Lessons from Primary

Children of many lands learn to practice understanding, friendliness, forgiveness

LAIE, HAWAII

After elementary school ends here, one can often see Momoka Matsushita of Japan and Yonelly "Jenny" Jormeia of the Marshall Islands sharing a bike ride. And Sharyn Leger of Samoa and Abish Benson Massey, from India, often together draw chalk pictures on the sidewalk.

Children in BYU-hawaii primary class at Laie 12th Ward
Children in BYU-hawaii primary class at Laie 12th Ward Credit: Photo by John L. Hart

"Love has no language barriers," said Jessica Hsu Nielsen. She's former president of the BYU-Hawaii 12th Ward Primary, a typical married students ward at the university. Various Primaries at the university, which has students from more than 70 nations, are very international. Sister Nielsen supervised some 60 children from more than 12 lands and speaking as many languages. Her counselors and teachers come from multiple lands as well. They pool resources to reach all the children. (She's now in the stake Primary presidency.)

Children reared in this international setting show cultural understanding and respect, offering lessons that could benefit many adults. Some of the lessons are:

  1. Be understanding of each other.

"They recognize their differences but those differences seem to draw them closer to each other," said Sister Nielsen.

She said recently, when a family that couldn't speak English moved into the ward, "Primary children who could speak their language helped us place them in the right class and translate for them."

Children in Laie 12th Ward Primary
Children in Laie 12th Ward Primary Credit: Photo by John L. Hart

2. Don't see race and cultures as barriers.

Children look at things that are different "as a chance to get to know someone from a place that's new to them."

While an ocean might separate the homelands of best friends, here "they are as close as friends can be."

  1. When differences cause misunderstandings, don't take offense, but let people know in a loving way.

"Children are honest, so if we do or say anything that is not correct they usually let us know — in their own loving way.

"We work to help one another be more aware of cultural differences," continued Sister Nielsen. "The gospel teachings tell us that we need to love everyone. We need to be tolerant of each other and our differences."

The ward bishop, Louis M. Prescott, added a fourth lesson:

4. When offenses come, forgive and forget very fast.

" It is interesting to see all the different nationalities. Whether they are Korean, Taiwanese, Japanese, Marshallese, or from Kiribati, or are Fijian, Indian, Tongan, Samoan or Tahitian doesn't matter," he said. "All the kids get together and have a great time. The gospel has a huge influence on these people."

He said when the children recently were playing, one child was accidently hit in the face with a soft plastic baseball bat, and began crying. "All the kids came to his aid and asked, 'Are you OK?' The boy replied, 'Yes I am OK.' Then he asked, ' Is my face red?"'

"That was a great lesson in forgive and forget real fast."

Children and adults in BYU-Hawaii's wards have an international flavor.
Children and adults in BYU-Hawaii’s wards have an international flavor. Credit: Photo by John L. Hart
children in laie 12th ward
children in laie 12th ward Credit: Photo by John L. Hart
strollers outside married students ward is known as stroller lane.
strollers outside married students ward is known as stroller lane. Credit: Photo by John L. Hart

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