Love the Children, Love the Lord, Primary Leaders Taught
By Rachel Sterzer, Church News staff writer
“There are a million different ways to teach and to lead Primary,” said Sister Rosemary M. Wixom, Primary general president, to the ward and stake Primary leaders gathered at the Assembly Hall on Thursday, April 4. “I would love to sit with each one of you … and to learn what you have learned and thank you for every hour of preparation that you give to your calling.”
Sister Wixom was joined for the Primary auxiliary training meetings by her counselors, Sister Jean A. Stevens and Sister Cheryl A. Esplin, as well as the Primary general board, to discuss this year’s theme, “I Am a Child of God.”
Speaking of the calling to serve in Primary, Sister Wixom said there are only two requirements: love the children and love the Lord.
Sister Wixom challenged Primary leaders to take the opportunity during their next sharing time to focus on one child. “Get a glimpse of the face of that child. See the light in their eyes. Imagine what they are feeling and what you can say or do to increase that child’s faith and encourage them to stay on the path back to their Heavenly Father.”
Quoting from Handbook 2, Sister Wixom said, “We have a purpose in Primary. ‘All auxiliaries exist to help Church members grow in their testimonies of Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the restored gospel.’ … Primary is where children’s souls are anchored in Christ.”
Sister Wixom shared the promise and responsibility associated with Doctrine and Covenants 68:6. “The promise: ‘Be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you.’ The responsibility: ‘And ye shall bear record of me, even Jesus Christ, that I am the Son of the living God, that I was, that I am, and that I am to come.’”
“We bear record of Jesus Christ when we center all we do in Primary on our Savior and on Heavenly Father’s plan,” she explained.
In speaking of the difference focusing on the Savior can make in Primary, Sister Wixom talked about things Primary leaders already know. “You know that [children] learn one by one. You know that you are teaching children and not lessons. … You know the value of talking about the Savior.”
Spiritual preparation, including personal prayer and personal scripture study, contribute to the spirit of Primary, Sister Wixom said. Teachers who focus on the Savior Jesus Christ enjoy an increased commitment to their calling.
Sister Wixom also discussed the effect focusing on Jesus Christ can have on reverence within Primary. “You know that reverence comes from within each individual. [Reverence] is an expression of love and respect. It comes through your example and preparation.”
Sister Wixom encouraged leaders to involve the children in setting expectations and limits but warned, “Remember, rules speak to the setting, not the substance of Primary. In other words, avoid letting the theme of reverence drive everything you do in Primary. The substance of Primary comes in focusing on the Savior Jesus Christ.”
Sister Stevens, first counselor in the Primary general presidency, introduced 11-year-old James Hamilton, who has prepared more than 200 family names for the temple.
“It is a sweet reminder that the Lord’s blessings are not just for a select few,” she said. “He offers them to all and wants every one of His sons and daughters to come to the temple and receive the blessings and covenants that you can make there.”
Sister Stevens encouraged leaders to think about how they can help the children they love and serve share the message with their families. “As we do so, we will feel the Savior near.”
In speaking of how to better serve children with disabilities, Sister Esplin, second counselor in the Primary general presidency, quoted a Primary leader who said, “Having a child with a disability is not a problem to be solved, but rather an opportunity for the whole Primary. The Lord is aware of these children. He gives them to us for a purpose.”
Based on audience participation, Sister Esplin shared several things Primary leaders can do to love and engage those who have disabilities in Primary, including considering the specific needs of that child, enlisting the help and input of the parents, involving the other children, and praying for inspiration.
“Never will we all be able to understand everything about every disability,” Sister Esplin said. “And that’s OK. If we have a heart full of love and go to our knees, the Lord will teach us as we counsel together and counsel with parents.”