Friday, December 16, 2016

Primary Christmas Sharing Time

Sunday is our last Primary Sharing Time together before the new year, because we will only meet for Sacrament on Christmas Sunday. That means we had only three weeks this month to teach the four lessons in the Sharing Time lesson manual. On top of that, we felt inspired to focus on the #lighttheworld initiative to "Follow our Savior Jesus Christ. In 25 Ways. Over 25 Days" in our Primary sharing time lessons for the last couple of weeks. This initiative goes very well with the lessons for December so it is not a complete departure, but I want to make sure to wrap up this Sunday by bringing all of the lessons for December together.

December Lessons:

Week 1: Prophets prophesied about the birth of Jesus Christ.
Week 2: Jesus Christ was born.
Week 3: Jesus Christ will someday return to the earth.
Week 4: To prepare for the Second Coming, I will follow Jesus Christ.

To help prepare me spiritually for planning, I watched the 2016 First Presidency Christmas Devotional, which I had not watched yet. As I prepare this lesson, it has been quite inspiring to be reminded from watching the devotional that the lessons we are teaching our children, which seem so basic, are the exact lessons that were being taught in this devotional to adult men and women, teenagers, and children, around the world. We learn about the birth of the Savior Jesus Christ, the miracles and prophecies that told of his coming, and how Jesus Christ taught while he was on this earth to prepare us to return to Him someday, and to give us peace and hope in our times of trial.

My lesson will go something like this:

I'll start with the "Encourage understanding" idea on Week 3 of the lesson manual, and have four children come to the front of the room to hold up four pictures that I've laminated (just to mix it up for the kids). We'll talk about each of the four pictures for a bit, then I'll have the class help me to put these pictures into the right order.

I'll then put them up on the chalkboard under the following signs and then give the children an opportunity to talk about each section for a little bit.

1. Prophets prophesied about the birth of Jesus Christ
What did Samuel tell in prophecy? (Hint: "Samuel Tells the Story of Baby Jesus" song.)

2. The Savior was born.

3. Jesus taught the people.

4. Jesus will someday return to the earth.
Matthew 16:27 - "For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works."

From the lesson manual for Week 3, as well:

1. What are some wonders that will take place when Christ comes again?
Joseph Smith - Matthew 1:33, 36-37
A: sun shall be darkened, moon shall not give light, stars shall fall from heaven, a sign will appear of the Son of Man in heaven, Son of Man will come and send angels before him with the great sound of a trumpet

2. When will the Savior come again?
Joseph Smith - Matthew 1:38-40
A: only the angels of God in heaven know

3. Why should we prepare for the Second Coming?
D&C 38:30
A: If ye are prepared ye shall not fear

4. How long will the Savior dwell on the earth?
D&C 29:11
A: A thousand years.

Talk about Light the World.

We can prepare for the second coming by following Jesus Christ and by doing good things each day. We have been encouraging you children to participate in the Light the World initiative this entire month. All of those things you have done to Light the World, such as serving others and praying, help us prepare for the second coming. These are things that you can't have others do for you, that you need to do yourself.

Encourage children to raise their hands and share things they have done to Light the World. Or if they brought their strips of paper, because we've been building a paper chain for Light the World in our Primary, then we'll keep doing that. We've done this twice now though so I'm tempted, at least with Senior Primary, to ask them questions about specific Light the World topics.

I thought about even attaching the topics to a nativity so that the child would choose a nativity item and then it would have a specific day from Light the World that we would talk about. I don't think I have time for that in the format I am doing so I might need to try a condensed version. I'm thinking of focusing on, time pending:

1. Dec 12 - Jesus Taught Others and So Can You
a. Give an example - I talked to someone about the Book of Mormon last who, who is not a member of the church and did not know many of the stories.
b. Ask if anyone invited a friend to FHE, or taught someone how to do something, maybe someone that was struggling in class or a younger brother or sister.

2. Dec 13 - Jesus Showed Humility and So Can You
a. Give an example - Jesus showed humility when he washed the feet of his Apostles.
b. Ask if anyone asked their parents for help with something this week, or asked for advice for a person problem they are facing, are were willing to admit they were wrong about something.

3. Dec 14 - Jesus Taught Us to Clothe the Naked and You Can Help
a. I donated a bunch of clothes this week. My friend that used to live in this ward would crochet baby hats and donate them to the hospital.
b. Has anyone been able to donate clothes, help knit a hat, or anything else?

4. Dec 15 - Jesus Worshipped through Son and So Can You
a. Ask - how many participated in the stake Carol to Our King last Sunday? (We have a stake sing-along where every choir in the stake sings one song.)
b. Did anyone invite a friend to hear the choir sing today?

5. Dec 16 - Jesus Showed Compassion and So Can You
a. Jesus felt for others. What have you done this week to show and feel love and concern for those who are suffering?
b. Have you prayed for anyone? Said something positive to someone? Opened the door for someone that had their hands full?

