Tooth Bugs

Recently my husband and I came across a set of rather old LDS song books. As my ward’s primary chorister my favorite was The Primary Song Book: Including Marches and Voluntaries. The edition is missing the title page and so I’m not sure when it was published (and am at a loss as to how I would find out). Let’s just say that it’s really old.

Among the very few songs that have survived from this edition to the current one are, “Give said the little Stream”, “I Thank Thee Dear Father”, “Can a Little Child Like Me”, and “Tell Me Dear Lord.” The most interesting songs, though, are the ones that didn’t make the cut. My personal favorite among these songs is #148 Tooth Bugs, by Ivy W. Stone and N. Lorenzo Mitchell:

“I do not want to clean my teeth, a little boy once cried,
“I’ve washed my face and combed my hair, Thats quite enough,” he sighed;
Some tooth bugs hiding in his mouth, Began to dance in glee;
“At last we’ve found a home,” they cried, “We do not have to flee!”

“This boy has such a nice warm mouth, We’ll linger here all night;
His teeth are filled with bits of food, We’ll eat with all our might!”
The small boy heard their shout of glee, “Get out of there,” he cried;
He grabbed his brush and scrubbed and scrubbed ‘Till every tooth bug died.

The general tone of the whole book is drastically different than the current book. There are instructional songs about doing chores and obeying parents, (“Scrubbing Song” “Setting the Table” “Washing Dishes” ) songs about health and hygiene, (“Come to Healthland” “Early to Bed and Early to Rise” “Little Brother Vegetable”) songs specific to abandoned or updated programs and classes, (“Primary Penny Song” “Builder Boys” “The Bluebirds”), songs far too secular or pagan to be permitted in today’s Sunday meetings (“Jack Frost and I” “Hallowe’en Surprise” “Fairy Fiddles”), yet surprisingly few songs that teach scripture stories or gospel principles like “I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus.”

The part of me that enjoys variety (and songs about Tooth Bugs) would love to resurrect some of these songs. What holds me back is the part of me that feels uncomfortable teaching and singing songs that border on being propaganda (even though I agree with what is being taught). That part of me is rather glad to see some of these songs laid to rest.

73 comments for “Tooth Bugs

  1. Jonathan Green
    January 26, 2007 at 2:12 am

    The magic of WorldCat ( finds three items, dated respectively as 1939, 1939?, and 19–. WorldCat is a good starting place for all your bibliographic needs.

  2. Sarah
    January 26, 2007 at 2:32 am

    (I had no idea this post would be so long. I should really just start blogging again; my fingers are now rather firmly affixed to the keyboard.)

    Songs that border on propaganda are amongst my favorites from when I was a kid. Then again, I’m not sure what you can call songs (found in our present Children’s Songbook) with chorus lyrics like:

    Choose the right way and be happy.
    I must always choose the right.

    I mean, if you don’t call that propaganda, how on earth does the Tooth Bug song count? At least the Tooth Bug song tells a story with a moral — many of our current songs are slogans, repeated again and again. Wikipedia says:

    Propaganda techniques include: patriotic flag-waving, glittering generalities, intentional vagueness, oversimplification of complex issues, rationalization, introducing unrelated red herring issues, using appealing, simple slogans, stereotyping, testimonials from authority figures or celebrities, unstated assumptions, and encouraging readers or viewers to “jump on the bandwagon” of a particular point of view.

    Repetitive, simple slogans with unstated assumptions? Check, check, check… Ahem.

    I, too love the old songbooks, which makes very little sense as I’m too young to remember anything being used besides our current set. But after reading a grad school thesis [warning: 320 page PDF] about Primary music, I felt compelled to go buy a bunch on eBay. I went hunting for some of the ones I bought (I only found two, but after I also came across $12 stuck between War of the Worlds and Great Expectations I decided I’d asked for and received enough luck for one hour). I have The Children Sing from 1951, and Sing With Me from 1969. Per Mrs. Karnas-Haines’ dissertation, I’d guess you have the Primary Song Book from 1939. Pages 46 through 61 of the paper are all about differences between the children’s song books, but I can tell you that the Tooth Bug Song does not appear in the 1969 book or the 1951 book. I bought some of the 1969 book supplements, but they are currently MIA. One of them might include the song, since they were more “fun” and activity-oriented. ^_^

    I can tell you also that Mrs. Karnas-Haines indicates that the 1939 book was the way it was in part because Sunday School was all about Gospel stuff — “while the Primary taught ‘obedience, faith in God, prayer, punctuality, and good manners.'”

