Way to be true, Primary

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At the start of the year, I got a new batch of Sunbeams (kids who are 3 years old on January 1st). So now every Sunday I want to stab myself in the eye with a fork. It will get better, but we are still in that time of transition that's so hard on everyone. Here are a few of the fun things that have happened so far:

A boy got diarrhea in his pants as I was taking him to the bathroom
A boy threw up into his lap during Singing Time
Kids cry for their parents
We broke a urinal
Several kids routinely throw themselves out of their chairs and onto the floor
They ran down the hallway like shrieking fire monkeys during drink/bathroom break
We have fetched parents to come sit with their children & help them behave
A boy head-butted my teaching partner (and sister-in-law, whee!) in the face

The thing is, even though right now I want to shoot myself in the face, I know that Primary is good and true. And the more I think about how we do things in Primary, the more I wish that some of these principles were applied a bit more in the rest of our classes and in the general church membership. Here are a few of the guidelines we follow in Primary:

Kids come from a variety of family/life situations. It's important that we are sensitive to their feelings.
When we ask get-to-know-you questions, we find that not everyone likes the same things. That's okay.
Some kids will make really random comments in class. We smile and move on.
No matter what the lesson is about, some kids will try to bring it around to Disneyland. Be kind, but get things back on track.
Some kids want to do all the talking. We try to give everyone a turn.
If we aren't the one teaching, we support the teacher and help make the lesson go well.
We don't make fun of anyone.
We don't talk about other churches and why they are wrong.
We don't talk about people who don't believe the same way that we do and why they are wrong.
We don't talk about politics.
We talk about Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father.
We talk about how to be nice to people.
We read from the scriptures.
Some kids take longer to feel comfortable being in class. This is okay.
Some kids may never feel fully comfortable. This is okay too.
Some kids aren't there every week. We tell them that we miss them and how happy we are to see them. 
When a kid is having a hard time, the best solution is not for them to leave. We try to find a way for them to stay with us.

Elder Marlin K. Jensen spoke at Utah State University recently about the fact people are leaving the Church right now at an alarming rate. There are many reasons for this, and I think one thing we can do for each other is to be kinder, to be more welcoming and inclusive. We can accept the fact that people have differences, or struggles, or questions that they aren't getting easy answers to. Sometimes we will be the one with the struggles or questions. We can think before we make dismissive assumptions or judgmental comments, so that we can avoid causing pain or creating an environment where people feel like they don't belong. If we are present when something like that is said, we can find a kind way to share a different viewpoint, rather than letting our silence imply agreement.

Any thoughts?

ps. Here are a few of the podcasts and articles on the subject I've come across lately. It's really interesting (and sometimes sad) stuff.

Post at Mormon Chronicles that links to several discussions regarding the current "apostasy"
Joanna Brooks interview at The Cultural Hall


La Yen said... [reply]

I have a testimony of this blog post.

Heidi said... [reply]

Love this. Girl crush on you (Happy Valentine's Day). And, it made me think of this Zelophehad's Daughter post:


Erica said... [reply]

Wow, I had no idea about the "apostasy" going on right now. Richard Bushman is actually talking to my husband's institute class tomorrow and you better believe I will be there.

Liz Johnson said... [reply]

Amen, amen, amen. And I loved what you said about speaking up and offering an alternate viewpoint - I think that's really important. I've had lots of personal friends leave the church because they feel like it's a toxic environment to those with differing opinions/situations/struggles, and to be honest, it kind of is. It's time we enlarged the tent a little bit so that everybody feels like church is a place that they can come to to learn about Jesus and to improve their lives, rather than a place where you have to say/do/think the "right" or appropriate thing.

Janssen said... [reply]


Hey, Richard Bushman is my great uncle! He and his wife gave us some very nice serving dishes for our wedding :)

Janssen said... [reply]

And. . .now I have to spend the rest of the afternoon reading these links.

AmyJane said... [reply]

Didn't know there was mass apostasy-ing happening either, but it makes the worldwide leadership training meeting last
Saturday make a whole lot more sense. Interesting stuff. And Primary is a true place. Every time other callings keep me out of there for more than a year I feel it. Like now.

Rachel said... [reply]

Yes, I think this is so important! I see it all the time, especially being in a small ward, where I never know how many kids will be there (in nursery).

I also think all those primary things should absolutely be applied everywhere...how many times have people brought up weird, unrelated things/politics/offensive stereotypes/explanations of why another church isn't true in Gospel Doctrine or RS? Seriously, people. It's not that hard to avoid.

Desmama said... [reply]

Pray tell how a Sunbeam brought up politics. I, for one, would love to hear it. ;)

Sherry said... [reply]

I love Primary. The end.

abby said... [reply]

Janssen that's so cool!

I have a friend that left the Church and is obsessed with Mormons. She loves pointing out how close minded they are but she is very close minded about them. Oh the irony!

