“Home Church”

I’ve lived rurally before. And I will probably live rurally again. But right now, this rural is different. The last ward I attended, it took an hour and 45 minutes to get to the building. But we still went for a time, as I wrote about in the May visiting teaching post here. Now we are a good two hour drive from the nearest fellow church members’ house, where there is no building, no relief society president, no primary.


I have not yet met the fellow members of the branch we are in; the District President (the presiding church officer over the 5 branches in this regional area) is the acting branch president for us because the branch is so small.  I wondered if the powers that be might assign my husband to be branch president, and me as relief society president. I had heard about this practice from fellow church members who had for a time lived in regional areas without chapels, church members or even missionaries. This branch assignment was gratefully not the case for us; I say gratefully, because if we were assigned these positions, we would likely spend a significant amount of time in the car attending regional leadership meetings, and possibly be assigned to “visit” (i.e. “reactivate”) less active (if they are still around) church members who have not been in communication with the church in years or even decades.


About once a month or more, we attend a branch that is about a 3 hour drive away. We chose to latch onto this branch mostly because they instantly welcomed us, and asked us to participate. Even though we do not attend activities, we are still alerted to them. In the end, and for the most part, we do “home church.” Or at least that is what we call it.

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Emergency Substitute YW or Sunday School Lesson

5597146442_193cc9af0a_zI teach a combined class of Laurels and Miamaids. A couple of months ago, as I was planning a lesson, I kept getting emails saying that my lesson time would be cut short. They had song practice for a special musical number. And the girls needed to be taken out one by one to work on a going-away gift for one of the leaders. My usual 30 minutes was down to 15- and even those would be interrupted. I needed a quick lesson that was “on topic” but that the girls would like. This was my solution.

The week before, I had asked the girls what they wanted a lesson on. It was the month about the Restoration, so I suggested the Book of Mormon or Joseph Smith. They told me they just wanted food. Noted.

With only 15 minutes of intermittent lesson, I decided to go the easy route. I’d bring food. But it would also be loosely based on the Book of Mormon. I mean really loosely. So loose that you might not even need to mention the Book of Mormon at all.

I wrote a list of scriptures (from the Book of Mormon!) on the board. They were these:

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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 www.metmuseum.org


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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