    The biggest difference between the 1950s/1960s books and the one we use now is that they’ve gone part of the way back to that — there are almost no health topics, birthday songs, hello songs, and so forth, in those two books. They’re more like the hymnal, with the spiritually-minded “children’s songs” and lots of prelude music along with our current hymns. The 1951 book “H” section is: “Happiness,” “He Shall Feed His Flock,” “Hope of Israel,” “How Firm a Foundation,” “How Great the Wisdom,” “How Lovely Are the Messengers,” and “Hymn of the Nations.” We don’t sing any of those in my Primary, though we sing three of them in Sacrament meeting. ^_^

    In fact, just yesterday a message came through on the Primary lists looking for “I Am A Child of God,” which was in the children’s books until the hymnal revision (she was worried because she couldn’t find it in the current children’s songbook at all.) I’d say the 1939 book you like is actually quite close to the current book — at least in comparison to all the others. And that’s doubly interesting, since apparently the current book was designed in part on the basis of polling data. You have no idea how much I love that dissertation. I mean, former T&S blogger Kristine Haglund Harris is quoted on page 70. (does Dialogue keep track of citations the way law reviews do?)

    (I should also point out here that there are at least three songs we sing in our Primary which are NOT in the current songbook or hymnal, but are present in Sing With Me. We also have songs, such as “Family History – I am Doing It!” where more than half of the teachers are singing the ‘wrong’ words, from a previous book. I mean, I didn’t even realize “Gladly Meeting, Kindly Greeting” isn’t in the current songbook, we sing it so often.)

  3. January 26, 2007 at 2:47 am

    That song’s not so old in some of the spanish speaking areas of the church. The ‘old red hymnbook’ (as it was known in Spain, where I served my mission), was the first widely distributed hymnal in spanish and was only discontinued in 1992. From what I understand, that was the only spanish songbook for a long time, so it included all sorts of church songs (thus the inclusion of a silly song about tooth bugs). I found an old copy in a missionary apartment and my companions and I had a great time trying to piece together the melody of that particular song (I know I have that hymn book around somewhere, or else I’d pull it out and write down the lyrics; suffice it to say, it’s about the same as the english version). Ahh, good memories.

  4. January 26, 2007 at 5:59 am

    I remember listening to President Kimball reminisce in general priesthood meeting about the songs of his youth (nearly a third of his talk). One of the songs he (and I) remembered singing was:

    A ‘Mormon’ Boy, a ‘Mormon’ Boy
    I am a ‘Mormon’ Boy.
    I might be envied by a king,
    For I am a ‘Mormon’ Boy.

  5. January 26, 2007 at 8:32 am

    I concur with everything Sarah (#2) says. “Propaganda” is a loaded term, when what we’re really talking about here is the pretty broad–and eminently defensible–practice of using songs pedagogically, to encourage values or practices or perspectives. If anything, I’d say that the variety and tone of so many older Primary songs brings up an interesting ethical question: in the 19th and early 20th century, the goals of the Primary program were to create and support a complete (and thus multifaceted) Mormon identity, whereas today, our correllated goals are much more singularly (and thus more strictly) focused on doctrine. Which, really, is the “healthier” form of propaganda?

    For my part, I’m just glad that at least one of those old, wonderful, schoolmarmish, I’m-going-to-give-you-a-good-talking-to songs has survived: “In Our Lovely Deseret.” That’s very possibly my all-time favorite Primary song. (“Hark, hark, hark!”)

