Brethren serving in the Primary
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As members pass by the Mueller Park 10th ward, Bountiful Utah Mueller Park Stake, Primary room, a popular Primary song can be heard being sung rather enthusiastically by the children within the room. It seems as though this gusto of testimony-bearing singing can't possibly come from those tiny bodies, yet their voices reverberate along the corridors of the building.
The Primary pianist Chris Jones said he enjoys his Primary calling because it allows him to work with the children and come up with ways to keep them interested in gospel principles. Brother Jones said he enjoys using songs in creative ways to help teachers get the lessons across to the children.
Brother Jones is one of many brethren who are now serving in Primary in various wards and stakes; each says callings in the Primary are the "best kept secret" of the ward.
"Seeing what we can contribute, and what the children can learn from it, is a really great opportunity," said Brother Jones. "It's an experience with younger members who have a fresh new view of the world and they enrich your life. That fresh new view of the world opens up doors for you to see the world through their eyes and in a whole new light."
Sister Rosemary M. Wixom, Primary general president, said, "Whether it be in the nursery, with music, in the classroom or in Scouting, priesthood brethren contribute a vibrant spirit to Primary. The children love to be in their presence."
"Priesthood brethren serving in Primary are wonderful role models for children," added Sister Cheryl Esplin, second counselor of the Primary general presidency.
Brother Jones, a Primary pianist in the Mueller Park 10th Ward, Bountiful Utah Mueller Park Stake, said he feels it is important for priesthood brethren to serve in the Primary because the Spirit is felt by both the men and the children.
"Primary is a nurturing place," said Sister Jean Stevens, first counselor in the Primary general presidency. "Priesthood brethren contribute to a feeling of strength and security."
Nathan White, nursery leader in the Rosecrest 2nd Ward, Herriman Utah Rose Canyon Stake, said he loves working with the children and believes calling men to serve in Primary allows the children to experience a positive priesthood influence in their lives — especially if they don't have a father in the home.
Nick Cash, the Primary music leader in the Mueller Park 7th Ward, Bountiful Utah Mueller Park Stake, said, "If they can see a worthy priesthood holder every week they can learn from their good example to serve."
Brother White said the children pick up those spiritual building blocks that will sustain them through life and he feels that serving in the nursery is important because it has a "ripple effect." He explained that nursery is an important part of each ward because the more the children can learn while they are young, the more they will continue to build upon those fundamental building blocks for the rest of their lives.
Damon Aguirre, another nursery leader in the Rosecrest 2nd Ward, Herriman Utah Rose Canyon Stake, said he feels serving in the nursery has allowed him the opportunity to nurture children.
Brother Aguirre and Brother White report that the nursery children in their ward have become so comfortable with male nursery leaders that they seek out their leaders and walk with them to the nursery room.
Brother Aguirre said, "My favorite part is getting to know the children and getting to know their personalities."
LaMar Lisman, the Primary music leader in the Valley View 11th Ward, Salt Lake Holladay North Stake, said he didn't initially understand why he had been called to lead the music for the children in his ward. He felt shocked when he received the call because he said he hadn't had a lot of experience with children, couldn't read music, and didn't consider himself "kid-friendly."
"When [Brother Lisman] started, the older 10- and 11-year-old boys were not singing. He made a personal visit to each one of their homes and invited them to participate." Sister Wixom said, "When I visited their Primary last fall those older boys were singing their hearts out!"
Brother Lisman said he initially had no idea how to help the boys. However, after some prayer and reading Teaching, No Greater Call, he realized he needed to make personal visits to the boys who did sing to thank them for their efforts. He also asked them to encourage the other boys to sing. The results literally spoke for themselves.
"Suddenly it became cool to sing in Primary again," Brother Lisman said, "As our singing quality increased so did the Spirit. I would often stop the children after a song and help them identify the joy they felt singing as recognizing the Spirit. After all, singing is just bearing your testimony."
Brother Cash agrees. He said his favorite parts of serving in Primary are the faces of the children and being able to see their eyes and the joy they feel from singing the songs.
He said when he was first called to serve in the Primary he was preoccupied with trying to come up with visual aids, but soon realized that the main focus needed to be on the Spirit.
"It's all about the Spirit," Brother Cash said. "Music is so deep, people don't realize how deeply it affects them because music goes right to the soul,"
If anyone can attest to that, it's Brother Cash, who used to be a rock'n'roll drummer and said he had always wanted to teach music but had to set aside his dreams to support his family. He said when he was called to serve he realized it was his life's dream to teach music and said that the Lord knew the desires of his heart. To him, singing is the best way to bear testimony.
"I pray that I can have experiences with the children to strengthen their testimonies," Brother Cash said.
Scott Anderson teaches the CTR 7 class in the Federal Heights Ward, Salt Lake Emigration Stake. He said the children in his class are "smart as whips," which makes teaching them and preparing them for baptism so much fun. He said when the classes and lessons include teachings about the priesthood, it makes a difference to have a priesthood holder teaching the lesson.
"Primary and nursery shouldn't be looked at as an oasis for the women teaching the children, but rather the responsibility to teach is on the shoulders of all the members of the ward," Brother Anderson said.
Many of the brethren said their callings in the Primary have helped them with their own relationships with their children and grandchildren. They love learning the Primary songs, lessons and activities.
"That's what they are; an extension of my family," Brother Cash said. "It's such a great calling and I love to be a part of it. I could do this for the rest of my life."
Brother Anderson said he would tell men who have been recently called to the Primary that they're in for one of the best callings they could ever have.
"As the children get used to you as a teacher, they really shift a lot of trust to you and you become a good friend," Brother Anderson said. "You have the chance to really shape and mold them."