6. Dec 17 - Jesus Cared for His Mother and So Can You
a. Did you write your mom a letter telling her all the things that you love about her?
b. Did you maybe do something nice for another person in your life who is like a mother to you?
c. Did you ask your mom questions about her life history?

7. Dec 18 - Jesus Honored the Sabbath and So Can You
a. You can visit a family member
b. Memorize a favorite scripture or a religious quote
c. Do some family history work
d. Write in your journal. Maybe write about special things you can do to draw closer to God.

Also, if time: The Parable of the Ten Virgins - Matthew 25:1-13. Also a great discussion on this parable here:

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Light the World - How our Primary is Participating

Our Primary began our official participation in the the Light the World initiative today. I want to share what we are doing.

I posted this message on various neighborhood social media pages today:

The [Our Ward Name] Primary taught about "Light the World" with the Primary children today. This is a 25-day "event" starting on December 1 to "give us a chance to look at the things Jesus Christ did and resolve to do the same." You can read about it here:

The children were also given a physical calendar (I attached a PDF to the actual post but have a partial screenshot of it above). We've encouraged them to look for ways to serve each day and write what they have done on individual strips of paper, to bring to church on Sunday. We will add links to our paper chain each Sunday in December to visually show the children how each different way that they choose to follow Christ adds up. This is an amazing opportunity to share the light of Christ. We encourage you to talk about "Light the World" in Family Home Evening on Monday. 

This event is not limited to children that regularly attend our church. If you have children that would like to participate, Primary is in the [Our Building Address] church building from 12-2 p.m. on Sundays. All are welcome!

The #LIGHTtheWORLD initiative began Friday, November 25 and runs through Christmas Day. For our introduction to this topic today, our counselor first focused on what we have been learning in past weeks (about reverence). This was to review what they have learned but also to lead into what she would teach next. She then showed the brief Light the World video that shows modern-day service and how it parallels the Savior's example. She talked with the Primary children about how we can be a light.

Next week, we'll see how many children remember to bring their paper chains, and spend some time around this. We'll send an email reminding parents on December 1 that the initiative has begun, and perhaps a reminder on Saturday night not to forget their paper chains!

Next Sunday, I'd like to spend more time talking about the specific items highlighted for each of the 25 days. The items listed in the calendar are generally for adults but can easily be adapted to children. For example, December 12 says, "Jesus Taught Others and So Can You." The suggestions given are to share a favorite story on social media, pass down something you have learned from your parents or grandparents, or watch an online tutorial to learn a new skill to benefit others. These suggestions are great but more geared toward adults. I think we can have a great participatory discussion in Primary though where we have children give ideas for each day. For this theme, some ideas could be:

1. Help Teach the Family Home Evening lesson
2. Share a passalong card (or a kid's version of one) with a friend.
3. Help your parents make dinner so you can learn a skill there. My parents taught me how to make pancakes at a young age, and it was something I really enjoyed making with them, and then when I got older, for them.
4. Teach a younger brother or sister something you have learned in school or at church.

Since we are focusing our lesson around "Light the World" for two Sundays and then have a stake conference in-between, we are going to combine the scheduled lessons from the Primary Sharing Time manual into one big Christmas lesson on December 18. I'm considering different ways to combine this lesson. We could have something interactive and bring in Nativity clothing or a nativity set. We could break into groups on blankets on the ground for a special storytelling. We try to make our Christmas lesson extra special as it is honoring such a special event, the birth of the Savior of our world!! I'd love to also focus on teaching a lesson in a way that they can take what they have learned home and teach it for Family Home Evening on December 19, Monday. So many ideas! We'll discuss as a presidency when we meet next week, because were 2 or more are gathered, He is there, and he can give us inspiration and guidance as we decide together the best approach that will be the most meaningful for the wonderful children in our ward.

I wanted to also share that when our counselor was teaching this lesson and introducing Light the World, there was a girl in Junior Primary and a boy in Senior Primary, who are siblings, who both raised theirs hands and were excited to share that when they went to visit Grandma for Thanksgiving, she showed them the video (which our counselor hadn't shown yet) and gave them a journal so they could write down every day something they were doing to Light the World. I thought it was great that what their grandmother had done for them had made such a strong impact. I'd love to see other families look for other ways to incorporate Light the World so that what the Primary is doing is simply supporting families as they seek to make this Christmas meaningful.

One other thing. This is a very busy time of the year but I'm hoping that we'll be able to figure out a way that we can serve as a Primary, together, this month. We'll meet and discuss this as a Primary Presidency next week. My biggest idea right now, for something that is simple but that we can do together, is to have the Primary meet to sing Christmas carols to some of the sweet single sisters and maybe even the single brothers (widowed, divorced, and/or empty nesters) in our ward. I think there are so many other great things we can do though so we'll meet and discuss, and in the end, we may just focus on having the Primary do things with their families - but I wanted to throw that idea out there because this is such a wonderful time of the year, but because it's so wonderful, it can also be a struggle for some, and I'd love to have the Primary children find ways to share their beautiful light with others.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Primary Program - Post-Program Activity

We held our Primary Program today. We wanted to do something special during class time for this special day. However, I'm always worried about the line between just having "fun" and recognizing that they are in church to feel our Savior's love and learn about the gospel. So I always want to make sure the lesson time is used appropriately and focuses on the topics that the Primary is assigned to teach.

