Primary Leaders Continue to Carry Legacy of Service

Contributed By Sarah Jane Weaver, Church News associate editor

  • 3 February 2016

 Primary general president Rosemary M. Wixom and her counselors, Sister Cheryl A. Esplin (left) and Sister Mary R. Durham (right).  Photo courtesy of Busath.com.

“We try to help [children] understand the plan of salvation and see that they are on a path of covenants back to Heavenly Father.” —Rosemary M. Wixom, Primary general president

In 1878, Aurelia Spencer Rogers, a 44-year-old mother, was worried about the behavior of the boys in her neighborhood “who ran freely through the town day and night.”

With the approval of President John Taylor and after receiving a calling from her bishop, Sister Rogers began planning the first Primary—which would be for girls as well as boys.

Although Sister Rogers never served as general president of the Primary, she has been recognized as its founder. Primary leaders today have carried on the legacy she started.

Speaking to a group of former Primary leaders gathered at Church headquarters on May 11, 2015, Sister Cheryl Clark Lant said each of the Primary leaders received inspiration to do specific things during their service. Sister Lant, who served as the 11th Primary general president from 2005 to 2010, asked each of the living former Primary general presidents, who were all in attendance, to take a moment to “remember.”

 

Aurelia Spencer Rogers and her counselors in the Primary presidency of the Farmington Utah Ward, where the first Primary was held.

Each of the five living former Primary general presidents, as well as the current Primary general president, shared a memory.

Sister Dwan Jacobsen Young, who served from 1980 to 1988, recalled helping the Church transition to the three-hour meeting block. She and her presidency prayed for inspiration on how to set up Sunday Primary. “For us it was a time of invention and creation,” she recalled.

Sister Michaelene Packer Grassli, who served from 1988 to 1994, said her presidency focused on helping ward Primary presidencies “work together in harmony for what was best for the Primary.”

At a time when children seemed to face hard challenges and problems in the world, Sister Patricia Peterson Pinegar, who served from 1994 to 1999, said her presidency served with the theme “Christ-centered Primary.” “I wanted the children to have a knowledge of the Lord,” she said.

Sister Coleen Kent Menlove, who served from 1999 to 2005, said her presidency wanted Primary leaders to serve with joy. “Our purpose was to teach the children the gospel of Jesus Christ and how to live it with joy,” she said.

Sister Cheryl C. Lant said her presidency focused on “anchoring the children in the scriptures.” This effort “was a sweet experience for us.”

Sister Rosemary M. Wixom, the current Primary general president, said, “As a Primary presidency we have come to know how important it is for children today to see themselves in our Heavenly Father’s plan. We try to help them understand the plan of salvation and see that they are on a path of covenants back to Heavenly Father.”