Primary Gen. Pres. Patricia P. Pinegar recently received a letter from a missionary in the Philippines describing how the 1995 Primary theme, "We Believe the Articles of Faith," was affecting those in the area.
The missionary related the story of a 10-year-old girl in Vargas Branch: "She told me she had learned six of the Articles of Faith. She is the only member of the Church in her family, but she says her mom and brothers and sisters know them also because they help her recite them."The experiences of the Filipino child may well illustrate how this year's theme has been influencing children throughout the world.
To Pres. Pinegar, the 1995 theme has been a "powerful focus" for Primary children everywhere. "Children, by learning the Articles of Faith, develop a foundation for what they believe. And they develop a foundation for being able to share the gospel with others.
"How wonderful it is in the life of a child when he or she can answer, `What do you believe?' " observed the Primary president.
During September and October, Primary children throughout the Church shared "what they believe" with fellow ward members during the 1995 Children's Sacrament Meeting Presentation. To discuss this year's theme and the sacrament meeting presentation, the Church News met with Pres. Pinegar and her counselors in the Primary general presidency, Anne G. Wirthlin and Susan L. Warner.
In speaking of the benefits of the annual sacrament meeting presentation - which is under the direction of local priesthood leaders - Pres. Pinegar said the meeting "is an opportunity for children to share in their own words, in their own experiences and with song what they have learned during the whole year."
Concerning the simple spirit in which children speak, Sister Wirthlin explained: "Throughout the year in Sharing Time, children have been actively involved in learning the principles of the gospel taught in the Articles of Faith. Their responses reflect their understanding and their pure faith. The children are the teachers in this annual sacrament service, and the Spirit can be felt by all.
"Every child can participate," she continued. "We have seen disabled children come to the pulpit and with the aid of a brother, a sister or a teacher make a special contribution that invites everyone to feel the Savior's love."
And the hope of the Primary general presidency is that each child was able to participate this year sharing his or her own feelings and using his or her own words. "One of the things we hoped is that children were able to share what they have learned about the Articles of Faith in their own words," Pres. Pinegar said. "When children articulate and can use their own words and feelings, then they are better able to internalize what they have learned."
Allowing children to use their own words gave local Primary leaders an opportunity to adapt the presentation to the unique circumstances of their children. "There were enough concepts of the gospel presented here," Sister Wirthlin said, referring to the Articles of Faith, "that there were multiple ways that they could be taught and presented. The beauty of the Children's Sacrament Meeting Presentation is that it's not set; the children are not told word for word what they are to say or do. The ideas are given in the presentation outline, and the ward leaders under the direction of the bishop are able to adapt it."
The 1995 outline provided 11 suggested themes Primary leaders could use to teach during Sharing Time throughout the year and upon which they could base the sacrament meeting presentation. These themes included "What are the Articles of Faith?", "The Articles of Faith can help me understand the Godhead," and "The Articles of Faith can help me understand my freedom to worship and my need to obey the laws of my homeland."
Adaptations of these themes have reflected the unique experiences of children throughout the world, Sister Warner noted. In speaking of adapting the outline to different local circumstances, she said, "The principles are true for all children no matter where they live. To know this gives them a sense of their identity as Heavenly Father's children. In the Sacrament Meeting Presentations, they share their own experiences with these principles."
These presentations prepare children for future participation in sacrament services, the general presidency said. "Talking about gospel principles and sharing testimony-building experiences is not the same as other kinds of public speaking. Children develop in special ways by giving a talk in sacrament meeting because the Spirit can be there to help them and to magnify their natural abilities," Sister Warner said.
Sister Wirthlin added, in speaking of the benefits of the sacrament meeting presentation: "The children understand the gospel message they are presenting. They work together helping each other in preparing and taking part in the program. There is a spirit of love and joy in serving together with the leaders and teachers."
Speaking of the growth children can experience through the presentations, Pres. Pinegar explained: "The principle of growth through participation witnesses to me of our Father's love and His understanding of our potential. From the very beginning of their Primary experience, children are encouraged to participate in every aspect of Primary."
For example, according to recent correspondence to the Primary general offices, Jordan Reynolds, age 3, told the Broomall 2nd Ward of the Philadelphia Pennsylvania Stake during a sacrament meeting presentation, "Heavenly Father is the Father of our spirits and He loves us." Marie Robertson, 11, of the Cody (Wyo.) 1st Ward spoke of her body being a temple. "I am in charge of my body, and I am responsible to keep it temple worthy inside and out," she said.
It's experiences like these that Primary general officers hope children will remember as the years pass. "I believe that as they are taught the truth, the Holy Ghost will bear witness to them. Those feelings will remain in the memories of the children and can be a strength to them in times of need," Pres. Pinegar explained.
However, the general presidency emphasized that Primary and the Children's Sacrament Meeting Presentation are meant to supplement what children are being taught in the home.
"Primary can help strengthen families as leaders and teachers encourage children to share with their families what they are learning in Primary," Pres. Pinegar said.
She added, "It is a blessing for children to recall the principles they have learned throughout the year and to share these with members of their ward family."