Sweet spirit

I failed as a primary teacher. No, not in Belgium. Here in my Provo ward. But it cannot be said I did not try. Velcro, scissors, wax crayons, strings, glue, buttons, figurines. Scriptures and stories. We made the armor of God in cardstock, dressed King Lamoni’s sheep in wads of cotton, notched Nephites, laminated Lamanites, and did the Jaredite Journey Goose Game (“You are at the Tower of Babel. Can’t understand what they say. Lose 1 turn”).

But at the end of each lesson, the little faces would look up at me and one would voice for all:
– Do you have candy?

I didn’t. And I vowed I would not give in. My staunch European background forbade that I surrender to this American decadence. I was not going to help them develop both a testimony and bad teeth. I resented all my predecessors who had spoiled these kids and turned the teachers into free vending machines.

I tried Scripture mastery games, Book of Mormon dominoes, Mormon mind stretchers, magic tricks, riddles, tangrams.
– Do you have candy?

I even considered the Sugar Cube Temple Activity. Fifty sugar cubes per child to build a temple, plus Royal Icing as mortar. Display in the Cultural Hall. But then I read the children ended up eating the temples.

To give in, just a little, I brought sliced raw carrots in a pretty bowl. I read in their eyes my condemnation for apostasy.

I thumbed through more books with Primary activity ideas. Horror.

Sweet Bishop Cookies: give children a sugar cookie and talk about the sweet blessings the bishop brings to our ward. Also say: “The sweet taste of this cookie makes us feel happy. The sweet testimony of the bishop gives us a happy, peaceful feeling.”

Sacred Grove Cone Cakes: pour cake batter in ice cream cones. Bake. Frost cupcake cones with green frosting. Tell children that the green-topped cones together are like the grove of trees where Joseph Smith knelt when Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ came down.

Landing with their feet in the frosting?

I discovered one could make Apostasy Cookie Crumble, Endure to the End Licorice, Prayer Pudding, Testimony Bear Treats, Pioneer Peanut Delight, Ordinance Oatmeal Cookies, Priesthood Pretzels, Sacrifice Crackers, Temple Mints, Celestial Soda…

We desperately need another book. How to build faith without obesity.

To give in, just a little more, my wife baked Belgian sand cookies, dry and low cal.
– Do you have candy?
– Well, today I’ve got these special cookies, a Belgian recipe.
Belgian? They looked at the cookies as if filled with horse meat and brains. So much for the international culinary probe.

I brought a large book with popup Bible stories. As I opened the pages the three-dimensional scenes took shape mysteriously. Aha, they were fascinated! Noah’s Ark. David and Goliath. Jonah and the whale. I could even pull a tab and the figures were moving. The two elephants went up and down the gangplank. David turned back and forth to whirl his slingshot. Jonah got in and out of the whale. The bell rang.
– Do you have candy?
I shook my head while sliding Jonah back in the whale. Their eyes followed in reproach: even the fish got his sweet.

Jonah Jello, I thought.


Worse, as they grow older, inflation sets in. Last week, my daughter Ellen came home from Young Women. The ward Young Women presidency is giving to each laurel, who can recite from memory a text about the Standard of Truth, a pack of fourteen ounces of Toblerone chocolate. Fourteen ounces! A family pack! Jenny got one already. And Elisabeth too. My wife had seen the package. Huge, she said, really huge. And Toblerone. You know, those triangles with honey and almonds.

Bribes! Corruption! Debauchery! And then to think they dare to do that with delectable Swiss milk chocolate. Toblerone… I can hear the soft sound of the triangle when you break it off the bar. The perfume of Amazon rain forest cacao beans. Made with milk fresh from clover-munching Alpine cows in sunny pastures at the foot of the Mont Blanc. And honey. And almonds.

Tonight is Young Women.
– Ellen, have you learned that Standard of Truth thing yet?

62 comments for “Sweet spirit

  1. Julie in Austin
    March 15, 2005 at 12:30 pm

    This is the best post that I have read in a long, long time. Thank you.

    “laminating Lamanites” bwahahahah

    Seriously, though, I believe the Primary section of the handbook forbids giving out food. And I have to admit that it frustrates me to no end to have one child in the minivan making smacking noises and the other looking on longingly.

  2. Kaimi
    March 15, 2005 at 12:34 pm

    If the primary section really does forbid giving out food, it may be the single most violated section of the handbook. And that’s really saying something.

  3. Lisa F.
    March 15, 2005 at 1:04 pm

    Funny, and very close to home. The instructions are to avoid using food at all, and if you do to make sure that it connects with your lesson in some way. I think “landing with their feet in the frosting” is a pretty good connection, and I will be laughing about that all day.

    I know the battle you have fought — some teachers are the “best” because of the regular candy supply. It is sad to have some children with treats and some not…ESPECIALLY on Fast Sunday!

  4. Mark B.
    March 15, 2005 at 1:18 pm

    My wife, the Primary maven, confirms: No food, saith the handbook.

    I am tempted to do a bad rewrite of a Poe line, but I’ll resist.

