"Choose the right" - the focus for Primary in 1997 - is a concept familiar to Latter-day Saints.
But what does it mean in the lives of children?During the coming year, Primary children everywhere will be discussing this question and the blessings and/or consequences of choice. Such children include 9-year-old Emily Call of the Alta View 1st Ward, Sandy Utah Alta View Stake.
Recently taking a times-table test in school, Emily knew that her friend, sitting next to her, was good at this subject. It would be easy for Emily to look over and get a few answers from her friend's paper.
But she didn't.
Emily, the daughter of Budge and Lawana Call, later said that her decision to be honest made her happy. If she were to tell another little boy or girl why she chose the right, she would simply say, "Because it makes you feel better."
It is this understanding that Patricia P. Pinegar, Primary general president, and her counselors Anne G. Wirthlin and Susan L. Warner, hope LDS children everywhere will gain this year - both in Primary and in the home. And it's such experiences they hope children will share during the 1997 Children's Sacrament Meeting Presentation, to be held in wards and branches throughout the Church the fourth quarter of the year.
"You realize and I realize that children are growing up in a scary world," Pres. Pinegar said in a Church News interview that included Sisters Wirthlin and Warner. "The Church and the world are going in opposite directions. We have an urgent responsibility to help children understand that their choices have consequences and that they can feel joy, peace and happiness as they choose the right. Parents have an important responsibility, and we want to help."
The 1997 Children's Sacrament Meeting Presentation and Sharing Time Outline urges Primary leaders to "consult with the bishop or branch president about how to encourage families to share the theme in the home and use the CTR
Choose the RightT ring as a constant reminder of this year's focus."
The outline also explains that the 1997 Primary emphasis is to help children learn that:
- "They have agency to make their own choices.
- "Happiness comes through being obedient and choosing the right.
- "They can choose the right and return home to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ."
The songs included in the outline were carefully chosen to help children associate good feelings with choosing the right, the Primary general presidency explained. Such songs include "When Jesus Christ Was Baptized," and "Dare to Do Right."
The presidency emphasized that the outline includes questions designed to help a child internalize the theme. For example, under the subject, "Heavenly Father has blessed me with agency to choose right from wrong," is the question, "To whom am I accountable?"
The general presidency agreed that teaching agency and accountability - such a doctrinal topic - to Primary children may be challenging, but they emphasized the importance of children understanding that when they are baptized they are accountable for their choices. The general presidency suggested several ways parents can teach and apply this year's focus in the most important classroom - the home:
- Teach Heavenly Father's love. Referring to the simple faith of a child, Pres. Pinegar said: "Hopefully, we can help each child understand the love Heavenly Father has for us. He would never ask anything that wouldn't be for our benefit and happiness."
- Bear testimony to children. Speaking to parents, Sister Warner said: "Share with your children your testimony and your own experiences choosing right from wrong. They will provide a foundation for family discussions."
- Help children understand the "why" of choosing the right. Sister Wirthlin spoke of a young girl who kept asking her parents if she could watch an R-rated movie. They kept saying no. "Then one day she said, `When will I be old enough to watch this?' " Sister Wirthlin related. "Her parents realized they hadn't taught the principle: `R-rated movies are rated that way because they have immorality and violence and things we don't want to make a part of our lives and won't bring you happiness in your life. It is not your age but the principle that should determine your choices."
- Set a good example. "How often do we help children change their lives by the words we say? Hardly ever. It's how we live," Pres. Pinegar noted.
- Use Church resources in the home. Along with reading together the scriptures and the words of modern-day prophets, families can take advantage of such resources as the annual Children's Sacrament Meeting Presentation and Sharing Time Outline, and "My Gospel Standards" poster, available at distribution centers. Speaking of the outline, Pres. Pinegar noted: "Most people think this is a program for the sacrament meeting. But it's more than that. It's what children are going to study and learn about in Primary the whole year. What a magnificent resource for parents!"
The "My Gospel Standards" poster includes statements meant to remind children to choose the right. Such statements include, "I will remember my baptismal covenants and listen to the Holy Ghost."
In addition, the general presidency explained that family and pioneer histories can be used to teach children how to choose the right.
Along with all the ways parents and Primary leaders can teach children to "Choose the Right," it is important to focus "on all the good choices that our children are making. We want this to be a happy year in the lives of Primary children," Pres. Pinegar emphasized.