Paying Tithing on Treats


My 8-year-old son came out of his Primary class holding his sealed tithing envelope and munching on a bag of M&Ms. Needless to say, he had a big smile on his face!  “Bud, what’s the treat for?” I asked.  “Oh, it’s my leftover M&Ms after paying my tithing.  I need to take this envelope to the bishop.”  I finally caught on to what he was telling me when I noticed a small lump in this neatly sealed tithing envelope.  “Is there an M&M in there for the bishop?” “Yep! And I got to eat the other 9!”  Now that was a memorable way to learn about tithing, one that I think he’ll remember for years to come.20140926_155218


Marci also related a fun tithing activity she’s used with Primary classes in the past: move the classroom to the kitchen where you make a batch of no-bake cookies. Take 1 out of each 10 cookies and put them on a plate for the bishop! Here’s a no-bake recipe you might like:


  • 1/4 cup (57 grams) butter
  • 1/2 cup (60 grams) instant sweet cocoa
  • 1/4 cup (65 grams) peanut butter or sunflower butter (for those with peanut allergies)
  • 1 cup (90 grams) oatmeal

Melt butter ahead of time. Pour melted butter into instant cocoa mix. Add peanut or sunflower butter; stir until smooth. Mix in oatmeal. Drop by small spoonsful onto waxed paper. Let rest 10 minutes.

When I was on my mission in Spain we liked to bake a cake and take it with us to the investigator’s house for the “charla” (discussion) about tithing.  When it came time for the object lesson we would bring out the cake and offer it as a gift to our investigator and ask if we could slice it up for them.  We’d proceed to cut ten slices of cake and then ask if they would be willing to give just one slice back to us.  Everything we have is a gift from Heavenly Father.  Giving back just one slice doesn’t seem too much to ask!


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That Kind of Love in Primary

While visiting another ward, I went where I always feel most comfortable: Primary. As I entered the sunny Primary room, I saw one of the Primary leaders greet one of the little children with such love and affection. I thought, “That must be her own child.” I remember when I was a Primary worker and my own children were in Primary. I so enjoyed interacting with them each Sunday as we explored the gospel together. What a lucky Primary leader, I thought, to have her own child in Primary.

Then she noticed another child and greeted her with the same affection. And another. Wait, are all these children her own?

I marveled as I saw love in action – the love that God feels for each child because each really is His son or daughter. And to see a Primary leader exemplify that love was . . . eternally exquisite.


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Changing the world one smile at a time!

It had been a hectic Sunday morning.  My husband had an early Stake meeting which meant I was juggling 4 kids by myself, including 6-month-old twins, in an attempt to get everyone to 9 am church on time!  No small feat.

We finally made it to the chapel and I exhaled a sigh of relief as we settled into the pew.  I was trying to wash away the stresses of the morning by focusing on the hymn and the prayer in preparation for the Sacrament.  My 5-year-old daughter was sitting next to me drawing quietly.  I noticed she was drawing a sad face, adding tears for dramatic detail.  I looked at her with a questioning expression.  She replied, “That’s me.  I don’t like church.” A wave of sadness came over me as I gave her a small encouraging smile and a pat on the back.  Before I could even begin to think about this interaction my daugher’s face lit up and she gave her biggest, brightest smile to someone a few rows behind us.  This was a dramatic turn around!  I was curious to know who sparked this excitement in her.  I leaned down and asked her, “Who are you smiling at?” “Sister M., my teacher!”  Sisiter M. is her new Primary Chorister.

I leaned over and whispered, “You wouldn’t know her if we didn’t come to church.  Can you draw a face about how you feel about her?”  She proceeded to draw a smiley face and then got a fresh piece of paper out.  She drew a picture of herself and Sister M. holding hands, both with big smiles on their faces.

IMG_20140914_150919144 copy (1)

The power of a loving smile is immeasurable.  The power of a beloved Primary leader changes lives.


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A Child with HIV, Beloved in Primary

A little girl in our Primary has HIV, contracted during birth from her late mother. Now a US citizen, adopted by a wonderful family, this sweet 7-year-old has “no viral load” because she’s getting excellent medical care, so she is no danger to the other children.  The only danger to her is due to her compromised immune system: if she catches the flu from another child, it can put her in the hospital.

Here are excerpts from the Church’s Administrative Handbook 2, Section 21.3.4  (page 193):
“HIV Infection and AIDS

Members who are infected with HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) or who have AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) should be treated with dignity and compassion. Some people with HIV are innocent victims of the acts of others. Attendance at Church meetings by persons with HIV infection or AIDS does not pose a serious health problem. Public health authorities affirm that HIV has not been transmitted through casual contact in homes, schools, churches, or places of work. Those who occasionally may need to clean up blood or render first aid should learn and follow the recommendations of local health officials.”

