Sharing Time: Happy Birthday, Primary!


Happy Birthday, Primary!

Birthdays are a good time to notice how much people have grown. The Primary organization is 105 years old this month, and it has certainly grown since 1878 when 224 children were enrolled in the first Primary in Farmington, Utah. Today there are 750,000 children and 250,000 leaders worldwide who participate in Primary. Each Primary child is growing in the gospel and preparing to be a leader of tomorrow. That is something to celebrate!

  1. 1.

    Cut out cake between double lines and glue narrow ends together to form circle. Now trace circle on plain paper for top of cake. Color or decorate top of cake to match side, and tape in place (see illustration).

    Primary Presidents
  2. 2.

    Cut out figures with their stories. Read about them as you fold and glue each story to back of figure. Beginning with Sister Aurelia Spencer Rogers, glue each figure onto cake according to number.

  3. 3.

    Sing “A Happy Birthday to the Primary” (Friend, February 1978, page 34).

  4. 4.

    Tell about Primary birthday cake during family home evening. Ask your parents who the general Primary presidents were when they and your grandparents were in Primary. Have your parents tell about their Primary classes and activities.

Sharing Time Ideas

  1. 1.

    Prepare cake and figures (could be laminated for durability). If costumes are available, have each Primary leader dress like Sister Rogers or a general president of the Primary, then tell about that person before attaching figure to cake. You could decorate a real cake and attach figures to Popsicle sticks to stand on top.

  2. 2.

    Research history of past presidents of your local Primary, and tell children about them.

  3. 3.

    Make shoe box time capsule to be opened in ten years. Include current Primary mementos, pictures, Primary membership lists, etc. Children could write what they think they will be doing in 1993. Present box to bishop and mark, “To be opened August 11, 1993.”

  4. 4.

    Additional resources: Sisters and Little Saints: One Hundred Years of Primary, Carol Cornwall Madsen and Susan Staker Oman, Deseret Book Company, 1979; Friend—“The Children’s Friend” January 1978, page 47; Aurelia Spencer Rogers paper doll, June 1978, page 32; “Primary Presidents” August 1978, page 14; mural of first Primary, August 1978, page 24; Ensign—mural of first Primary, April 1975, outside cover; “100 Years of Primary,” April 1978, page 32.

Sister Rogers

Sister Rogers, mother of twelve children, felt that there was a need for an organization in which children “could be taught everything good and how to behave.” She spoke about her concerns to Eliza R. Snow, general president of the Relief Society. Sister Snow obtained permission for setting up such an organization from the Brethren and from Sister Roger’s bishop in Farmington, John Hess. Bishop Hess set Sister Rogers apart as the president of the first Primary Association. When the first Primary meeting was held on August 25, 1878, 224 children were enrolled.

Sister Felt

When she was just thirty years old, Sister Felt became the first general Primary president, and she served in that capacity for forty-five years. Though childless herself, she knew how to reach the hearts of children and how to influence their lives for good. During her presidency, Primary membership grew tremendously. A Primary songbook was printed, and the Latter-day Saint Children’s Convalescent Home and Day Nursery was established. In 1902 the Children’s Friend was first published, and it contained lessons for each Primary grade.

Sister Anderson

Sister Anderson, a young convert to the Church, was invited to stay with Sister Felt when Brother Felt went on a business trip. When he returned, Sister Anderson stayed on with the Felts. She served on the Primary General Board for fifteen years and as first counselor to Sister Felt for twenty years. Then she served fourteen years more as general president of the Primary. Primaries were organized worldwide under her direction, and the Primary Jubilee was celebrated in 1928.

Sister Green

Sister May Green had been the first manager of the business office at the Salt Lake Medical Clinic and had served in the Central States Mission. She was Stake YWMIA president when she married Bryant S. Hinckley, a widower with five children still at home. One of the children was Gordon B. Hinckley. During her presidency an official Primary seal was adopted, the Primary colors were selected, the Farmington Mural was dedicated, and the focus of Primary was changed from recreational to scriptural activities.

Sister Howells

Sister Howells brought to her Primary call a wealth of experience and vision. She had served as counselor to Sister Hinckley and believed in developing cultural and artistic skills in children as well as in promoting their spiritual education. She established new creative sections in the Children’s Friend, began a weekly local radio story time and a local TV quiz show, and helped to commission the Friberg paintings of the Book of Mormon scenes. Children gave dimes to “buy a brick,” and building began on the new Primary Children’s Hospital.

Sister Parmley

Sister Parmley was the mother of three children, an experienced schoolteacher, and a longtime Primary worker (she had been a counselor to both her predecessors). Primary enrollment was over 157,000 children when she became president. Scouting and Cub Scouting were introduced into Primary in 1953 while she was Primary president. She was the first woman ever called to a national Scouting committee, and she received the Silver Beaver, Antelope, and Buffalo awards.

Sister Shumway

After eleven years of service on the Primary General Board, Sister Shumway became the sixth general Primary president. Active in Scouting, Sister Shumway received the Silver Fawn Award. As a leader she combined a gentle manner and a giant capacity for dedication. Under her direction Primaries throughout the world participated in commemorating the Primary’s centennial year. She once said, “The needs of children are still the same as they were a hundred years ago, even though they might be met in different ways.”

Sister Young

Sister Young was called to the Primary General Board in 1970, the year that her mother completed thirteen years’ service on that board. Sister Young is the mother of five children, an accomplished musician, an active Scouter, and the recipient of the Silver Beaver Award. With the consolidated meeting schedule, Primary is again held on Sunday, as it was when it was first organized. During Sister Young’s presidency, new lesson manuals have been completed and Sharing Time and the Gospel in Action programs have been implemented.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Beth Maryon