  6. January 26, 2007 at 9:47 am

    P. Anderson has rediscovered something wonderful that fewer and fewer of us remember from direct experience — Primary, when it was really Primary and not Sunday School. The stories and rest exercises and activities were as varied and as different from today’s lessons as the songs that P. writes about — as different as today’s Sunday doctrinal Relief Society class is from an oldtime work meeting to sew doll clothes and quilt for the Relief Society bazaar. Both incarnations are completely Mormon, but address different sides of our Mormonness.

    Hang on to that relic, P.

  7. Matt Evans
    January 26, 2007 at 9:57 am

    “Sunday School was all about Gospel stuff — “while the Primary taught ‘obedience, faith in God, prayer, punctuality, and good manners.’”

    I didn’t realize that Primary changed substantively when it moved to Sundays. It would make sense that the after-school-on-Tuesday Primary I attended in 1978 would have had a different focus than Sunday School. (I was 5 at the time and remember little of it.) I suppose Cub Scouts and Activity Day Girls are supposed to be weekday substitutes for the senior primary, but my girls ages 7 and 4 would love a weekly class where they sung about punctuality and Tooth Bugs.

  8. Starfoxy
    January 26, 2007 at 11:02 am

    Sarah & RAF you bring up a good point- probably most of the songs in our current book are equally propaganda, but because they focus on things I’m more comfortable with (due to my familiarity) I have trouble recognizing it as such.

    The songs I like best are songs that tell gospel stories, such as This is My Beloved Son, and The Nativity Story. If it didn’t have the chorus, Follow the Prophet would be fantastic, consisting of small verses the sum up the ministry of various prophets, but unfortunately most kids only really know one or two verses and the chorus is obviously their favorite part of the song. Which is one of the unfortunate things about teaching small children in general,– simple slogans and catchy tunes are the things they like best.

    Ardis- one thing that surprised me was the marches. I knew the organizer of the Primary wanted the kids to march, but I wasn’t aware it actually happened and I’m curious how extensive it was. Do you know anything about that?

    I feel like I should put in a plug for the church’s music website, where you can listen to and read the lyrics to all of the current primary songs.

  9. January 26, 2007 at 11:03 am

    Hmm… I am I Child of God is the very first song in the current Primary songbook.

    And I must be o-o-o-l-d. I had graduated from Primary before it went to Sunday. Bandelos for Merrie-Miss, Papier-mache puppets in Targeteers (and the wonderful tapes about blasting-off in space), learning to crochet . . .

    But the needs of each generation (and its parents, which is an un-spoken reason for the change: the ability to staff a full-sized mid-week meeting has diminished since the 1970s, evident in the near-impossibility of getting potential Cub Scout leaders and Activity Day leaders to accept callings) change. The vehicle of the gospel message changes to reflect those changes.

  10. January 26, 2007 at 11:18 am

    I was born in 1968, and so all but the last 2 (or 3? I can’t quite remember) of my Primary years involved Wednesday meetings. Do I have fond memories of them? I can’t truly say; I did like having a couple of elders come in and give us the sacrament from our own little trays, and I did like having the church building to ourselves, but I really don’t remember much else. I do, however, having very clear memories of how difficult the transition was, at how bothered I was that Primary, now that it followed or preceded sacrament meeting, did not feature its own sacrament service, and how hard it was to stay still and reverent as the meetings stretched on. That’s a good thing to keep in mind today, I suppose, as I deal with my own children.

    Regarding marches, “Follow the Prophet” actually makes a pretty good one. It’s also a good dance number. Just speed up the chorus and throw in a couple of shouts of “hey!” for punctuation purposes.

    Regarding Coffinberry’s point about generational change–all very true. American Mormons of all income levels live much busier lives, with far more hours spent working outside the home, than was the case 50 years ago. Not that all changes are necessarily progress…

  11. Julie M. Smith
    January 26, 2007 at 11:45 am

    Was it normal to have the sacrament at weekday Primary?

  12. Jay S.
    January 26, 2007 at 12:08 pm

    I wonder if the lack of “childrens” songs that taught gospel principles is that “childrens” songs were deemed juvenile, and not appropriate for carrying a more refined message of the atonement and the gospel, plus they were to supplement the regular hymns which the children were to learn. Thus the absence of doctrinal primary songs is not a reflection of the value or importance placed, as it might be suggested.

