IWD Series 2018: Seeing Women and Girls in Primary
Guest post by Carrie Sillito
Eve. Jarius’s Daughter. Mary Magdalene. Mary, Mother of Jesus. Sarah. Sariah. Ten virgins. The Widow of Zarephath. Mary Jones. Emily Fulmer. The Mother of Heber J Grant. “Mrs. James”. “Annie”. “Jane”. “Mary.” “Sarah”.
17 girls and women.
This list is inclusive of every single girl and woman mentioned in sharing time outlines from 2014 through 2018. At least four of them are fictional (the jury is out on whether “Mrs. James” is fictional or real). Let’s assume “Mrs. James” is real. Only because my heart aches to learn the stories of real women.
Over 5 years, and 240 weeks of lessons, only 13 real women or girls are talked about in sharing time.
Some of these women (Like Eve, Mary Magdalene, and Jairus’s Daughter) are mentioned in more than one lesson.
Women included in Sharing Time Outlines: 2014-2018
|Women from Scripture (Total = 8)||Total Number of times included|
|Eve (and Adam)||4|
|Mary, Jesus Mother||1|
|Sarah (and Abraham)||1|
|Sariah (and Lehi)||1|
|Widow of Zarephath||2|
|Pioneer or Modern Women (Total = 5)|
|Mary Jones (Genealogy story)||1|
|Outline suggests to invite a mother||1|
|Ben and Emily Fulmer (President Monson story)||1|
|“Mrs. James” (missionary story)||1|
|Mother of Heber J Grant||1|
|Fictional Female Characters||4|
|Total Stories Including Women 2014-2018||28|
In total, there are stories with women or girls twenty-eight times. Total. In 5 years. Contrast this to the stories including men and boys. In the same five-year period, there were 211 stories including men and boys. This figure excludes stories or lessons that were specifically focused on the Godhead because including those would have boosted the number much higher.
I don’t want to be all negative. I LOVE primary. I’ve had primary callings most of my adult life. Many weeks, the sharing time lessons are gender neutral. There are fun activities and games, songs, and visual activities. We spend a lot of time learning about gospel principles, the scriptures, and the Savior. The lessons are usually engaging for both the boys and the girls.
In 2014, Primary children learned that “Families are Forever” in sharing time, yet there was no mention of our Heavenly Mother.
In 2015, Primary children learned about the Savior in sharing time. Unfortunately, the outline for the year only included references to two women who interacted with Jesus.
In 2016, Primary children spent a year learning “I know the Scriptures are True.” However, that year, only five women from the scriptures were ever mentioned in sharing time outlines.
In 2017, Primary children spent a year learning to “Choose the Right.” Over the entire year, only four women who chose the right are mentioned by name – and two of them were fictional.
In 2018, the theme is “I am a child of God.” There are only 7 times daughters of God are mentioned by name in the outlines or stories. Two of these are fictional.
I was impressed with President Joy D. Jones’s conference talk in October 2017 when she told the stories of women and girls who have made a difference in building the church. I hope we can be like her and share these stories with our primary children.
In October, 2015 General Conference, President Russell M. Nelson Said, “We, your brethren, need your strength, your conversion, your conviction, your ability to lead, your wisdom, and your voices. The kingdom of God is not and cannot be complete without women… who can speak with the power and authority of God!”
If our current prophet says we need the voices of women, certainly, the children of the primary could benefit from learning about the women who have also worked in building the kingdom of God.
I, like President Nelson, NEED to hear the voices of women. I want to hear their stories, see their strength and courage. I want my children to hear the stories of women. I want them to see women participating in the church, facing challenges with faith. I want them to see faithful women who choose the right, who follow the Savior, who participate in families, who are in the scriptures, and I want them to know that women, too, are valuable Children of God.
You cannot be what you cannot see.
When I started going through the outlines from sharing time, I never imagined there were actually so few women in the sharing time outlines. I began a serious search of the sharing time outlines, wanting to prove to myself that the girls were there, somewhere.
But, instead, I found that in 5 years of lessons, only 13 females who actually existed were ever mentioned.
What can be done?
I’m reaching out to church leaders to share these findings. I do not believe women were deliberately excluded. I have faith and hope that speaking up can bring change. The church has made many recent efforts to make women more visible by putting auxiliary leaders on the stand in general conference, having women pray in general conference, and adding pictures of female auxiliary leaders to the conference center. Women have been added to councils, and women take a larger part with ward councils in organizing sacrament meeting programs. The church has come a long way in improving the visibility of women in recent years!
Each of us can make a difference.
When I teach sharing time, I find and include stories of women and girls too.
I encourage you to also make women visible. Many of us in the LDS church have teaching callings. We can make an effort to find stories of women and girls to share too. Whether you teach in the Primary, Sunday School, Young Women’s program, Young Men’s program, Relief Society, Elders Quorum, or High Priests, YOU can make females more visible in the church. If you are not a teacher, you can share comments and stories about women in class. One of my favorite Bible stories is of Queen Esther when she had the courage to speak out against the plot of the evil Haman. She put her faith and trust in God, and because of this, her courage saved her people. Our primary children need to learn about Esther and other faithful, brave, courageous women.
We can share our ideas with each other.
We can help each other! I created a PDF with stories of women and girls that fit into current sharing time lesson plans. This may give you some ideas of how to include girls and women in sharing time. All references are church published sources. This is not a complete or exhaustive list of resources. This is intended to help you supplement (not replace) the current primary outlines. If you teach sharing time and you have other stories of women or girls that you have used, I’d love to expand this resource to include more examples of women from the scriptures, choosing the right, following the Savior, as part of families, and as children of God.
Because over 5 years, primary children need to hear about more than 13 women in sharing time.
Carrie completed a PhD in Sociology, and teaches Sociology courses part time. She is in her ward primary presidency, and a mother to three children.