You can’t be what you can’t see

the-first-vision-82823-printMy seven year old nephew recently announced to his mother that there are more boys than girls on the earth. My sister asked,”Why do you think that?” He explained,

“Because Heavenly Father and Jesus are boys, there must be more boys on the earth.”

My sister said she wasn’t sure if there were more boys than girls, that the numbers were probably near equal. She also reminded him that we have a Mother in Heaven and she is part of our Heavenly Family. My nephew said,

“Yeah, but Heavenly Father and Jesus have powers and stuff.”

Not yet defeated, my sister explained that Heavenly Mother is powerful too, and we probably have sisters up there in heaven that we just don’t know about. Then my nephew wanted to know if he could pray to Heavenly Mother. My sister said, “Well, we’ve been asked not too, but you can think about her and remember her always.”

At the age of seven my nephew understands in the simplest terms that male is more.

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Tattoos and Ghost Stories


A few months ago a dear friend asked me if I had anything I’d want to contribute for a collection of essays on Primary that would be both real and uplifting. I recalled a funny and sweet memory of one daughter as a Sunbeam and submitted it. Another friend of ours, Bret Wunderli, also submitted a piece. Both were gladly accepted by the compiler. However, the publisher, whose distributor is Desert Book, found our submission troubling and chose to omit them stating: “With Deseret Book distributing this book, we can’t include anything that hints at questioning Church doctrines. Even if it’s subtle.” This disturbed me. Not because my story wouldn’t be included, but because of the climate of fear that is trickling down from above. There is just so much fear. And it is escalating.  Nobody’s mad about the editorial decision, just really sad when something you intended to be bright and insightful is seen as insidious. So brace yourselves for our expurgated stories:


My husband’s family is very loving, very supportive, and very colorful. Literally. Seven of the ten kids have at least one tattoo.  And not just initials, or some Chinese symbol that is supposed to say “serenity” but actually says “brussels sprout.” They wear tattoos of bulldogs and Spanish skylines, Maori symbolism, and even the Little Mermaid. My kids adore these aunts and uncles and get fairly defensive when Primary lessons lump body art into the list of “no no’s” or signs of apostasy.

When Georgia was a Sunbeam, her sweet teacher taught a lesson on bodies being temples. When she got to the part about tattoos being Bad, Georgia jumped up from her chair and let loose that her family had lots of tattoos and they were good and pretty and in fact God LOVED tattoos and temples had art so why not bodies—so there! Her kind teacher quietly directed these 3 and 4 year olds to draw pictures for the rest of the lesson.

After church, this teacher found my husband and me and told us the story. She handed me the picture Georgia had drawn. It was a very simple sketch of a man in robes, beard, long hair. Clearly it was Jesus…with a large red tattoo on his forehead of a heart. I looked up to see how this teacher was responding. She had a huge smile on her face and told me she loved Georgia because she was so passionate and truly understood that the Lord loves us all.  I hugged her and was so thankful for a teacher who can teach the party line but did not need to shut down the opposition. 

“Why aren’t there any women in the Godhead?”

By Bret Wunderli

Several years ago, my wife and I taught the oldest teenagers in Sunday School. We had prepared a lesson on something else, but when it became clear that the students were unclear about the Godhead, we scrapped our lesson and taught them about the Godhead. (It should be noted that these young men and women were smart; the fault, we’ve always assumed, was in the teaching they’d received. That is, their teachers had always assumed that they understood the Church’s teachings regarding the Godhead. That was our hypothesis, anyway.)

Some years later, I found myself teaching the oldest Primary children. To say these boys and girls were bright doesn’t do them justice. Remembering our experience in Sunday School, I decided to teach them the clearest, best lesson about the Godhead that I could manage when the topic came up in the manual.

At some point in the lesson, Victoria raised her hand. Her question was priceless. She said, “Why aren’t there any women in the Godhead?” Slight pause. Then, with a puzzled face and a tilted head, she added, “I mean, there’s a ghost in there after all.” That class was not only full of smart kids; they were also kind. They respected each other. So when I tell you that everyone (including the teacher) laughed, it’s important to understand that we were laughing at Victoria’s wit and not at her. Victoria was glowing.

