Episode 9: President Joy D. Jones joins Sarah Jane Weaver to discuss a new service initiative for children

As Christmas approaches many thoughts turn to children. In addition to seeking and finding joy during this special season, children can also serve others and reflect the love and example of the Savior Jesus Christ in their actions and through their examples.

The Primary general presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is working with Latter-day Saint Charities and the Friend magazine — the Church’s global publication for children — to help children emulate the life and teachings of Jesus Christ through service this season and throughout 2021. The effort, emphasizing the “helping hands and loving hearts” of children, will be featured monthly next year in the Friend magazine.

This episode of the Church News podcast features Primary General President Joy D. Jones, Sister Sharon Eubank of the Relief Society general presidency, and Friend magazine editor Jan Pinborough. They discuss the natural ability of children to love and serve, how children have been impacted by the global COVID-19 pandemic, and service opportunities for children this season and throughout 2021.  

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Transcription

Sarah Jane Weaver: I’m Sarah Jane Weaver, editor of the Church News. Welcome to the Church News podcast. We are taking you on a journey of connection as we discuss news and events of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As we approach Christmas Day this year, many of our thoughts turned to children. In addition to seeking and finding joy in the special season, children can also serve others and reflect the love and example of the Savior Jesus Christ, in their actions and through their examples. Their experiences are amplified by their participation in the Primary program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Today I am joined by Primary General President Joy D. Jones, Sister Sharon Eubank of the Relief Society General Presidency and director of Latter-day Saint Charities, and Jan Pinborough, editor of the Friend magazine, to talk about how children can emulate the example of Jesus Christ and serve others this Christmas season and throughout 2021. Welcome.

President Joy D. Jones: Thank you. 

Sister Sharon Eubank: Thank you. 

Jan Pinborough: Thank you. 

Sarah Jane Weaver: Let’s start with you, President Jones. Talk about some of the things you’re feeling this year, as you think about children and the example of the Savior, and the way they follow Him.

1:25

President Joy D. Jones: Oh, how beautifully they follow him so naturally. It’s been an interesting year for our children. They’ve been out of the Primary room for a very long time, almost a year. And yet, they have flourished in their homes in so many ways because they love being with their families, spending more time with their families. We’ve heard some wonderful things about the experiences they’ve shared with their parents and their siblings. Hopefully because of this time of the year, it will be an opportunity as we approach Christmas for them to be involved in wonderful service and activities with their families, where they can actually be side by side with those who can model for them. What the Savior actually does, serving others, reaching out and helping those in need. 

Read more: Primary general presidency highlights 2021 global invitations for ‘helping like Jesus’

Sister Joy D. Jones greets a young Primary child during a ministering visit with families in the Mexico Area in December 2019.
Sister Joy D. Jones greets a young Primary child during a ministering visit with families in the Mexico Area in December 2019. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

Children are naturals. They want to help. They just want to help. They’re always so willing and so excited to participate and to do things that lift and help others. It touches me to recognize how our children honor their baptismal covenants as they really do reach out and help those who need help, who are searching for comfort or are lonely and are just needing someone to notice them. Children are so good at that. So I’m excited. I’m excited for the season. I hope it will be a wonderful time to lift spirits and for children to really look to the Savior for their example as they do in all things, and seek to reach out beyond themselves and see how they can touch another life — even through their sweet smiles and their enthusiasm and their love for others. 

Sarah Jane Weaver: Now, Sister Eubank, you have overseen the humanitarian work of the Church throughout the world. I am sure you have seen many examples of people who we might have once thought were too poor or too marginalized or too of anything to give service or to reach out to another. In this case, when we talk about children, is anyone too young to serve?

3:39

Sister Sharon Eubank: I’m so glad you asked that because I had a really strong experience that sort of jump-started these discussions a couple years ago, I was standing in line in the Joseph Smith building at the Light the World vending machines. And I was there to give my family’s donation. I think I was going to buy a water buffalo. But I stood in line for about a half an hour. And there was a 9-year-old boy from Central Utah standing in front of me, so I just chatted with him. I said, “What are you going to buy?” 

He said, “I’m buying polio vaccines.” And then he went on to talk to me for 15 minutes all about polio. 

