June Sharing Time or family night: The most overlooked of the First 4 Principles

from backyardbaseball2003ard

from backyardbaseball2003ard

The June 2016 Sharing Time theme is “The First Principles and Ordinances of the Gospel Make It Possible for Me to Live with God Again.” Start by having the children recite or sing the 4th Article of Faith so they can name those first four principles and ordinances:

  1. Faith
  2. Repentance
  3. Baptism
  4. Holy Ghost

Of these, which do you think is most overlooked when we teach children? My vote is for Repentance. We teach children to have faith, and we talk a lot about baptism, confirmation, and listening to the Spirit. But we seldom teach kids about how to repent, or teach them that this is a positive principle of self-improvement, not self-scolding, because Jesus already paid for our sins when we repent. Repentance is the Atonement of Jesus Christ in action, giving us a fresh start anytime we want it.

We can teach scripture stories about great men who repented, such as:

  1. Enos who pleaded with God all night for forgiveness (see Enos 1:1–4),
  2. Alma leaving King Noah’s court and becoming a prophet (Mosiah 17:2–4; 18:1–17);
  3. Jonah (Jonah 1–3); the
  4. Anti-Nephi-Lehies burying their swords (Alma 23:4–18; 24:6–19).

But we can also make this principle of repentance relevant to children’s everyday lives and teach them how to repent like those scriptural heroes. They may need a bit of guidance in connecting Jonah’s repentance to their need to repent after breaking a rule, for example.

Here’s a lesson about how to incorporate repentance into a child’s daily personal prayer, along with a coloring activity: Daily repentance in daily prayers

Also see this story about repentance that children can relate to: Mailbox Mischief: repentance and atonement for Sharing Time or families by Jackie.


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Bringing Cultural Awareness to Your Primary Through Multi-language Music

Children's Songbook in Kekchi (also spelled Q'eqchi'), one of the Mayan languages spoken in Belize and Guatemala in Central America

Children’s Songbook in Kekchi (also spelled Q’eqchi’), one of the Mayan languages spoken in Belize and Guatemala in Central America

Sure, why not? Music is the universal language. Learning songs in another language can send a message of inclusion to all children, expose children to new ideas and new words, and even relieve boredom!

Are there children from another culture in your Primary? in a neighboring ward or branch? Are any of your children learning another language in school? Did someone serve a mission and speak a language your children might like to learn more about? Is there a favorite General Authority whose picture you’d like to show as a child, as you sing a song the way he would have learned it growing up? From “Soy un hijo de Dios” (Spanish) to “Ich bin ein Kind von Gott” (German), each child can learn that “I am a Child of God,” regardless of what language they know.

Children’s Songbook is published in 30 languages!! See store.lds.org if you’d like to consider ordering a songbook in a new language. Or visit lds.org/music, click on the globe icon on the upper right, and see what materials are available in which languages.

In my ward with lots of Spanish speakers, we alternate between Spanish and English hymns to give everyone in the ward a chance to praise the Lord in the language of their heart, and work to build unity and acceptance.

For a related post, see “What’s Primary like in Nepal or Bahrain?”

Just for fun, here’s the complete list of languages in which materials are published at lds.org. Numbers 89-115 below are entirely new alphabets for me!

