'Scriptures are true' - Response to Primary 2011 theme
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For the first 10 minutes of class each week, Sean Dolan helps the 10 and 11-year-old boys of the Winder 5th Ward, Salt Lake Winder West Stake, open their scriptures and study, mark and discuss the verses they read.
In the middle of the Primary room of the Provo Canyon Ward, Provo Utah Edgemont North Stake, hangs a bulletin board with photos of each Primary child holding on to the iron rod.
In the Spring Creek 22nd Ward, Salt Lake Olympus Stake, Primary, the children hold their scriptures, they hug their scriptures, they hoist them in air while singing the children's song, "Scripture Power."
In the Edgemont 9th Ward, Provo Utah Edgemont North Stake, the children in Primary each week read a scripture together and then draw a picture about the topic in their journals.
Whether it be through songs, stories, journals or displays, ward and stake Primaries have responded with creativity and enthusiasm to this year's Primary theme, "I Know the Scriptures Are True" and the directive to teach children to love the scriptures. The following are experiences that exemplify the response of children and wards throughout the Church to the 2011 sharing time theme.
"Be Excited About Reading"
When Sister Carolyn Marsh, president of the Olympus 5th Ward Primary, Salt Lake Olympus Stake, heard the 2011 theme "I Know the Scriptures Are True," she was excited and wanted to share that enthusiasm with the children. She and her presidency came up with the acronym BEAR (Be Excited About Reading the scriptures) and put together a scripture bag that contains a teddy bear and a scripture journal for their Primary.
Each week the scripture bag is sent home with a child. They are encouraged to read every day and then write in the journal. Some children bear their testimonies; some quote specific passages; some write what they learned.
For example, Jack Cannon, 8, read about Alma and the sons of Mosiah and wrote: "They could have had lots of money and power but instead they wanted to be missionaries and teach their enemies the Lamanites. I'm grateful for their example and dedication to the gospel."
Jenna Losee, 10, read Nephi 17-18 and wrote: "God will help them if they keep the commandment. … Nephi prayed and received help. When we obey God we are blessed."
The next Sunday as part of opening exercises, the child then shares what he or she wrote and then gives the bag to another child.
Sister Marsh said it has been a "heartwarming" experience and a testimony builder not only for the children but also for the leaders. In fact, they've asked the 6-year-old boy who has the scripture bag the week of their Primary sacrament meeting program to share his journal entry as part of the program.
The opportunity to share how they feel about reading has made them more thoughtful when they read, Sister Marsh said.
"I truly believe that we are building a foundation that will be with them for their whole lives. … They know that when they are obedient and follow the teachings found in the scriptures they are blessed and feel happy."
The scripture tree
As president of the Sandy Utah Crescent Ridge Stake Primary, Sister Katie Beattie has seen a variety of ideas used to implement this year's theme.
Sister Beattie has seen Primary leaders encourage children to open their scriptures, to look up verses and read along and highlight verses. Another ward created a large "Scripture Tree."
Under its branches are the words "We are growing in our knowledge of the scriptures." Every week as the children come to Primary, if they have read the scriptures with their families they can write their names on a leaf and attach it to the tree.
The tree's burgeoning foliage has flourished to the point that branches and leaves now wind around the Primary room. The goal is to make it all the way around by the end of the year.
"The children have been eager to read," Sister Beattie said. "Families have responded that there is a more well-rounded spirit in the home and it's a happier place to be."
"It's so important to read each day, even if it's just a few verses. If they will do that, they will know that the scriptures are true. … The scriptures will help them know the right way to go in all areas of their lives," she said.
The treasure box
Last year as Kari Keiffer, president of the Spring Creek 20th Ward Primary in the Springville Utah West Stake, pondered how to implement the 2011 Primary theme, she read in the sharing time outline about creating a paper chain.
Each week the children read or listen to the scriptures, they add a piece of paper to a paper chain.
Eventually, the chain becomes "a visual reminder of the growth that comes from reading the scriptures" ("2011 Outline for Sharing Time," p. 2). The manual also suggests storing the chain in a "treasure" box to help encourage the children to "treasure up" the word of God.
Sister Keiffer loved the idea and asked her home teacher, Eldon Gale, who is in his 90s, if he would create a treasure chest for their Primary. Weeks later, she literally "jumped for joy" as he delivered a "beautiful," wood-carved chest with beveled edges and a large prominent star to her door.
"There were many tears, hugs and thanks expressed for the kindness and love he displayed in making [the chest] for our Primary," she said.
In appreciation, the Primary children sang Brother Gale his favorite song, "I am a Child of God," and he, in turn, shared stories about his days in Primary as a boy. Every week, Sister Keiffer displays the chest and the growing paper chain.
They've already overflowed it twice and every few months Sister Keiffer winds it up and down rows in the Primary room and across laps, reminding the children that as the chain grows, "their knowledge of the gospel grows."
Sister Keiffer said that she hopes that the children will carry their excitement and love of the scriptures home and read a few verses daily with their families.
"Children can be a powerful force for good in their home," she said. "It's happened in my own home. … I know that families can be strengthened and fortified when we take a few moments each day to read together from the scriptures."