I said, “How did you learn this?” 

He said, “I’m nine.” He said, “I did research.” 

It dawned on me that Latter-day Saint Charities, which is the collective efforts of the Latter-day Saints, we have a million Latter-day Saint children and we’re not taking full advantage of their potential to be able to help. So the natural cooperation between the general Primary presidency and the Friend magazine and Latter-day Saint Charities, this is a really powerful way to say our children are doing lots of things and cooperatively they can do a lot of things together. I’m super excited about this.

Sarah Jane Weaver: Sister Pinborough. Why don’t you tell us what we’re planning next year that will actually provide the structure for some of these service opportunities.

4:58

Jan Pinborough: Oh, I would love to. I think of the scripture verse that says “a little child shall lead them.” That is, I think, what we’re talking about. We can learn so much from just the joy and the unself-consciousness with which children serve in very small ways, which actually turn out to be the very profound ways. In the January magazine — and this is really such an important moment in the history of Church magazines — they are going global in January 2021. The Primary presidency is reaching out to the children of the world. It will be to children in 148 countries, children who speak 48 different languages, to share this invitation to reach out and help in their neighborhoods, in their families, in their communities, and to help like Jesus did. 

That call, that invitation to children will be in the January 2021 Friend that is going out throughout the world. Then each month, we will have a little package of articles and stories that support this. Each month we’ll have a photo story about a child from a different country who served in some mostly small, but really transformative way. That will be followed by a little story about how Jesus served in a similar way. Then there will be another call for children to help in a really practical way that involves health and well-being in their homes and in the places that they live.

Sarah Jane Weaver: President Jones, can you share with us some of the background for this opportunity for children and their families?

6:50

President Joy D. Jones: Well, it’s funny because this started — actually history sparked the conversation. We were talking about May 12, 1922, recognizing that it’s been almost 100 years since the Primary Association opened its 35 bed facility in a large old home across from Temple Square. At that time, surgeries were performed at LDS Hospital and then children convalesced in the Primary facility. Of course, the hospital was supported by donations of birthdays pennies, we know that, from Primary children over the years. They also had an annual Penny Parade that took place in hundreds of intermountain towns and farming districts. Since that time, of course, much has happened with Primary Children’s Hospital, and today thousands of individual children receive extraordinary care every single year in an atmosphere of love and concern. 

20180621 Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary general president, and Sister Lisa L. Harkness, first counselor in the Primary presidency, greet children performing in the Mormon Miracle Pageant in Manti, Utah on June 20.
20180621 Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary general president, and Sister Lisa L. Harkness, first counselor in the Primary presidency, greet children performing in the Mormon Miracle Pageant in Manti, Utah on June 20. Credit: Savannah Hopkinson

We’ve talked about how, I mean Primary is always about caring for children, about loving children. We were having this conversation in little bits and pieces. It was Sharon and I talking at UNICEF and after a UNICEF conference, and then Jan and I talking about Primary and the Friend and recognizing the global needs of our children. It’s not just Intermountain that we’re concerned about. It’s the needs of children all across the globe. Just talking about how wonderful it would be if we could create something like those days long ago, when Primary children would give up their little birthday pennies, they would bring their birthday pennies, and share those pennies with Primary Children’s Hospital and how I remember doing that. It was ages ago. When I was a child, I remember that. It means something to me. It was a tiny sacrifice, but to me, it was something very special because I felt like I was giving something to help those children. I was doing my part. 

We just thought, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could invite children all over the world to find simple and natural ways that they could help others the way that Jesus did. We were talking about how Jesus fed the hungry. He helped the sick. He was brave. He reached out to outcasts. He spent time with people. He helped families. He comforted and healed. He studied the scriptures, he read and he grew, and he noticed other’s needs. It was so much fun because Sharon jumped in and she’s talking about the sustainable goals that we talked about at UNICEF, we’re talking about nutrition we’re talking about food and sanitation and hygiene, wheelchairs, and clean water and emergency responses. It’s so wonderful when collaboration occurs this way. It just becomes bigger and better. It has been so much fun being guided through our Heavenly Father’s kindness and generosity and prompting the little things that have occurred to prepare for this initiative to begin. 

