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TEACHING CHILDREN WITH LOVE, KINDNESS

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Anyone who hears about the Primary for children with disabilities in Davis County, Utah, can't help but hear of Louise Stout. The two are almost synonymous.

Sister Stout, a member of the Oak Hills Ward, Bountiful Utah Central Stake, has devoted 30-plus years to the Primary for children with disabilities in the region.A loving, patient and outgoing woman, Sister Stout, 75, has served as a teacher and president in the program, sharing her love with these special children since 1961.

"I was stake Primary president when Sister LaVern Parmley [Primary general president at the timeT called and asked our stake to start this Primary for children with disabilities in Davis County," she explained. "We worked with the stake president and parents and started the program in 1961."

The program was the third to be established in the Church, she recalled, and the first in Davis County.

Sister Stout oversaw the program for six years until she was released as stake Primary president. She served as a teacher for the special Primary for two years and then in 1969 was called as president of the program.

She has been serving in that capacity ever since. Because of ill health, she will officially be released next month.

Many of the children who attend the Primary, which is held for an hour on Monday afternoon after school, also attend the Monte Vista School in Farmington, a school for mentally and physically disabled children. Children who participate in the Primary live in Farmington, Centerville, Bountiful and North Salt Lake.

Twelve Primary workers serve in the special Primary, including the presidency, six teachers, and those who provide the music. The Primary for children with disabilities follows the same course of study as a regular Primary, but is altered to fit the needs of the children.

"We began years ago with about nine children and now have an average membership of 33," Sister Stout said.

What is it that has kept her involved in the program all these years? "I have always had yearnings to help these special children," she explained. "These children truly are Heavenly Father's special spirits."

Sister Stout said the program seemed to be the answer for many children who weren't able to attend regular Primaries because their parents didn't feel their needs were being met or because they didn't feel they fit in and were accepted by the other children.

One particular young girl, a neighbor to Sister Stout, had Down syndrome and didn't attend Church because other children made fun of her, Sister Stout commented. "When we started this program, it seemed especially for her."

Michaelene P. Grassli, Primary general president, noted in a Church News interview: "All Primary leaders should strive for helping disabled children feel comfortable and accepted in their home Primaries. We are pleased when these children can also have a successful weekday Primary experience to supplement their Sunday worship. We commend Sister Stout for her loving service."

Sister Stout said: "I'm so glad through the years that people have brought those with disabilities out into the public. Years ago they would hide them. I think it is good for all children to be around these special children. Everyone should be taught to be kind and understanding. Heavenly Father wants us to love them no matter what their condition."

She said the Primary for children with disabilities is "real special for these children because it is their Primary. When they come to this Primary, it is their Primary and they feel that they can contribute and can get up and talk or sing.

"These children are so sweet," she continued. "The love just pours out of you because they pour out so much to you. They give so much, more than you can give to them. And they appreciate everything you do."

Sister Stout's love and devotion to children with disabilities has extended beyond her Primary callings. She was also a volunteer at Primary Children's Medical Center for 27 years.

Her work has rubbed off on her family as well. For years, her husband and children have helped out in a variety of ways with the Primary. Her husband, Woody, has since died, but would build visual aids to help the children learn.

One daughter, LaVon Johnson, has been the Primary chorister off and on for 20 years - since she was a sophomore in high school. Through music, she has been able to get smiles out of children who couldn't even talk.

"This Primary has been my mother's first love since it began," Sister Johnson remarked. "She and my father used to plan their vacation around what the Primary was doing. She has truly devoted her life to it and it's gotten us all involved. Even my kids have a real love for those with disabilities because of how much we've been involved with them."

Sister Stout added: "It's been a wonderful thing for our family. It has made all of us be more helpful to others who are less fortunate than we. And it has always done a lot for our grandchildren. They have always known that these children are special to us and should be treated with kindness."

Through the years, the Stouts have learned much about children with disabilities and have had some great experiences working with them. One such experience came in teaching the children the Articles of Faith.

"When we first started the Primary, the teachers were trying to teach the Articles of Faith to the older boys and girls, but the children were having a hard time memorizing. I went to a meeting with the Primary general board and heard one lady from the American Fork [UtahT Training School [for the mentally and physically disabled] say they were able to teach the Scout oath to boys by putting it to music.

"On my way home, a light went on and I realized we needed to write music to the Articles of Faith. I called my daughter, LaVon, and told her she needed to write the music, and she did."

The children learned the Articles of Faith and the results amazed everyone, she added. The Primary general board heard about their success and invited Sister Stout, her daughter and a group of children to sing the Articles of Faith at a general Primary conference in the Tabernacle. Members of the general board said there was not a dry eye in the audience.

"Singing is a big part of our Primary," Sister Stout noted. "The children love singing time. You can teach the gospel through songs and the children love that.

"Many people say these children are not teachable, but they are," she continued. "When some first come they don't know how to be reverent, but through the years they learn to be reverent and pray alone.

"I have seen them come in and grow and then leave and lead productive lives. It has been a testimony to me that you can teach these children through love and kindness."

Each year the Primary puts on a Christmas pageant, a highlight for the children and Primary leaders, Sister Stout added.

All the families come and the children dress up and portray the Christmas story while a narrator, Dan Keeler (who played "Marshal Dan" on a local television program years ago) reads the story from the Bible.

"It's a highlight of Christmas for many, and the children love to participate in it," Sister Stout said.

"It is a wonderful feeling to be associated with these special spirits," she concluded. "I feel they have been sent here to teach all of us special lessons. These children sure have a spot in my heart. Once you have them for a friend, they are always a friend."