Boys will be boys, and that often means mischief follows.
Aurelia Spencer Rogers, a mother of 12, feared the boys in her home town of Farmington, Utah, were so wild they would not grow up to be good men if not suitably guided along the way.
It is reported the Farmington boys of the 1870s would run freely through the town at all hours of the day and night, and Rogers felt they needed to be taught good character, principles and values to be good parents and citizens.
So she went to her female church leader, Eliza R. Snow, the general Relief Society President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with her concerns. Rogers was hoping to start some type of program to reel the boys in.
President John Taylor, prophet and president of the LDS Church, gave his nod of approval to the idea, and Rogers received a calling from her bishop to plan the first meeting of the Primary Association.
History reports that part of the boys' training would include singing, but to have a better, more melodious sound, young girls were invited to attend. The first meeting had approximately 224 children in attendance. Children ages 4 to 14 were invited to participate in the first Primary.
The first meeting was held nearly 138 years ago on Aug. 25, 1878. From there the Primary organization spread to every branch and ward in the LDS Church. The Primary now has more than 1 million children on its rolls throughout the world and is considered a priesthood auxiliary.
From its early beginnings the influence of Primary has given LDS children a rich and growing history.
As children would meet during the week, the goal was to teach them good music, poetry and character building. Over the decades the correlation of classes, topics and sharing time have brought children to a firmer foundation in gospel topics, scripture understanding and testimony building.
Once considered a woman’s place, Primary is now staffed by women and men, married couples, single adults and grandparents.
Adele Howells, the fourth general president of the Primary, commissioned artist Arnold Friberg to create his Book of Mormon paintings for the Children’s Friend magazine in the 1950s. Howells was the former editor of the magazine. The now-famous paintings were a way children could relate more fully to the scriptures and to the heroes of the Book of Mormon.
It was also under Howells’ administration that children started collecting dimes for the Primary Children’s Hospital. The contributions changed over the years, but many older church members will remember putting their birthday coins into an actual hospital-shaped piggy bank during Primary meetings while children sang a happy birthday song to them.
During LaVern Watts Parmley’s administration in the Primary from 1951 to 1974, Primary Children’s Hospital was completed. It was also during her administration the Cub Scouts were introduced into the Primary program for young boys.
It was also during Parmley’s administration that a special edition New Testament was printed for young girls to use in Primary. It was during her administration the popular song, “I Am A Child of God” was introduced.
The Children’s Friend followed suit with other church magazines in 1971 and changed its name to the Friend.
A big change occurred under President Dwan Young. Young became the seventh General Primary president in 1980. That was about the time the LDS Church went to a consolidated meeting schedule, and for the first time Primary was held on Sunday, not after school on weekdays.
Primary replaced Junior Sunday School and was now 90 minutes long. To accommodate the length, sharing time was introduced into the Primary program.
Under the direction of Michaelene Packer Grassli, who served as General Primary president from 1988-1994, a correlated program for Primary sacrament meeting programs went out to all church units. The new Children’s Songbook, currently in use, was also introduced after being in development for 10 years.
It was under the current administration of President Rosemary M. Wixom that young girls ages 8 and older were invited to join their older sisters and mothers as they attend the General Women’s Session of the bi-annual General Conference.
With the addition of a Primary website on LDS.org, Faith in God programs established for both boys and girls, and a new collection of LDS art, children of the Primary have been given a strong foundation on which to build developing testimonies of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.