The first of January, it will go for the entire year of 2021, inviting children to help like Jesus. Coming through the Friend — the Friend is, as we’ve talked before, we’ve called it a megaphone to the children of the Church. It’s such a wonderful way to reach out to them. This is where they will find their little challenges. They will read the stories of children around the world, they will understand how Jesus served, how He helped others, and it will give them opportunities for them to do the same. So we’re very excited for this coming year and what it will mean to our children. They will amaze us. I’m so excited to see what will come from their actions and their choices. 

We’re also very excited in February, Feb. 20, we’re going to have a Face-to-Face for children, which is going to be called Friend-to-Friend. We’re very excited for that opportunity as well to focus in on the children, and what the children are capable of, how they contribute to the gospel, how they love, how they exemplify our Savior’s love. So we’re really excited for that and we hope that the children will be as well.

Sarah Jane Weaver: Sister Pinborough.

11:26

Jan Pinborough: As you can imagine weaving these different themes together is an interesting challenge. The story that we found for the January issue, which we were planning about a year ago, was about a little girl in Ghana who helped her neighbor — it was the landlady of this little girl’s family — clean her home and do things that she needed help with. And so the challenge for that month was to wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds and sing a song like “I Have Two Little hands,” so you know when you’ve washed your hands long enough. When we realized that, after the pandemic began, that this would be our very first challenge, we just had to conclude that there are really no coincidences, and that the Lord’s hand is involved with anything that comes to His children.

Sarah Jane Weaver: President Jones, you mentioned that you were a Primary child yourself ages ago. It probably was not that long ago, but it did help me think that so many of the experiences we have as children shape who we become as adults. Why is it so important that we focus on services such a young age?

12:39

President Joy D. Jones: Oh, what a blessing it is for a child to learn to look outwardly instead of inwardly. That is what invites the Spirit. As we feel Heavenly Father’s love, as children have an opportunity to feel His love, as they serve someone else, they’re filled with the Spirit. It creates a spiritual experience for them, where they feel that warmth, that guidance, that approval, that peace that the Spirit brings when we’re doing something for someone else. I think in a selfie society, it’s a wonderful thing if a child can begin at a very early age to understand the sweetness that comes, the way that it makes your heart sing, when you serve someone else. 

Jarrett Jones holds ordinance cards for family names he has found. His love of temple and family history work began when he was 9 years old. So far, he has found 303 family names.
Jarrett Jones holds ordinance cards for family names he has found. His love of temple and family history work began when he was 9 years old. So far, he has found 303 family names. Credit: Courtesy Sister Joy D. Jones

The beautiful thing is that our precious children, they’re so capable. They’re so capable and they have such a powerful influence within their own families, and in their neighborhoods, and in their communities. I think sometimes it’s just giving them the opportunity to recognize it and for us as adults to recognize it too. We need to look at children maybe a little bit differently, and just recognize that they have so much to offer and it’s come so naturally. They want to be included. They want to serve. President [Russell M.] Nelson has told us, “ministering is caring for others.” Well, we have 1.2 million children in Primary across the globe. What better way can we teach them and prepare them as they minister throughout their lives than to include them in simple and natural ways in these very tender years, these younger years? I think that if we just realize how happy it makes them, they just love to make others happy. You know how quickly they can bring smiles to our faces. And yet it’s teaching them such a powerful, wonderful principle for their lives, to grow up thinking that service is just a natural part of their life. How wonderful is that than to try to learn that when they’re older and maybe not quite as anxious to serve others?

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, in the example we heard from Sister Pinborough on handwashing, and from Sister Eubank’s example of seeing a 9-year-old excited about the Light the World campaign, often children don’t just follow, but they lead out. Sister Eubank, have you seen examples of this?