In one of the articles it pointed out that the apostasy is especially strong among men which means there are even more lonely women in the Church. My current ward was created because of the great amount of men that were leaving because they felt they didn't belong in a family oriented church.

I can see the Church is going through a shift from what I knew as a 1990s convert to being a little more open to differing opinions. Although I'm an East Coast Mormon so things might work differently here.

emandtrev said... [reply]

I really love this. And I think you're exactly right. Everyone can take a lesson or two (quite literally, if necessary) from Primary.

Anonymous said... [reply]

i think that people are finally wising up and allowing themselves to think for themselves and not be dictated and/or lead by some homophobic, sexist leaders.

Suedles said... [reply]

Truth! I teach primary too and I often want to gouge out my eyes, but at the end, I always have mad love for those kids.

joojierose said... [reply]

I completely agree. A few weeks ago in Sunday School where we had the whole "great and abominable church" lesson, people of course made the obligatory joking "it's the Catholic church!" comments, and I just stood up and said "Stop it. Even in a joking manner, stop it. We have been ostracized as a people so often, why would we do this to others?" My husband is Catholic you see, and he feels like a complete outsider most of the time at church - the church of Jesus Christ! We should be utterly loving and inclusive, not wait for everyone to be exactly like us before we stop giving them shifty eyes. It's very painful. But this post is brilliant, thank you for it - I want everyone to read it! Hurrah for primary!

mj said... [reply]

I've had a few friends leave the church during their twenties and thirties, but I don't think I realized quite how widespread it was. I fully agree with the principles in this here blog post, so thanks, and I think it will make me react more to when people accidentally-on-purpose alienate others. It really does not seem that hard to love and respect all people and their differences while still teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ (in fact, I think the two things might actually be related). I personally struggled with my own testimony during "quarter life crisis" time and I realized that it definitely requires facing some truths about yourself to get past such crises, but it definitely would not hurt at all for the members and even policy to be a little more accepting of those that are struggling--maybe even provide some resources less intimidating than going to talk to the bishop about your SINS!!!

Anyway, thanks for this.

Anonymous said... [reply]

I am so glad you shared those links with us! I have always felt like I might be the only one who thinks that we are a little hard on each other and ourselves. and I often think that the pressure to be perfectly "mormon" makes us do crazy things! I have always wondered if I was the only one hearing those conference talks about loving each other and NOT JUDGING. Oh, and that little thing called article of faith #11. Maybe nobody understands "dictates of our own conscience".

I am not a radical. I have fairly conservative views but it hurts my heart to see people hating and judging and belittling because of a struggle that someone might be having or a difference of opinion. Can't we all just be nice? Or understanding? Or civil?

Also, love the part in The Cultural hall blog where they say that the YW's manuals need to be updated. Sometimes, my YW and I had a little bit of a chuckle at some of the stories. I also felt uncomfortable with the message that was being given to the YW and not to the YM. Like maybe YM should be encouraged to prepare for marriage by learning personal hygiene or general cleanliness at some point. Why should the YW be the only ones to suffer through those kinds of painful lessons?

I guess it's just nice to know I'm not alone over here.

pianochick said... [reply]

You are a brave woman to bring up the whole religion thing in such an open context and leave yourself open to mean comments like Mister Anonymous left. I'm sorry for that - let me apologize for him.

On the flip side, I am one of the people you may be referring to - I left the church after my daughter spent an entire week at girls' camp with a man who had been (unbeknownst to me at the time) 'excommunicated' for his porn addictions- and actions because of that addiction- he was there because the bishop 'felt he needed that influence' - and apparently the bishop felt like he needed more protection than my DAUGHTER did! Seriously??? When we spoke to the bishop (after the fact) about our concerns of this man being around 30 or so TEENAGE GIRLS who are showering, dressing in tents WITHOUT THEIR PARENTS THERE - he told us to go home and repent because he is the judge in israel (while he pounded his fist on his desk and pointed at us!) -

Yeah - that's pretty much when everything changed for me.

So - I have to admit this is interesting - this conversation - I have truly had a life change over the last two years since this all went down- and it has NOT been an easy one.

Thanks for being open enough to bring it up. I still think the church teaches some really great principles (esp. Primary) - and continue to live my life according to most of them (just not going to Church) - and my son (in spite of all this) is leaving on a mission in just 9 months. Weird.

Nemesis said... [reply]

@La Yen
Thank you, La Yen!

Heidi, thanks so much for the link, I read it and really liked it!

Erica, my husband wanted to go sneak into your husband's institute class, until he saw that you live in New York. :-)

Liz, Word. Saw that you have "The Book of Mormon Girl" listed on your Goodreads account--I just finished it and it was great.

Janssen, just when I think you can't be any cooler . . .

AmyJane, it took me a while to be able to find enough printed content on the training meeting to see what you were referring to--I'm guessing maybe Elder Uchtdorf's talk about "growth" vs "real growth"?

