I have spent my 25-plus years of service in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints looking through the eyes of a missionary, a seminary teacher, a gospel doctrine teacher, a Sunday School teacher and a Relief Society teacher, but not through the eyes of a Primary teacher, until recently.
Honestly, my initial thought when I was called to teach the 6-year-olds was that I would miss out on any significant learning for this "season" of my life. We have the best gospel doctrine teachers in our ward, and the thought of missing out on the spirit in those meetings would definitely be one the drawbacks of my new calling.
Feeling out of the loop with my Relief Society sisters would be another loss. But as a lifelong member, I know that every call is important, and I am happy to do anything I am asked. I just didn't see Primary as the place where all the spiritual perks were.
I have now been serving in the Primary for four weeks and my perspective has changed.
First of all, why didn't anyone tell me that the calling of a Primary music chorister is reserved for the most patient, prominent, influential and talented individuals in the church? My ward has a "saint" (to call her by any other title would just seem belittling) named Sally Brinton who leads the music in Primary. I have NEVER in all my years in the church seen anything quite so amazing as she captures the attention of so many young ones and cleverly teaches them not only the words to the songs, but to love singing.
Week after week, she continues to bring so much energy, passion and expertise to her calling. Honestly, you would have to see it to believe it. Right when I think she has discovered every way to teach a new song, get them to sit up straight, keep their attention and to sing with more gusto, she comes up with a new method. I know our callings are for us to serve the Lord and his children, but I have to admit, I partially attend just to watch Sally.
Last Sunday was our Primary program in sacrament meeting.
Why didn't anyone tell me that after all the seemingly fruitless practicing that the Spirit of the Lord would come in full force and rest upon all of these children? And why didn't someone warn me that looking on the faces of their parents and grandparents would instantly put a lump in my throat and bring tears to my eyes for the entire meeting? I was overwhelmed with the Spirit.
I have to admit that I also had some mixed feelings. On one hand, my heart cried out for the parents who were not there to see their children. Several of the children were dropped off (as they are each week), as their parents want them to have the Primary experience, similar to the one that they once had, yet do not make the gospel a part of their own lives.
I found myself wanting to remind them that indeed their Heavenly Father does love them, and that they are children of God and that Jesus was once a little child just like them and remind them how important it is to act as if the Savior was standing right beside them and that our families can be together forever if we just hang in there and trust and follow the Lord.
Before I knew it, I had a new set of eyes. In fact, I started to think that teaching Primary just might be the most important calling in the church. Unfortunately for some children, this may be the only time they are "active" in the church or feel the spirit. I was beginning to feel the weight of my new calling.
I have only taught my 6-year-olds a few times now. I have learned they are smarter than I was when I was 12. I have learned they want to be there. They already know what modesty and honesty is, they know all about the temple and one excitedly shared how he was even able to touch it. They know we say "thee" and "thy" when we speak with respect to our Heavenly Father. They want to do what's right! And I am learning what the Savior meant when he asked us to be as a child.
I am in awe of these little ones, and feel it a privilege to be with them. I am grateful that my path to discipleship has included serving in the Primary, a place where we can frequently see the hand of the Lord and feel his Spirit.
Becky Thomas has a degree from BYU. She was a weekly columnist with Mormon Times for two years. Her email is email@example.com.