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“All thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children” (Isaiah 54: 13; 3 Nephi 22:13).
- ~The Primary theme
Coleen K. Menlove, former Primary General President, said this about the purpose of the Primary:
In Primary, we want each child to feel welcome, feel the Spirit, and be taught the gospel of Jesus Christ. We teach children about their relationship with Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. We cannot teach of a loving relationship without feeling and demonstrating that same Christlike love."
- ~Coleen K. Menlove, "Primary Is Missionary Work," Open House address, Oct. 2000
The Church has outlined the following objectives for the Primary:
- Teach children that they are children of God and that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love them.
- Help children learn to love Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.
- Help children prepare to be baptized, to receive the Holy Ghost, and to keep their baptismal covenants.
- Help children grow in their understanding of the gospel plan and provide opportunities for them to live gospel principles.
- Help boys prepare to receive the priesthood and be worthy to use this power to bless and serve others.
- Help girls prepare to be righteous young women, understand the blessings of the priesthood and the temple, and serve others
- (see Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 2: Priesthood and Auxiliary Leaders , 229).
The primary program started 128 years ago when a member of the Church, Aurelia Spencer Rogers, thought it would be good for the boys in the Church to have their own organization. The purpose was to teach them to be better men. The idea was taken to the President of the Church, John Taylor and he thought an organization would not only be good for boys, but also for the girls in the Church. Just a short time later, the first Primary met. It included 224 boys and girls who were taught obedience, faith in God, prayer, punctuality, and good manners. Today, Primary is an essential part of the Church around the world.
The Primary Organization
Callings within each ward (congregation) are issued for primary leadership. A primary president is called, and through inspiration, she suggests two counselors. Other ward primary leaders may include a secretary, teachers for the various age groups, and music specialists. Primary leaders are also called on the Stake level to direct and oversee a group of wards. Again, there will be a Stake Primary President and two counselors. Women are mostly called to primary presidencies. There is a general primary presidency which oversees all the primary organizations in the Church.
Sunday Primary Meetings
All of the children attend what is called "opening exercises." The children start this with a prayer, followed by a scripture, announcements, a song, and talks (usually given by the children after thought and preparation). At this point half of the primary is sent to classes. The classes are divided by age. Three year old children participate in the Sunbeam class. Four to eight year old children take CTR (Choose the Right) classes, and eight to eleven year old children participate in Valiant classes. Further divisions are made as necessary depending on how many children are in the primary. For example, a primary may have a lot of children in the CTR age group. They would then divide the children into smaller classes—CTR 5 for the five year olds, CTR 6 for the six year olds, and so on.
While the older children are in class, the younger children participate in Sharing Time.
- Sharing time allows children to participate in activities and to learn and sing songs that teach gospel principles. Sharing time is under the direction of the primary presidency. This is an opportunity for the presidency to interact with the children and teach them gospel principles. One presentation a month should be a class presentation (prepared by a primary class under the direction of its teacher). At least half of sharing time should be used for singing (from "Sunday Primary: Sharing Time" at www.lds.org).
About half way through the block of time, the older children return from classes to have sharing time, and the younger children go to class. Not all Primaries have separate sharing times for the older and younger children. It depends on how many children there are. Smaller primary groups all meet for opening exercises and then go to classes; after that they meet for sharing time.
Classes are taught from a manual provided by the Church. All of the lessons provide a summary or purpose of the lesson, followed by preparation for the teacher, activities, discussion questions, stories, and additional activities related to the topic. Teachers are encouraged to keep the lesson focused on what is suggested in the manual, but to teach by the spirit and be aware of the children’s needs. Church curriculum is created for the entire Church, so the same manuals are used all over the world, and according to the same general schedule.
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