“The Primary Role: Aiding Parents by Teaching the Gospel to Their Children,” Ensign, Mar. 1986, 42–44
The Savior always had time for children. He healed them, counseled with them, and taught them. In 3 Nephi 26:14 [3 Ne. 26:14], we read that he loosed their tongues so that they could speak of marvelous things to their parents. Jesus saw the children as the hope of the world. I see them that way, too. And it is that vision that motivates all of us, whether we are parents, leaders, or teachers, to teach children the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Our assignment as a church-wide Primary organization to assist parents throughout the world to teach the gospel to their children is an overwhelming one—but it is the Lord’s plan in the Church today. Our Heavenly Father expects that children be successfully taught. In Primary he expects that they find loving, faithful teachers who understand how significant their Primary experience can be for children. And it is happening! Tens of thousands of children meet with dedicated teachers and leaders from Brisbane to Boston to Berlin.
The purpose of Primary is to teach children the gospel of Jesus Christ and to help them to live it. One of the most important assignments in the Church is to touch the lives of children with the gospel.
To accomplish this purpose, Primary teachers and leaders should set these goals:
1. Teach children that they are children of God and that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love them. One of the greatest needs a child has is for adequate self-esteem. It must be nurtured through their entire growing years. A young child’s self-esteem is based largely on how he thinks others perceive him. He needs to know he will always be loved, will always have a friend. What better way, then, to provide self-esteem than to help a child understand he is a child of God—that Heavenly Father and Jesus love him no matter what, no matter where he goes. And if a child’s Primary teacher treats him with the dignity and respect due a child of God, he will come to view himself as a worthwhile person.
2. Help children learn to love Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. In Primary, children have many opportunities to investigate and feel the spirit of the scriptures. As they grow in their understanding of the scriptures, they learn to love the Father and the Son and develop the desire to obey their commandments. They begin to see that their experience and choices are significant to their future.
3. Help children prepare to be baptized, to receive the Holy Ghost, and to keep their baptismal covenants. Primary teachers help children understand why they need to be baptized. Children are taught the responsibility they have to be valiant in keeping the covenant they made at baptism and how this will help them withstand temptation.
4. Help children grow in their understanding of the gospel plan and provide opportunities for them to practice living gospel principles. In Primary, children study the Articles of Faith to enhance their understanding of the gospel. They begin at an early age to study a line at a time. Primary also plans activities where they can practice the principles they have learned, socialize with other Latter-day Saint children, and be with teachers who stand for virtue, honesty, and faithfulness.
5. Help boys prepare to receive the priesthood and be worthy to use this power to bless the lives of others. Specific lessons help boys understand the priesthood they will bear. They learn what they can do to be worthy of holding the priesthood. Appropriate activities help them develop personal qualities that can help them become righteous and responsible young men.
6. Help girls prepare to be righteous women and to live lives of service. Primary lessons and activities help girls develop their spirituality, their talents, their intellects, and their capacity for service. They come to understand and appreciate the vital role, the opportunities, and the responsibilities of women in the Church today.
Children need Primary. They need the enrichment, variety, and gospel learning that can take place there. Parents are charged with teaching their children correct gospel principles, and Primary teachers can help parents reinforce and clarify gospel principles.
A father tells of a time when his family was learning in family home evening about resurrection. His seven-year-old daughter was puzzled about death and resurrection, even though the family had discussed it at length. After the lesson, the father asked, “Honey, do you understand this?” She replied, “I guess so,” and nodded with a puzzled frown.
She continued to be troubled. One day her mother found her with tears streaming down her face studying a picture of the Savior in the family home evening manual. Again, she explained the concepts to her daughter and asked her if she understood. “I guess so,” was again the reply.
The next week, her Primary teacher taught a lesson about the resurrection. She came running to tell her mother, “Oh, Mother! Now I understand! And it’s even better than you said. Not only do we live again, but our spirits never die. They live forever and ever!”
Primary teachers and leaders, I am grateful for you. You can make a significant difference in the lives of children as you help parents teach them the gospel. If you will love the children, you will make a difference. Remember how much the children depend on you to give them worthwhile and inspiring experiences. One of the greatest legacies we can give the world is a generation of children who know that they are literally children of God and who love Him and have covenanted with Him to keep His commandments!