Primary children 'trying to be like Jesus'

"I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus" is just one of many songs children will be singing throughout the Church for the 1994 Children's Sacrament Meeting Presentation.

In preparing for the presentation, children in the Panama City 3rd Ward, Panama City Florida Stake, seemed to quickly grasp the meaning of this Primary song, said ward Primary Pres. Melanie Pearce. "It was amazing that they learned it so quickly. For the Sunbeams especially to learn the song was really neat."She surmised that the song "made sense to them. I think all the children want to be like Jesus."

LDS children like those in Panama City have been "trying to be like Jesus" all year in preparation for the Sacrament Meeting Presentation. This 40-minute program, to be presented in wards and branches during a sacrament meeting in September or October, offers children an opportunity through music and talks to share what they've learned this year in Primary - namely "The Gospel of Jesus Christ Can Bring Me Peace."

Helpful to Primary leaders - and essential to their preparation for the sacrament meeting presentation - is the Children's Sacrament Meeting Presentation instruction outline, available at Church distribution centers.

The outline contains a statement of the purpose of this presentation, which is to "to help children learn of the Lord and feel His peace. Children will understand that peace can come to them through testimony and obedience."

Included in the outline are scriptural references and a list of Primary songs to be used in the presentation, including "I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus." (Children's Songbook, p. 78.) Betty Jo N. Jepsen, first counselor in the Primary general presidency, said that "The Books in the Old Testament" (p. 114) and "Follow the Prophet" (p. 110) have been favorites this year among children.

"We have reports from leaders telling how rapidly the children have learned the books of the Old Testament," she added.

Also listed in the outline are 12 suggested monthly themes, including "I can feel peace when I know that I am a child of God," and "I can help others feel peace by being a peacemaker at home and among my friends."

The themes were carefully selected, Sister Jepsen explained. The first six themes address the concept of peace and Heavenly Father's plan. The last six themes focus on application. "It gets down to what they can do in their lives to accomplish the goal of having peace in their lives," she added.

Helping teach these themes - and the theme of peace itself - are many Old Testament stories referenced in the outline, Sister Jepsen noted. "We determined people in the Old Testament who made correct decisions and eventually met with peaceful feelings and peaceful situations," she said. "We used some of the exciting stories, such as Daniel, Noah and Joseph."

It's no coincidence, she continued, that the focus on the Old Testament coincides with the current adult Sunday School course. "We'd really like to strengthen the discussions that families have, and have children share with their parents what they learn in Primary. That's a very important thing - dialogue."

The children will use the Old Testament stories as a basis for the sacrament meeting presentation, Sister Jepsen explained. But it's not just story telling, she emphasized; it's what children learn from the stories.

"We hope they have inspiring stories of their own and that they can share with their wards or branches about when they felt they were a peacemaker or gained a testimony."

As explained in the outline, the Sacrament Meeting Presentation is under direction of the bishop.

Sister Jepsen said the Primary general presidency has been pleased with the results of this year's theme in the lives of children, their families and their Primary leaders. "We look around at the turmoil in the world; there are children who need to know that even if things are not right at home, at school or in their associations, they can still turn to their Savior for peace."

Sister Jepsen said that among the many positive reports they've received has been one from Barbara J. Clarke, whose husband, Elder J. Richard Clarke of the Seventy, is president of the Africa Area. Sister Jepsen quoted Sister Clark as saying: "It seemed that the sacrament meeting presentation was written for children in that area, and now they know that through the gospel they can have the peace spoken of in the scriptures."

The theme, "The Gospel of Jesus Christ Can Bring Me Peace," is the culmination in a series, said Sister Jepsen. Primary themes for the past three years have been a kind of preparation for this year, she explained. The themes for 1991, 1992 and 1993 were, respectively, on reverence, gaining a testimony, and temple work and worthiness.

"The theme of Primary is 3 Ne. 22:13: ` . . . all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children,' " Sister Jepsen explained. "We continue to look at that as our standard for what we plan and do in Primary. First, we taught the children how to have a reverent feeling, and that is very close to that peaceful feeling. Then we taught them that a testimony can bring them that reverent feeling. Then, of course, we all strive to go to the temple, and we had great success in helping children understand about preparing to go to the temple.

"Our hope is that if they know how to live correctly and look forward to going to the temple, then they can have peace in their lives. `I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus" is a goal for all of us - trying to do as Jesus would do."

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