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Apparently, the idea was growing in other minds as well. And around new years, we found each other (oh how the internet can be a tool for wonderful things!). So we have created this blog "It's Time for Sharing" (incidentally, there was already a similar one for Young Womens, it's called Beginnings New).
I am very excited about this project. I am grateful for the other people involved with it, and also for the 'guest contributors' who thus far include my mother and sister (who are both involved in primary in their respective congregations, and who frankly have more experience with it than I do!)
This week the regular contributors of the blog were chatting about our purpose and desire for this blog. I thought I would share here what I wrote for them.
I feel like a lot of teachers (not just in primary, at other levels too, but especially in primary) try to dumb down the doctrine. In their minds, they are making it 'simple' or 'accessible for the kids' or things like that. They believe that children can't understand. But I believe that children can understand, and that they WANT to KNOW! I believe that teaching truth and inspiring faith is worth more than following manuals or teaching obedience. I would rather teach a child how to seek personal revelation than teach him how to just always follow the leader. So my first purpose is to teach straight doctrine, without fluffing things up or leaving things out.
A second consideration for me is that I don't want them to learn things one way now, and then in 10 or 20 years be blindsided by the bigger picture. There are some issues in doctrine and history that are complicated and confusing. In the old testament God told people to kill people when they sinned--it's pretty harsh stuff. There is more than one first vision story, and they have significant differences between them. Joseph Smith married over 30 women, some of whom who were married to other men already... (not that I would bring this up to a 4 year old--it's not in their manuals anyway--but I would not shy away from explaining the basics of polygamy to an 8 or 9 year old, and I would explain the full polyandry to a teenager). I think it's appropriate to introduce the complex stuff line by line, as we introduce everything else. I look on it as inoculation. I first learned about polyandry when I was 12, and when I learned more about it as an adult, it did not trouble me to the degree that it does so many others. I already knew the basics, so the details didn't shake my testimony. So my second purpose is to be de-correlated enough to inoculate the children.
My third desire is to share my testimony. I have a testimony of a balanced theology, and a gospel of love. So I will teach the children that they have a Father AND Mother in Heaven, and that we can grow up to be like our heavenly parents, just as we can grow up to be like our earthly parents. I will teach the balance of men and women in God's eyes and god's plan (even though people don't always remember to treat each other equally, God does). I will teach love for everyone, including--or especially--those who are different from ourselves.
I feel that an unfortunate portion of primary materials focus on obey, obey, obey, follow, follow, follow...and basically discount a child's ability to receive revelation. Following is a good way to practice righteousness, but it is also necessary to gain skills in discernment, because for each person the day will come when there is no one to follow, and they have to make their own choices. I would rather teach a child to consider the options and make a choice (and live with the consequences), rather than to simply blindly obey. I have taught my children this way, and they are definitely capable of doing this at 3 and 4.
Finally, I have some experience with teaching, and with children. I've trained in education and studied psychology and development, and I feel like I have something to offer in the way of practical teaching suggestions. I hope that perhaps I can offer some ideas to those who do not have the training/experience in these areas, and who might feel overwhelmed or lost with a primary calling.
The way we approach all of this is important. "You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar" and so on... I very much want to be constructive, positive, and helpful. I don't want to be negative, bashing (on manuals or people), or raise conflict. As I have pondered the best way to do this, I think we need to consider why we are teaching/posting things (ie, am I teaching about Heavenly Mother because I think she's important, or because I want to ruffle feathers). Be genuine, don't make waves solely for the purpose of making waves. But don't hide your light under a bushel either--if something is really important in your testimony, don't gloss over it just because it's not in the manual. Finally, I think we need to be unapologetic and non-defensive when we post. That ties into why we post these things, but is an important note. I'm not going to say "I know the lesson was about obedience, but I'm going to adapt it and talk about choices instead..." I will simply say "I have adapted this lesson to talk about choices, rather than solely about obedience, because even obedience is a choice we make..."
So there you have it, It's Time for Sharing, my latest endeavor to "Be the change [I] want to see in the world."-Gandhi