15:10

Sister Sharon Eubank: One of the large primary relationships Latter-day Saint Charities have as a partner is with UNICEF. UNICEF is a United Nations entity. I think it stands for United Nations International Children’s Emergency Funds. It was started after World War II to help all of the children who were orphaned during that time. They are not funded through the United Nations so they do fundraising. Their whole job is to protect the rights and opportunities of children. So that’s a natural partnership between the general Primary presidency, Latter-Day Saint Charities and this group because they focus so much on children regardless of their political persuasion or what country they live in or the backgrounds that they have. So that’s a good partnership with Latter-Day Saint Charities. UNICEF was founded after World War II and their whole mandate was to try and help all these children who were orphans after the war. But we were having these discussions with them about that they don’t just have needs, children also bring strengths exactly, as you said. They said, “Well give us an example of that.” And so I had the chance to introduce them to President Jones, and say, “There are 1.2 million children and these are the kinds of things that they are learning to do in Primary every single week and in their families. And there’s a there’s a magazine that they get in their own language that comes delivered to their home, where they’re sharing examples about that what is happening.” 

So when Jan started talking about those stories, they’re featuring an example of a child every single month, so you’ll get to read about a child in the United Arab Emirates one month, and a child in Tahiti the next month, or the child in Poland so that all over the world kids are seeing what each other are doing, the strength that they bring to their communities. I’m really excited about that from a Latter-Day Saints perspective, and I’m very excited about that from these international partner perspectives that we can show these are what Latter-day Saint children are doing in their own communities and the strengths that they bring. So I think it’s a win both sides.

Sarah Jane Weaver: President Jones, you actually started thinking about the idea for this effort at a UNICEF event, correct?

17:21

President Joy D. Jones: Well, it was a wonderful opportunity. I was one of several though. There was a panel speaking. It was just remarkable to be there and all have a united focus on children, and caring for children across the world. It was really fun to be able to mention the Friend. I was able to talk about the Friend in our Church and the purpose of this wonderful magazine, and how in 2021, we would be inviting children to learn about sustainable goals, too. It was applicable to be able to talk in an environment so different from a Church meeting, but to talk to these people from all over the world, about what we do in our Church and what our concerns are for our children and how we want to teach and educate and nurture them. It was just a delightful place to be able to share that love for children and children’s recognized children’s needs because they vary so much all across the world. We’ve got such a variety of needs for our precious children. We even talked about the literacy factor with the Friend, what a blessing it was to have this magazine and now, as Sister Pinborough so beautifully stated, 148 countries, [48] languages, children being able to read that across the world. We’re just deeply grateful. So that experience with UNICEF was a very positive, very incredible experience and I was really appreciative to have that opportunity.

Sarah Jane Weaver: Sister Pinborough, as we think about Christmas and all that Christmas entails including serving others and the excitement that children have for Christmas, it makes sense that just a few weeks later, the magazine is going to launch this great opportunity for children to serve in 2021. Now other changes of the magazine make this a great time to start and launch this initiative. Tell us what is happening at the Friend, and why it’s now going to have increased global outreach and a new global audience.

19:31

Jan Pinborough: Well, the Friend was originally an English only publication, and children in other languages received some child’s content in their parents’ Liahona magazine. What’s happening now is that there’s no longer one tier for English speaking members of the Church and a different experience for those who speak other languages. Now there will be three worldwide magazines for all members of the Church to read, and a child will be able to get his or her own magazine just for herself, not part of her parents’ magazine. This is just so significant because, I think particularly during the pandemic, I think the need to feel a great sense of belonging with other children is just very wonderful. It does give [President] Jones and Church leaders every month, there is a message from a member of the First Presidency. Every month, there is support for teaching “Come, Follow Me” in the home, scriptures, stories and activities. Many children don’t have a lot of reading material in the home. Many don’t have a lot of gospel resources in their home. But we’re thrilled that, basically, I think it’s something around 98 or so percent of members of the Church will now be able to receive one of the global magazines.

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, that’s beautiful, I love the idea of belonging. President Jones, can you expand on what a loving heart and helping hands can do to help people understand that they belong to the Church of Jesus Christ, and that they can emulate Him in their thoughts and actions?