  5. Jim Richins
    March 15, 2005 at 1:23 pm

    “How to build faith without obesity”… I will commit to preorder 100 copies for all of the Primary teachers in our ward, the Primary and YM/YW leaders, and parents.

    Although, upon reflection, I think I could support weekly treats in Primary, provided they DID consist of horsemeat and brains.

    Excellent post!

  6. Lisa F.
    March 15, 2005 at 1:28 pm

    Here it is in the handbook: The only times food should be provided during Sunday Primary is when it is included as part of a lesson or as a snack for the children in the nursery. If teachers provide food, they should first consult with the parents of each child about any dietary restrictions that may be caused by conditions such as diabetes or allergies.

    What about serving Julie in A.’s idea — the Sword of Ammon fruit snacks — all shaped like arms?

  7. March 15, 2005 at 1:44 pm

    I sent a letter home to all the parents in my class asking about food allergies, concerns about food, etc. Most of the other kids in our ward get treats every week — the kids in my class have three or four shots a month (no snack on Fast Sunday, ever.) The rule is:

    — I won’t bring a snack every week
    — I won’t tell you if I have brought a snack until the end of our class
    — You will only get a snack if you have behaved well.

    Before then, every single week, one little girl had appointed herself “Do you have a snack?” girl. Their previous teacher, apparently, gave them a snack every week as long as they were quiet.

    And just so we’re clear, I got the idea from my sister, who says that you can train rats to sit in one spot and hit the magic “give me snacks” lever continuously, if the snack distribution is inconsistent (i.e. this time it takes one press to get a treat, next time it takes twenty presses to get a treat.) I want the kids to behave properly in my class — that’s the treat lever. Whether or not they get a snack is only tangentally related to their behavior (they’ve only not gotten a snack that they might have otherwise gotten, and they’ve had snacks just three times in the last two months,) but reminding them about the “Snack Rule” (which they memorized MUCH faster than they memorized the four steps of repentance) definitely improves said same behavior anyway.

    BTW, my sister learned about that rat experiment when her Psych class covered addiction. ^_^ Then she went and subbed for my kids, and told them she had a snack at the beginning of the lesson. They were utterly scandalized — “You’re not supposed to tell us until the END…”

  8. Andrea Wright
    March 15, 2005 at 1:52 pm

    Wilfried, this is a fabulous post. Don’t give in!!!

    Sadly, I have been told there is no such paragraph in the YW, YM section of the handbook.

    In order for these things to really be stopped I think the Bishop needs to have all teachers in all auxillaries swear to never hand out treats in church.

  9. annegb
    March 15, 2005 at 1:54 pm

    I am going to pretend I didn’t read this post. I have been helping out in the nursery and intend to bribe the kids with cavity causing candy to shut them up. And to get them to like me.

    I used to teach the Sunbeams. The meetings were around noon and the little kids were hungry. The lessons would be about the beautiful world and talk about fruit and the kids’ little mouths would water. I started bringing stuff to illustrate the lesson, food, that is. Like little tuna sandwiches when we were talking about fish. Nobody died.

    Little kids are always hungry. I think this is “get forgiveness” situation.

    We had a Sunday School teacher who took the kids out to Dairy Queen during Sunday School. Many people were shocked. I put that at about a 2 on my scale of shcoking situations.

  10. Bryce I
    March 15, 2005 at 2:46 pm

    Our Primary president will give a Hershey’s bar to any child who can say all 13 Articles of Faith from memory faster than she can.

    That’s what I call singing for your supper.

  11. Wilfried
    March 15, 2005 at 2:49 pm

    Thanks for the comments and tips!

    Lisa F mentioned the handbook: “The only times food should be provided during Sunday Primary is when it is included as part of a lesson”. That opens up the avenue for amazing creativity. Now I understand the justification for Apostasy Crumble Cookies. Any more great ideas?

    Annegb, always great to read your realistic comments. I think I can agree with you! But then perhaps there is something wrong with the number of hours in Church and lessons at noon…

  12. Frank McIntyre
    March 15, 2005 at 3:18 pm

    When I taught in Primary, the pamphlet I was given contained the no treats doctrine. The Primary President (or someone in the Presidency) had written next to it in the margin “We don’t mind if you bring treats!”

    Since I was living in California at the time, the weather was gorgeous, so I could use time outside as a reward inctead of treats, but the treat refrain was constant. Although I did not bring treats much, I did bring a big bag of leftover Halloween candy when I was teaching about prayer. I tossed them a candy every time they asked.

    Ask and ye shall receive!

  13. March 15, 2005 at 4:34 pm

    This reminds me of the time in junior high when the bishopric in my ward called a less-active sister to be our Sunday School teacher in an effort to get her to come to meetings. Alas, thereafter she attended sacrament meeting even less often, as she spent the first hour of the church block running to the bakery to buy doughnuts for our class.

  14. kris
    March 15, 2005 at 4:43 pm

    I am teaching Sunday school to 14 and 15 year olds. During my first class (this was my first calling teaching youth), I earnestly told them that I wanted this to be our class, not just me lecturing and asked them what they wanted out of their class. The response: food and movies. Perhaps, my expectations were a little high, but I was disappointed by their narrow view of what makes a “good class”.