First, we started with "crazy, mixed up Sunday" where we had the chorister give the opening prayer, the pianist be the chorister, a presidency member play the piano, etc. The children totally got a kick out of it! We then had Sharing Time first instead of Singing Time, all part of the "crazy, mixed up Sunday."

Our theme last month was missionaries and missionary work. So, today, we talked about how the program today gave them the opportunity to share their testimonies with the congregation and be missionaries. We then had the children write letters to missionaries that are serving all over the world from our ward today. I had emailed the missionaries from our ward beforehand. So, we split the children into groups, and had someone read a letter from a missionary to each group. Then, the children wrote letters to an assigned missionary.

We set up four large tables. This is one of them:

We had a strip of paper with the name of the missionary in front of them. We involved other leaders in the Primary who told the children a little about where the missionary was serving if they had that information. We gave each group 2-3 missionaries to write to, or in the case of younger children, draw pictures to send. It worked best when we had a letter from the missionary to whom they were writing. However, to keep this activity low-stress when we were also planning a primary program, I really tried to keep it simple with the preparation. If a missionary didn't write back, I didn't stress about it! They are busy!

I specifically asked the children to share what they had learned this year in their letters to the missionaries. I was so impressed with how well the children listened to me and followed that instruction. One child (Ethan, who is 7) wrote his line from the program, which was to share his favorite scripture reference (2 Nephi 2:25) and the scripture, about how "Men are that they might have joy." Another child (Charlie, who is also 7) wrote about Heavenly Father's plan. He had a talk assigned to him for the program and shared some of the things he spoke about in that talk. I wish I had thought to take pictures of those deep letters! We used scrap paper that another sister in the ward had donated to the Primary.

Also, in the spirit of keeping things simple (advice from our wonderful President Uchtdorf), I am handing these letters to the parents of the missionaries to mail with their next package rather than trying to track down current addresses and mail them all myself. Which I've done before. Also, I've had to buy a bunch of stamps and get a refund from the ward, where I think this is one way we can avoid using ward budget where I don't think the missionary parents mind slipping a few extra letters into their next package. Many of them are getting ready to send Christmas packages anyway, since some of these packages take a long time to reach their children in countries all over the world!

Another thing we did today: We have an amazing Primary chorister and two amazing Primary pianists, all three of which have been with us in Primary for us a long time, and all of whom are extremely reliable and dedicated to serving the children. We can always count on them. We don't do this every year, but this year, we wanted to take the time to thank them in a bigger way than usual. So, on Saturday night, I put a vase full of two dozen roses in the clerk's office. On Sunday, during Sharing time, I separated the roses into three sets, one for each pianist and for our chorister. One of our pianists wasn't here this Sunday so we didn't choose to sing to her, but we sang to the other two.

I picked out a song I knew from the Children's Songbook called, "A Song of Thanks," and work with me to quickly re-write the words to lines 1-3:


We then asked our two sweet sisters to come to the front of the room where we sang the song to them on the fly (I did this in Senior Primary where the kids can read and quickly picked up the tune) and then gave them the flowers.

Lastly, our amazing Stake Primary Presidency always makes sure someone from the stake attends the Primary Program. They always take the time to write a letter to the Primary children and share specific things they enjoyed about the program. We made sure to read that letter, too.

Our Primary chorister also planned the perfect low-stress Singing Time activity that went really well with our plans. I wish I had remembered to take a picture (I don't usually take pictures during Primary but I knew I wanted to blog about today.) She brought in an office chair, and created a pizza-shaped grid on the ground with tape. She then had each child write down a favorite song, which she put into each pie wedge. A child would spin in the chair, and wherever their feet landed indicated a song they would sing.

Also, we have had a tradition in past years of bringing in healthy snacks on the day of the program - cheese, grapes, pretzels, and sliced apples are typical - but this year, we felt this would be a fun and different thing to do instead. We also checked with our chorister, who made them a fun thank you snack, and felt it was not necessary to overlap and have two separate snacks. 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Primary Sharing Time September 2016 - Missionary Work

Our Primary has been focusing on missionary work this month. I have had fun experiences all week while thinking about this lesson. I'm excited to have the children participate and talk about different ways that they can be missionaries now. My favorite is just being a good example. We remember the people around us that have done kind things for us, and that makes us want to be more like them. We also remember people that are happy and want to be around people like that.