  13. January 26, 2007 at 12:09 pm

    Methinks RAF’s memory conflates Junior Sunday School, where the children received the sacrament in a separate service from their parents (the sacrament used to be served twice on a Sunday) with weekday Primary, which did not (at least not in Indianapolis, where I experienced my entire Primary years).

  14. Lisa F.
    January 26, 2007 at 12:22 pm

    Julie —
    What I recall is that the Primary had the sacrament in their Sunday morning meeting, separate from the parents and youth. The YM would come in and give us the sacrament right after opening exercises.

  15. Paula
    January 26, 2007 at 12:22 pm

    I think that there was not sacrament at weekday Primary. I also think RAF is mixed up. We had sacrament in our own junior SS, in a different room from our parents. And, at least in my ward, it was the same room that Primary was in. Primary was fun and wonderful then– we learned about the gospel, but it was much more child-appropriate than it is now– with hands-on activities, and fun stuff that wouldn’t be allowed now, partly because Primary is on Sunday, and partly because some folks in the church have adopted some customs from other religions which conflict with things we used to do. (For example, I think that Sabbath restrictions have been much more strong among some folks than when I grew up.)

    In my little ward in rural Utah, after school finished, we all walked over to the church on Primary Day together. The bus came for us at the end of Primary and took us home.

  16. January 26, 2007 at 12:23 pm

    Jay, I think there is also the factor of doctrinal development to consider. Moiselle Renstrom’s songs, for example, date from the earlier period and do hit on doctrinal subjects, but reflecting the doctrines emphasized at the time, which shared much in common with the Christian mainstream during the 30’s-50’s. I have some Protestant children’s worship music books, and they are very similar to the LDS books (ok, with the exception of “Mormon Boy.”)

    As we slide into the 60’s, we begin to see many more childrens songs that reflect a uniquely LDS view (Book of Mormon Stories, I am a Child of God). Important also to note with “Sing with Me” is the idea that musicality should be one of the goals of church children’s music, hence some of the technically challenging pieces containing modern-music evoking chordal progressions–this thematic element is entirely gone, now, replaced by a total focus on presenting doctrinal messages in accessable, but more importantly, memorable, way. This is a deliberate choice on the part of those who select the music for the children. But I digress.

    Following the introduction of the latest edition of the scriptures (which was simultaneous to the changes in week-day Primary), an even more emphatically LDS message began to emerge (not, coincidentally, with the Janice Kapp Perry era in Primary music . . . which I *know* is a controversial dead horse previously well-beaten). I think also, there is the effect of the annual music competition to consider, which encouraged new music (reflecting new generational themes), but rewarded according to certain guidelines established by the church. This is the source of such current standards as “Nephi’s Courage” and “Scripture Power.” (Also a dead-horse well-beaten.))

  17. January 26, 2007 at 12:24 pm

    “Methinks RAF’s memory conflates Junior Sunday School, where the children received the sacrament in a separate service from their parents (the sacrament used to be served twice on a Sunday) with weekday Primary, which did not (at least not in Indianapolis, where I experienced my entire Primary years).”

    Ah, that must be it Coffinberry. Thanks. Of course, back then wasn’t Sunday School (Junior and Senior) entirely separate from sacrament meeting? Which meetings were held together in the morning on Sundays, and which were in the evening?

  18. Derek the Dentist
    January 26, 2007 at 12:39 pm

    As a dentist I am frustrated and dismayed with the removal of “Tooth Bugs” from the primary songbook. Tooth decay just happens to be THE most common disease in the whole world. Dentists working in the trenches fighting this worldwide pandemic could use a little help from the Church. But instead of teaching children to scrub until every tooth bug dies, we hand out Snickers, fruit snacks, and Apple Jacks in sacrament meeting and primary class. When is the madness going to end? How many more sugar-rotted teeth will I have to extract until we can get kids to fear the tooth bugs and their wild parties of decay-causing debauchery? We have to take a stand! Mormon dentists of the world unite!