    That being said, I am an advocate of snacks during Primary. Not for rewards, and certainly not sugary treats, but just to meet the physical needs of the kids. How many of us give our kids a mid-morning snack to maintain blood sugar levels and to keep behaviour on an even keel? One of my son’s primary teachers always gives the kids a snack in her class, except on Fast Sunday. They eat their food and spend a couple of minutes sharing thoughts about their week and the sacrament meeting they all just experienced … I think it is a good thing.

  15. JKS
    March 15, 2005 at 5:15 pm

    When I was in primary, treats were a once in a while type of thing. I never minded not having a treat. I had no expectations of treats. I’ve only taught nursery so I don’t know. My kids seem to occasionally come home with treats, but maybe they eat them before I see them.
    I think that the US is running into a big problem with children and obesity. I want to avoid this problem. I showed up at my son’s first practice and they had a snack there (caprisun and oreo cookie package). Luckily they said they changed their minds and won’t do it for practice any more. Thank goodness. I signed my son up for baseball so he’d be running around being active. Not so he’d get sugary snacks more calories than he just burned!
    If kids aren’t given the expectation of snacks in class, they won’t miss it. Really. So if Primary presidencies would enforce the rule, it would really be helpful to the kids.

  16. Mark Martin
    March 15, 2005 at 5:19 pm

    Good thing I’m not in my sister’s ward, with an ever-popular bishop! Each week when the 3-hour block ends, all the kids line up at the bishop’s door, and after they shake his hand they get a piece of candy from his bowl.

    I just now noticed the loophole… it’s not *during* Sunday Primary.

  17. Mark B.
    March 15, 2005 at 5:35 pm

    When my dad taught freshman chemistry (almost every year he was at BYU), he said that teaching freshman was just like training a dog. Get it hungry, promise it food for proper performance, and voila.

    If it will work for freshman, why not for 3-year-olds?

  18. March 15, 2005 at 5:41 pm

    Two comments:

    1) If you think candy is bad, last year my daughter had a well off seminary teacher. Without consulting any of the parents, he paid out $50 to each student who memorized the scripture mastery scriptures. I was apalled (and still am). This year, we made sure she had a different teacher.

    2) When I taught primary (9 & 10 year old boys), I didn’t take in treats, but I let the class earn ‘good behaviour’ points. Each time they earned enough, they came over to my house to eat pizza and watch a movie. (They got points for bringing and using their scriptures in class, being reverent and participating, and the like.) I think this was a good compromise — they got treats (of a sort) and I got to prompt long term good behaviour without sending 6 boys home with a sugar high each week.

  19. March 15, 2005 at 5:52 pm

    I think I saw somewhere in Lean For Latter-Day Saints a recipe for soy cookies, with carob topping. Looked delicious! Primary kids would never no the difference!

  20. Mark Martin
    March 15, 2005 at 5:55 pm

    Brian (#20), my mother tried feeding us “carobies” several times during my early childhood, thinking that they’d be just the same as brownies to our young taste buds. Not so. :)

  21. Jay S.
    March 15, 2005 at 6:06 pm

    1) If you think candy is bad, last year my daughter had a well off seminary teacher. Without consulting any of the parents, he paid out $50 to each student who memorized the scripture mastery scriptures. I was apalled (and still am). This year, we made sure she had a different teacher.

    Were you appalled because the teacher paid the students? Or because she did so without consulting you?

    Why are rewards so bad? I understand the dietary concern, and think the current policy is a good idea. I guess there is also a concern about inflating expectations and improper motivation (such as the example above where the children EXPECT candy, or are ruined after wards) and perhaps it places a burden on callings afterward (ie in our Stake when you earned your eagle, you went on a Trip to mexico, waterskiing and fishing. It was tough on the later leaders who didn’t have a boat and a beach house.)

    Why are external rewards by church leaders frowned on?

  22. March 15, 2005 at 6:20 pm

    Jay S. you asked:

    Were you appalled because the teacher paid the students? Or because she did so without consulting you?

    Both actually (more the latter though). Since he didn’t ask me (or the other parents) he set a lot of families up for a situation where one child got an extra $50 for the doing the same thing as another child in the family who got no reward. And whether or not you think extrinsic rewards are a good idea (I don’t), $50 is a pretty big chunk of reward to bestow on someone else’s child without asking about it first. Not to mention the idea that it’s a new year and my daughter has a new instructor (which might have happened without our request) — what is her expectation that I now fork over $50 when she finishes her memorization (which is a pretty trivial task for her)? Would that be different if I were in a situation where I couldn’t afford $50? I think that the teacher really overstepped his bounds.

    As far as paying the kids in general, apalled is probably too strong a word but I certainly disagree. To me, it seems much less effective to have consequences that don’t logically fit behaviours. If you want to reward someone for memorizing a set of scriptural passages; give them a book about the scriptures, a picture or poster for their wall, or maybe a CD related to that year’s book of scripture.

  23. March 15, 2005 at 6:31 pm

    ‘carobies’ huh?

