“‘I Will Magnify My Call,’ Primary Leaders Promise,” Ensign, May 1974, 126
An estimated 4,000-plus Primary leaders, including a generous sprinkling of priesthood representatives, committed themselves to magnifying their callings at the 68th annual Primary Conference where they braved intermittent snow flurries and sunshine to receive instruction, encouragement, and inspiration.
During the general sessions in the Tabernacle, Primary leaders heard addresses by Sister LaVern W. Parmley, general president; her counselors, Naomi W. Randall and Florence R. Lane; Lucile C. Reading, managing editor of the Friend; President N. Eldon Tanner of the First Presidency; Elder Marvin J. Ashton of the Council of the Twelve; and Dallin H. Oaks, president of Brigham Young University, in addition to adult and children’s choruses and lively skits and presentations.
President Tanner stressed the responsibility of teachers, especially “where children come from broken homes or where parents are inactive.” He recalled having such profound faith in his Primary teacher that he was willing to argue with his mother when it seemed that she disagreed with his teacher.
Sister Parmley reminded the sisters in the opening session, “We are not here as mere delegates selected to attend this conference. We are here because we have been called to serve our Heavenly Father.”
The theme for next year, D&C 64:33, also reminded sisters of their important calling: “Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.”
Speaking to that theme, Elder Ashton exhorted the sisters to “avoid discouragement enthusiastically” and warned against the “dangerous luxury of self-pity.”
He had special comfort for the mother who feels that she cannot make a contribution in Primary because her own children are causing problems: “God had not selected you solely today for what you are but because of what you may become in the days ahead. Some reverses and heartaches in your own family may make you more understanding and successful as a teacher and a leader.”
Sister Parmley presented the new program for the upcoming year. The reverence theme is: “I Will Try to Be Reverent,” the scripture reading will be the four gospels of the New Testament, the hymn is “Come Follow Me,” and the sacrament meeting presentation by Primary children will be themed, “I Will Follow Jesus.”
The challenge shifts from a two-year emphasis on increasing attendance to the responsibility of each Primary worker to magnify her call. Sister Parmley promised, “If we love the children enough to care whether or not they learn to walk uprightly before the Lord, we will magnify our call,” and reminded, “When the Lord calls you to do something, he can make you equal to your task. But if you don’t move your feet, he cannot guide your footsteps.”
Florence Lane, second counselor, spoke of the three gifts the Primary wants to give today’s child: “Courage that is an inner strength to see, faith that faces the blackest sky and says, ‘I trust,’ and joy that is a quiet peace within your heart.”
First counselor Naomi Randall urged Primary leaders to strengthen each other by becoming truly converted themselves. She told of accepting her call as stake Primary president, thinking to give it “good concentrated work for two or three years” before she did something else, but when she heard the testimonies born in Primary conference the first time she attended, “the Spirit bore witness to my soul, ‘This is your work.’ And I became one of the converted.”
Lucile C. Reading, managing editor of the Friend, explained the mutually supportive roles of the magazine and the Correlation Committee, under which the Primary curriculum is developed. “It’s like two boys walking on train rails. If they hold hands, they can balance each other. If they walk separately, they’ll fall off.”
President Dallin H. Oaks of Brigham Young University explained why the best kind of leadership is “internalization,” or helping followers receive a personal conviction of the program. Thus, the program is not upset by changes in the leadership.
He also bore his testimony that Primary leaders are called by inspiration. While serving in a Chicago stake presidency, he participated in the search for a new stake Primary president. No confirmation came as the stake presidency discussed the deceased president’s counselors, the members of the stake board, the ward primary presidents, and their counselors.
The search continued for several months. They then began to consider a list of Primary teachers in the stake. The stake president had “a feeling” about one name. No one in the meeting knew her. Her bishop confirmed her worthiness, but did not know her leadership capabilities.
But when President Oaks interviewed her, she told him she had previously been told by the whisperings of the Spirit that she would be called to that position.
He asked her about her experience. “Well,” she answered, “I don’t think anyone here knows it, but I was a stake Primary president in Salt Lake City before I moved here and a member of the Primary General Board.”
When the Primary leaders moved into the departmental meetings, they received instructions for six information-crammed hours.
In the presidents’ meeting, Sister Parmley announced that it was time to focus on teaching each child the gospel rather than on implementing new programs. She quoted from Elder Boyd K. Packer’s address to auxiliary and priesthood leaders after the death of President Harold B. Lee. In this address, Elder Packer summarized President Lee’s concern that the Church “gear down” from its program of extensive changes, and quoted President Spencer W. Kimball’s statement that it was time for “a moratorium on change.” Elder Packer called for Church leaders to turn “from mining to refining, from remodeling to maintenance.”
The Primary’s “maintenance” is seeing that every child has the opportunity to attend Primary, and three unusual Primaries were reported.
Norma Hall, stake Primary president of a handicapped-child Primary in the Glendale-La Crescenta, California, area, introduced fragile Jamie Chamberlain who had been born without muscles in her legs. Jamie said she had chosen to accept an imperfect body before she came to the earth, but she could beat her mother swimming and win wheelbarrow races. “In Special Primary,” she said, “some bodies are perfect and some are not, but what counts is the spirit.”