  19. KLC
    January 26, 2007 at 1:13 pm


    Before meeting consolidation Priesthood meeting was the first meeting of the day, usually around 8 am. We would go with our father then come home and eat breakfast while everyone else was getting ready. The next meeting was Sunday School and Junior Sunday School, usually around 11am. As coffinberry said, the sacrament was part of each of these services. The SS president or his counselors would conduct the opening exercises. There would be hymns, youth and adult talks, then separate for classes. Sacrament meeting was later in the day, late afternoon or early evening.

    Primary and Relief Society were weekday in the morning or afternoon. Mutual was weekday in the evenings.

  20. Mark B.
    January 26, 2007 at 1:18 pm

    We never had the sacrament in primary–that was in Junior Sunday School, which met at the same time the Senior Sunday School did, Sunday Mornings at 10:30. Children graduated to the Senior Sunday School at 8 years and thus got their first public speaking chance (in front of lots of grown ups) for 2 1/2 minute talks in Sunday School. That was, by the way, in the opening exercises which included hymns, the sacrament, two 2.5 minute talks, and song practice, lasted about 25 minutes when everybody went to class.

    [Begin irrelevant aside:] I don’t think we miss much for not having 2.5 minute talks anymore, except perhaps as an initiation rite for children. But it is a shame to have no more singing practice. (Which, by the way, became “worship through music” just as I arrived in Japan as a missionary in autumn 1973, and left me seriously confused, as well as in a lot of other matters, since I couldn’t figure out “ongaku ni yoru reihai.” [End aside]

    Priesthood meeting was before that. Dad used to go at 9:00 a.m., then walk home the one block, along 2nd North in Provo, to get Mom and us kids. After Sunday School was over (shortly before noon) we’d go home and have Sunday dinner and then go back for sacrament meeting at 5:00.

    Primary was at 4:00 on Wednesday. It was usually preceeded by games on the front lawn of the church–I don’t recall much adult supervision, except from time to time to avert bloodshed. Pom pom pullaway, which we abbreviated “pomp” was a perennial favorite. But heaven help you if Gordie Duke tackled you and landed on you during that game.

    By the way, the girls played too, in their dresses. Back then girls wore dresses/skirts to school, and stayed dressed that way for Primary. I don’t remember that stopping them from playing pomp or red rover or “mother may I” with the boys.

  21. Mark B.
    January 26, 2007 at 1:21 pm

    klc reminds me of one other thing: there was a Junior Sunday School Coordinator who with counselors or assistants ran the opening exercises. She may have been called the superintendent, as the senior sunday school boss was called, but coordinator is the word that pops up.

  22. Mark B.
    January 26, 2007 at 1:24 pm

    For the uninitiated, I found the following description of pom pom pull away:

    Another game was Pom Pom Pull Away. This was also a favorite game in the 1800s. One student is “it”. The rest of the students make a line on each side of the student who is “it”. The student who is “it” calls anyone from either line by their name and says, “Pom Pom Pull Away! Come away, or I’ll fetch you away!” For example: if the student who is “it” calls to a student named Billy Hawkins, he or she would say, “Billy Hawkins, Pom Pom Pull Away! Come away, or I’ll fetch you away!” Then, Billy Hawkins must try to cross to the line of students on the other side of the student who is “it” without being tagged.

    “Popular in the 1800s”?? Either I’m a lot older than I thought, or the 1800s lasted until at least 1964 in Provo, Utah.

  23. Paula
    January 26, 2007 at 1:24 pm

    In my ward, priesthood was followed immediately by SS, I think. I don’t know if women who lived too far away carpooled there or what, since a lot of the families only would have had one car. But I played the piano for opening exercises of Priesthood, then went and sat in the cultural hall until SS when I played the little organ in the junior SS. I might be wrong, but it seems to me that they were one right after another. But it would be different for individual wards of course. I agree with Mark B. that a big loss is the loss of the hymn practice in SS. Our Sacrament Meeting began at 7:30 PM because so many farmers had to milk their cows in the late afternoon. And it got out precisely at 8:50 so everyone had time to get home for Gunsmoke. This schedule meant that we could only see the opening twenty minutes of Ed Sullivan since he came on at 7. So I only saw the very beginning of the Beatles….