LDS resources has about 40 really great stories and articles about missionary work. I have read most of them and highly recommend you spend some time in there, both if you are teaching it, but also as a child and as an adult. These are great stories that apply to everyone, everywhere:

In particular, I was so inspired by the story about how Abish was a missionary, that I ended up re-reading Mosiah 27, and Alma 17-19, to fill in all the details on the back story. I plan to discuss some of this story with the children tomorrow. This is really the story of several missionaries and several moments of great faith. In Mosiah 27, Alma the Younger and the sons of Mosiah don't believe in God, and because they are good speakers, they are successfully confusing people and leading people away from God. Finally, an angel visits them and tells them that he has been sent because, in Mosiah 27:14,  "the Lord hath heard the prayers of his people, and also the prayers of his servant Alma, who is thy father; for he has prayed with much faith concerning thee that thou mightest be brought to the knowledge of the truth ..."

After this great experience, the five of them are converted, repent of their ways, and become great missionaries. I want to note that this is significant because in 1 Nephi, Laman and Lemuel are visited by angels more than once, and quickly forget and fall back into their sinful ways. Alma the Younger and the sons of Mosiah had great faith and great resilience. After this amazing experience that lead to their conversion, the five of them weren't all together again until 14 years later, in Alma 17. They rejoice upon meeting up because they are all still doing good and teaching the word of God. They then split up, and continue on their five separate ways, teaching others. Ammon goes into the land of Ishmael in Alma 17:19, and is immediately captured by King Lamoni, who's usual plan is to kill or jail all Nephites who fall into their hands.

Ammon is not imprisoned or killed. Instead, he impresses the king, refuses the honor of taking one of the king's daughters to wife, protects the King's sheep, and one day, defends the sheep against so many bad men that it's clear to the other shepherds and to the king who later hears this tale, that he they all believe him when he tells them about God. So much so, that the king loses the ability to move or speak for two days and two nights, and pretty much looks like he's dead. In Alma 19:10-11, the queen has gone to Ammon for help. Ammon tells her that the king is not dead and that he will rise the next day (so don't bury him!). The queen believes Ammon, even though she has to go on only Ammon's word and the word of the servants. Ammon says in Alma 19:10, "I say unto thee, woman, there has not been such great faith among all the people of the Nephites."

Then, a servant named Abish, who is also a believer of God because her father was converted when he had a great vision, sees all that is happening and the opportunity to show others that God is real and true. She runs out, telling everyone the story, and inviting them to come witness it, because she knows that when the king arises, there are many that will believe. Abish is right, and because of her faith, the queen's faith, King Lamoni's faith, and Ammon's perseverance, it says in Alma 19:36, "thus the work of the Lord did commence among the Lamanites; thus the Lord did begin to pour out his Spirit upon them; and we see that his arm is extended to all people who will repent and believe on his name."

Children are SMART! I know many of them will at least know parts of this story so I want them to help me tell this story, and in Senior Primary especially, look up pertinent scriptures. I love that in Alma 17:2-3 it talks how about Ammon and his brothers were prepared to serve, that they prayed, fasted, and were open to the spirit of prophecy and revelation. And how Abish, in Alma 19:16-17, "knew that it was the power of God," and that she had an opportunity to share the word of God with others!

In our times, we have so many simple opportunities to share the gospel. There are ten great suggestions here. Or in this story about how a primary girl knew her articles of faith.

In general, my suggestion for this lesson is that since it's about the fact that they can do missionary work now, it's a great lesson in particular to get a lot of participation so they can practice raising their hands and sharing their thoughts. I'm thinking about even having every child say one way they did or can be a missionary now. They can discuss it in their classes first, and come up together, but everyone would share something. Or I have scenarios I could have them respond to. There are so many ways to engage the children in this one ... I've also thought about putting categories on the wall, like "Family Home Evening," "School," "Primary Program," "Favorite Scripture Story," "Article of Faith" and calling on children in some fun way to come pic a category and add a story or way they can be missionaries today under that topic. If they land in or pick the "Article of Faith" category I'd like them to recite an Article of Faith and then with the classes' help, tell us what it means.

I also emailed all of the missionaries in our ward that are out serving and have asked them for advice on what they would tell the Primary children today. I printed out the emails they sent back, and will share some of their messages from there, too. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

August Week 4: Reading, watching, and listening to wholesome things keeps my mind clean.

This is my general lesson plan so far for August Week 4: Reading, watching, and listening to wholesome things keeps my mind clean.

Attention Activity + Review:
Last week, one of the things that Sister B talked about was the Word of Wisdom. Both are things that are good for our bodies. She said that the Lord made us promise, that if we eat things that are good for our body the Lord has promised us that we will walk and not be weary, run and not be faint. (D&C 89:20).

Q: Can anyone tell me what that means, that we will "walk and not be weary, run and not be faint?"

She also talked about how the food we eat makes our brains healthy, too. Today, I want to talk about something else that makes our minds strong.

It has to do with these three things: (make the motions suggested in the lesson for reading, watching, listening). Then, ask the children to raise their hand and identify the motions as I go through them again. Have them do them with me. (At least in Junior.)

