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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The Wise Girl and the Foolish Girl: Feminism in Primary

Now, I know that Primary is not the place to preach my feminist ideals. So, while I don’t think I should do a lesson on the three waves of feminism during sharing time, I do try to bring in examples of underrepresented groups of people whenever I can.

I loved Mary Ann’s guest post on FMH for new verses to Follow the Prophet posted last year about this time. And, since then, I’ve been looking for ways to make some Primary songs a bit more gender inclusive. One of my male evangelical students pointed out Proverbs 14:1 that has made me rethink ways to present, “The Wise Man and the Foolish Man.” The Primary songbook lists Helaman 5:12 and Matthew 7:24-27 as the scriptures that go with this song.

Then, Proverbs 14:1 has the same theme:
“Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.”

Admittingly, there isn’t a “rock” she’s building on, but still the imagery of building and destruction is there.

Now comes the task of how to get the Primary to join me in “The Wise Girl and the Foolish Girl” or a verse about Deborah in “Follow the Prophet.”

I was thinking of showing the kids that Primary songs are a way to learn about scriptures and showing them the footnotes that list the Matthew and Helaman passages. And, then, I would show them that by our own personal scripture study, we can find more connections to these stories and themes.

I worry that I will look like I’m trying to indoctrinate the kids, but really, my primary purpose in using songs that we’ve changed is for children to see themselves in the scriptures. I want my African-American girls to see the above picture of Deborah, I want the Hispanic kids (and the rest of us) to learn some Primary songs in Spanish.

What do you do in Church (Primary, youth programs, even with adults) to include all members of your class?

Artwork: “Deborah Under the Palm Tree” by Adriene Cruz

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