21:23

President Joy D. Jones: Oh, yes, it’s just such an opportunity. Such an opportunity. We talk all the time about children understanding and believing that they are children of God, that they belong not only to their own families, they belong to the family of God. We are all here to help one another. We are all here to serve one another, to love one another. It’s exciting to me to see how this can correlate with children and youth. Because through service and activities, these sweet opportunities for children to plan things and families to plan things together. But also Primary activities could be influenced and Personal Development Goal ideas. There are so many ways that they can determine, apply what they’ve learned, actually. It’s applying gospel learning to become more like the Savior. That’s really the whole goal is belonging in a very spiritual way, to understand why you belong, how you belong, that it’s belonging to a family. It’s belonging to our Heavenly Father, it’s being His son or daughter, and following and becoming more like our Savior. 

Sister Joy D. Jones, general Primary president of the LDS Church, visits with Primary children in Washington, D.C., Sunday, June 4, 2017.
Sister Joy D. Jones, general Primary president of the LDS Church, visits with Primary children in Washington, D.C., Sunday, June 4, 2017. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

It’s also what Sister Pinborough was saying. I feel so strongly about the the unifying factor of children understanding what children are doing in different parts of the world and recognizing that they may grow up differently, and they may live in different types of homes and be in different types of environments. But the beautiful thing is that they all belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They are covenant members at baptism, and that unifies them to just know a little bit more about each other. They’re learning temporaly. The Friend is such a wonderful educational publication. They’re going to be learning things that are very important and applicable in their lives. But it’s also the spiritual application as they learn and as they learn with parents, with their siblings. There are so many new members of the Church that will pick up these magazines and they will learn together as families and understand they do belong. They are part of God’s kingdom here upon the earth.

Sarah Jane Weaver: Great. And they live in a world that is so often inward facing. We talked about selfies. We talked about this culture where people are focused on themselves. And now we’re directing children to look outward.

23:56

President Joy D. Jones: Studies are showing that children who understand their families, they understand extended family and they look outwardly. It affects everything in their lives. It affects how well they do in school. It affects their feelings about themselves. It affects the way they look at the world. There are so many positives to helping children have that outward facing focus. Is that not the Savior himself? I mean, everything that he did was outward facing. Everything that they do, they can apply to His example. What would Jesus do? What did Jesus do? What would He do now? I’m trying to be like Jesus, and what a sweet, simple way for them to feel better connected to Him and understand that, yes, I am doing what He would have me do. They’re learning to say, “Yes, I’m living the gospel. I am being obedient. I am choosing the right.” In simple, continually doing these things in their early lives and having experiences that testify to them — because the Spirit will testify when they are doing things that are right and true, and they will feel that. That’s what I want so much, is for them to have opportunities to feel the Spirit and to recognize that that is a feeling they always want to have, that they always want to have the Spirit with them, guiding them, that they don’t want to make choices that would push the Spirit away.

Sarah Jane Weaver: Thank you.

25:32

Sister Sharon Eubank: I think one of the best examples of this is in the New Testament when Jesus has been preaching and they’re out in the desert. The apostles come to Jesus with this little boy. They said, “This lad has two fishes and five barley loaves. But what is that among all of this need?” But Jesus took the offering of that little child and he magnified it so that everybody was fed. I think that parable goes well beyond that desert place in the New Testament because I think Jesus is interested in taking the offerings of little children and magnifying them in an unprecedented way so that everybody benefits. That’s the wonderful part of the gospel is that anybody can contribute. 

If you’re a parent and you look at your children, and you look at the good things and the difficult challenges that they have, but you know the seed of genius sits in them. You see who they really are, and then to be able to find a way for them to capitalize on what they’re good at and expand into the community. I think our Heavenly Father feels that way about every one of us as His children. But I know that He looks down on the earth and is pleased when we will value the little contributions that children make so that they can be magnified in a larger way.

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well these invitations also come at a time when every child in every family in the world is experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic in some way. Sister Eubank, can you talk about what the world is facing right now and how that’s impacting children? Tell us how children are actually doing.