1. Do one motion at a time, and then have them guess after each motion.
2. Have them copy you with the motions.

Okay, remember those four things I shared. And then I'm going to share this picture with you. Take a good look.

This is where I show them a picture of the Savior with children, as recommended in the lesson here:

"Show the children a picture of Jesus Christ with children, and ask them to look at it for a few seconds. Cover the picture and ask the children to tell you details they remember about it. Help the children understand that we remember the things we see. Explain that when we fill our minds with good things we also think of good things."

Our mind remembers things, so it's important to fill our minds with good things. Also

Doctrine and Covenants 130:18
18 Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.

Q: Can anyone tell me what the scripture means?
When we fill our minds with good things, it helps us to remember the Savior here on earth, but it also prepares us to return to be with him.

If you think you can recite the Thirteen Article of Faith, raise your hand.

 13 We believe in being honest, true, chastebenevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuouslovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

Let me give you an example. One of the reasons we spend a lot of time every Sunday singing with Sister O. is that the music we sing fills our mind with wholesome things that teach us and help us remember Jesus Christ. Sister O. has been helping you practice the songs with this Olympics theme but do you know, it really is like the Olympics because you are strengthening your mind.

To show you how wholesome music helps you to learn and fill your mind with good things, I have a little game today. I have a bunch of questions here, but I also have a hint of how to get the answer. Just like in Heaven, everyone here is on the same team. We're just trying to get from here to here:
I'll draw a little board on the chalkboard with earth as the starting point and the clouds/Heaven as the destination. I'll use a magnet to move along the board, and let the children move the magnet to the next step.

I'm thinking of making these questions into nice game cards that the children can come to the front and choose. I have a fabric square with pockets in it, and might just put each question in each pocket so the kids can come up and choose the question from the pocket - or some other fun way to deliver the questions and answers.

Game card questions and answers:
Q: When Sister S. plays these notes, what words come to your mind? (Play the first four measures of page 26 of the Children's Songbook (which is "Reverently, Quietly")
A: "Reverently, quietly, lovingly we think of thee;"

Q: Name four things that the Holy Ghost does for us. Four of these things are listed in the third verse of "If I Listen with My Heart."
Hint: The song starts, "I feel the Holy Spirit as He ..."
A: "teaches truth and right. He comforts me in times of needs; He testifies of Christ."

Q: Your life is a gift. Your life has a plan. What was it? The answer is in "I Will Follow God's Plan.
Hint: "It starts with, "My choice was ..."
A: "to come to this lovely home on earth And seek for God's light to direct me from birth."

Q: Our prophet teaches us to be true. When he says to be true, he means, that at work or at play, in darkness or light, we should be true, be true, and what?
A: "Stand for the right."

Q: In which waters was Jesus baptized?
Hint: "It's the beginning of 'This is My Beloved Son," that starts "Jesus entered ..."
A: "Jordan's water"

Q: When Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, God the Father spoke from heaven. What did he say?
Hint: It's the part of 'This is My Beloved Son," that says, "God the Father spoke from heaven; This is ...."
A: "My beloved son"

Q: The temple is a holy place. What is one special thing we can do in the temple because a family is forever?
Hint: "I Love to See the Temple" talks about this in verse 2, "For the temple is a holy place where we are ..."
A: "sealed together."

Q: When Sister S. plays these notes, what words come to your mind? (Play "Praise to the Man," on page 27.  First four measures.)
A: "Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah!"

The things we listen to help us learn and remember. They are good for our minds. How many of you have heard a scary story, maybe at a sleepover, or saw something in a movie or on tv that bothered you and didn't make you feel good? Those things become a part of our mind, too.

Things that are good for our mind can help us in a lot of good ways. Can anyone share an example of something that they watched that was good for their mind? how about something they read? or listened to?

My back-up examples to help prod the kids:

> Watch - The Olympics - I mountain bike and when I watched the mountain bike race right before my next ride, it made me feel stronger, faster, and more inspired to push myself.

> Read - I love to read. e.g., of a good book that inspires and educates in some way, outside of a gospel book.

> Listen - I often listen to the scriptures while I'm driving to work. That helps me to focus.

Filling our mind with good things helps us think of good things.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Serving in the Face of Adversity

I subscribe to LDS Daily Messages, a subscription service that sends a daily inspiring quote. Today's quote really hit upon some things I've been studying recently, as I prepared and gave a talk in stake conference on Saturday about overcoming adversity. 

Today's Quote

"Even in the midst of great personal sorrow and pain, our Exemplar reached out to bless others. … His was not a life focused on the things he did not have. It was a life of reaching out in service to others." 

-- Howard W. Hunter

President Howard W. Hunter with his counselors, 
President Gordon B. Hinckley and President Thomas S. Monson. 

During my talk about overcoming adversity, I mentioned that there are some questions that a section on "Adversity" on suggests we ask ourselves when we experience adversity.

1. What am I to do?
2. What am I to learn from this experience?
3. What am I to change?
4. Whom am I to help?
5. How can I remember my many blessings in times of trial?