It may not surprise you to know that the Lord planned ahead for this little girl: her CTR 4 class is team taught by two women who are both nurses.

Here are excerpts from the letter that the caring, sensitive Primary president sent when Rachel (not her real name) and her family first came to church:

Dear Parents of our CTR 4 Class,

I want to inform you about a recent addition to our CTR 4 class.  We have been excited to welcome Rachel into our Primary. Rachel’s mom has been very open about sharing that her daughter has HIV.  My goal in sending this email is that all of us can be informed and educated about this virus.  Here are Rachel’s mom’s words about her daughter’s condition:

“Rachel was an innocent victim. She was one of four children left when her parents died. Her siblings were sold into slavery. Rachel was ‘lucky’ that she was too ill for that fate. Modern HIV treatments are truly a miracle and I’m so grateful Rachel is here and can benefit from these advances. Our  family has chosen to be open about Rachel’s status so that she doesn’t grow up feeling like a piece of her is bad. I recommend the following 3-minute video (titled “Truth Pandemic: Get the facts about HIV/AIDS and Adoption”) to understand HIV better and how it does and doesn’t spread: Here is an additional helpful government resource from “How you get HIV/AIDS” and a useful educational resource: “Redefine Positive.” I’m never offended by curiosity or questions and welcome the chance to share with folks!”

My understanding after speaking with the mom on the phone and studying the resources mentioned above is that it is very safe to have Rachel in our Primary without any threats to other children.  Rachel’s system is able to fight off most illnesses that are common to other children (i.e. a cold) but true influenza would be very dangerous for her.  Thus, as expected anyway, children with known fevers should be kept home from church.

Rachel’s Primary teachers (who are also nurses) have already established some precautions in class just to be extra careful both for Rachel and for the other children.  Any snacks are given to children in individual ziplock bags. They are told to simply eat their own and not to share them, not because of danger to the other children, but to protect the little girl from getting the flu. No one has been singled out in this but it has simply been established as a classroom rule.  Both teachers carry plastic gloves with them if needed for anyone who is bleeding.  The mom has generously offered to provide two first aid kits for us, one for the CTR 4 classroom and one for the Primary closet.  If Rachel ever gets a bleeding cut or bloody nose, one of her teachers will take her immediately to her mother while the other teacher will stay with the rest of the class.

I welcome any questions or concerns.  The mother  has also said that she is open to talking with anyone with questions. My hope is that as a Primary and as a ward family we will welcome Rachel and help her feel as she truly is – a beloved daughter of God.  I hope that Rachel can always feel that church is an emotionally safe, accepting, and loving place to be.  Thank you for your support!

(Signed by the Primary President)


Yes. I think that’s just what Jesus would do.


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The Backstory: How Primary in Zion connected with Mormon Media Network

Mormon Tea Episode 9 Fill Your Cup with Primary in Zion

Michelle: Back in February 2014 I gave birth to twins – by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  We called in all the willing troops to help with the twins, plus our 5 year old and 8 year old children.  My own mom’s health wouldn’t allow her to come out and help after the babies were born. So my husband’s Aunt Lori decided that she would fly out to stay with us for a week and help keep us alive right after the babies and I were released from the hospital. And boy did she save us.  But that’s another story.

Over the course of our days together I learned about the new program that Lori was producing and hosting for Mormon Media Network: Mormon Tea.  The more I learned about this program the more fascinated I was.  What a clever idea!  I loved their website’s mission statement: “Bringing Good Things Together.”  I realized that Mormon Media Network and Primary in Zion could make a good pair. Before Lori left us to go home we decided that if my family was able to visit Utah over the summer, then Lori would interview me for a Mormon Tea episode about Primary in Zion, covering topics like how it came to be, what is available on the blog, who reads it, who writes for it, and more.  We were lucky to have family and some professional opportunities that brought us to Utah so we could make this interview happen. Well, I immediately told Marci I was going to start trying to convince her to fly out to Utah and join the interview.

Marci: My first response was “You don’t need me for this. You know this stuff as well as I do, and besides, she’s your aunt. I don’t want to elbow in on a family thing.” Michelle’s response was, “But I’d love for you to come. We’re better on this stuff together, you and me.” I said, “I’m there.” That’s all the convincing I needed.

