The new Faith in God Award not only simplifies the award program for Primary children ages 8 through 11, but also helps them develop testimonies of Jesus Christ and establish a righteous pattern of living, said members of the Primary general presidency.
The Faith in God For Girls and Faith in God for Boys program, implemented in the United States and Canada July 1, replaces the Gospel in Action award and Achievement Days and alters what has been known as the Cub Scout Faith in God Award. Now, boys who complete Cub Scout religious requirements — included in the new Faith in God Award — will earn the Scouting Religious Square Knot patch. (The new Faith in God Award program will be implemented internationally sometime in 2004.)
A First Presidency letter dated April 2, 2003, to General Authorities, Area Authority Seventies and local priesthood leaders stated: "We are pleased to announce the new Faith in God guidebooks for boys and girls, ages 8 through 11. These materials are intended to help boys prepare to receive the Aaronic Priesthood and girls to become righteous young women. It is our desire that boys and girls will develop greater faith and courage by learning and living the gospel, serving others, and developing their talents."
Primary General President Coleen K. Menlove calls the new guidebooks a "wonderful resource to help children develop faith in Jesus Christ. As they participate in Activity Days and use these guidebooks, they will have an opportunity to enjoy friendships and participate in engaging and fun activities that are focused on helping them learn to live the gospel and to make good decisions for their future."
Sister Menlove and her counselors, Sister Sydney S. Reynolds and Sister Gayle M. Clegg, met with the Church News to discuss the new Faith in God for Girls and Faith in God for Boys program.
"Children are getting older at a younger age," Sister Reynolds said. "There are experiences out there that children ages 8 through 11 would not have faced 50 years ago. We need to find ways to strengthen them, to help them develop their own internal religious behavior. These programs are designed to give them fun ways to kind of have a lab experience with gospel principles."
This "lab experience" is clearly laid out in the Faith in God guidebooks, which include a place for children to place their picture and what Sister Menlove calls a "wonderful, warm, friendly letter" from the First Presidency. On pages 2-3, children are reminded of their baptismal covenant, based on Mosiah 18:8-10 and Doctrine and Covenants 20:37. On pages 4-5 are the basic requirements for the award, including such things as praying daily and reading the scriptures.
Beginning on page 6 are four sections: Learning and Living the Gospel, Serving Others, Developing Talents and Preparing for the Priesthood (for boys) or Preparing for Young Women (for girls). With the guidance of parents and Primary leaders, a child chooses two goals each year from each of the first three sections. This includes an open activity planned by the child, with the help of adults. These activities can be done individually, within the family or on scheduled Primary Activity Days.
Then, at age 11, the child includes the goals for Preparing for the Priesthood or Preparing for Young Women. The child tracks his or her own accomplishments on the achievement record on page 20 of the guidebook.
On the last page is the Faith in God Award certificate, which the child receives in Primary upon completion of the requirements. "You have the signature of the Primary president and the bishop," Sister Clegg emphasized, "but probably the more important one is the signature of the child."
The Primary general presidency also addressed recent oft-asked questions concerning the new Faith in God program. They are as follows, with answers:
• What is the relationship between the Faith in God For Boys Award and Cub Scouting?
"We feel that this will enhance their Scouting experience," said Sister Reynolds. Certain achievements listed in the four goal sections of the booklet are marked with the symbol of the square knot. After completing all these requirements, a boy receives the Scouting Religious Square Knot patch. The Primary presidency encourages Cub Scouts to earn the patch during their Webelos year.
• How are children recognized for their achievements?
Aside from the Faith in God certificate, there are no pins or other jewelry. "Parents and leaders should help the children understand that the joy of living the gospel is the most important reward," said Sister Menlove.
"What they take with them are gospel habits," Sister Clegg added.
However, Sister Menlove encourages leaders to continue to recognize children's accomplishments at least twice a year during Activity Days.
• What about goals already reached for the Gospel in Action Award or the Cub Scout Faith in God religious award?
As explained in materials sent to local leaders, those girls and boys who would have completed those requirements before Dec. 31, 2003, may continue and receive the related awards. Other children should simply transfer their completed goals to their new guidebooks for Faith in God For Boys and Faith in God for Girls.
The hope for this program, said Sister Menlove, is to strengthen families, assist parents in teaching their children, and to help children "feel the joy of knowing they are preparing for a bright and hopeful future as members of the Church and as contributing members of their families."
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