These questions are often difficult to answer in the face of adversity, especially trials that last for long periods of time, even a lifetime. So, I especially appreciate seeing how President Hunter, one who saw much personal sorrow and pain, dealt with his adversity. President Hunter grew up in a part member family, suffered job loss and the accompanying financial hardship, lost an infant son, cared for a failing wife for 13 years, and died at age 87 from prostate cancer that had spread to his bones.

At his funeral, President Gordon B. Hinckley said, "Much has been said about his suffering. I believe that it went on longer and was more sharp and deep than any of us really knew. He developed a high tolerance for pain and did not complain about it. That he lived so long is a miracle in and of itself. His suffering has comforted and mitigated the pain of many others who suffer. They know that he understood the heaviness of their burdens. He reached out to these with a special kind of love."

I feel that the Savior comforted and mitigated President Hunter's pain the way President Hunter was able to comfort and mitigate the pain of others here on earth, and the way we can mitigate pain for those around us.

Service, especially service given in the spirit of charity, and service accepted in the spirit of humility, is an amazing beautiful thing. Service is the tie that binds friendships, adds perspective, uplifts the mood, and brings peace to the soul for both the provider of service and the recipient of service. 

I'm grateful for those friends and family who have been particularly great examples of service to me, for those that I have been able to serve, and for those who have served me. These experiences are many of the most memorable moments of my life and they have strengthened me and carried me through times of sorrow.

The Appropriate Use of Technology for Gospel Growth

This is not a Primary-specific post but I felt it was appropriate to share here. We very much use technology to aid in teaching in Primary, from using sources like to research and prepare lessons including accessing visuals that can be printed, to sharing videos that help illustrate an aspect of a song or lesson concept. And then, of course, there's this thing called blogs ... 

There are some great articles on about recognizing that technology is here to stay, and learning how to embrace it and use technology in a positive way when teaching. I've shared some excerpts below, along with the links to the full articles. (This post can also be accessed through the shortened link: 

July 6, 2016

A. “Today we have considered both the possibilities and the perils of digital devices and other technologies in the work of proclaiming the gospel,” said Elder Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “‘For such a time as this’ (Esther 4:14) we have been called and set apart to use the potent power of these inspired tools to take full advantage of the untold possibilities and to overcome the limitless perils.”
B. Elder Bednar emphasized to the new mission presidents: “Please do not fear technology. Please do not take counsel from your fears. Embrace these inspired tools. Learn to use them to proclaim the gospel. Help your missionaries develop safe and appropriate lifelong technology habits that will enable them to chase darkness away.”

C. “Technology provides a multitude of powerful channels ... The rising generation is especially well prepared to hear and learn about the restored gospel through these means of communication.”

D. “Digital and mobile devices surely will change in terms of usage, size, and power—but they are not going away. … Almost all missionaries have access to technology on a regular basis in their service. We have a responsibility to help them learn to use these digital tools appropriately now and for the rest of their lives.”

E. “We have a duty to help this rising generation learn that the only filter that successfully can overcome and avoid evil resides in the heart and mind of a faithful disciple of Christ. Only the companionship of the Holy Ghost can fortify sufficiently against ‘the fiery darts of the wicked’ (Ephesians 6:16).”
F. ... “Some abuses always will occur, but we should not allow a fear of mistakes to hold us back from receiving the great blessings these tools can provide.”
Together, he added, “we will continue to learn about the effective uses of technology in proselyting. We will be blessed and prospered as we implement this important development in the work of proclaiming the gospel.”

2. Teaching in the Savior's Way > Teach the Youth
G. If the youth you teach have their own electronic devices,remember that these devices don’t have to be a distraction they can actually be tools to enhance learning. Encourage the youth to look up scriptures and other Church resources on these devices in order to answer questions. You can also send messages and links to the youth during the week to help them prepare for upcoming lessons.

3. The Choice Generation by Randall L. Ridd, Second Counselor in the Young Men General Presidency, April 2014 (This talk was directed at Young Men.)

H. never before in history have individuals been blessed with so many choices. More choices mean more opportunities; more opportunities mean more potential to do good and, unfortunately, evil. I believe that God sent you here at this time because He trusts you to successfully discern among the mind-boggling choices available.

I. … You are growing up with one of the greatest tools for goodin the history of man: the Internet. With it you can accomplish great things in a short period of time, or you can get caught up in endless loops of triviality that waste your time and degrade your potential. With the click of a button, you can access whatever your heart desires. That’s the key—what does your heart desire? What do you gravitate toward? Where will your desires lead?

