Primary Then and Now
August 2003

“Primary Then and Now,” Liahona, Aug. 2003, 14–16

Primary Then and Now

“Wherever in the world that you may be, Oh, come with me to Primary” (Children’s Songbook, 255).

Remember your first day of Primary? It was probably on a Sunday while your parents were in Sunday School, Relief Society, or priesthood meeting. How old were you? Where was Primary held? What did you learn? Did you sing songs and have a lesson?

The very first Primary meeting was held in Farmington, Utah, on 25 August 1878. Sister Aurelia Spencer Rogers wanted to help boys learn how to behave and become good men. She spoke with Sister Eliza R. Snow, the Relief Society general president, about starting a Primary in her ward. Sister Snow received permission from Church President John Taylor for Sister Rogers to hold the first Primary. They decided girls should attend too.

A few days before the first meeting, Sister Rogers and her counselors visited every family in their ward to invite all the children ages 4 to 14 to Primary. There were 115 boys and 100 girls—that was a lot of children!

On the first day, 224 children came. The leaders taught songs and poems, recited Bible stories, and taught lessons on good behavior. Some boys had gone into gardens that did not belong to them, and some girls had been seen hanging on to wagons. Primary leaders taught that these behaviors were wrong or dangerous.

After the first meeting, Sister Eliza R. Snow organized Primaries in several communities. Many met in one-room schoolhouses or ward buildings. Some had 50 or 60 children; others had more than 100. Imagine having that many children in your Primary class!

During the first few years, some of the Primaries made handwritten newspapers, some organized musical bands, and others had fund-raisers, such as fairs. The money from the fund-raisers helped needy children and other Church members and provided furniture for temples.

Later the Primary started a children’s hospital, published a magazine, and put on a radio program and a television show.

Over the years, Primaries were set up in many parts of the world. In some places, home Primaries were organized because ward or branch members lived too far from each other to meet at the church during the week.

In the early 1900s, Primaries were divided into classes by age groups, and lessons were written for each group. In later years, 12- to 14-year-old boys and girls started attending Mutual. Other things changed in the years that followed. Now Primary is held on Sunday.

Today, millions of children attend Primary all over the world. And you are a part of this organization that started 125 years ago with one Primary class in Utah.

Left center: Photograph by George Edward Anderson

Photographs by Craig Dimond, Marty Mayo, and Matthew Reier