Touching the lives of children everywhere

BOUNTIFUL, Utah — Paying tribute to a former Primary general president by talking about the Primary program, President Thomas S. Monson offered comforting remarks at the funeral of Naomi Maxfield Shumway May 26 in Bountiful, Utah.

"The Lord loved little children, and so did Naomi Shumway. She had so much love for the children that we couldn't let it be used all in one ward or stake. We sent her all over the world," President Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, said of Sister Shumway, who served as Primary general president from 1974 to 1980 and who died May 22 at age 81. (Please see May 29, 2004, Church News.)

Speaking of the influence Primary workers have on children everywhere, President Monson related an experience from his years as a Primary boy. He said that one day he saw his Primary president, a lovely woman named Melissa, sitting alone on the front row bench in Church. She was crying. "I went over to her and asked, 'Why are you so sad?' She said, 'I can't control the deportment of the Trailbuilder boys.'

"May I help you?" a young Thomas S. Monson asked.

"Oh, would you Tommy? Would you help me?"

President Monson related how the Primary leader asked him to help calm down the boys. What he didn't realize then was that he was part of the cause of her tears, and she had effectively enlisted his help in achieving reverence in Primary.

Years later, he continued, he visited the former leader at a nursing home in Salt Lake City. Speaking warmly, President Monson recalled how he spoke with her for half an hour, although she didn't respond and didn't seem to recognize him. Finally, he stood up to leave.

"I held her by the hand and kissed her on the forehead, and suddenly, clear as a bell, she said, 'I know you. You're Tommy Monson, my Primary boy.'

"I had been her bishop," President Monson added, "but she didn't mention that. I was her Primary boy."

Continuing, President Monson said: "I wonder how many people in the world — if we really knew — have been touched by Naomi Shumway and her counselors and our former and present Primary presidencies. We never know, do we? However, our Heavenly Father does."