Michelle: With Marci as easily persuaded as that, we coordinated our travel plans with Lori’s availability and scheduled the interview for August 1, 2014.  We were so excited to think about sharing Primary in Zion with more people in search of these resources.

Marci: To prepare for our first-ever interview, we had a coaching session with a professional radio interviewer who is a former student of mine. Not only did Neena’s tips and tricks give us useful information, but speaking with her gave us confidence that we could do this.

Michelle: On the day of the interview we started with an amazing full Afternoon Tea with multiple courses of gourmet treats served in Lori’s living room. She worked for days to cook up everything for us from scratch.  (My 5-year-old daughter’s favorite were the cupcakes decorated with edible miniature violets from Lori’s garden.) You can recreate your own Afternoon Tea discussion with all the recipes and pictures of each item on this PDF document, designed and edited by Lori. The kiddos  joined us for the tea party and of course we all wore hats!  You can see more photos on the document as well!

Tea Party!

As soon as we wrapped up the tea party we got set up with personal microphones and settled right in to the discussion about Primary in Zion.  We were so pleased to make these resources more available to anyone who is seeking, and to make our blog readers more aware of Mormon Media Network as well.  Our conversation lasted for about an hour and a half. Before the episode goes live there is editing and mastering done behind the scenes by Matt, Lori’s husband and co-founder of Mormon Media Network. It was really interesting to learn a little bit about what happens to pull something like this together.  The audio interview ended up being 47 minutes, with a 14 page PDF document that includes recipes, photos, resources, and other learning materials specifically created to accompany our interview, Episode 9: “Fill Your Cup with Primary in Zion.”

Perhaps you’re wondering what a tea party and a discussion about teaching children the gospel has in common.  I asked Lori what sparked the creation of the program Mormon Tea and this is what she said:

Lori: My husband noticed how joyful I was after a tea party with friends, and he listened intently to my report of the interesting conversations we had over tea.  It was actually my husband’s idea to create the program “Mormon Tea” on our newly-created website Mormon Media Network.  We wanted to be able to share positive, timely, and useful information with our listeners in an atmosphere of beauty and friendship.  “Mormon Tea” is really a play on words as there really is such a thing as an herb tea called Mormon Tea.  Then there is our version of Afternoon Tea which only serves up herbal teas (infusions) in perfect harmony with the Word of Wisdom.  Our content is guided by the 13th Article of Faith: “…If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”  And one of my favorite tea party quotes is “Life is a cup to be filled, not drained” (by Anonymous).  Coming together with friends to share a lovely pot of herb tea and engage in inspiring conversation always “fills my cup!”  Please join us!  There’s much to talk about and much to learn.  Taking time out for Tea is sure to “fill your cup” too!

The audio interview went live on September 1 and is available to listen to here.  Thank you to the team at Mormon Media Network who made this experience possible!  We hope you enjoy our discussion as much as we did.

~Michelle & Marci

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Sharing Time Lesson: When I Serve A Mission, I Serve God

When thinking of a lesson for the 5th Sunday of November, I thought about my son who is 5. I invite the missionaries over to our home not only to feed them, but honestly, to have my son interact with them. I want him to know the strong serving spirit that radiates out of missionaries. I want him to feel the love that those missionaries have for him and everyone else in our community, member or not. I want him to know that that love is the love that God has for each of us. My hope is that by continually talking about missionary work and helping children hear personal stories about missionary service, a seed will be planted in their heart to someday serve a mission and spread that same love.

SHARING TIME LESSON: When I Serve A Mission, I Serve God


Print “Future Missionary” nametag on adhesive name badges. Here is an example (but instead of making out of cardboard, just print on badge! Name badge-sized label stickers would work well.)

Lesson Plan:

As children come in give them a name badge.

Activity: Watch this “Mormon Missionary” Clip from (If you feel it is too long for your Junior Primary you could only show them a portion of it. )

Discuss: What is a missionary? Who can go on a mission? Do you know anyone who went on a mission? Do you know any missionaries serving right now?

Read: Matthew 28:19-20 Discuss that people have been missionaries way before Joseph Smith assigned the first missionaries in America. Jesus asked for missionaries to teach the gospel all around the world after He was resurrected.

Activity: Invite a returned missionary or current missionary from the ward, and an senior missionary (couple or single) to share a short experience (1 or 2 minutes) about service on their mission. It could be a specific story that they remember, how they felt when they served, or any other thoughts they have on serving God. I also like to invite them to bring a prop or a picture to pique children’s interest.

Go HERE for a printable lesson plan.


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Fizzing, Bubbling Chemistry Experiments in Primary!