27:05

Sister Sharon Eubank: You know, the pandemic is unusual for two reasons. Number one, it’s a truly global event. It’s a pandemic. Every single country. It touches, as you said, every single family, and it doesn’t just touch them with health, it touches them with the economy. And so so many places, people have lost their jobs or they’ve lost their customers, and all of that has an impact on families and children. So as we look forward to when the vaccine starts to go forward, what are still the lasting effects of this? The effects will largely be about food because food supply chains have been disrupted. Harvesting has been interrupted. People haven’t planted because they weren’t able to. They were sick or they couldn’t buy seeds. So there’s a ripple effect about food that is going to last for two, three, even five years. That’s what’s so difficult because little bodies and little opportunities, they are the ones who suffer the most when there’s not enough calories. So we’re interested in what can we do to help at the family level so that people have enough to eat so that they can find work and that they can be healthy?

Sarah Jane Weaver: President Jones, many of our Latter-day Saint children have now gone many months without attending Primary. How has the pandemic impacted them spiritually?

28:29

President Joy D. Jones: We would hope that the gospel learning that’s taking place in their homes is compensating and actually excelling, taking them far beyond what they would receive in the Primary room. But we know that there are also children who are not having that opportunity in their homes. So we hope that there are going to be many invitations. We are hearing of so many things that Primary leaders and music leaders, ministering brothers, ministering sisters are doing to reach out to strengthen families, to back up those families who might need a little extra support, and maybe sharing a “Come, Follow Me” from the Primary manual, so that the children could go through and read through some of those lessons together with their parents or singing Primary songs in the home.

‘Primary has not gone away,’ says Primary general presidency amid COVID-19

We hope that those opportunities are occurring. We do hear some wonderful, wonderful things, not only from children about how much they love spending more time with their families, but also the creative ways that leaders are using technology, the individual notes that they’re writing and drive bys and all of the many things they’re doing just to support and help the children remember, “No, you belong. We’re still connected. We love you, we support you.” I think the most important thing we can do, always, is to strengthen the home and strengthen the family. So in many ways, I think there are a lot of positives that we perhaps overlook that have come because of the pandemic. I’m so grateful. 

I just want to mention President Nelson’s message of giving gratitude because I think that came at the perfect time. He was so inspired to encourage us all now to pause and recognize how blessed we really are and to look at everything that blesses our lives. Even hard things, like this pandemic, can be a blessing to our lives. It’s how we view it. That’s an opportunity, too, to teach our children, how do we view hard things? We can do hard things. We help each other to do hard things. I marvel at the sweet stories that we’ve heard and the cute exclamations from children saying, “I liked being with my family.” So I’m grateful we’re aware that it may still be a while. We’ve got some Primaries that are functioning again. There are some Primaries that are actually happening, but we know that it will be a while before that will be worldwide. So we are very much encouraging Primary at home, just having a little Primary experience. Playing off of the “Come, Follow Me,” reinforcing the “Come, Follow Me” lesson that is already occurring in the home, but applying it to children using the Primary manual, and always singing Primary songs and hymns. That’s a blessing for every home to be able to include music.

Sarah Jane Weaver:  You mentioned President Nelson’s invitation. It certainly comes naturally to so many children to give thanks and to show gratitude.

31:44

President Joy D. Jones: All you have to do is listen to a child pray. I mean, they think of everything to be grateful for, and they mean it.

31:53

Sister Sharon Eubank: The pandemic is truly a global event and so there are going to be long lasting effects from that. One of them is, of course, the health issues. But as the vaccine comes on, we’ll be left with education, the kids that weren’t in school and can’t catch up, they didn’t have technology. We’ll be left with food crises because planting seasons were interrupted. We’ll be left with economies, all of those things — mental health is another one — they’re out there waiting to be dealt with. And it’s fascinating to me that our Prophet says, “I’m looking ahead, and in order to deal with this, I want us to be grateful.” And you think “That’s such a soft skill. Why are you talking about that?” But for people, young people to be able to face their futures that have been impacted by the pandemic, gratitude is going to be one of those keys. I’m really energized by what President Nelson did in a platform that the whole world could hear it. Start with gratitude, we will work through this pandemic and build our connections with each other, and then we’ll tackle everything that went from it. But I have appreciated a prophetic look to this pandemic. 

Sarah Jane Weaver: We have a tradition at the Church News podcast where we give our guest the final word, and we ask a very specific question. And that question is, what do you know now? And so today, I’m going to ask all three of you to do that. But let’s start with Sister Pinborough. You’ve had the opportunity to prepare the January and the February and certainly future issues of the Friend magazine. During that process, I suspect that you’ve documented some of the children’s helping hands and other efforts to serve and emulate the Savior. So, at the end of that process, what do you know now? What have you learned from that?