Here’s my answer to her that day: “Victoria, there are many people in the Church who will give you many different answers to that question. Here’s the real deal. We just don’t know why there aren’t any women in the Godhead.”

And there you have it.


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Fun Ways to Practice that Primary Song Again and Again and Again

The Daughters of Catulle Mendès, Huguette (1871–1964), Claudine (1876–1937), and Helyonne (1879–1955) by Auguste Renoir Courtesy of MET

The Daughters of Catulle Mendès, Huguette (1871–1964), Claudine (1876–1937), and Helyonne (1879–1955) by Auguste Renoir Courtesy of MET

Repetition Activities
Children (and adults) learn songs by repetition, but simply singing the same song over and over is boring. Here are some more interesting activities to help children learn or memorize a song. All these activities require singing or listening to the same song several times.

Obey the Signs
Stop/Go: Sing when “go” is up. Listen to the piano when “stop” is up.
Hum/Sing: Hum when “hum” is up. Sing when “sing” is up.
Soft/Loud: Sing softly when “soft” is up. Sing loudly when “loud” is up. Warning: Prior to doing this one, explain that “loud” means singing with lots of volume but still beautifully and reverently, never yelling. Demonstrate by singing a line softly then loudly.

Ensemble Cards
Have several cards that list different categories of people, such as boys and girls, certain eye or hair colors, adults and children, wearing certain colors of clothing, etc. When you hold up a card, everyone in that group stands and sings. Everyone else sits and listens.

Put the Song in Order

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Christmas Series: Primary Nativity Program


The Annunciation – Luca Giordano courtesy of


If your ward is anything like mine, the Nativity program put on by the children of the Primary at the annual Ward Christmas Party is a highlight of the season!  Some years, the script seems like it might have been lifted from “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” others you may notice the absence of spoken lines for the beloved female characters.

Let’s call this an “equitable” Nativity script, then. With spoken lines for Mary, Elisabeth and Anna (in addition to the lines of a second angel and shepherd which may be cast as either gender), this Nativity script offers equal speaking opportunities for girls and boys alike.

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Guest Post: Heavenly Mother’s Hiding in the Primary Closet

Guest post by Bethany

Bethany is a community activist in Richmond, Virginia, focusing on creating a healthy food culture in public schools.  In her spare time she works to create a healthier gender culture at church.  She’s finding that getting adult Mormons to say “Heavenly Parents” is a lot harder than getting kids to eat kale.  She mothers three young girls, loves to cycle with her husband, and digs cooking spicy vegetarian food to share with neighbors. 


I don’t know anyone who anticipates the unveiling of the General Primary theme for Sharing Time for the year.  I know I certainly never have.  This year, I happened to stumble upon it and was pleasantly surprised.  No, I was more than surprised. Elated–that’s a better description.  Have any of you seen it?  It certainly doesn’t get a lot of coverage.  I mean, who even thinks about the Sharing Time theme until early October when you’re trying to help your child memorize her part for the Primary sacrament meeting?  Well this year, I suggest we start thinking about it earlier, because it contains a gem.

For 2013, Primary children throughout the world will be celebrating the theme I Am a Child of God.  But the theme doesn’t stop with that typical Mormon mantra…it continues on with a phrase from the Proclamation on the Family, ““All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents”.  Did you catch that?  Heavenly Parents in the Primary theme?  Is it just me, or is that pretty remarkable?  I mean women in the Relief Society are studying Lorenzo Snow, but the kiddos in Primary get to focus on Heavenly Parents…I know where I want to hang out on Sundays.  But whether you’re serving in Primary or not, I think this is something all Mormon Feminists should jump on.