Guest author Shellie describes herself like this: “I’m a Primary music leader with very little musical talent but I believe strongly that we can strengthen and bear our testimonies through the songs of the gospel.” Here’s her unique idea:

I used a simple science-type visual aid to choose the songs we sang one day.  It took a little preparation ahead of time.  I had four small, clear glass jars placed on a tray or cookie sheet with sides. Three jars were filled with water; one jar contained white vinegar.  There was a plastic spoon in front of each jar.  One spoon just contained baking soda, placed in front of the jar with vinegar. The other three spoons had two or three drops of food coloring, then I topped off each spoon with baking soda.

On the chalkboard were four pieces of paper, one white and three that were different colors to match the food coloring.  I used blue, green, and red.  On the back of the paper was the name of the song we were going to practice that day.

A child came to the front, chose a spoon and put it in the jar behind that spoon.  The water either turned a color or fizzled and bubbled over (the vinegar jar).  Whatever color the water turned was the color of paper we’d flip over to reveal the song.  The white paper said, “Your choice.”  The children loved it.  Once Junior Primary was over, I had to quickly set it up again to repeat the activity for Senior Primary.

This idea came from my cousin in Connecticut.  It is good at getting their attention, and is especially good to use when reviewing songs.

IMG_20140914_104804_480 croppedYou’ll need:

  • 4 glass jars
  • water
  • vinegar
  • 4 plastic spoons
  • 3 different food coloring bottles
  • baking soda
  • tray or cookie sheet with sides (when the vinegar fizzes over)

You could also use this activity with a scripture on each paper instead of a song. You could do this for Sharing Time, Primary class or Family Home Evening lesson.

Good luck!

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Hugs and High Fives: Insight and Sensitivity to Less Active Children

I didn’t know the words to the songs, or which prophets were from the Book of Mormon and which were from the Bible.  I would want to answer the questions in Sharing Time, but when I gave an incorrect response, I felt ignorant so I would just stop raising my hand.  It was especially hard when we’d get ready for church and show up to find no cars in the parking lot because it was Stake Conference and we didn’t know. Getting baptized was also a desire I had, but couldn’t until I was “old enough” to make this decision for myself.  I remember being on my knees for a number of years praying that we would go to church more, and that I could be baptized. I would plead with God asking why He didn’t want me to get baptized. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t.  I didn’t let my family know that I prayed this each night because of circumstances in my family.  I was open with my parents about many things and didn’t hold much back, but I didn’t want them to know this – I’m not sure why.

During our teen years, when my Mom decided we would go to church consistently no matter what, my life changed. I had to take the discussions, and I remember the missionaries asking questions which I could answer easily. I was surprised at how much I actually knew. I was able to “pass the test” to get baptized.  But they still had to go through each set discussion, which made me  impatient.  At the end of our first meeting I finally said, “Can’t we just set a date? I’m ready. Why are you asking me so many questions?”  It was funny to see the missionaries’ expressions in response to this statement from a thirteen year old girl.

My children have had a different experience than I did, and they are aware of  my circumstances growing up. I had always wanted them to feel a part of  church, to never feel left out as I did.  My children absorb so many things just by going to church each week. It truly is line upon line as they learn and grow.  I see the strength that going to church each week brings to my children and my family. It is important to actually do what you learn at church.  Family Home Evening, which I had never had growing up, is a weekly important event each Monday night in our home.  Scripture study and family prayer happen each night and my children know I am upset if it doesn’t happen.  They know I read my scriptures each night no matter how tired I am.  Personal prayer is a must.  My children need to know He loves them more than they could ever comprehend, and keep openly communicating with Heavenly Father each day. I make sure my children are sensitive to those who are less active and try to include them, be understanding, and try to be aware of how that child must feel.

I relate to those children who aren’t able to come as often to church. Here are some hints to help them feel welcome when they come.

  • Rather than saying “Welcome!” consider giving them a high five, a hug, a tousle on the head – some kind of gesture to let them know you are glad to see them and let them know they are a part of the ward.
  • If you were inactive as a child, share your experience. let them know you missed a lot of church when you were young and it doesn’t matter if they miss, you are just glad when they come.
  • Invite them to an upcoming activity.
  • If they are your kids’ ages invite them over to your house for a play date.

When I have taught in Primary I have been blessed to have some less active children in my classes.  If you have an inactive child in your class, let them know how important they are to you.  These are some ways to show them you care.

