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Some things I've learned as Primary president

I've been Primary president in our ward for about a year and a half now. Feels like much longer.

For those not LDS, Primary president means I'm supposedly in charge of all the activities, including Sunday, for children between the ages of 18 months and 12 years. In our ward, that's somewhere between 80 and 90 children. Two hours on Sunday, plus Cub Scouts for the boys and a misnomer 'Activity Days' (which is held at night) for girls, nursery for those under 3, teachers of a dozen classes, and so on. I have 2 counselors and a secretary to help me out and they all do a fantastic job, often far better than I do. They support me and encourage me and I love them dearly. When I got the calling from my bishop, he told me to choose counselors and a secretary. It was daunting - you mean I am choosing someone's calling? That's insane! - but  their names came to me clearly.

I've learned a lot in the last 18 months.

I've learned that a lot of people do a lot of work that most people never notice. Did you know that someone goes around the church building after weeknight activities and checks all the closets and rooms for homeless men trying to spend the night in there? I never did. Someone comes and shovels the sidewalks before church. That snow and ice don't just magically disappear because of our righteousness? I've learned that when things seem to be going 'smoothly' it's actually because a dozen people are choosing to serve others and not complain.

On the flip side of that, I've learned that a great number of people come to church each week expecting to be fed and uplifted, but not willing to give anything of themselves. I realize that at many times, unknowingly, I have been that person, too. I've learned that people, who I thought were friends or at least didn't dislike me, will outright lie to my face about why they can't help in Primary, or will at least be honest with me yet still say, "No." I've learned that for every member who dedicates himself or herself to a calling and service, there are two more who won't lift a finger, who will hide, who will lie, and who will only create more work and problems for those willing to serve.

Because of that, I've learned what it really means to raise your hand and sustain someone in a calling. I never gave it much thought before - felt like a 'yes' versus a 'no' vote, and everyone else was doing it, so I went along. I've learned that it's more than that. You raise your hand and you are stating that you sustain that person - definition: strengthen or support physically or mentally. But what does that mean? I'll give a few examples, at least when it comes to sustaining your Primary president. It means that if she calls and asks you to sub, and you are coming to church and physically able, say yes (and don't sigh heavily or roll your eyes). It means that if you are a Primary teacher and are going to be gone, make at least some effort to find a sub - even if you fail, at least let her know so she has a tiny headstart, rather than running around the building frantic for a willing soul while a classroom of children sits unattended. It means that if you see her in the bathroom and she's obviously been crying because of the stress on her shoulders, give her a hug. It means, quite simply, that you are promising to make the smallest effort to not create more difficulty for that person.

I've learned to create a chalkboard in my brain with a line down the center. On one side are names of people who I know will help me out in a bind. On the other side are names of people I know will not help me out. One list is much longer than the other, but categorizing people this way saves me a lot of time.

I've learned that bishops and those who serve with them are flawed human beings. But guess what? We all are! See above about sustaining. We sustain our leaders not only when we avoid gossiping about or second-guessing their decisions, but when we accept callings and assignments. A handful of times I have been very angry at the bishop over issues of callings - I've been blindsided by both callings to individuals who I have never even heard of, and releasings of teachers leaving several holes to fill in Primary. Ultimately though, what am I angry about? It's pride. I become prideful and believe that I am entitled to advance notice. I'm not entitled to anything. Sure, it would be nice, but ultimately, I am serving the children of our ward, and the Savior, not the bishopric. I can choose to be bitter and angry about those things or I can say, okay, what next?

I know I sound very bitter. I would be lying to say I love this calling. I do love the children, and if all I ever had to do was teach them and spend time with them, I would be truthful in saying I love it. Unfortunately, I also have to deal with unpleasantness from time to time. Teachers or music leader who don't show up. Parents who get bent out of shape because I want them to take their own three-year-old to go poop. I feel a weight of anxiety build on me every Saturday night, and the moment I wake on Sunday morning and realize it is, in fact, Sunday, I begin to feel sick to my stomach. Some Sundays, it feels like the worst job I have ever had, for the worst pay. Like a babysitter ridiculously dressed up, who can't even feed the kids sugar or turn on cartoons to pass the time.

But then some smiling mom volunteers to step in and take over a class without a teacher. Some Primary worker tells me I did a great job in my lesson. One week, everyone shows up and everyone does their job and I don't even cry a little bit, not once. And the children are darling and well behaved and happy to be there. Sometimes. The sometimes are few and far between, it seems, but are what keep me from losing it completely, acting out a terribly embarrassing but nonetheless cathartic testimony meeting call-to-repentance, and joining a church with a paid children's ministry team.


  1. You can do it!! :) Just remember there are 14 million members of the church, all of whom have their own agency... we are bound to screw things up more often than not!!

  2. This is such a great post and so very true. I agree with all of it!


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