Remember that God “granteth unto men according to their desire” (Alma 29:4) and that He “will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts” (D&C 137:9; see also Alma 41:3).
J. … The Internet also records your desires, expressed in the form of searches and clicks. There are legions waiting to fill those desires. As you surf the Internet, you leave tracks—what you communicate, where youh ave been, how long you have been there, and the kinds of things that interest you. In this way, the Internet creates a cyber profile for you—in asense, your “cyber book of life.” As in life, the Internet will give you more and more of what you seek. If your desires are pure, the Internet can magnify them, making it ever easier to engage in worthy pursuits. But the opposite is also true.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell put it this way: “What we insistently desire, over time, is what we will eventually become and what we will receive in eternity. … “… Only by educating and training our desires can they become our allies instead of our enemies!” (“According to the Desire of [Our] Hearts,”Ensign, Nov. 1996, 21, 22).
K. My young brothers, if you are not proactive in educating your desires, the world will do it for you. Every day the world seeks to influence your desires, enticing you to buy something, click on something, play something, read or watch something. Ultimately, the choice is yours. You have agency. It is the power to not only act on your desires but also to refine, purify, and elevate your desires. Agency is your power to become. Each choice takes you closer to or further from what you are meant to become; each click has meaning. Always ask yourself, “Where will this choice lead?” Develop the ability to see beyond the moment.


L. Right in the palm of your hand you have the wisdom of the ages—more importantly, the words of the prophets, from Old Testament days to President Thomas S. Monson. But if you don’t regularly recharge your cell phone, it is useless, and you feel lost and out of touch. You wouldn’t think of going a single day without charging your battery.
M. As important as it is to leave home every day with a full charge on your cell phone, it is far more important to be fully charged spiritually. Every time you plug in your phone, use it as a reminder to ask yourself if you have plugged in to the most important source of spiritual power—prayer and scripture study, which will charge you with inspiration through the Holy Ghost (seeD&C 11:12–14). It will help you know the mind and will of the Lord to make the small but important daily choices that determine your direction. Many of us immediately stop whatever we are doing to read a text message—should we not place even more importance on messages from the Lord? Neglecting to connect to this power should be unthinkable to us (see2 Nephi 32:3).
N. Every time you plug in your phone, use it as a reminder to ask yourself if you have plugged in to the most important source of spiritual power—prayer and scripture study, which will charge you with inspiration through the Holy Ghost (see D&C 11:12–14).

O. The divine purpose of technology is to hasten the work of salvation. As members of the choice generation, you understand technology. Use it to accelerate your progress toward perfection. Because you have been given much, you too must give (see “Because I Have Been Given Much,”Hymns, no. 219). The Lord expects you to use these great tools to take His work to the next level, to share the gospel in ways that are beyond my generation’s wildest imagination. Where generations past influenced their neighbors and their town, you have the power through the Internet and social media to reach beyond borders and influence the whole world.

4. Helping Youth to Teach, by Brian K. Ashton, Second Counselor, Sunday School General Presidency, August 2016

P. “Jesus Christ was the perfect teacher. Teaching helps youth follow the Savior’s example and become more like Him. Teaching also prepares them to become missionaries, parents, and leaders in the Church. When youth teach, they have to study the gospel and live it. They also have to have the Spirit in order to teach (see D&C 42:14). As a result, youth teachers usually learn more and gain a stronger testimony of the topic than those they teach.”

Q. “I recently was asked to substitute teach my ward’s 12- and 13-year-old Sunday School class. I asked my 13-year-old son, Jacob, to help me teach. We made a lesson plan together. Jacob took the first half of the lesson, showed a short video, shared scriptures related to our topic, and asked thoughtful questions. Jacob also asked the class members what they were feeling and helped them recognize the Holy Ghost.”

5. Four Things Youth Want from Their Gospel Lessons, by Brian K. Ashton, Second Counselor, Sunday School Presidency, March 2016

This is #4 on Brother Ashton's list of four things youth shared wanting from their gospel lessons: Help learning how to use technology appropriately. (The first three are: thoughtful doctrinal discussions based in the scriptures, more personal experiences and testimonies from their leaders, additional opportunities to participate in classes, including the opportunity to teach all or part of a class,.)
R. "Teachers can help the youth learn how to use technology appropriately and encourage more participation by having the youth use their mobile devices in lessons. For example, teachers can put the youth in small groups and have them research gospel topics in class, study general conference talks, or watch Church-produced videos related to the lesson.
S. I recently saw a teacher put the students in her class in pairs, have them look up and read a talk from general conference, discuss key principles found in the talk, and then briefly present what they learned to the class. It was very effective. At a minimum, youth can follow the Come, Follow Me lesson outline on their mobile devices and read the listed scriptures and quotes."

6. The Parable of the Sower, by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, April 2015

Spiritual food is necessary for spiritual survival, especially in a world that is moving away from belief in God and the absolutes of right and wrong. In an age dominated by the Internet, which magnifies messages that menace faith, we must increase our exposure to spiritual truth in order to strengthen our faith and stay rooted in the gospel.

Young people, if that teaching seems too general, here is a specific example. If the emblems of the sacrament are being passed and you are texting or whispering or playing video games or doing anything else to deny yourself essential spiritual food, you are severing your spiritual roots and moving yourself toward stony ground. You are making yourself vulnerable to withering away when you encounter tribulation like isolation, intimidation, or ridicule. And that applies to adults also.