33:37

Jan Pinborough: Well, it is just a regular joy in our life to read the mail that comes to the Friend and see the creativity, the joy, the resilience of children. This year as we’ve been planning the new global Friend and the global magazines, something I know now is that there are some thousands of children throughout the world who attend Church on their own and need our special support and help. I know that more people than ever before are going to be receiving regular support through the magazines and this is just such a moment of gratitude for me to see this coming to pass. There are some languages that in the past have only received magazines one time a year, or maybe twice a year. But those will all be receiving magazines either every other month or every month. So these are some of the things I know now. 

I know now that a little spark of an idea that began two years ago has just blossomed into something that is so amazing to me to watch. These stories come in to watch the wonderful interweaving of all of these different themes come to pass. I’m just so excited to see the responses of children. I know we will get thousands of letters at the Friend, telling us what they’re doing, how they are taking small actions, and I know that those small actions will change a child, will change a family will change a neighborhood, and truly will change a world. 

I think it’s so wonderful that this call to children is coming from the Primary general presidency who have responsibility for teaching children throughout the world. Also on each of our stories, we have our banner statement, our motto, which is a statement by President Nelson in April 2020 conference, when he said, “Let us put our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ into action.” And we just so look forward to seeing how children throughout the world will do that. And we hope they will write to us and let us know. And just have a couple of little stories.

One is a family in Florida. After Hurricane Sally hit their neighborhood, their children actually mobilized the children in their neighborhood, and started their own little Helping Hands effort. So they would go around and move tree branches and things like that. So I think children are natural collaborators, but they’re not afraid.

There was another little story of a child from the United Arab Emirates who, after the pandemic, they weren’t able to go to school. I think she was about five years old, but her teacher contacted her and I guess at school, she would always sing “I am a Child of God,” so all of the teachers were familiar with that song and they contacted her and said, “We miss you singing that song. Will you record it for us to cheer everyone up?” And so she and her little sister not only recorded themselves singing it, but then they learned to sing it in Arabic, so that it would be more special to the children who spoke that language.

Sarah Jane Weaver: President Jones.

37:17

President Joy D. Jones: The first thing that came to my mind is the child in a home where there isn’t a lot of gospel support. Another family recognizing that and finding ways to include that family, not just the child but looking at the whole family. We don’t separate the child from their family. We look at the big picture and how many ministering opportunities exist if we’re looking. So hopefully, I feel like we’re learning. It’s as if the Savior’s teaching us to love more, but maybe to love better. We’re learning to practice loving better. And it’s in the spoonfuls of ministering. It’s in small and simple ways that we do that. Maybe as the children are finding these simple ways to serve and to minister, it will light a flame in their homes.

I know a little boy who was so excited to minister. He wanted to go, and this was a couple Christmases ago that this happened, but he wanted to go and invite all the neighbors to go to Church on Sunday for Christmas Sunday, the Sunday before Christmas. It was so cute because they went around and invited each of the families, they went to their doors and actually invited them. At the end, they walked away, they were walking down the sidewalk, and this little guy says, “We just lit the world!” It was connecting for him. He was seeing, we’re trying to share Jesus’s light, and we do that as we reach out to others. 

Sister Joy D. Jones, general president of the Primary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, walks through the Pioneer Children’s Memorial at This Is The Place Heritage Park in Salt Lake City on Monday, June 15, 2020.
Sister Joy D. Jones, general president of the Primary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, walks through the Pioneer Children’s Memorial at This Is The Place Heritage Park in Salt Lake City on Monday, June 15, 2020. Credit: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

I think children can really help us in terms of strengthening families and helping them to reach out and share the love and light of their homes. 

Sarah Jane Weaver: Sister Eubank. 

39:07

Sister Sharon Eubank: I would just say that in this year that’s been so difficult for so many communities that they’re being polarized by various forces because of health, because of politics, because of social justice. This is an effort to be able to heal some of those rifts at a very basic level serving with children. We want to promote unity, we want to promote understanding and the best way we can think of to do that is to try to teach our youngest members how they can help be like Jesus because Jesus was such a peacemaker. 

