Primary Then and Now


“Wherever in the world that you may be, Oh, come with me to Primary” (Children’s Songbook, 255).

Remember your first day of Primary? It was probably on a Sunday while your parents were in Sunday School, Relief Society, or priesthood meeting. How old were you? Where was Primary held? What did you learn? Did you sing songs and have a lesson?

The very first Primary meeting was held in Farmington, Utah, on 25 August 1878. Sister Aurelia Spencer Rogers wanted to help boys learn how to behave and become good men. She spoke with Sister Eliza R. Snow, the Relief Society general president, about starting a Primary in her ward. Sister Snow received permission from Church President John Taylor for Sister Rogers to hold the first Primary. They decided girls should attend too.

A few days before the first meeting, Sister Rogers and her counselors visited every family in their ward to invite all the children ages 4 to 14 to Primary. There were 115 boys and 100 girls—that was a lot of children!

On the first day, 224 children came. The leaders taught songs and poems, recited Bible stories, and taught lessons on good behavior. Some boys had gone into gardens that did not belong to them, and some girls had been seen hanging on to wagons. Primary leaders taught that these behaviors were wrong or dangerous.

After the first meeting, Sister Eliza R. Snow organized Primaries in several communities. Many met in one-room schoolhouses or ward buildings. Some had 50 or 60 children; others had more than 100. Imagine having that many children in your Primary class!

During the first few years, some of the Primaries made handwritten newspapers, some organized musical bands, and others had fund-raisers, such as fairs. The money from the fund-raisers helped needy children and other Church members and provided furniture for temples.

Later the Primary started a children’s hospital, published a magazine, and put on a radio program and a television show.

Over the years, Primaries were set up in many parts of the world. In some places, home Primaries were organized because ward or branch members lived too far from each other to meet at the church during the week.

In the early 1900s, Primaries were divided into classes by age groups, and lessons were written for each group. In later years, 12- to 14-year-old boys and girls started attending Mutual. Other things changed in the years that followed. Now Primary is held on Sunday.

Today, millions of children attend Primary all over the world. And you are a part of this organization that started 125 years ago with one Primary class in Utah.

Left center: Photograph by George Edward Anderson

Photographs by Craig Dimond, Marty Mayo, and Matthew Reier

Why I Like Primary …

I like listening to stories about other Primary children like me. I have learned about keeping the Sabbath day holy and the right things to do on Sunday. Jacob Kelly, age 7, is a member of the Baulkham Hills Ward, Sydney Australia Greenwich Stake.

I like to listen to the stories of Jesus’ miracles—how He healed people, raised the dead, and fed the 5,000. In Primary I see all my friends. I like to come every Sunday! Penka Petkova, age 10, is a member of the Geo Milev Branch, Sofia Bulgaria District.

In Primary I’ve learned that when we say prayers, we close our eyes and fold our arms and bow our heads, and we get blessings sent down to us. Brandon Checketts, age 6, is a member of the North Logan 11th Ward, North Logan Utah Green Canyon Stake.

Primary is very fun and spiritual, especially when we sing with our soul and not only our voices. My favorite thing about Primary is that we have wonderful leaders. I have learned many things, especially to be kind to everyone. I don’t think I would have turned out the way I am if it weren’t for Primary. Rochelle Leavitt, age 11, is a member of the Granite Hills Ward, El Cajon California Stake.

I love to draw and write at Primary. I also like the pictures that my teacher shows me. I learn to do good to others and to members of my family. Petero Bola, age 8, is a member of the Toga Branch, Nausori Fiji Stake.

Singing is my favorite part of Primary. I have learned to be reverent and listen to the Holy Ghost. Makiah Barnhart, age 6, is a member of the Williamsport Ward, Williamsport Pennsylvania Stake.

I like learning about the scriptures and painting pictures of Jesus. I’ve learned not to eat or drink things that may hurt me. Eddy Emanuel Castillo, age 11, is a member of the Comalapa Branch, Chimaltenango Guatemala Stake.

In Primary, we learn about Jesus being our friend, about the temple, to listen to Mummy and Daddy, and to choose the right. Sometimes that’s difficult, but Jesus helps me when I pray for help. Naomi Mesotten, age 7, is a member of the Leuven Branch, Antwerp Belgium Stake.

I love my teachers and my friends in Primary. My favorite thing is giving a talk or saying the prayer. I have learned that Jesus died for me because He loves me. Brooke Peterson, age 4, is a member of the Springfield Third Ward, Springfield Missouri South Stake.