Ensign: How does Primary fit into the total organization of the Church?
Sister Shumway: The overall purpose of the Primary is to “support the parents” in helping their children “walk uprightly before the Lord.”
We have four advisers who are General Authorities that help us realize our responsibilities as an auxiliary to the priesthood. In every stake, mission, and ward the same kind of priesthood direction is necessary for the effective working of the Primary.
Ensign: What are the specific responsibilities of the Primary?
Sister Shumway: The Primary has been given the responsibility of carrying on a weekday religious program for the children of the Church from ages four to 11, inclusive. The Primary has also been given the assignment of the Cub Scout program for boys eight, nine, and ten, and also for the Scouting program for the 11-year-old boys.
The early years in a child’s life are so vitally important. The Primary is deeply aware of its responsibility to effectively teach the gospel to the children. Lesson manuals have been prepared with age group characteristics in mind. Class names, songs, symbols, and codes have been selected that are stimulating, exciting, and meaningful to the children. Because we are a weekday organization, we have the opportunity to weave activities in with the lessons so that lessons meet both the spiritual and social needs of children. For many children, Primary is the only spiritual contact they receive all week since their families may be inactive or even nonmembers. We have around 25,000 nonmember children attending Primary.
Ensign: It sounds as if the Primary is also a missionary tool.
Sister Shumway: Oh, yes, it is! Not just for the children, either—it’s a tool for the parents as well. The influence of Primary has brought many families into the Church and has reactivated many others.
Ensign: How does Primary strengthen the home?
Sister Shumway: In Primary the younger children’s lessons place great emphasis on the family and its importance and the great love our Heavenly Father showed for his children when he planned families. The lessons for the older age group help them be aware of their responsibilities as family members. These children also learn obedience to parents and the joy of service within the family unit. They are taught about the priesthood and their responsibility to honor it. There are many planned activities that involve the parents and their children; the Daddy-Daughter Party, Priesthood Preview, Early Bird Breakfast, and the Miss and Her Mom Party are examples. The Cub Scout program is a home-centered program; the entire family becomes involved in Cub Scout projects and activities.
Ensign: How does your family feel about Primary?
Sister Shumway: It’s been such a blessing to us. I started teaching when my second daughter was a year old, and I’ve been working in Primary ever since. The children have seen the necessity to help me in my callings; I’m sure it’s helped them grow in leadership ability themselves. Our son, who is in the France Paris Mission, wrote that he was helping to organize home Primaries there. My husband and I have always been so grateful for the priesthood and the organizations of the Church for helping us teach our children. We’re indebted to all of them.
Ensign: What are the challenges facing the Primary?
Sister Shumway: One of the great problems, of course, is posed by society. Children are subject to more temptations and more pressures today than ever before. To meet this challenge we must be sure that every Primary day is a happy spiritual experience for the children. We want to be sure that the teachings in Primary are helping the children gain a knowledge of the gospel and instilling in them a desire to live its teachings.
Another challenge is keeping dedicated, qualified teachers. With more and more mothers working, it’s a challenge to keep qualified teachers in some areas.
Ensign: How are Primary leaders responding to these challenges?
Sister Shumway: Primary leaders always have a special spirit about them. Possibly it comes from working with children—but there’s such unity and oneness among them. If each of the nearly 97,000 Primary workers magnifies her calling as she was challenged to do this year, Primary children all over the world will be influenced for good. I have all the confidence, all the respect, all the admiration, and all the love in the world for these Primary workers. They are an inspiration to me. And I feel the same way about my counselors and the Primary General Board. They each have a testimony of the importance of Primary in the lives of children. They each love the Lord and are a living example to the children. I am indeed blessed to have the privilege of working with them.