President Joy D. Jones: Beautiful.

Sarah Jane Weaver: Sister Eubank. What do you know now? What have you learned about giving and serving from children?

39:45

Sister Sharon Eubank: You know, I was always used to thinking about the rising generation that these will be the future leaders. But I know now is they’re not waiting for the future. These are leaders already. These children at their young age are already confident enough to lead out because of the things they know from the gospel and from the Holy Ghost in their heart. And they’re not waiting for us to give them a chance later on in the future. They’re leaving out now, and I didn’t know that before.

Sarah Jane Weaver: President Jones, you’ve had the opportunity to lead and strengthen and pray for more than a million children worldwide. What have you learned as you have done that?

40:21

President Joy D. Jones: How full of love children are. How naturally they love. I think Sister Camilla Kimball’s thought she said, “Never suppressed a generous thought.” Well, children, they don’t think about is this a convenient time? Do I feel like it? Is this going to put me out of my comfort zone? They somehow intuitively know that when we serve others that changes us and we’re never the same after even the smallest effort to help someone else. 

My little granddaughter sent me a picture of a rose that she had colored for me. Then I was talking to her on FaceTime yesterday. And she said, “Grandma, you didn’t hurt your finger on the thorn on the rose, did you? Do you still have my rose? You didn’t touch the thorn?” And I thought, bless her heart. She was so aware and wanting me to enjoy this beautiful picture, but she didn’t want me to touch the thorn on the stem of the rose. 

Children, that’s the way they think. I love what President Nelson said when he stated “Giving help to others, making a conscientious effort to care about others as much or more than we care about ourselves, is our choice, especially when it’s not convenient and when it takes us out of our comfort zone. Living that second great commandment, love thy neighbor as thyself, is the key to becoming a true disciple of Jesus Christ.” 

I believe our little children will lead us just has been so beautiful. I believe they will lead us if we just pay attention. We were told, “Behold your little ones.” That means, look at them, see them, notice them and learn from them. Angels encircle them in fire; we’ve got to encircle them. Not just because they’re going to learn from us. We’ve got to recognize how much they are here to teach us. And I truly believe, I know these children have been prepared far before they ever came to this earth. They have been beautifully prepared for this time. They are equipped to stand as Sister Eubank said, to stand as leaders. We will watch them. We will watch them do magnificent things that we can’t even comprehend. 

I love what children teach me. But it’s mostly about love. That’s the greatest gift that the Savior has given us is His love. So I’m very grateful and I testify of that truth. I do. Children teach us to love. 

I love going to 3 Nephi 17 and reading about how the Savior had everyone bring the children. He said the children, were brought to Him. They had this front row seat to the Savior. He wanted them to see Him, to feel His hands to feel the prints of the nails, to feel, to be able to hear Him. It was as if He wanted children to have an unobscured view of Him. 

When little children hear a song, or they see a picture of Jesus, and they can barely talk, but they know that’s Jesus, it tells me that there’s something very tender and very special between Him and little children. They long for Him, they want to know Him, they want to feel His Spirit. I feel so grateful for every effort that is made to bless a child, to teach a child. They are so receptive. They understand doctrine. They want to learn and they want to share. They are incredible missionaries. They love family history. They love being a part of the work of salvation and exaltation. That is something that has been amazing to me to witness. 

I testify of the gifts that they will offer in building the kingdom of God here upon the earth. I am so grateful for their examples. I’m so touched by their beautiful, loving spirits. My hope and prayer is that we can all recognize them, that we can call them by their names, that we can include them, that we can model for them, the things that the Savior has taught us and that we can learn from their modeling to us what they so naturally know and do that follows His example. 

I testify that our children are blessed as they really do understand and believe that they are His sons and daughters, that they are sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father sent to Earth with specific purposes, and that they will be blessed as they understand those purposes and as they live to follow and honor Him. I’m just grateful for our Heavenly Father, for His love and sending His Son, and for giving us the opportunity to understand His example and strive to live it every day. I pray that our children will long to follow Him in all that they do and say I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.