To me, the theme gently opens up the door to speak about our Heavenly Parents and/or Heavenly Mother whenever we feel inspired to do so…in sharing time, in Primary lessons, in talks, in fast and testimony meetings. So let’s raise our hands in Sharing Time and declare that Heavenly Mother was certainly involved in creating everything that is lovely in our world.  Let’s ask the Primary chorister if we can use the term Heavenly Parents as we sing some of our songs.  Let’s show the I am a daughter of God Mormon Message video in our classes and discuss specific qualities we have inherited from our Heavenly Mother.  And let’s initiate conversations with our ward and stake Primary presidencies on how to fully take advantage of this inspired theme.  Surely our children need to hear more about our Heavenly Parents…there is no better way for them to understand the importance of marriage and families and the ideal of equal partnership.  If we let this unique theme go by unnoticed, it will be a tragically missed opportunity.

Earlier this month, I bore my testimony in sacrament meeting about the Primary theme and how awesome it is that the restored gospel enables me to teach the 10 and 11 year old Valiant girls in our ward that they have a Heavenly Mother, that they have a divine role model and an example of their infinite potential.  It’s powerful stuff.  And my testimony was even well received by my rather conservative ward.  So go for it!…let’s get Heavenly Mother out of the Primary closet and into our Sabbath conversations and beyond.  If anyone gives you any trouble, just refer them to President Wixom, the General Primary President.

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“I can take a chainsaw and make a treat:” Primary Halloween Songs

As I contemplated a post for Halloween, I kept thinking about my cousin Rob.  Like me, he has a big irreverent streak. Like me, he has had embarrassing run-ins with the Secret Service. And, like me, he has a penchant for messing with the lyrics of Church songs.  When he was Primary chorister in Berkeley, no boys would volunteer to be Helaman so he had a girl play the part and changed “Nephi’s Courage” to be sung, “we are as the armies of Sheila-man.” Check out my blog if you want to read my Mormon food version of “Candy Man” (The Mormon Mom Can). So here is Rob, once again serving as Primary Chorister, sharing some of his delightfully spooky songs.

I am really lucky.  I have the marvelous job of singing with 50-70 kids each Sunday morning.  It is the best calling in the church–by far. Especially when the Primary leaders are not part of the Mormon Taliban who cry “Heresy!” at the least hint of unorthodox behavior. The four women who are in charge of the Primary in our congregation are fantastic: very low-key and supportive. Even yesterday, when I pulled out some hallo-weeny upgrades of some of our musical favorites.

The children have been very good and reverent for weeks on end as we have prepared for our annual program. They deserved a break.  I told the kids that I had looked very hard and found Halloween hymns in our Children’s Songbook, right before the Thanksgiving Hymns (anyone who knows the Songbook knows that you can look long and hard for anything spooky–except for some of those atonal Article of Faith songs).

 Actually, with the help of my own kids, we brainstormed the following songs. They were a big hit, and I give you permission to spread the spookiness across the Kingdom of Zion!

“Zombies Popping up” (this is my 14 year daughter’s creation. I only let the older kids do this one for obvious reasons. To the tune of “Popcorn Popping” and with lurching, gagging effects):

I looked out the window and what did I see
Zombies popping up and coming after me.
Halloween brought me such a nasty surprise
Zombies popping up before my eyes

I can take a chainsaw and make a treat                                    
Some Zombie-Slaw that will fill the street
It wasn’t really so, but it seemed to me
Zombies popping up and coming after me.

“Once there was a Vampire” (I had them turn up their shirt collars and sing it with a thick Transylvanian accent to the tune of “Once there was a Snowman:”

Once there was a Vampire, Vampire Vampire
Once there was a Vampire Tall, Tall Tall
In the sun he shriveled, shriveled, shriveled
In the sun he shriveled small, small, small (writhe on the floor like at the end of Nosferatu)

Alternate Verse:

Once their was a Bad Witch….Tall Tall Tall,
In the rain she melted…small small small (What a World!)

Skeleton Song” (To the tune of “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes…”)

Skull, Shoulders, Kneecaps and Toe-Bones..
Eye-holes, Ear-holes, Mouth and Nose-holes

“Boo as I’m Booing” (just like “Do as I’m Doing,” but with ghostly shrieks and wails)

Good, Clean Holiday Fun. How do you shake up your calling?


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