    I eat (and enjoy) carob instead of chocolate, so this doesn’t sound too bad to me. On the other hand, most carob confections are either sweetened with ground dates, or something equally ‘interesting’, (and thus uninteresting to the sweet-toothed hoard of primary kids) or so loaded with sugar and fats/oils that they’re no better for you than the chocolate treats you’re trying to avoid.

  24. Meem
    March 15, 2005 at 6:38 pm

    I’m in favor of treats for Primary classes. I think three hours in a long stretch and I don’t mind admitting that I’ve paid — and will pay — for good behavior. Currently we’re attending the “midnight Mass” block (3:30 to 6:30 PM) in our Boston area ward. As you might imagine it’s putting a strain on everyone, particularly the kids.

    Our Relief Society has picked up this baton, too. One teacher started by bringing fruit and chessecake on the Sunday she taught and we’ve never looked back. Apple crisp and the patriarchal order? Cake, ice cream and the Law of Tithing? Beautiful. We have tasty treats about once a month. We’re a much happier band of sisters with that upswing in blood sugar and appear to enjoy the lesson and discussion much more.

  25. Katie
    March 15, 2005 at 6:43 pm

    Perhaps learning with the reward system in primary provides a seamless segue way to learning as adults in the Church…..

    If you be quiet, then you will get a cookie.
    If you behave , then you will get a chocolate bar.

    This is flows nicely into:

    If you pay your tithing, then you blessed financially.
    If you keep the Word of Wisdom, you will be healthy.

    Thus, is the reward system all bad? Certainly, the “do this, get that” philosophy is alive and well in both adult and children’s classes. Yet I would hope that we could get away presenting the motivation to live the gospel as something to do to get stuff. Children and adults both should try to teach motivation out of love, and that failing, at least out of duty. Of course I realize that is a bit abstract when children are flying around the room.

    I volunteered at an elementary school last year. There was one substitute who surpassed them all and was a frequent sub. The classes were amazingly transformed in her hands. Unruly chaos was turned to studious learning. Curious of what her secret was I asked a teacher’s aide who had worked with her. The aide replied, “She keeps a bag of gummi bears in her pocket and as she moves around the room, she slips one to students who are behaving well.” I was not surprised to find out later, that she was also Mormon.

  26. Frank McIntyre
    March 15, 2005 at 6:53 pm

    I would guess that the motivation to discourage food is 3-fold:

    1. It makes a mess.
    2. It gives kids external motivation that may substitute for, instead of complementing, internal motivation
    3. It puts pressure on teachers to make expenditures, and the Church has worked pretty hard to try to make most callings such that any member, regardless of finances, can do them. Since kids are quickly conditioned, one teacher that gives treats encourages students to pressure others for treats.

  27. Wilfried
    March 15, 2005 at 7:10 pm

    Thank you all for the discussion! I’m also enjoying the pro-treat-lobby. Their arguments sound good and yummy. But…

    JKS: “I think that the US is running into a big problem with children and obesity.”

    Behind the humor, I believe that is the core issue. No matter how innocent sweet treats seem, we’re reinforcing certain habits and the consequences will show. The topic is therefore also interesting from a cultural point of view. Viewed from my background, with pretty strict and healthy family eating traditions, the approach I see here in the US is quite different from other cultures, though the in-between-snacks-and-treats-living-style is spreading in other industrialized nations as well, with obvious consequences.

    “Faced with a national obesity epidemic that the U.S. Surgeon General says could make this generation’s children the first in American history not to exceed the average life expectancy of their parents… “

    You will find this and other statements in these articles:

    Like many in U.S., Utahns struggling to overcome obesity

    Minority populations in Utah struggle with a growing weight problem

    Schools fight to reverse epidemic of obesity

    The State of Weight: Family unites in the battle to beat obesity

  28. Julie in Austin
    March 15, 2005 at 7:30 pm

    Adding to Frank’s list:

    (1) allergies. I have no idea why so many kids are allergic to so many things, but they are. We know several.

    (2) I’m not part of the nutrition police, but a lot of parents are, and I respect their right to do that. It isn’t fair to have the Primary undermine that, or to ask a five year old to Just Say No.

    (3) again, the sibling issue is big.

  29. Julie in Austin
    March 15, 2005 at 7:33 pm

    Also, and I hate to sound like such an uptight person, but . . .

    it *is* in the handbook. I think this might be an obedience issue. (What kind of example are you setting for the children? Ignore the parts you don’t like?)


  30. Kaimi
    March 15, 2005 at 7:36 pm


    And the obedient parent (non bishopric, non presidency) knows it’s in the handbook _how_? Saying “obey, it’s in the handbook” is a little like saying to your parents “Craig had his eyes open during the prayer!”

  31. MDS
    March 15, 2005 at 7:47 pm

    As Julie rightly points out, this can be a very problematic thing when it creates inequity among siblings. There is another inequity factor that should be considered here, too. Who pays for the food? Or, in the case of the other SMoDs (Spiritual Motivational Devices) (this acronym originates with Kathy Kidd) given out in Primary, Relief Society, YW, etc. (I’m thinking of all the cheesy bookmarks and refrigerator magnets I’ve seen my mom, wife, and daughters bring home), who pays for those? Should it be the teacher? If you answered yes, you have just set yourself up for a violation of the budget program.