  1. Afrikaans
  2. American Sign Language (ASL)
  3. Apache
  4. Aymar Aru
  5. Bahasa Indonesia
  6. Bahasa Malaysia
  7. Bats’i k’op
  8. Bislama
  9. Cakchiquel
  10. Cebuano
  11. Česky
  12. Dansk
  13. Deutsch
  14. Diné bizaad
  15. Dulegaya
  16. Èdè Yorùbá
  17. Eesti
  18. Efik
  19. English
  20. Español
  21. Euskera
  22. Faka-tonga
  23. Fante
  24. Fiji Hindi
  25. Fosun Chuuk
  26. Français
  27. French Creole Pidgin
  28. Gagana Samoa
  29. Guaraní (Avañe’ẽ)
  30. Hiligaynon
  31. Hiri Motu
  32. Hmoob
  33. Hrvatski
  34. Igbo
  35. Ilokano
  36. Íslenska
  37. Italiano
  38. Kahs Kosrae
  39. Kajin Majōl
  40. Kichwa
  41. Kiribati
  42. Kiswahili
  43. Kreyòl Ayisyen
  44. Latviešu
  45. Lietuvių
  46. Lingála
  47. Magyar
  48. Mahsen en Pohnpei
  49. Malagasy
  50. Malti
  51. Mam
  52. Nederlands
  53. Nivacle
  54. Norsk
  55. Palauan
  56. Pampango
  57. Pangasinan
  58. Papiamento
  59. Polski
  60. Português
  61. Portuguese (Portugal)
  62. Q’eqchi’
  63. Quechua-Bolivia
  64. Quiché
  65. Rarotongan
  66. Reo Tahiti
  67. Română
  68. Setswana
  69. Shona
  70. Shoshone
  71. Shqip
  72. Slovenčina
  73. Slovenščina
  74. South Sotho
  75. Suomi
  76. Svenska
  77. Tagalog
  78. Thin Nu Wa’ab
  79. Tiếng Việt
  80. Tok Pisin
  81. Türkçe
  82. Twi
  83. Vosa vakaviti
  84. Waray
  85. Xhosa
  86. Yunkay Quechua
  87. Yunkay Quechua
  88. Zulu
  89. Ελληνικά
  90. Български
  91. Қазақ
  92. Македонски
  93. Монгол
  94. Русский
  95. Српски
  96. Українська
  97. ქართული
  98. Հայերեն
  99. اردو
  100. العربية
  101. فارسی
  102. አማርኛ
  103. हिन्दी, हिंदी
  104. বাংলা
  105. தமிழ்
  106. తెలుగు
  107. සිංහල
  108. ภาษาไทย
  109. ພາສາລາວ
  110. ဗမာစာ
  111. ភាសាខ្មែរ
  112. 한국어
  113. 中文
  114. 日本語
  115. 简体中文

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Listening for “My Word” in the Scriptures

20160111_184714Today’s guest contributor is Mackenzie, who has a fun family scripture study technique that would work beautifully in Primary as well. Mackenzie is a mother of two who enjoys outdoor sports and warm weather.

During scripture reading, Mackenzie gives her children a popsicle stick with a word that frequently appears in the scriptures, such as “Lord” or “God” (see photo) or “faith.” Then, as the scriptures are being read, each child holds up their word when they hear it. Mackenzie says it helps the children to focus and stay involved in scripture reading.  This would be a great Primary activity that even the Sunbeams would enjoy, whether they can read the words or not!  In fact, for the Junior Primary you might consider writing a word and adding a simple little drawing with it.

I can also imagine older children doing a “Word Choir” (!!) like a verbal equivalent of a bell choir. Cut out the words of a scripture individually. Give each child a word and ask them to unscramble themselves and stand in order. Then, each child reads their word in turn, holding up their word until the whole scripture verse comes together.

Even very young children can have positive experiences with the word of God in the scriptures.

~Marci with guest contributor Mackenzie

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Free State Park Activity Days Program – “Bugs, Buddies and Botany at Borderland”

centralmaine.com Photo by Joe Phelan

centralmaine.com Photo by Joe Phelan

Today’s guest author Marti is mother of five and grandmother of nine.  She is a former Primary President, now in the Stake Primary Presidency.  She is retired from dental hygiene and is now working as a real estate agent. 

As a Stake Primary Presidency, one of our goals has been to help the children to realize they are not alone as church members, even though they may be the only member in their school.  We felt that a bonding activity with other children from the stake would help accomplish this goal, as well as increase their social skills.  We also wanted to have a fun activity which would help children earn some Faith In God requirements.

We thought we’d look into holding it at a local state park called Borderland. The park ranger planned several activities and provided the supplies. The only cost to those attending was the parking fee of $5 per car, with senior citizens free! With stake activities, we never know how many children will actually show up, but the park was very flexible around attendance. The Stake Primary provided the food and the take-aways. We also did a little introductory game at the beginning so the children could meet each other and find out which ward they were from. This made for a simple and affordable activity.

We chose a date at the end of August, when most families would be back from vacations but sports and school activities would not have started yet. A date in late May or June might also work, after sports seasons and before the end of school. I met with Ranger Paul, who had many suggestions for group activities no matter how many children actually attended.   He asked us to inform him of an approximate number of attendees two weeks before. They had a special public event planned for the day we had chosen, with two professional entymologists doing a Discovery Walk Insect Tour at 10 AM, and we could plan our activity work around that.  He suggested the following itinerary:

9:00 Tour, Games, & Stations: The children were divided into groups that could go on a tour, play old-fashioned lawn games (crochet, bocce, pick up stix, provided by the state park), or visit stations (identifying skins of various animals, or dissecting owl pellets, which are clusters of what owls cough up that can’t be digested, such as bones and skulls of other critters). The park provided rubber gloves and hand sanitizer, too.

10:00 Discovery Insect Walk: Some children brought their own nets, and the park provided some as well.

11:00 Lunch:  We could use their kitchen or bring a portable gas grill. We decided to grill and provided hot dogs, watermelon, potato chips, fruit snacks and water bottles.

As a memento for the day we gave each child a zipper pull with a crown and star to remind them that they are children of royalty and divine birth, a light to those around them, and that their example can be a positive influence as stated in Romans 5:19: “…by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” Each of us CAN influence others around us, for good. “Always wear your invisible crown,” said Elaine Dalton in April 2010 General Conference.

Our goals of having fun, making new friends, experiencing the power of gathering with fellow saints, understanding we’re not alone in our quest to keep God’s commandments,  all the while surrounded by nature and His glorious creations, were achieved. You may find local state or national parks in your area might have similar program offerings!

Download the Hingham Stake Primary Activity flyer and permission slip.


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Nontraditional families and Mother’s Day/Father’s Day


I hope that every child has a mother and a father who love them. But in case you know children who might need a more nuanced message, I was heartened by Elder D. Todd Christofferson’s words in April 2016 General Conference. He spoke to children who may struggle to honor parents who are less than honorable. Elder Christofferson said, “To all the rising generation, we say, wherever you rank your own father . . . make up your mind to honor him and your mother by your own life. Your righteousness is the greatest honor any father can receive” (April 2016 General Conference, emphasis added). Notice that he didn’t say “honor your parents means to do what they say.” That can be great advice for parents who give righteous instruction. But for those children in less than ideal circumstances, I appreciate Elder Christofferson’s teaching that we can honor parents by BRINGING honor to them.

How to teach this to children? Try these lesson ideas:

God bless every child, no matter what kind of family they have.


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5th Sunday in May Sharing Time Lesson – Restoration of Priesthood AND Relief Society

You’re in luck! Five Sundays in May means you have an extra week to teach a supplemental lesson! The May Sharing Time theme is “The Church of Jesus Christ Has Been Restored.” The First Presidency, in the preface to Daughters In My Kingdom, said “We testify that the Lord has restored the fullness of the gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith and that Relief Society is an important part of that restoration” (page ix).


Consider this wonderful 5th Sunday lesson:  Women and Service in the Kingdom: A Sharing Time or family night lesson for girls AND boys.” As children learn about Joseph Smith and the First Vision, boys as well as girls will be thrilled to also learn about Emma Smith, Eliza R. Snow and the motto of Relief Society: “Charity Never Faileth” (1 Corinthians 13:8).



Rejoice in the restoration!


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Music in Nursery: Teaching the Gospel

I peeked into nursery recently to make sure my twin toddlers weren’t still sobbing with separation anxiety.  And to my great surprise they weren’t sobbing.  In fact, they weren’t even whimpering.  Instead, they were mesmerized by the Primary music leaders who visit nursery each week. The music leaders had gathered the children to sit on a cozy blanket laid out on the floor and were singing Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam with great animation.  They had given each child a bracelet tied with ribbons (called wrist ribbons or a rhythm ring) so the kids could punctuate their “sun-BEAM” with ribbon flourishes.  The children were enthralled.  They were happy.  They were learning the gospel!

I teach music classes outside of church for young children ages 0-3 years.  I love music and know what an amazing teaching tool it is.  But in my professional classes I don’t get to teach about Jesus or the plan of salvation.  The songs I sing and the ASL (American Sign Language) I teach are about animals, colors, feelings, actions, vehicles, balls, and more.  All super fun and enriching stuff. But not the best stuff, not the gospel.

Nursery is the perfect place to teach about Jesus, the plan of salvation and other basic gospel principles through music. And toddlers are definitely not too young to understand.  If they can do actions and sign language to “Wheels on the Bus,” they can do the actions and signs for “I am Like a Star Shining Brightly (Children’s Songbook, 163).  Music is the ideal way to teach this age group!  Want something to sink in and grab their attention? Sing about it.  Take advantage of this perfect opportunity to teach the gospel to these young children through music.  It’s 1) memorable 2) fun and 3) teaches the gospel.  Boom!  That’s Triple Threat Teaching!

So what made music time so successful for my twin toddlers this particular Sunday?  Here’s a few of the ideas our Primary music leaders are implementing now with great success when they visit nursery each week:

  1. Plan a set of songs and sing them for 6-8 weeks to provide repetition and familiarity.  If the nursery kids transition to Primary knowing 10 songs that would be amazing!
  2. Create some physical structure and boundaries by laying out a blanket for the kids to sit on during music time.  That way they know where you want them.
  3. Incorporate movement and visual interest by using inexpensive props such as shakers, scarves, rhythm rings, song sticks or others.

More blog favorites about nursery music: Hands-on Singing: “Song Sticks” and Using Music Effectively in Nursery


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“I Was a Stranger” and how this initiative can apply to Primary



I think God knew what he was doing when He included Primary girls in the audience when the new initiative “I Was a Stranger” was announced at the General Women’s Meeting. I think God knows that Primary has something important to contribute to this good work. Not only that, but the Sharing Time theme for the very next month was“Jesus Christ Is My Savior and Redeemer,” with Week 2 being “Jesus Christ is the perfect example for me.” And what did Jesus do? He served others with love.

You may have already noticed our blog post April Sharing Time project or family activity: Serving as Jesus Served, with ideas for pint-sized service projects, with new ideas directly related to the new #IWasAStranger initiative. For example, one ward Relief Society in my area recently did a service project for refugees through a local community organization. They put together bags of items children could play with or might need during the refugee screening process. Primary children could help collect the items or decorate the bags.

“I Was A Stranger” (available in multiple languages) has suggestions of how folks can get involved (scroll to the bottom of the webpage and look for “Getting Involved”). Some ideas are as simple and child-friendly as this:

  • Make a new friend
  • Do something you enjoy with someone new
  • Invite someone to your family night

We hope you’ll prayerfully read that website, and see what you feel inspired to teach your Primary about service, perhaps even about refugees in age-appropriate ways. Remind the children about times when they were strangers and how much they appreciated people helping them feel at home.

And now a question for you: Have you read any children’s books that taught the concepts addressed in I Was A Stranger? Any child-friendly service projects in your area?

Yours in this great work,







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Adapting the Same Lesson for Junior and Senior Primary




I was recently asked an excellent question: “I just got called as the Primary 2nd counselor and I’m super excited, but a little overwhelmed about Sharing Time. I’m not sure how to tailor the lessons to the younger vs. older kids. They seem VERY different, but the lesson outline is the same. Do you have any suggestions?”

Here are my thoughts:

  1. Plan activities that are picture-based for Junior Primary and word-based for Senior Primary. For example, “Follow the Prophet Tic Tac Toe” has a tic tac toe game board with pictures for Junior Primary and keywords for Senior Primary.
  2. While children of all ages can benefit from movement and application, this is even more important in Junior Primary. See Teaching to a Child’s Whole Body – resources for reaching children of all learning styles.
  3. Plan activities that are a little more challenging for Senior Primary. For example,  “Women and Service in the Kingdom: a Sharing Time or family night lesson for girls AND boys” has a puzzle activity for Junior Primary and a matching game for Senior Primary.
  4. Use the teachers in Junior Primary; use the kids in Senior Primary. You can ask the Senior Primary kids hard questions directly. But don’t be afraid to ask the same questions in Junior Primary; just let the teachers give the answers if it goes over the little kids’ heads. It’s good for the kids to be exposed to concepts even if they can’t quite grasp them yet. This has the added benefit of making the teachers feel involved and engaged. For example, in this lesson about families in the scriptures, I would explain that just like families in the scriptures, Heavenly Father has a plan for each child and each family today. I would ask Senior Primary children what that means. In Junior Primary I would ask the same question, but I wouldn’t expect the children to give useful answers. (The default answer for any question appears to be “Jesus,” which is a fine answer to many questions, but not all.) Inviting the teachers to give answers saves me from giving a solid lecture. It also helps to make the teachers feel like they’re in their own gospel learning class.  Teachers can also be useful when you need reinforcements. For example, go ahead and use that song that perfectly illustrates a gospel message, even if the little kids don’t know it yet. Ask the teachers to stand and join you in singing it. Any child who knows it can stand and sing too! Teachers can also read scriptures for you in Junior Primary so you’re not doing all the talking.
  5. Older kids can get into the scriptures themselves! It’s enormously satisfying to see the children begin to become familiar with the scriptures and to feel the power of God’s word. How to do it? See “Raising the bar and addressing the boredom challenge” and “Getting Children to Open – not just bring – Their Scriptures.” While this is particularly valuable in Senior Primary, don’t underestimate the readers in Junior Primary!  
 What works for you in adapting lessons for Junior and Senior Primary? Add your comments below!

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April Sharing Time project or family activity: Serving as Jesus Served

I love the April Sharing Time theme: “Jesus Christ Is My Savior and Redeemer,” with Week 2 being “Jesus Christ is the perfect example for me.” And what did Jesus do when he was on the earth? He served others with love. Children can follow Jesus’ perfect example and serve too!

Of course, singing “When We’re Helping We’re Happy” (Children’s Songbook, 198) is optional but memorable! and “I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus” (CS 78), particularly verse 2: “I’m trying to love my neighbor, I’m learning to serve my friends. . . ”

There may be service projects happening in your ward to which Primary children can contribute. If the Relief Society or youth are collecting items for the needy or visiting nursing homes or hospitals, Primary children can make cards to go with them. The service coordinators can tell the children about the project, explaining in age-appropriate ways about homelessness, cancer, hunger or refugees.

For example, one ward Relief Society in my area recently did a service project for refugees through a local community organization. The sisters put together bags of items children could play with or might need during the refugee screening process. Primary children could help collect the items or decorate the bags.

A song related to the “#IWasAStranger” service initiative is “We Are Different,” (CS 263). I suggest swinging it to a rhythmic calypso beat!

Perhaps you’d like to ask the moms of the missionaries serving from your ward to talk about their son or daughter on a mission, and have the children make cards or letters for the missionaries. Bring lots of colored paper and stickers and markers. Perhaps the pianist can play soft background music while the children create.

Here are more ideas:

You’re never too young to experience the wonderful feeling that comes from serving as Jesus served.


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