Then she sang, “I Am a Child of God,” but upon seeing the entire audience in tears, faltered, burst into tears, and sobbed in her Primary president’s arms.
Marilyn Taylor of Palo Alto, California, explained the unusual challenges and blessings of presiding over the only known nonmember Primary in the Church.
A Canadian sister, with the blessing of her nonmember husband, began a home Primary for their three-year-old daughter “500 miles from my priesthood contact” in northern Alberta. She is coping with 32 children, when she and her three teachers originally planned for seven. But her husband requested baptism, she said, taught more by their daughter in one year than in the previous years of their marriage.
Stake first counselors heard new emphasis on a program that is almost as old as Primary itself—stake preparation meeting.
That’s where first counselors “really start the action,” according to general board leaders. The meeting should give ward leaders needed information about upcoming events in the stake, instruct them in areas necessary to their ward positions, and inspire them to plan efficiently, prepare for each week, and bear their testimonies to the children.
Stake preparation meetings should also focus on such specific topics as how to use music in the classroom, how to help small children make their own classroom rules, how to deal with the habitually restless, how to boost attendance of small children, how to use “attention getters,” how to get acquainted with shy children, and how to meet the special needs of the 3 to 7 age group.
More than 475 stake, mission, and regional Primary second counselors were challenged to magnify their leadership callings in three ways: (1) Determine to give more than your fair share of yourself, your time, and your talents; (2) Set tasks and goals beyond what is normally expected of your calling; (3) Don’t worry about getting the credit. Do what has to be done.
A general discussion focused on the age-group characteristics of Targeteers and Merrie Misses. Success stories from the audience were followed by a presentation of innovative ideas of Merrie Miss activities: Daddy-Daughter Express Limited, Say It With Flowers, Raggedy Ann Luncheon, and Backyard Barbecue.
Secretaries heard themselves described as a “golden link” between the presidents and the rest of the board, and learned more of their responsibilities as administrators, communicators, and historians.
Ward inservice leaders received an enlarged stewardship—supervising teaching activities. According to Charles R. Hobbs, associate director of the Teacher Development Program, ward Primary presidents should be encouraged to delegate the responsibility for supervising teaching to the inservice leaders. Thus, ward inservice leaders would visit classrooms to help the teachers, and also would hold goal-selection visits with each teacher every three months.
Four workshops focused on “helping skills,” including overhead projections, role-playing, and how to listen and respond; orientation of teachers, particularly those without experience; inservice lessons; and instructional materials for each lesson.
Stake Primary music directors and accompanists crowded a host of activities into their department session. They learned the new songs for the coming Primary year; heard a tape of piano accompaniment for about 75 popular songs from Sing With Me to be used in Primaries, family home evenings, and practice sessions where live accompaniment is not available; focused on the need for appropriate posture, grooming, modesty, and facial expressions when teaching singing; were warned about infringing copyright laws when reproducing music other than from the Church magazines, Sing With Me, and LDS Hymns; and learned how to bring out the musical quality in children’s voices.
Stake Scouting directors divided their attention according to their areas of greatest need and interest among nine information “stations”: cooking and fire-building, use of the map and compass, the citizenship merit badge, the hiking merit badge (both from materials provided by the National Boy Scouts of America), a Merit Badge Midway that introduced directors to merit badges they might recommend to their young charges, two “stations” on Scouting policies and procedures for the 11-year-old boy, ideas for stake roundtables for their Blazer-B teachers and orientation for new Scouting directors.
The coming year in Cub Scouting will see increased emphasis on physical fitness, bicycle safety, and learning to swim.
A physical fitness program will stress sit-ups, push-ups, broad jumping, softball throwing, and running, as well as sports such as volleyball, golf, and bowling.
According to Robert Untch, national Cub Scouting director, who visited the conference, surveys show more bike injuries for 6- to 10-year-old boys than any other age group. Cubs will organize a community-wide “Check Your Bike Day” in May, requesting assistance from organizations such as police and fire departments, tire and bicycle dealers, and schools.
The “Learn to Swim” program will be carried out through the Explorer program.
Other additions to the Cub Scouting program include a new monthly theme, updated books and pamphlets, an embroidered bobcat badge, a leader development kit, many additional pack awards, recruiting programs for Cubs and Den Grandmothers and Grandfathers, television spots built around the family concept, and a Bicentennial program centered on the theme, “Be Prepared for Life.”
Stake leaders also viewed displays on birdhouse construction, bug collections, puppets, leather work, wood crafts, beading, and other Cub projects.
A heartwarming part of the last session was testimonies from stake and mission Primary presidents: Barbara M. Taylor of Nottingham England Stake, Kyoko Toyama of Osaka Japan Stake, Yvonne K. Kaley of Perth Australia Stake, Esperanza Castro de Lara of Mexico City North Stake, and Ingeborg Gildner of the Germany South Mission.
Sister Parmley gave the sisters their final encouragement: “If all good intentions were put end to end, they would get us nowhere. But if all the intentions we have had during this conference were put to work, the Primary program would accomplish its purpose—to help teach children to pray and to walk uprightly before the Lord.”