    An anecdote to illustrate:

    I once lived in an East coast ward with great diversity in terms of socio-economic background. I was serving as a member of the bishopric and was tasked with extending a calling to a certain sister to serve as a Relief Society teacher. She was a fairly new convert with very humble financial circumstances. When I asked her to serve in this calling, she began to cry, stating that she would love to do so, but was sure she couldn’t afford it. She was managing to pay her tithes and offerings, but even that took a leap of faith, and having to afford all the bookmarks, etc. that she perceived as being a standard part of Relief Society instruction was something she just didn’t think she could hack. It seems some of the wealthier sisters who just happened to be RS instructors had really gone over the top with their SMoDs. I assured her that the RS had a budget, and that some of this could go towards instruction, and was able to persuade her to accept the calling, that the Lord really wanted the sisters to have the opportunity to learn from her.

    This experience horrified me. This good sister really felt that she needed to turn down a calling because she couldn’t afford to accept it! Through this and other experiences I have become convinced that by our violation of handbook and budget directives, we often send unintended messages to our poorer members about the cost of belonging to the church. When the budget program was enacted, it was made clear in the talks introducing the program that the brethren shared this concern. Elder Packer, for example, talked about concerns about kids who didn’t participate in mutual because they knew their family financial situation was stretched, and didn’t feel they could afford to be active in Mutual. This cannot be the case if we are to build Zion. Primary teachers shouldn’t be made to feel any less acceptable before the Lord if they can’t afford to bring a weekly box of Krispy Kremes to pacify the class into paying attention.

  32. Julie in Austin
    March 15, 2005 at 7:58 pm


    It is the responsibility of leadership to ensure that the handbook is followed in their organization. Every Primary Presidency has this obligation.

  33. March 15, 2005 at 8:20 pm

    It is easy to get addicted to the easy way out. A little candy here, a cookie there, I remember struggling not to take food to the CTR class. I’ve seen it all the way through to the Course 17 kids. Keeps ’em quiet and engaged.

  34. annegb
    March 15, 2005 at 8:25 pm

    Bubbles are good for quieting down little kids. Not so much big kids, but everybody likes bubbles.

    On the other hand, I am now swearing you guys to secrecy as to my intent. I hate when people do that after the fact. If you must narc on me, you must. I forgive you already. But, heh, heh, you don’t know what ward I live in. I will be busy creating little junkies. I’ll take them cheese and fruit, too.

  35. March 15, 2005 at 9:13 pm

    I, for one, can’t possibly believe that Wilfried is a failure as a Primary teacher.

    Just thought it had to be said.

  36. Wilfried
    March 15, 2005 at 9:17 pm

    Thank you, Bryce! Of course, I can claim some literary liberty in writing my posts…

  37. Salem
    March 15, 2005 at 11:11 pm

    FYI Pat Eyler- It’s also in the handbook not to have class parties.

  38. March 16, 2005 at 1:04 am

    I combat childhood obesity in my class with what is almost certainly the most exuberant Wiggle Time in town. I turn on happy music (they’re really big fans of “Flight of the Bumblebee”) and tell them to go crazy while I set up the room (we do our class last — first Sacrament, then Jr. Primary, then our class.) They love it. I also let them sit on the floor if they want (when the heat is on, our classroom temp hovers just over 85 degrees — when it’s off, we’re around 78, and it feels WONDERFUL by comparison) I did draw the line on putting one’s feet on the walls, and no one is allowed to sit in the “comfy chair” or *under* their chair (the CTR-5 class has a real problem with the “under the chair” concept; it’d drive me nuts.)

    I earn about $9000 a year. I don’t honestly mind spending $.55 on a bag of tea crackers (grew up on them — they’re kosher!) And all of my bookmarks in YW were written out on notebook paper.

  39. Sheri Lynn
    March 16, 2005 at 2:39 am

    I’m learning and taking notes. But I was somewhat shocked when I misread something in someone’s post. I thought she was saying she quieted her primary class with Jello Shots.

    mea culpa
    (it probably would work though)

  40. Frank McIntyre
    March 16, 2005 at 8:52 am

    I have never really jumped on the “fight obesity!” train. Utah is no different (and plausibly skinnier) than many other places in the U.S. It is true that Americans are much larger than Belgians, but that is because Belgians don’t have a good source of chocolate…

  41. Wilfried
    March 16, 2005 at 10:43 am

    Thank you, Frank, for the hidden compliment in the irony!

    Back to the topic: I feel empathy for the teachers who have to struggle for attention in front of hungry kids after three hours in church… I understand their pleas for mercy and their fearless intentions to proceed!

    But to what extent is the problem not part of a larger problem of family and Church habits?

    1) Do families take time to have normal, healthy daily meals together at fixed times and instill a tradition of no-snacks in between? I admit it is one of the cultural shocks for people coming from other backgrounds to the U.S. Considering the growing weight problem in the U.S., not a pointless shock.

