As I have loved you, Love one another. This new commandment: Love one another. By this shall men know Ye are my disciples, If ye have love One to another. – The Children's Songbook, p. 136.
Susan L. Warner, second counselor in the Primary general presidency, has a friend who works in a rest home. Frequently, the friend helps a resident who suffers from dementia.
"One day my friend felt the need to speak of things spiritual to the elderly woman," Sister Warner said. "So she decided, `I am going to talk to her about Jesus. That's a childlike thing that she will understand.'
Do you know anything about Jesus?' she asked.He was a very kind person. He loved everyone. Do you know anyone like that?'
"The elderly woman answered, `You are like that.' "
Referring to this story, Sister Warner said: "That's what will happen with children. They can understand Christlike love if they have actually had an experience with someone who is that kind of person."
Feeling the love of their Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ – and then sharing that love with others – is what LDS Primary children throughout the world are learning this year. The Church News met with Primary Gen. Pres. Patricia P. Pinegar and her counselors, Anne G. Wirthlin and Sister Warner, to discuss the 1996 Primary theme, "As I have loved you, . . . love one another."
Pres. Pinegar explained that feeling Heavenly Father's love and the love of the Savior, and then returning that love is the basis of Christlike behavior.
"We want to teach children that our Heavenly Father and the Savior love them, that they know them and that they care about them. They care about everything they do" she continued. "I think if children could experience those feelings and know within themselves that Heavenly Father does love them, then, in turn, they can share their love for Heavenly Father by serving others.
"This is going to be a year for children to practice loving and serving others. They can do that in their families and with others with whom they associate. I am excited to focus on kindness this year. One child can make a difference, especially in this day and age when there's not a lot of kindness in the world. Primary leaders and Primary children can show kindness to others, especially their family members."
Teaching kindness and how it builds feelings of self-worth in children, the presidency explained, can be done during Sharing Time and other Primary activities. The theme, "As I have loved you, . . . love one another," is also to be the focus of the 1996 Children's Sacrament Meeting Presentation, held in September or October in wards and branches throughout the world.
Helpful to local Primary leaders during the year will be the 1996 Children's Sacrament Meeting Presentation and Sharing Time Outline, available at distribution centers. According to the outline, the objective for this year's theme is "to create within each child a desire to love and serve others by teaching each child to recognize and feel the love Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have for him or her, helping each child develop love for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, and motivating each child to put this love into action in his or her life."
The 12 suggested themes included in the outline and the suggested music reflect the objectives, including such themes as, "I show my love for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ when I am kind and helpful to family members."
Sister Wirthlin said, "That feeling of love the Lord has for His children and sharing that love with others develops feelings of self-worth."
To help children learn and grow as much as possible from this year's theme and from the sacrament meeting presentation, the Primary general presidency suggested the following:
- Primary leaders and teachers should prepare for the sacrament meeting presentation using the actual words and experiences of the children. The presidency suggested that ward Primary secretaries could keep notes on what the children say during the year, and local Primary leaders could ask parents' to share the positive things the children have said and done at home.
Sister Warner encouraged local leaders to start early in the year to collect material for the children's sacrament meeting presentation.
- Primary leaders should help children feel the blessings of service. "I love the idea of practicing," Pres. Pinegar said. "If we want to be more Christlike and love and serve, we need to practice, practice. There are wonderful ways that children can practice living the gospel at home, at Church, at school and at play."
In addition, the children can be included in service projects. Sister Wirthlin explained: "There are opportunities for service in Primary: Achievement days, Scouting, Primary quarterly activities and Gospel in Action."
Sister Warner added: "When the Primary president meets with the ward council, she can say, `Our Primary children can help.' With their families, they can be part of the solution."
- Parents and other loved ones should be aware and involved in what children are learning in Primary. "If we could have the greatest desire of our hearts – as a Primary presidency – it would be that Primary leaders and parents would work more closely together to teach and strengthen children," Pres. Pinegar said.
"We encourage parents to find out what their children are learning in Primary and to let them practice those principles at home.
Pres. Pinegar added: "All of us need to be aware that everyone in a ward or a branch has a responsibility for the children,"