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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Resilience as Pornography Prevention: Eight Child-Building Articles in one FRIEND Magazine!

Sept 2014 FriendYou may already have explored the pornography prevention materials on this site for parents to use in the home (see the Pornography Prevention tab above, or click here). One way that parents can help protect their children is to teach them healthy coping strategies for life’s stresses and disappointments. As BYU professor Mark Butler points out in a Sept 2014 ENSIGN article, “Children who have not learned how to deal with guilt, shame, sorrow, or pain will often turn to addictive behaviors to numb their negative emotions. Even less serious emotions such as stress, boredom, or loneliness can lead to addictive behaviors if the child doesn’t understand how to cope. Emotional pain is not bad. You can help your children learn to relate to pain not as a horrible emotion to be avoided but as a teacher that can lead to incredible growth.”

Then the Church takes that counsel to help children learn to cope and backs it up with real resources to help accomplish it. In a single FRIEND magazine (Sept 2014), in addition to other wonderful articles about God’s love, going to the temple, doing service, etc., I spotted these:

I just love these marvelous articles that speak directly to children, addressing real life situations in kid-friendly language. In every case, the answer is, as always, “come unto Christ.” (Moroni 10:32) “Instead of relying on entertainment to escape your problems, . . . the healthiest way to solve problems is to rely on Heavenly Father, the Savior, and your relationships with others.” (Jennifer Grace Fallon, “Healing Hidden Wounds,” Sept 2014 ENSIGN, 56).

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Primary in Zion now live on Mormon Media Network!

We’re delighted to announce that an audio interview about Primary in Zion is online on Mormon Media Network! Lori Henderson, host of the show “Mormon Tea,” interviewed authors Michelle and Marci in Episode 9, titled “Fill My Cup with Primary in Zion.”  The description of the episode reads, “Not just for Primary workers, ‘Primary in Zion’ provides useful information specific to our day for anyone who works with children.”

Listen here. The link to the pdf is here; the last 4 pages contain blog highlights about building your Primary team, music ideas, behavior issues, Scouting and Activity Days, activity favorites, and resources for families to use in the home.

Grab a cup of herb tea, sit back and listen!

-Marci and Michelle

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Babysitting Bag: A Five-Session Activity Day Series

This activity series goes with the activity suggested on page 9 of the Faith in God booklet for boys and girls: “Entertain young children with songs or games you have learned or made yourself. Show that you know how to care for and protect a young child.”
Girls or boys can enjoy putting together a Babysitting Bag. Whether they use it at home with younger siblings (to give Mom or Dad a chance to lay down for a minute), or whether they use it with little friends or neighbors (as they serve as a “mother’s helper”), this Babysitting Bag will help Senior Primary children prepare for and learn about caring for younger children. Assembling it can be a multi-session engaged activity!


Session 1: Make playdough, which can entertain young folks for hours. It’s also nice for older kids to see that a cherished toy can be homemade! Add your choice of food coloring and package in airtight containers for each Babysitting Bag. Here’s my favorite recipe:


  • 1 cup (110 grams)  flour
  • 1/4 cup (68 grams) salt
  • 2 Tablespoons (20 grams) cream of tartar

Combine in a pan. In a separate bowl, combine:

  • 1 cup (235 milliliters) water
  • 2 teaspoons (10 milliliters) food coloring
  • 1 Tablespoon (13 grams) oil

Add to the above. Cook and stir constantly for 3-5 minutes. When the clay forms a ball in the center of the pan, knead on lightly floured surface with rubber gloves on (it will be hot). Keeps 1-2 months.

Session 2: Make a file folder game. Color, cut out and laminate the pieces. Ideas can be found here:

Session 3: Make a list of favorite activity songs like “Do As I’m Doing” (CS 276) and “If You’re Happy [And You Know It] (CS 266). Learn a new active song from that section of the Children’s Songbook to teach younger children. You might want to make some simple rhythm instruments:

Session 4: Make or decorate a simple fabric bag with handles to hold these things plus crayons, coloring sheets, and other simple age-appropriate activities.

Session 5: Talk about basic babysitting skills, first aid, when to summon help, etc.

Learning about caring for younger children is a valuable skill on a child’s way to learning how to be a responsible, loving, nurturing father or mother. It also is a self-esteem builder for a child to realize that they too can serve others.

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What if Your Own Child is in Your Primary?

Whether you have your own children in Primary or work with other Primary leaders who do, this post is for you. Even if your own children aren’t in Primary, being aware of the pitfalls and opportunities may lead you to offer inspired help to a leader who is in that situation.

When I served as Primary President to my own children, I really enjoyed interacting with them each Sunday as we explored the gospel together. However, I noticed this situation had challenges of its own. I saw myself overcompensating or undercompensating for the understandably different kind of love I had for the few children in the room who would go home with me after Primary.

Here’s what I learned:

1) Even-handed turns. Use popsicle sticks with each child’s name or some other method to choose turns to hold the picture, play the game, or do the activity. Otherwise I would either gravitate towards that face I love, or overcompensate in the other direction by not calling on my own in order to not play favorites. Letting the popsicle sticks keep track kept me from feeling guilty whatever I chose, and pre-empted the inevitable complaint, “You never call on me, Mom!”

2) Use other Primary leaders when needed. My own kids would tune me out when I reminded them of reverence rules for the nine thousandth time. But when one of my counselors asked them to keep their hands to themselves, all of a sudden this was new information to my kids. Sometimes that worked much better.

3) Ask God to help you leave home tensions at home. When things were particularly difficult at home with a certain child, sometimes those hard feelings would spill over into Primary. I would walk in the room ready to give my own the chilly treatment for something unrelated to their behavior at church. In all fairness, I had no way of knowing which other children had likewise refused to get out of bed and made everybody late, teased their brother, could only locate one Sunday shoe, or groaned again about the very fine breakfast put before them. I prayed to have God help me start the day over as soon as I entered the Primary room, so I could be their Primary leader instead of their disciplining mom. Then when we returned home we would pick up the situation if needed, with both of us refreshed from our time together basking in the Spirit. Being reminded of eternal gospel principles helped me remember that life is so much more than lost shoes or breakfast grumbles.

4) Reinforce learnings. Just because you happen to know the answer to “what did you learn in Primary today?” doesn’t mean you can’t ask it in a different way and really solidify an insight or concept. “What was the most interesting thing you learned?” or “What would you do if you were faced with that situation we talked about today?” or “How do you imagine we as a family might do better in living that principle we discussed today?”

5) Invite their feedback about your methods. You have a golden opportunity to receive valuable “customer satisfaction” information. Ask your kids, “Was that game too confusing today? What do you think would be a more interesting way to learn the scripture of the month? How did you feel when we sang that song?” You might learn something, because your own child knows you well enough to tell you the truth.

6) It’s OK to be their very own parent sometimes. A child may need their mom or dad during Primary, and it’s OK to leave someone else in charge while you attend to your own child’s needs.

God bless you to bask in this special time for your family as you worship Him in Primary together.


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