    2) On Sundays, whatever the time of the first meeting, is a good breakfast or lunch provided to the children before going to Church? Or is it rush and chaos and just grab something if you still can? No wonder then that the kids eagerly wait for the survival rations.

    3) To what extent do all kinds of other Sunday meetings (choir practice, interviews, leadership meetings…) disturb the pattern of the regular family meals together? And leave kids indeed hungry for too long a time.

    And so, perhaps we need to look at the larger perspective too. Then teachers are less to blame than the system.

  42. Katie
    March 16, 2005 at 11:24 am

    I have recently been intrigued by the information that Europeans generally adhere to the “3 meals a day-no snacking” way of eating. There has been a lot of hub bub about the book “Why Frenchwoman Don’t Get Fat,” which espouses the same idea: snacking is what is packing the pounds on Americans. As someone into fitness and well versed in nutritional advice however, I find it strange then that nutritionists (at least in this country) are constantly flogging the opposite approach. If you pick up any health magazine you will receive the same advice: three square meals a day is outdated and will make you fat; you must eat 5-6 times a day. They all advocate eating smaller meals every 2-4 hours, or eating 3 bigger meals, but being sure to eat snacks inbetween them. This is supposed to keep your blood sugar stable and crank up your metabolism. Yet the 3 meal Europeans seem much more fit than the snack-a-lot Americans. Perhaps Men’s Health should do an investigative report into this paradox.

  43. Mark Martin
    March 16, 2005 at 11:29 am

    #21: “Why are external rewards by church leaders frowned on?”

    I don’t know the specific reasons for the handbook instructions, but I am inclined myself to frown upon them. It would be useful to have a section and lesson in the Teacher Improvement course (“Teaching: No Greater Call” manual) on teaching without external rewards, since this clearly a universal challenge to teachers in the Church.

    For some really good reading, check out the book “Punished by Rewards” by Alfie Kohn (1993, I think). There are separate chapters dealing with (1) the classroom, (2) the workplace, and (3) the home.

  44. ryan
    March 16, 2005 at 11:38 am


    Your comment hit home. Consider: many youth have their “best spiritual experiences” at EFY. Not at youth conference, not at other stake or ward youth activities, but at EFY. Here in the east, only the children of well-off parents attend EFY, be it in the West or in Columbus. Talk about inequity. I think the church would do itself a favor if it transferred all support for EFY programs directly to youth conferences, made them financially open to all, and allowed every young person in the church to have a “best spiritual experience,” rather than sit through now under-funded youth conferences wishing they were at EFY with their rich friends.

    Just a thought–I never went to EFY.

  45. March 16, 2005 at 11:56 am

    About class parties being verboten — I’ll claim ignorance, and promise not to do it again :)

    I agree with you about EFY. Our stake (in the NorthWest) just did an EFY-like stake youth conference for all the youth. My daughter seemed to really enjoy it and (I think) had some good spiritual experiences. It would be nice to see more stakes making the effort to do something ‘above and beyond’ the run of the mill Stake Youth Activities.

  46. Wilfried
    March 16, 2005 at 11:58 am

    Hi Katie, thank you for the comment. I’m not a nutrionist, so I’m not sure what is the best answer. I guess “regular” meals does not necessarily mean 3 times a day, four or five could work as well, as long as they are regular and healthy in food and in size. In fact, in France and Belgium, and I guess other countries, “le gouter” or “four o’ clock snack” is a regular small after-school meal for children coming home from school. Next they have dinner around 6.30 or 7.

    The important thing seems to be what you take as a little snack in between…

    Another important factor is the amount of daily movement. Compare a car-based culture with a culture where people walk a lot to get to school or work, even when using public transportation.

    Of course, lifestyles are also changing in Western-Europe. The Mcdonaldization, the explosion of snackbars, changing work rhythms, etc. take their toll.

    But certain things seem utterly impossible, like having in schools vending machines with unhealthy foods, which are kept there because they help finance education.

  47. UKAnn
    March 16, 2005 at 1:33 pm

    Reminds me of the old joke “how many RS sisters does it take to replace a light bulb?”
    Answer: “3 – one to change the bulb and 2 to fix the refreshments”. It seems we are incapable of planning any church activity sans food! As one who has struggled with weight problems for many years, I’ve even missed activities rather than be tempted!

  48. Salem
    March 16, 2005 at 3:00 pm

    In high school I wanted to gain weight to help me become a better football player. My coaches told me to eat 6-8 small meals a day or essentially eat through out the day. I did and subsequently gained about 15 pounds that year. It has been my experience that numerous small snacking through out the day will help put the pounds on, at least if that is what you are trying to do.

  49. claire
    March 16, 2005 at 3:47 pm

    Ooh, a hot topic for me. First, I highly support Mark Martin’s recommendation in #43 of Alfie Kohn’s book Punished by Rewards. Even if you only read the first chapter, you will feel your mind expand.

    Second, I can see how hard it is to teach during third hour, especially when it coincides with a normal meal. My kids are usually -starving- when they get out of Primary at 1 pm because we ate four to four and a half hours ago. However, the last thing I’d want them to eat at that moment is a little debbie or piece of candy.

