really hard for the adults in both groups because our cultures were so different, but children are children, and they helped all of us.

  3. eljee–thank you for sharing your story. One of the things I love about Primary arises from the generally honest, open nature of children. I wish adults were more that way. Sometimes it contributes to the silly. Often it leads to the sublime. Beautiful!

    Jkfrome–thank you. Primary is also a good reminder that children (people in general), may not always understand what you say, but they will remember how you made them feel.

  4. I love Primary–I have spent a lot of time serving there and it's one of my favorite places to be.

    One of my funny memories was when my daughter was about five. The leader doing sharing time asked "what special things do dads do for their families?" My daughter's hand shot in the air and she said "dads have the sperm to make babies!" I think all the teachers did a simultaneous spit-take, but most of the kids were oblivious. Be careful what you ask because you never know what kind of answer you are going to get…

  5. I served in nursery for 3 1/2 years. What a hoot. 2 memories: 1) in our typically brief lesson I was teaching about Jesus and the resurrection. At the end, 1 little girl spontaneously jumped up and started clapping, a look of pure joy on her face. I wish we all responded to the gift of the atonement that way.
    2) a little boy was putting puzzles together on a table by the door. As another child was leaving to go to the bathroom, I quietly said, "please shut the door". The little guy with the puzzles looked up at me with a big frown and asked, "Did you just say sh…t?"

  6. I love primary. I've been in nursery for five plus years on purpose. It's pretty much my dream job. Snacks, silliness, easy peasy pure doctrine lessons, winning the trust of little people by kindness, watching them emerge from babyhood to childhood. Watching the week by week the gears of their language and reasoning engage. It's my favorite. At some I'm sure I'll be released and I do sometimes miss my sisters in Relief Society but the ones that have babies that will eventually be eighteen months I will surely get to know as we engage in deep doctrinal discussions as well as everything under the sun as they sub or are acclimating a new little person to primary. They same should be said of the dads when they are on acclimation duty. So the really the ones I miss are the neighbors without children, those single or out of that stage of life. Other than that nursery/primary is the bees knees.

  7. Hands down, the time a little Sunbeam girl whose brother was in my class the previous year talked about her "comforter."

    "Do you are brother fight sometimes?"


    When he hurts your feelings, do you go see your mom for comfort?"


    "What does your mom do to comfort you?"

    "She spanks brother, and then I feel so much better."

    I had to leave the room immediately, bent over with suppressed laughter. My team-teacher husband bore it better than I!

  8. Two favorites from teaching the CTR-5 class

    1) When discussing Easter, a girl emphatically exclaimed, "Easter isn't about Jesus."

    Um, yes, Easter is ALL about Jesus.

    2)Girl: Are you married
    Me: No
    Girl: My mom told me not to ask you that, but I forgot. 🙂
    Me: It's okay to ask me

    Love the innocence of Primary kids.

  9. holding my year child on my hip while conducting primary music and hearing his small voice sing along. Having a 10 year old girl ask to learn a harder song than the little children. Her request was granted when the two older classes sang with power the children's crusader hymn in sacrament meeting. My newly released bishop who accepted the call to play the piano to support my untrained first experience as the music director. The joy of teaching children to worship through song has been my favorite primary experience.

  10. How did I miss this post? This is fantastic!

    From my 24-year-old daughter who team taught with her husband last year in my ward. (They lived in my basement appartment.) 6-year-old little girl with Down Syndrome who was especially fond of Jordan (my son.in.law); climbs into his lap, lays her head on his shoulder, looks at Sara (my dtr) and says:

    "I love your boyfriend." Sara answers, "I love him too."

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