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Q&A: Primary presidency weighs in on how to apply new 'Come Follow Me' curriculum in 2019

As the new “Come, Follow Me — For Individuals and Families” manuals are distributed to Latter-day Saints throughout the world, many have questioned how the coming year’s curriculum will be integrated into their lives, especially with regards to Primary-aged children.

Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary general president, and Sister Lisa L. Harkness, first counselor in the Primary general presidency, recently sat down with the Church News to share insights and answer questions regarding how the new curriculum applies to children and youth. Here are their responses:

CN: What does a home-centered, Church-supported curriculum look like for Primary?

Sister Jones: “Scriptures make it clear that parents have the primary responsibility to teach the doctrine to their children. It is the responsibility of the Church to assist each member in the divinely defined goal of increasing his or her gospel knowledge (President Russell M. Nelson, October 2018).

“We are confident that children will be blessed in marvelous ways as they are taught and strengthened in their homes and continue to be taught and supported in Primary. I hope families will recognize that each home may do things a little bit differently. That is the beauty of what we have been asked to do — to gather and counsel together as families, to kneel and pray, to ask Heavenly Father how and when to implement this inspired curriculum.

“I have heard some members say, ‘I’m really nervous to begin,’ but so many are already doing this … in their homes. I hope they will continue what they are doing and perhaps now expand their efforts. Just begin, just jump in. The Lord will guide and magnify their righteous endeavors.

Jenny Friesen listens as her son Luke Friesen reads at home in Langley, British Columbia, on Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018.
Jenny Friesen listens as her son Luke Friesen reads at home in Langley, British Columbia, on Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018. Photo: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

“The Savior taught in D&C 46:33, ‘And ye must practice virtue and holiness before me continually.’ What an opportunity we have to ‘practice’ the Savior’s ways in our homes and in our lives.

“Children are very sensitive to the Spirit, and they will be a strength to their families in this wonderful revelation process. We hope our children will share their voices, ask questions and give their thoughts about what they are reading and what they are feeling. In doing so, we know they will be an influence for good in their families. Their little voices will have such an impact.”

Sister Harkness: “As children study ‘Come, Follow Me’ at home with their families, they will come to Primary on Sundays able to strengthen each other. They will be able to minister to each other as they learn to apply the gospel in their lives. I really love Sister Jones’ thoughts about how children can be a strengthening, fortifying, anchor in their homes. Children can also be a strengthening, fortifying influence to their peers in their Primary classes.”

CN: What does a shorter lesson time mean for Primary?

Sister Jones: “Because in some ways it will be a review, teachers can prayerfully prepare their lessons and invite the children to share what they learned and felt in their home study.

“There is more than enough material in the lessons, more than they will ever be able to teach in 20 minutes. What a blessing for teachers to read and study the same scriptures as the children … and then let the Spirit guide them as they teach in their classroom.

“(Children) will have insights that the Spirit will bring to their precious, open, faithful little hearts, and they will share and testify, even if they didn’t study in their homes.”

Sister Harkness: “Primary lessons will provide a time where children can share their unique perspectives and insights of the scriptures. As children share, ask questions, and sing together, they will be able to learn from each other — whether or not they were able to study in their homes the previous week.”

CN: What advice would you give to parents with young children who are trying to do home study?

Sister Jones: “I hope they won’t feel that they must follow an outline exactly as written. They may spend five minutes talking about one scripture, one principle or doctrine, or one story. They may see a picture in the manual and talk about it. The artwork in the manual is exquisite. There will be many opportunities to let the children share and ask questions. They can also role-play and let the children act out a story or concept. When they role play, they own it.

Zach, Luke and Tyler Friesen debate who is the artist in the family at home in Langley, British Columbia, on Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018.
Zach, Luke and Tyler Friesen debate who is the artist in the family at home in Langley, British Columbia, on Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018. Photo: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

“Children love to sing. Children learn the gospel through music and music brings the Spirit. We hope the children will teach their parents, their families, their grandpas and grandmas to know the Primary songs too.

“Parents can help children apply the scriptures to their needs. Little children can come to understand how the scriptures bless their lives and they will learn to be centered on the Savior all the time. Isn’t that our aim, to teach our children to remember the Savior and always have His Spirit to be with them?

“Parents can ask simple questions and let the children be part of discovering the treasures that abound for them in the scriptures. They will come to know their children better and deepen their relationships in the process. I hope they will notice opportunities to teach and reinforce gospel principles outside the home as well — in the car, at the checkout stand in the grocery store, in personal one-on-one moments. Loving, teaching and testifying can take place anywhere and children love to be loved. Enjoy and celebrate the gospel together.”

Sister Harkness: “Sing with your children! Primary music has the ability to plant the seeds of doctrine deep into the hearts of your children. Talk about the gospel as you sing — it will help them apply gospel principles to real world experiences. Look for the songs suggested in the ‘Come, Follow Me’ lessons. Have fun singing them as a family during the week. These songs will provide strength and protection for them as they grow. Your children will remember the gospel truths you sang about as you studied the scriptures together.”

CN: How will the changes benefit children and families?

Sister Jones: “I believe this will create a greater unity and protection for our families. What a blessing to draw closer and prepare children for covenants and ordinances and teach them continually of the covenant path. This is an opportunity to know each other better and to share in the richness of understanding the family threads that have made them who they are as a family unit. Families will be drawn to the temple and to each other, on both sides of the veil.

The First Presidency announced changes Dec. 14 to the timeline children and youth in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will complete Primary, move from one class or quorum to the next and attend the temple for the first time. The changes, effective January 2019, also impact when young men may be ordained to priesthood offices.
The First Presidency announced changes Dec. 14 to the timeline children and youth in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will complete Primary, move from one class or quorum to the next and attend the temple for the first time. The changes, effective January 2019, also impact when young men may be ordained to priesthood offices. Photo: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

“Our children will be strengthened at a time when they need it most, when they are being bombarded by the darts of the adversary. This will suit them in their protective armor every day.

“There is remarkable faith and strength in today’s children. You can see their light and courage in their actions and examples. I pray for the children and for their families to be happy. I am so grateful for the love of our Savior and Father in Heaven for each of us.”

Sister Harkness: “Children are facing increasingly difficult challenges at younger and younger ages. This new curriculum will fortify families and children as they study the scriptures together and learn how to apply them as they serve and love each other.”

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