    Although I believe in the hand book and helped enforce the no candy (ooh, and my other favorite, no non-church published materials/videos in Primary) handbook rule when I served in a Primary presidency, I liked annegb’s idea of food that ties into the lesson (fish sandwhiches) and isn’t full of sugar or hydrogenated oils. This should be eaten in class and preapproved with the parents though.

    When I served in the nursery in our largely poor, urban ward, I often felt like the fresh fruit, cheese, whole grain cereal was the only ‘healthy’ food those kids got all week. They devoured it. Yes, it’s more expensive than animal crackers, but it was covered by our Primary budget and I would have defended it if anyone called me on it. We had only 5 or so kids so it was less than $1 a week.

  50. claire
    March 16, 2005 at 3:47 pm

    oh and wilfried, you are my dream primary teacher. I bet there was at least one parent who really appreciated all you did.

  51. Wilfried
    March 16, 2005 at 4:26 pm

    Touching addition to the comments, Claire, especially your: “When I served in the nursery in our largely poor, urban ward, I often felt like the fresh fruit, cheese, whole grain cereal was the only ‘healthy’ food those kids got all week.”

    That’s the kind of “candy” they deserve, given the circumstances.

    I happen to live now in a wealthy Provo ward. The size of the chocolate bars the Young Women receive says it all. It’s not only about health any more, it’s about the limits of morality when one thinks of the financial pressure these kinds of gifts (bribes) put on other teachers with little means, as has been pointed out in some of the above comments.

  52. Maren
    March 16, 2005 at 5:47 pm

    Personally, I think that sugar is evil and the work of conspiring men in the last days.

    Seriously, having been a recovered sugar addict, I have seen first hand what it can do to our bodies. It is disheartening to see the standard American diet (SAD) and to know what lengths I have had to go to avoid sugar, corn syrup and processed food. We do most of our shopping at the natural health food store now. The majority of regular grocery stores are full of food that we are choosing not to eat.

    Also having a toddler with extreme allergies, it will be interesting when we are faced with the primary/church treat equation. So far, he is pretty phobic of food, so it is not a real issue.

    I often go to church activities and there is often not anything served (if any) that I can eat. I wish that we heard more about the positive side of the Word of Wisdom than all the don’ts.

  53. Mark Martin
    March 16, 2005 at 6:07 pm

    Great idea, Maren (#52). Next “Teachings for Our Times” topic:

    “Word of Wisdom for Church Activities”

  54. claire
    March 16, 2005 at 6:36 pm

    Maren, I know where you are coming from. I often volunteer to bring refreshments or just do it without volunteering so there is something there we can eat.

  55. annegb
    March 16, 2005 at 7:01 pm

    The first thing I always ask about enrichment night is what are we eating. Now they just tell me when they are announcing it. Food is fun. Eating is one of the prime joys of life.

    And yeah, I would give the kids healthy stuff, fruit and cheese and little sandwiches, like I said. But I just felt so bad that those little three year olds got hungry, you could tell. They snarfed it up. That was almost 25 years ago, but I think I would do it again.

    I like cookies and cheesecake and caramel and all kinds of stuff.. Well, I like food, although, well, that’s a different topic. I think Wilfried is right, we hurry on Sunday mornings, the meetings go through lunchtime and the kids are hungry. I can’t see a hungry kid. It makes me feel bad. And teenagers are always hungry.

  56. annegb
    March 22, 2005 at 11:42 am

    Wilfried, you are going to die. I am going to be permanently in the nursery. Bring on those olives and goldfish crackers and cheese, and I’ll do fruit, too. Those little kids seem to like salty stuff better.

    Oh, crap, I’m going to have to become an presbytarian. however you spell it. I’m tired already.

  57. Seth Rogers
    March 24, 2005 at 1:55 am

    Personally, I don’t agree with giving out “treats” to Primary kids for a couple reasons:

    First, there’s the point MDS made. I agree with it wholeheartedly. Mormons will kill themselves trying to outdo each other if you let them.

    Secondly, think about the real message a treat sends the kids. The real message is:

    “The Gospel is sooo boring that I had to bribe you with chocolate chip cookies to get you to listen to it.”

    Like it or not, every reward you hand out undermines the childrens’ concept of Gospel learning as interesting and exciting. Children are naturally inquisitive, are dying to show off what they know, and are willing to have a great time learning about Samuel the Lamanite if you give them the chance. Treats distract from the message.

    I served as CTR 6 teacher for about a year and a half until they called me as Exec. Sec. (talk about a demotion!). First day in class one of the ADD kids I’d been warned about interrupted me during the lesson and asked when we were going to have treats. I looked at him for a couple seconds and then informed him that I don’t bring treats to class and MAYBE I might bring some candy canes for Christmas (this was in July). No one asked me about it again.

    Just the same, we got on famously. The class turned out to be very easy to teach. The kids were full of Gospel comments as long as you took their answers seriously. I let each of them carry one of my teaching items to and from the classroom. One got to carry the scriptures, one got to carry my teacher tote bag, another got to carry the lesson manual and so forth. I’d make quiet little jokes to whichever kid was sitting next to me during Sharing Time. I didn’t put a ton of preparation into the lessons. Just stuck to the manual. But I did know each kid’s name and tried to keep my teaching pace flexible.

