Primary: Good teachers are vital
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During a recent auxiliary training meeting in Kinshasa, DR Congo, leaders were asked to share an experience they had in Primary that had a great influence on their lives.
Didier Mutombo, a 31-year-old priesthood leader who joined the Church in 1987, was quick to respond. "Primary lessons changed my life," he said.
He spoke of one particular lesson that helped him learn a simple gospel principle. During that lesson, the Primary president talked about the 2,000 stripling warriors and then they sang the song about the "Army of Helaman." As Brother Mutombo sang the song as a child, he was filled with a desire to serve a mission.
From 1999 to 2001, Brother Mutombo was called as a full-time missionary in West Africa. When he returned, he married a woman who had attended the same Primary class.
He has never forgotten that wonderful day in Primary where he was taught to study, pray and be ready to serve the Lord.
"I have continued to nourish that firm willingness to go on the Lord's errand since that day," he said.
In essence, an experience Brother Mutombo had as a child in Primary set him on a path that led him to make covenants in the temple.
As a Primary general presidency, we often hear people say, "I am just a Primary teacher."
We hope that Primary leaders everywhere can feel the significance of their role. These Primary children are so impressionable, so teachable.
The Lord has intrusted us to teach His children. Ask yourself, "What am I teaching a child today that will bless him or her when they turn 19?"
So often when we think of a Primary teacher, we think of the Savior's love for children. We think of Him commanding that all little children should be brought to Him (3 Nephi 17:11). He prayed for them and blessed them one by one. (3 Nephi 17:21). "And he spake unto the multitude, Behold your little ones" (3 Nephi 17:23).
We think He was asking us to see children, our "little ones," as He sees them. He was asking us to see their potential, to see them as covenant women of God and mothers; to see them as missionaries and fathers."
He was asking us to see them for what we can help them become.
"I love the work of the Primary, wherein teachers instruct little children to walk in the light of the gospel of Christ," said President Thomas S. Monson in a February 2002 Ensign article. "They teach each child to sing with personal conviction:
"I am a child of God…
Lead me, guide me, walk beside me,
Help me find the way.
Teach me all that I must do
To live with him someday."
We believe the four purposes of Primary can help us accomplish this goal.
1. Help children feel loved.
2. Help them learn and understand the gospel of Jesus Christ.
3. Help them feel and recognize the influence of the Holy Ghost.
4. Help them prepare to make and keep sacred covenants.
Parents have the first responsibility to do these things. Primary leaders can and should reinforce the teachings of the home. Their role is so important.
The Savior is not physically here to bless the children and call them to Him. But He has called Primary leaders and teachers to do that for Him — to be His hands and His voice.
We believe a recent experience of Sister Esplin's illustrates this. During a visit to Africa, she met a little girl in Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa, who didn't have a mother or a father and was being raised by her grandfather.
As the little girl sat alone in Primary, a Primary leader noticed her. She reached out to her and asked, "Are you well?"
"I was so grateful for that Primary leader who noticed that child, who beheld her, who reached out to her," she said. "I knew that little girl was being looked after."
There are Primary teachers all over the world that are making an impact in children's lives.
Their impact can be summarized with the words of a favorite Primary song.
"How will they know, the ones for whom we care,
"That God is love and with us ev'rywhere,
"That life is good, with blessings all can share?
"How will they know unless we teach them so?" ("How Will They Know?: Appropriate for Leaders," Children's Songbook, 182–85.)