Luke Butters (11) probably spends as much time in his Primary classroom as any child in the Church. After all, it’s his own bedroom! Luke’s father, Scott, is the Church Education Systems Coordinator and the Director of the Institute of Religion in Wellington, New Zealand, and the family lives on the top floor of the institute building. Their branch meets downstairs in the institute chapel and classrooms. The Primary has been outgrowing its space, so some classes are held in the family’s living quarters.
As might be expected, Luke’s family is enthusiastic about scripture study. They study the Book of Mormon together daily, and Luke reads it on his own as well. His favorite story is about Abinadi being burned to death. The family has formed a scripture mastery team to compete with the institute instructors as a training device. The children hold their own very nicely.
Although he has ten brothers and sisters, Luke can always use more, and to him the institute students are like more big brothers and sisters. He talks about the gospel with them, joins in their parties and activities, and plays pool and table tennis with them in the institute recreation room.
Luke is a good son. He keeps his room clean and does his homework and chores. Each morning he gets up and fixes a school lunch for himself, James (16), Kelly (14), Timothy (13), Crystal (9), Vicky (7), and Rochelle (6). Michael (20) is on a mission in Japan, Dennis (18) is at college, and Anthony (4) and Emily (3 months) are too young for school.
On the living room mantle, where family pictures and mementos are kept, sits a trophy with the words Mr. Helpful printed on its base. It was awarded to Luke by his parents. His mother, Sheryl, explains: “As soon as I say, ‘Who knows where this is?’ or ‘Who can get that?’ Luke races off and gets it. Often he sees that something needs to be done and does it without being asked. And sometimes I say, ‘I need a—a—’ and can’t think of the word, but he sees what I’m doing and figures out what I need and runs and gets it. When you’re as busy as I am, it’s helpful to have people who can read your mind.”
Luke’s school teachers report the same attitude. Once a picture started falling off the wall in the classroom. While everyone else just watched it fall, Luke jumped up and caught it. He serves as a warden at school, which means that he helps children cross the street safely. He finds the job rather boring but volunteers to do it anyway to help others be safe. Luke earns good grades and has many friends at school.
Both at school and at home, Luke has a strong sense of justice. He doesn’t like to see people treated unfairly or rules broken. He stands for the right as he understands it, regardless of where others may stand.
Three of the things that keep the Butters family close are music, sports, and fun. Sister Butters and the children have formed a family band and dance troupe. They perform both for their own enjoyment and in public. Luke sings and dances and is learning to play the drums and guitar. He sings in the school choir too.
Like most of his brothers and sisters, Luke enjoys distance running, and he usually wins his races at school. He loves soccer even more and wants to be a professional soccer player someday. Most of the family are keen rugby fans and vie with each other to correctly predict the score of All Black games. (The All Blacks are the national rugby team.)
When sports and music aren’t on the menu, the family can find a thousand other ways to have fun. It may be trampoline jumping, relay races in the driveway, chalk-drawing on the roof, mini golf, chess, shopping, or enjoying the many delights of Wellington. Wellington is the capital of New Zealand and lies at the southernmost end of the north island. It has a bustling waterfront and a beautiful downtown area with stately government buildings. The family sometimes rides a cable car to the top of a hill overlooking the city for a breathtaking view of the city and harbor.
One thing that Luke enjoys doing on his own is collecting wacky trading cards called Hyper Heads and Odd Bods. They include such bizarre characters as General Alarm and Bogey McDivot.
Birthdays are important in the Butters home, and unique traditions have developed for each age. For example, on the sixth birthday, the child receives books. On the eighth, it’s a nice set of scriptures and a restaurant meal with mum and dad. The twelfth brings a coupon book full of service pledges from the whole family. Sixteen-year-olds get money. And on their eighteenth birthday, the boys in the family receive an “elder-starter-packet” with items such as a priesthood manual, line-of-authority chart, and oil vial. Every age has its own special rewards that the children look forward to.
To make sure that the children get fair shares of personal time with Mum and Dad, each parent has regular “dates” with each child. These can be anything the child wants to do that isn’t too expensive. Luke has played soccer, basketball, pool, table tennis, and computer games; eaten out; shopped; baked a cake; taken walks; gone on outings; received homework help; and just talked, to name a few. The important thing is being together.
Each member of the family keeps a personal history book (often with several volumes). With ten brothers and sisters, two loving parents, many friends, and a boundless enthusiasm for life, Luke is filling his book rapidly.