  • Let them know you expect them to read their scriptures and pray each day. Even if their family does not do this,  you and the Lord want them to do it. (I was able to this as a child  even though inactive and was so blessed by these habits as they will be).
  • Encourage them to  have Family Home Evening.  Tell their parents they just want to play a game with them which can count as FHE.  Then when they want to give a lesson they can ask to do this before their game.

I struggled in my later teens and early adulthood.  I let my Primary children know that if I didn’t have this foundation of a relationship with my Heavenly Father I would be very unhappy.  I ended up choosing the right path.  I have seen others choose a different path and there is no joy in it.

I encourage all of our leaders in Primary to be sensitive to those less active children in their wards — to love them as Heavenly Father does, and to do all they can to help them in their upbringing in the church.  Pray for them, pray for inspiration on how to help them, and just truly love them.


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Sharing time ideas for October – “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”

When teaching the Primary children this month in Sharing Time, there are lots of options for teaching about this topic.  See below for music ideas that teach about the Family Proclamation, scripture references that support the Family Proclamation, discussion ideas and questions to help the children apply these principles to their own lives, and an activity to further develop these principles with movement and creativity.  Use any of these ideas to supplement the ideas in the Sharing Time Outline, and to meet the individual needs of the children in your Primary.  Remember, children have different learning styles and having a variety can reach more children and keep things interesting.  For more about teaching to different learning styles check out this post.

Teach through music: Here’s an example: “Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.” Songs that could be sung that go with that statement are “Love Is Spoken Here,” (CS 190) and “Love at Home,” (Hymns 294).

Another wonderful statement in the Family Proclamation is, “Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.” Songs sung with this statement: “Families Can Be Together Forever,” (CS 188) and “I Love to See the Temple,” (CS 95)

Scripture application: Here’s a scripture that reinforces the concept that children make their families strong when they listen to their parents and the Lord in following the commandments: “Yea, and they did obey and observe to perform every word of command with exactness; yea, and even according to their faith it was done unto them; and I did remember the words which they said unto me that their mothers had taught them” (Alma 57:21). Ask the children who they think Alma was referring to. Show a picture of the stripling warriors.

Discussion ideas: Families can make us happy. Ask when the children are happy with their families. Give examples with pictures of families such as: working together, playing games, singing together, going to church, praying together, reading scriptures as a family, going on vacation, visiting relatives, helping one another, or serving others together as a family. You can ask a few children to share what they do when they are happiest with their families.

Ask the children how they help at home. Write their responses on the board or have children post word strips written ahead of time when they state that specific answer. Examples of word strips would be: clean the dishes, help with laundry, feed the pet, take out the trash, make my bed or make siblings’ beds for them, help make supper, unload groceries from the car, watch younger child, cut the lawn, weed the garden, water the flowers, etc.

Activity idea: The children need to know that their parents love them and want what is best for them. It is important for the children to listen and learn from what their parents teach them. Here’s an activity that illustrates that principle. Pick a few children to come to the front. Whisper instructions in their ear so only they hear what you are telling them to do. Tell them all the same thing (ie…walk 5 steps leading with your right foot,but step twice in a row with your left foot, then hop on left foot twice and twirl then touch the floor and end standing straight with your arms by your side). Each child would have to perform what was instructed. Make the instructions easier for Junior Primary (ie.. walk 3 steps forward, turn around, sit on the floor and fold your arms). The children watching in the audience can judge if they have all done the same exact thing. It may be hard to follow and let them try again or tell them easier instructions if they make a mistake. Explain repentance is being sorry and trying again. You could also call on older siblings or other Primary children to help them by having them follow them. Families help one another as well and this concept can be demonstrated when they help to achieve this goal of following instructions with exactness.

Families help us in so many ways. We learn love and faith from the beginning in our families here on earth. Tell the children how important they are to their own family and to the Lord’s family. They will feel God’s Spirit witness this to them in their hearts as you teach them these truths.


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Pornography Prevention materials: Now in Spanish!

Perhaps you’re already familiar with the materials in kid-friendly language on the Pornography Prevention tab above (or click here). Thanks to Jackie and Derick, the 12-page guide is now available in Spanish! Aprender acerca de la modestia y evitar la pornografía.

Also new are two books added to the resource list:

  • God Gave You a Body by Jocelyn B. Christensen, free picture book download in English and German from
  • Good Pictures, Bad Pictures by LDS author Kristen A. Jenson, for older children, available wherever LDS books are sold

We hope you find these materials useful in supporting parents to have these important conversations in the home. We join with you in efforts to help children protect their minds, bodies and spirits.

“Children are not a distraction from more important work.  They are the most important work,” said John  Trainer, M.D. (Thanks to Lori for passing along this quote.)


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