Rachel, seriously. You would think that "weird, unrelated things/politics/offensive stereotypes/explanations of why another church isn't true" wouldn't be the first place people go, and yet.

Stefley said... [reply]

I LOVE this post. It is truer than true! We just moved to Kansas City and although we have been members our whole lives and have a strong testimony, I find it is a struggle to want to go to church in our very clicky ward where we have not felt very welcome! I wish we would just be kinder and assume we are friends with everyone instead of assuming the opposite.

Nemesis said... [reply]

Desmama, you goober. I meant that we, the teachers, do not bring up politics. But if a three year old were to go there (and, considering how vocal some of their parents are, it wouldn't really surprise me), you can bet I would shut it down.

Sherry, yeah. It's pretty cool. I think I'm lucky to be in a really good one, so that helps too.

Abby, I hope some of your East Coast ways can trickle over to my neck of the woods. And yeah, it was pretty telling in that Mormon Demographics podcast when they said that adult female Mormons in UT outnumber Mormon men 3 to 2. So, yeah, single ladies. When you say there aren't a lot of guys to date, it's NOT JUST IN YOUR HEAD.

Anonymous, I'm sure you have reason to feel the way you do. I don't feel the same way, though.

Suedles, yeah. Those kids are lucky they are so sweet, since they are behaving like monkeys on fire.

Joojierose, AWESOME on you for shutting that dumb mess down. HAH.

MJ, yeah. I have friends who are leaving too. Sometimes it's to do with church history stuff, and sometimes it's more about things that are going on now. And probably other reasons that I don't know because it's not like I'm holding them down and making them tell me. :-) But it's sad too to think that there are people who WANT to belong but are made to feel like they don't, or that if they have a hard time or questions about such-and-such then they should just leave so that everybody else will be more comfortable. Not cool, friends.

Anonymous, you are SO not alone. And thanks for your words about the YW manuals. Cannot wait for them to be updated. Don't ask me why adults get a new manual every year while the teenagers are stuck with dated, simplistic, culturally narrow fluffiness that doesn't adequately address or prepare them for the kind of lives they have and are going to have. Blah.

Pianochick, I am sorry. That girl's camp story makes me feel icky, and it wasn't even my daughter. If we run into each other at In-N-Out again, expect a really big hug.

jeri said... [reply]

I love this and I agree that these (they're so simple) principles should be encouraged no matter what age or class or group you're in.

I think it's such a difficult time to be a member of our church, with so many wide and differing views on what is 'normal' and 'right'. And interestingly, so much hatred flung back at people who try to stick to traditional values. We love everyone and everything and every orientation! Just don't try to hold to the old-fashioned ones.

I am finding that I always go back to Elder Oaks' Good, Better, Best talk, whether I'm thinking about family decisions, lifestyle choices, even 'what to do with free time'. Some choices are OK. Some will yield better results. And some are the best.

pianochick, I'm sorry to hear about that awful camp experience. Sadly, bishops are people too and they can make the same dumb decisions that the rest of us can.

Cari Clark said... [reply]

Pianochick, I have to respond: What an arrogant jerk for a bishop. I can't believe SOMEONE--like the stake president?!? didn't rein in that colossally stupid idea! I am so, so sorry. Having raised two girls who loved girls' camp, I am so grateful for the loving, wise priesthood holders who have been in charge here on the East Coast. I'd like you to consider giving the Church another chance. Fortunately, in my experience, men like your bishop are few and far between. I would discuss that incident with some higher-ups, if that hasn't happened.

My kids keep telling me the church is different in Utah, and from your post, Nem, I would have to believe this. I am disheartened to hear what Elder Jensen had to say. Recently I finished Rough Stone Rolling, and I see how it could be very difficult for those with a wavering faith might be negatively impacted by a lot of the information out there.

I think one problem might be learning these negative stories from the Internet where they might not be in context, and not fairly presented. When there's nobody there in person to ask about it who cares about you and your testimony, and knows you well enough to offer an explanation that is suitable for you, it can open the door to doubt and apostasy.

pianochick said... [reply]

Cari, Nem, and Jeri - I'm definitely on a journey with this religion thing - the bishop experience was just the catalyst to it all....there's a really great video link I will post here that pretty much explains EXACTLY where I am with the church in my life right now. (and apparently, 2/3 of the membership as well!) - I thought you might be interested in seeing it.

I don't know if I'll be back to church or not - in the end, I'm finding that no matter what - whether or not it's true - the church is a overall a good thing and makes good people great - you know? I miss the community of it - I miss my friends and neighbors - and it's been a big wedge for me and my son (who's leaving on his mission in 6 months) - so it would be nice (and easy) to just come back - but I guess time will tell. Thanks for your encouraging words, and for listening, too.

Here's that link, if you're interested:


Jennifer said... [reply]

pianochick, I appreciated the video you posted. I'm very active in the church myself, but I appreciated the perspective of where others are coming from. Best wishes to you--the girls camp experience/bishop's reaction are not right. No matter what church you're in.

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