    I also led by example. I never expected the kids to do anything I wasn’t willing to do myself. Whenever it was time to be “reverent” I was the first to fold my arms (I made sure to do it really fast and exagerrated so it got immediate attention and looked like a game). I did the actions to “Once There Was a Snowman” right along with the kids. And when they asked kids to stand up for the Primary student spotlight, I stood up too (even though teachers were rarely spotlighted). I noticed that very few of the other teachers participated like this.

    Gosh I loved that calling …

    Now that I’ve said my sermon, I should throw in a caveat. After two years of being Executive Secretary and sitting in on Bishopric meetings I have a somewhat different view of what makes a good Sunday School teacher. So here’s the three keys to being a “good Primary Teacher”:

    1. Show up for work each Sunday and arrange for a substitute when you can’t.

    2. Know the kids’ names.

    3. Stick to the lesson manual and don’t teach false doctrine.

    If you manage those three things, you’ll do alright (with or without treats).

    Actually, the ADD kid who asked about snacks the first class ended up liking me a lot. He still keeps asking his parents when I’m going to come over to play video games with him. I suppose the secret with him was to give him a lot of attention and firmly keep him on task without losing my cool. I suppose it helped that I have ADD as well and drove my fair share of Primary teachers to tears. His behavior just didn’t bother me.

  58. Wilfried
    March 24, 2005 at 7:43 am

    Thanks so much, Seth, for your input and suggestions. These are great principles to apply!

  59. Seth Rogers
    March 24, 2005 at 1:36 pm

    I should probably admit that I think I got a very good batch of 6 year olds. With the exception of one kid who had a hard time sitting still, they were pretty easy to handle. It’s also significant that they were 6 year olds. Old enough to sit still, but not quite old enough to start acquiring “attitude problems.”

    I’m still convinced that one of the boys I taught is going to end up in the Quorum of the Twelve or something …

  60. Natalie
    March 26, 2005 at 4:39 pm

    This issue has been weighing heavily on my mind. I recently moved from one ward where we didn’t have this problem. I was in the Primary Presidency and at our Stake meetings when the question of snacks/food were brought up they were very strict in that it shouldn’t be in primary at all. Suffice to say we didn’t have treats in primary in my old ward (fine with me!).

    My new Ward however, every week there is candy, treats and snacks of all kinds. My dilemma is, that this shouldn’t be happening and when I mentioned it to someone they just said oh, we don’t listen to that part of the handbook (from the primary presidency!) It’s like every week is a holiday. When I first started teaching my class in Primary they would ask me if I had treats/candy for them and I said that the reason we were here was to learn about the Savior not to get candy.

    Now, I have a couple of problems with this. At Thanksgiving time we had kids from the Nursery come inside the Primary and THROW candy corn out to the kids. You have never seen such chaos and mayhem in your life, you would have thought you were at a state fair. My nephew who was visiting from my “old ward” was just sitting there not knowing what to do, I thought he was going to cry. I literally went over and had to fight for one bag of candy corn and I gave it to him, because otherwise he felt left out, he’s very shy. I felt that this use of candy took away from the spirit of primary. I know kids in primary are antsy, but I have noticed that my class (who do not receive candy) are able to control themselves better than those who receive a weekly dose of chocolate, etc. I think it’s a matter of what we are teaching our kids. If we teach them that yes they have to have a reward for everything they do, then they will try to do it, just for that reward, not for the spiritual aspect of it. Another problem I have with this is, they just started in January a program where they give a whole candy bar for kids who just had a birthday. Well, what about the kids who had birthdays in December. I had a kid in my class say to me, I just had a birthday, why didn’t I get one. What can I say?

    Before, I go any further I want to clarify that I appreciate and love my ward and I have great friends here. I only disagree with the tactics, not the people. I feel that society in general does not expect much of kids. In third world countries children are “starving” our kids are not starving. The children who came across the plains and had to walk, with very little food, had to do it and just push themselves. I feel disappointed that we feel like we can’t let our children go without some snack for a couple of hours, despite the fact that they usually do this same thing when they go to school. I feel like if they are a little hungry, maybe that can help to bring them closer to the spirit. I feel like maybe by giving them snacks/etc we are depriving them of feelings they might have otherwise.

    Now, that said, in my own class I don’t have the problem with kids asking me, (only if I’m substituing someone else’s class) I have found other ways to reward them. I think if we’re creative and of course stick to our lesson manuals and then teach with a lot of prayer and thought put into our lessons that the kids will rise to our expectations. Kids are awesome, we should expect more from them, they can do it.

  61. Wilfried
    March 26, 2005 at 6:09 pm

    Thank you, Natalie, for that long and excellent comment. You draw the lines clearly, it’s a matter of context and proper standards. With Annegb I can agree there may be situations where some olives, cheese or fruit may be warranted (healthy and yummy, anne), but that’s a far cry from the chaotic gluttony you describe. Thanks again for your helpful contribution. And pass the Times and Seasons link to your Primary presidency!

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