U. We are overcome by the “cares … of this life” when we are paralyzed by fear of the future, which hinders our going forward in faith, trusting in God and His promises. Twenty-five years ago my esteemed BYU teacher Hugh W. Nibley spoke of the dangers of surrendering to the cares of the world. He was asked in an interview whether world conditions and our duty to spread the gospel made it desirable to seek some way to “be accommodating of the world in what we do in the Church.”4

His reply: “That’s been the whole story of the Church, hasn’t it? You have to be willing to offend here, you have to be willing to take the risk. That’s where the faith comes in. … Our commitment is supposed to be a test, it’s supposed to be hard, it’s supposed to be impractical in the terms of this world.”5
V. The parable of the sower ends with the Savior’s description of the seed that “fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit” in various measures (Matthew 13:8). How can we prepare ourselves to be that good ground and to have that good harvest?

Jesus explained that “the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15). We have the seed of the gospel word. It is up to each of us to set the priorities and to do the things that make our soil good and our harvest plentiful. We must seek to be firmly rooted and converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ (see Colossians 2:6–7). 

7. Mosiah 2

In Mosiah, King Benjamin speaks to his people. Specifically, in Mosiah 2:7-8, 30, 41, it talks about how the people cannot hear King Benjamin so he has a tower built. Still, the throng is so great that they still cannot hear him, so he has his words written down and sent forth among the people. King Benjamin also specifically shares that despite his old age the Lord has blessed him to be "able to speak now even though his doth tremble exceedingly." I share this story for two reasons:
a) Today, we can get on and read the words of past leaders - many who were at that stage in life before they passed away, most recently, we lost in 2015 Elder L. Tom Perry, Elder Boyd K. Packer, and Elder Richard G. Scott. It's interesting to see how King Benjamin's words were distributed then, and how inspired messages from leaders are distributed now, through technology. It is through and other sources that so many things that "are of good report or praiseworthy" are available to us beyond the Book of Mormon and the Bible.

b) You can go to LDS scriptures and type in a specific reference including chapters and specific verses, then save the link. Then, when you are using technology to share the links, those specific verses are highlighted for you, like I did with specific verses in chapter 2 of Mosiah.

8. Technology Specialist One of the callings you might not be aware of in the church is Technology Specialist. The online guide Getting Started for Technologists shares some cool ways that the church is using technology to bless the lives of others. This two-minute video is quite enlightening! One example - high council and stake coordination meetings using personal conferencing so that members could spent more time with their families and less time driving to late evening meetings. In Ghana, a technology specialist taught stake members how to put the scriptures on their cell phones, in a place where the phones are not true smart phones, and have limited functionality.

8. Using Media for Sharing the Gospel

Ideas for using media to learn, share, and create.

9. Sharing the Gospel Using the Internet by Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, July 2008

W. This is the world of the future, with inventions undreamed of that will come in your lifetime as they have in mine. How will you use these marvelous inventions? More to the point, how will you use them to further the work of the Lord?

... From its beginnings, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has used the power of the printed word to spread the message of the restored gospel throughout the world. The Lord, over the centuries, has had a hand in inspiring people to invent tools that facilitate the spreading of the gospel. The Church has adopted and embraced those tools, including print, broadcast media, and the Internet.

X. ... Now some of these tools—like any tool in an unpracticed or undisciplined hand—can be dangerous. The Internet can be used to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ and can just as easily be used to market the filth and sleaze of pornography. Computer applications like iTunes can be used to download uplifting and stirring music or the worst kind of antisocial lyrics full of profanity. Social networks on the Web can be used to expand healthy friendships as easily as they can be used by predators trying to trap the unwary. That is no different from how people choose to use television or movies or even a library. Satan is always quick to exploit the negative power of new inventions, to spoil and degrade, and to neutralize any effect for good. Make sure that the choices you make in the use of new media are choices that expand your mind, increase your opportunities, and feed your soul.

This post is generally a compilation of inspiring messages about why and how to use technology to learn and teach the gospel of Christ. This section shares some fun examples of the kind of things to 
share with students:

1. Children's Bible Videos - a fun take where children are interviewed on their concept of gospel doctrine. See for example, "Who is Jesus?"

2. Mormon Messages - A compilation of short video messages, often inspired by or excerpted from General Conference talks. Like this one called "Thanksgiving Daily," or this one, "Create," that I absolutely love on a very personal level.

3. Tips for using Sometimes Google is a helpful supplement to searching on For example, Google "primary lesson helps" to easily pull up a list of topics in alphabetical order, of stories and messages that can be used to help supplement a lesson. For youth, "lds young women helps" has the same effect. 

4. Gospel Topics

5. You can follow general authorities on Facebook!

8/17/16 Addition:
I felt this post on 8/15/16 on Facebook, and one of the corresponding comments, was an eloquent reminder of the way technology can bless our lives: