Category Archives: Life Lessons

Children leading the way


“One morning, a family was gathered for scripture study when the phone rang. The mother picked up the phone, and [the caller] spoke frantically on the other end: ‘Hurry! Turn on the news.’ The day was September 11, 2001. The news told of a horrifying terrorist attack in New York City. The children were shaken. Going to school seemed a little scary now. The parents turned off the TV, and the family knelt to pray. After the prayer, the eight-year-old daughter said, ‘It’s going to be alright. I think the terrorists are just like the Gadianton robbers. We don’t need to be afraid of them.’ Peace replaced fear. As the children left for school, the mother and father turned to each other and said, ‘That’s why we do this every morning'” (“Building Spiritual Patterns” by Karmel and Lloyd Newell, Ensign, August 2018, page 68).

These children led the way in applying the scriptures to real life — all too real that day. Read about a child who led a stranger to stop smoking and a child who had his “individual home evening” when his family was “too busy” for family home evening.

Regardless of the past, children can grow to BE the parent they want to be. See “Steven’s First Future Father’s Day” in English and Spanish. This activity on asks “When you grow up, what kind of parent do you want to be? You can decide now to be a great parent! What can you do to practice these character traits now?”

Thinking of children as leaders sends them the message that you believe in them TODAY — not just believing in the grownups that they will become one day, but their power even as children to be leaders on the way back to our Father in Heaven.


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Different Kinds of Families

Just as each child is unique, each child’s family is unique. Being sensitive to the different shapes and sizes of families pays rich benefits to the children and teachers alike, with the potential to heal unseen wounds. This great advice comes from the July 2018 Ensign magazine in the “Friend Connection” section:

  • Include stories that show a variety of families. [Note: lessons often invite you to share relevant stories from your culture to illustrate gospel principles. Make sure some of the stories include children in different kinds of families that your children can relate to.]
  • Help children understand how they can contribute to their family’s happiness — even if their family doesn’t seem “ideal” right now. They can look forward to creating a family of their own one day. Each one of us is also part of a loving heavenly family.
  • Teach children that we should not be critical of other families but respectful and inclusive, even when we don’t agree with the choices other families make.

More specific ideas here: All Kinds of Families are Part of Heavenly Father’s plan — and other topics.


The illustration is the cover of the book “Our Heavenly Family, Our Earthly Families” by Caitlin Connolly, Bethany Brady Spalding and McArthur Krishna, available from Amazon and Deseret Book. 


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Unresponsive children – “love them today, maybe teach them tomorrow”

You probably have some children in your life that are harder to love. They may be in your Primary, they may be in your family. You WANT to love them, and you know that Jesus loves them. What helps me is to remember that love — God’s pure love, or charity — is a gift of the Spirit that I can pray for. Moroni, as he was being hunted day and night, wrote these profound words: “Wherefore, my beloved brethren [he’s talking to us, his readers in the last days], pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ.” (Moroni 7:48)

Surprisingly, some of the children that were most challenging for me to deal with have been the ones that I ended up loving the most, once we broke through to each other. And we taught each other a great deal along the way.

More importantly, I have earnestly sought to feel the love that God feels for this child. Sometimes those prayers are answered with surprising loveforce. As I like to say, you can’t have that kind of love flow through you without getting any on you.

Ready for some fresh ideas on loving each one, dealing with distractions, and discipline? Try these ideas:

God has entrusted us with His children — ALL the children. We can love them today — even the unresponsive ones — and maybe we can teach them tomorrow.


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PSA: new book by PrimaryinZion co-founder

available on

Public Service Announcement (PSA): You know about Sunday Lessons and Activities for Kids, the book that was born on this blog (read the backstory here!). You may also know about Marci’s second book, Girls’ Camp: Ideas for Today’s Leaders. Well, her next book has arrived!

Check out Fifty Five Days of Faith: The Remarkable Story of Dick and Marsha Lavin. It’s the story of a multiracial family that joined the church in 1978, just fifty-five days BEFORE the revelation on priesthood was announced. Read more here, including reviews by by Cathy Stokes, Margaret Blair Young, Romane Armand, Paul Furse, Jacqueline Nagy and Marilyn Nelson.

A portion of the proceeds from sales of this book supports Operation Underground Railroad, which rescues children in 17 countries from sex trafficking.

For related general ideas about teaching children, see


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Is Anything Getting Through? Proof #3

Sometimes, weary Primary leaders and parents wonder if anything they’re saying is getting through. I’m here to tell you it IS. In an earlier post I wrote about a Bible story I heard when I was age 7, then not again until eleven years later: see Is Anything Getting Through? Proof #1. I also wrote about my children using scripture language in ordinary conversation: see Is Anything Getting Through? Proof #2.

Here’s Proof #3. A friend asked me, “What is your favorite Primary memory?” There are many, but a highlight is when Sarah was in my CTR-7 class. Studying church history, we learned that some people tried to steal the golden plates. “Why were they trying so hard to get the plates away from Joseph Smith?”

Spencer: “Because they wanted to change the words of the translation and try to trick Joseph.”

Me: “That is indeed what happened, but can anyone think of any other reason why some people wanted to get the plates so much that they would try to hurt Joseph?” (No response.)

I pointed to my finger. “See this wedding ring? It cost us about $500, maybe more. Just this little band of gold.”

The children’s eyes widened. Stephanie blurted out, “The gold plates must have been worth millions!”

Me: “Maybe not millions, but certainly a lot of money in a village full of hard-working farmers.”

Sarah, with rapture in her eyes: “And the Book of Mormon is worth more than that!” She said it breathlessly, from her heart, from a true testimony of the worth of God’s word.


I personally have been thinking a lot about what you can’t buy with money. Some things you can’t buy, but are priceless far beyond precious metals, such as happiness, peace of mind, a sense of purpose, a sense of direction, and most importantly. . .






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“A Service is a Service no Matter How Small”

Did you notice the “Chalk Service” idea in this month’s November 2018 Friend magazine? Nathan H., age 10, Arizona USA, suggested doing “nice sidewalk chalk messages at homes of people who needed encouragement.” His motto is “a service is a service, no matter how small.”

With your bishopric’s permission, you might like to try the same idea at church! Pulling in plenty of adult helpers, you could bring the children outside to draw on the church sidewalk. They could write a welcome home message to a returning missionary, or draw what they have learned. This is a good conversation starter on the way home for children to share gospel concepts they are discussing in Primary with their families. Be sure to have a backup rain plan!

Looking for more easy chalk ideas? Check out Chalk talk – inside and outside!

More service ideas? See Serving as Jesus Served: Sharing Time project or family activity and Pint-Sized Service Projects , a free download of a chapter from the book Sunday Lessons and Activities for Kids, the book that was born on this blog!

It’s never too early for children to learn that service is “the only true and lasting happiness. Service is not something we endure on this earth so we can earn the right to live in the celestial kingdom. Service is the very fiber of which an exalted life in the celestial kingdom is made.” (Marion G. Romney, “The Celestial Nature of Self-Reliance,” October 1982).





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Feeling safe in the last days

When I read in the Friend magazine how children responded to scary news, I felt alternately relieved and deflated. See The Lemonade Stand that Changed Everything, a cheery title for an article about how children responded to news of a terrorist attack by doing a service project to support first responders. Also read “What’s on Your Mind?” about how to help a child feeling scared when they hear bad news.

I felt relieved that church magazine writers are responding to needs of today’s children. I felt deflated because I wanted today’s children to worry about nothing more serious than loud thunderstorms at night.

Teaching children to respond to bad things with acts of service is a non-intuitive but enormously Christlike response. Notice that the Friend article discusses scary things on every level — a sick family member, someone being bullied, people needing help in my neighborhood — as well as natural disasters and terrorist attacks.

Read more ideas in this post: Helping children understand violence and tragedy

For more about bullying, see Bullying: Having Difficult Conversations with Parents and Bullying in Primary

For more about children whose homes may put them at risk, see Honoring Parents – even if parents make poor choices?

As always, the Lord gets the last word: “Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you” (Doctrine and Covenants 68:6).

God bless the valiant children of the last days, working to build the kingdom until He comes. And God bless the faithful leaders and parents, saved for the last days to teach children how to do just that.


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Is anything getting through? Proof #2

Sometimes, weary Primary leaders and parents wonder if anything they’re saying is getting through. I’m here to tell you it IS. In an earlier post I wrote about a scripture story I heard when I was age 7, then remembered eleven years later when I was investigating the Church: see Is Anything Getting Through? Proof #1

Here’s Proof #2 that kids are absorbing more than we think. When my kids were little, we faithfully held family scripture study. Occasionally we got them to sit still and listen. They couldn’t read yet, and this is before Book of Mormon Stories came out. I often wondered why we bothered; what they could possibly be learning? But I knew that latter-day prophets had instructed us to hold scripture study with our children, no matter how young, and we did.

Around dinnertime, the children would look out the window to watch for Daddy’s arrival. One day our oldest son Rob announced, with authority and enthusiasm, “Hark! Daddy cometh!”

Whether or not he was absorbing the message, he was absorbing the language of the scriptures.

Your efforts DO make a difference. One day, the “children [will] arise and call you blessed” (Proverbs 31:28).


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August 2018 Sharing Time: “Heavenly Father Hears and Answers Prayers”

from “Sunday Lessons and Activities for Kids,” by Marci McPhee

The August 2018 Sharing Time theme is “Heavenly Father Hears and Answers Prayers.” Your children may enjoy this charming experience from Eva and Michelle: Faith and Miracles: A Child’s prayer can save a (duck’s) life

Your children may be ready for the next step: adding repentance to prayer. Instead of four steps of prayer (address Heavenly Father by name, thank Him, ask Him, and close in Jesus’ name), consider the FIVE steps of prayer (add repentance as a vibrant, daily part of prayer). Here’s a free downloadable handout from the book that was born on this blog, Sunday Lessons and Activities for Kids! (See also “Personal Prayer Lesson Plan – with visuals for children, especially those with Special Needs.”)

Prayer – a lifelong habit that starts early.


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And A Little Child shall Lead Them

Children are not the leaders of tomorrow. They are the leaders of today.

I repeat – children are NOT the leaders of TOMORROW. They are the leaders of TODAY. Here are two examples among many of children taking the lead and inspiring (provoking?) others to good works, fulfilling Alma’s words: “And now, he imparteth his word by angels unto men, yea, not only men but women also.  Now this is not all; little children do have words given unto them many times, which confound the wise and the learned.” Alma 32:23

From Elizabeth Smart’s book, Where There’s Hope, page 2, speaking about her brother: “When Andrew was a little boy, probably only about two years old, Mom had taken us shopping, and there was a lady standing outside the store smoking a cigarette. Without missing a beat, Andrew said to her, “Smoking is bad for you!” I think my mom died inside a little bit, and she quickly herded us into the store. When we were returning to the car with our groceries, the lady ran up to us and said to Andrew, ‘That was my last cigarette. I’ll never smoke again.’ Whether it was his boyish charm or his sweet face, I don’t know, but he got away with that sort of stunt. . . ”

Here’s another from the Ensign about a child in Peru:

A Seven-Year-Old Missionary

Late one Monday night when my husband and I were busily working in our home, our seven-year-old son, Sergio, appeared. “Well, nobody remembered family home evening,” he said. “I guess you’re not interested.”

My husband had come home late, and he tiredly explained that we had been too busy and still had much to do before we could turn in for the night. At that we continued with our work.

After a few moments we realized Sergio was reading his illustrated Book of Mormon Stories reader all by himself. My husband and I looked at each other and silently agreed that, even if it was late, we shouldn’t deny ourselves the chance to hold family home evening.

When we went into the living room, Sergio told us in all seriousness that we didn’t need to be concerned because he had already started his “individual home evening” and had sung a hymn, said a prayer, and now he was giving the lesson. We stayed and listened as our boy talked about the First Vision.

That night our son was a powerful missionary to us, testifying of the importance of family home evening. My husband and I realized that often we try to teach principles that we are not completely willing to obey. What a wonderful experience we would have missed if we had not participated in that individual home evening.

Cecila Lozada, Maranga Ward, Lima Perú Maranga Stake


When children sing “lead me, guide me, walk beside me, help me find the way,” (CS 2), I sometimes wonder who is teaching whom. Thank you, dear children, for showing ME the way.


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