Sharing Time: Primary Makes Me Happy

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    How the world needs the example of those who will let the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ radiate from their eternal souls! (Elder L. Tom Perry, Ensign, May 1978, page 53.)

    Primary Makes Me Happy

    To show how Primary came to be, present this little play for your family. You will need five characters: a boy and a girl narrator, Bishop John Hess, Sister Eliza R. Snow, and Sister Aurelia Spencer Rogers.

    Pictures of the characters (see page 22) could be cut out of the magazine and pinned onto the person reading the part or used as finger puppets. You could also make a string picture with the characters and use the rock chapel as the background. As the play is presented, each character should stand up or step forward to read his part. Parts should be read with expression, as though the speaker were the actual person. Quoted sentences are from Sister Rogers’s journal account. The suggested music can be sung or played as background music.

    How Primary Came to Be

    Song: “Teach Me to Walk in the Light” (Sing with Me, B-45, or Hymns, page 304).

    Boy: Parents have always wanted their children to be happy. That’s why they teach them the gospel.

    Girl: Real happiness comes from living as Jesus taught us to live.

    Boy: Over a hundred and eight years ago, some parents in Farmington, Utah, were worried about their children.

    Girl: They wondered how they could help the children understand the gospel so that they would live happier lives.

    Bishop: I am Bishop Hess. Many children in the ward were allowed to be out late at night, and some were rowdy. I called a meeting of the mothers in the ward. We talked about the importance of guiding the minds of young children.

    Boy: Aurelia Spencer Rogers was one of the mothers in the Farmington Ward. When Aurelia was twelve, her mother died. Aurelia and her older sister, Ellen, cared for their four younger brothers and sisters when they fled Nauvoo. At Winter Quarters their father was called to serve a mission. Aurelia and Ellen brought the younger children west with the pioneers.

    Girl: Aurelia married Thomas Rogers, a young man she’d met while crossing the plains to the Salt Lake Valley. Five of the twelve children who were born to them died as babies. Aurelia loved children and wanted them to live the gospel. She thought about the things Bishop Hess had said.

    Aurelia: I am Aurelia Rogers. “I had reflected seriously upon the necessity of more strict discipline for our little boys. … What will our girls do for good husbands, if this state of things continues? … I had children of my own, and was just as anxious as a mother could be to have them brought up properly. But what was to be done? It needed the united effort of the parents.”

    Boy: One day Eliza R. Snow, the General President of the Relief Society, had been to a conference in Farmington. The train back to Salt Lake was not due for some time, so Sister Snow decided to visit her friend Aurelia.

    Eliza: I am Eliza R. Snow. Although I had no children of my own, I had a great interest in them. I was a poet and a teacher and had written songs and stories for little children. I was pleased with Sister Rogers’s idea when she asked:

    Aurelia: “Could there not be an organization for little boys wherein they could be taught everything good, and how to behave?”

    Eliza: I agreed to discuss the matter with the First Presidency, who later gave approval. A letter was written to Bishop Hess, asking for his permission to organize the children in his ward.

    Bishop: After I received the letter from Sister Snow, I talked with Sister Rogers and asked if she would be willing to preside over an organization of the children. She said:

    Aurelia: “I felt willing, but very incompetent. From that time my mind was busy thinking how it was to be managed. … As singing was necessary, it needed the voices of little girls as well as boys to make it sound as well as it should.”

    Eliza: I agreed with Aurelia. “‘We must have the girls as well as the boys—they must be trained together.’” I suggested that the organization be called “Primary.”

    Bishop: On August 11, 1878, I set apart Sister Rogers and her two counselors, Louisa Haight and Helen Miller. I suggested that they visit every home in the ward during the next two weeks, which they did. They took the names and ages of two hundred twenty-four children and invited them to the first meeting.

    Girl: The first Primary meeting was held on Sunday, August 25, 1878, in the rock chapel in Farmington.

    Aurelia: “Imagine our feelings as we stood before an audience of children who had come there to receive instructions from us. We were very weak indeed, but felt to lean upon the Lord.”

    Boy: The meeting began with prayer; then the children were given instructions and taught to sing.

    Song: “In Our Lovely Deseret” (Sing with Me, B-24, or Hymns, page 307).

    Girl: The children were asked to “see how much they could do for [their fathers and mothers] without grumbling.”

    Boy: Children were also asked to not quarrel with brothers and sisters.

    Girl: Little boys were instructed to not go into orchards and melon patches that weren’t their own, and little girls were told to not hang on to wagons, a practice not only wrong but dangerous.

    Boy: Other Primaries were organized throughout the territory before the first Primary was even one month old. Sister Snow continued to speak to mothers about the spiritual training of their children. She felt that women with the very best talents—women who loved children and were appealing to them—should preside over the Primary.

    Girl: The reason for Primary is still the same: to help every child learn how to be happy by living the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Boy: As we radiate the light of the gospel, the world will see how happy we are and will want to live the teachings of Jesus too.

    Girl and Boy: Happy birthday, Primary! We are glad to celebrate with eight hundred seventy-five thousand boys and girls everywhere.

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

    Sharing Time Ideas

    1. 1.

      Give each child copy of characters to cut out. Attach stiff paper strips or flat sticks to characters to make puppets. Children could hold up correct puppet as play is given.

    2. 2.

      Present as play with costumed characters.

    3. 3.

      Enlarge drawings, and make poster-board-size string picture. (See Sharing Time, Friend, March 1982, page 45.)

    4. 4.

      Discuss quotation from Elder L. Tom Perry; then sing these related songs: “Come with Me to Primary” (Friend, February 1985, page 42) and “Shine On” (Sing with Me, B-54.)

    5. 5.

      For further information see also Sharing Time, Friend, August/September, 1983, 1985.

    [illustrations] Girl; Eliza R. Snow; Bishop John Hess; Aurelia Spencer Rogers; Boy. (Illustrated by Lori Anderson.)