  24. D.
    January 26, 2007 at 1:25 pm

    And we climbed trees in our dresses as well. (Wore shorts underneath them for modesty sake.)

  25. January 26, 2007 at 1:30 pm

    “Back then girls wore dresses/skirts to school, and stayed dressed that way for Primary. I don’t remember that stopping them from playing pomp or red rover or “mother may I” with the boys.”

    I remember feeling very clever when I figured out to wear shorts under my skirt for those days when PE day was also Primary day. (I’m thinking that the Indy 1st and Indy 3d shared the building on Stop11 Rd back then, so we had Wednesday and they had Tuesday. Sunday meetings were also staggered in some fashion so that we could all share the building, too. We must have been earlier, rather than later, because I recall a tradition of watching “The Wonderful World of Disney” after Sacrament Meeting.

  26. KLC
    January 26, 2007 at 1:56 pm

    I’m imagining the yawns, rolling eyes and maybe even thrills of discovering an ancient culture that the younger majority at T&S is now displaying while this old folks pre-meeting consolidation reunion plays out…

  27. David R
    January 26, 2007 at 2:36 pm

    KLC (#26)
    Maybe “pre-consolidation” will give the younger ones something to talk about with their parents who definately remember it. Their parents will probably enjoy it as much describing it as the children hearing about it from their parents. Good bonding time.

  28. Costanza
    January 26, 2007 at 2:44 pm

    The propaganda argument is interesting. I had basically allowed all of my memories of primary songs to fade away until my wife and I bought the Primary Songs CD for my son. I listened to the songs anew and a couple of things hit me: 1. The songs were indeed trying to teach lessons. 2. As a child I never really understood what those lessons were supposed to be–I just learned the songs and spit them out on command. I must have spent all of my time learning the words and ignoring their meanings.

  29. January 26, 2007 at 3:45 pm

    “old folks pre-meeting consolidation reunion”

    The irony in this statement is that I had always thought of the people who blog at T&S as “older than me” even though I knew that some had children younger than mine. I guess it might be because so many have accomplished what I am only now starting out (ok, half-way done) to do. It wasn’t until this conversation that it hit me:

    I’m durned old.

  30. Paula
    January 26, 2007 at 4:13 pm

    I’m 48, and realize that I am a veritable crone here. (We had plenty of time to watch all of Disney before we got ready for SM.)

  31. random me
    January 26, 2007 at 4:47 pm

    i miss “the wonderful world of disney.”

    i’m excited to hear about the tooth bugs. i need to teach that song to my kids, as we frequently have lengthy discussions about our “tooth buggies.”

    derek’s comment made me laugh. the nursery snacks and primary treats have always irked me. despite having two kids in the nursery for seven months, i was only asked to bring snacks once. apparently i was the only person who had ever brought anything other than pb&j on white bread. the kids ate their whole grain, turkey, and cheese sandwiches, but the adults didn’t care for it. and don’t get me started on feeding peanut butter to 18-month-old kids…

  32. Mark B.
    January 26, 2007 at 5:26 pm

    If you think peanut butter is tough on a kid, try feeding a big gob of it to your dog.

  33. Sarah
    January 26, 2007 at 6:14 pm


    You’re right — it was “Choose the Right” (#301 in the present-day hymnal, according to the Primary list respondents was previously in one of the “Sing With Me” expansion books, and the copyright indicates it was written after the publication of “The Children Sing.”) The original poster had nearly convinced herself she’d made up the song in her head.

    I was born the year the new scriptures were published, which I think was about the same time as the consolidated schedule? Most of the changes that I know took place, happened right around then — people I know talked about how we had to raise the money to build the building we met in, or had personally helped build our stake center, etc. Also, wasn’t singing practice in Sunday School ended quite recently? We were doing it in the 1990s, when I was old enough to actually go to adult Sunday School. I remember hating it because it was always one of the “old favorites;” about the only thing I miss about Relief Society is that they try and learn the obscure hymns, too. I like reading about all this weird “Primary in the middle of the week, two Sacraments on Sunday” stuff. But it doesn’t seem anything like the church I’ve been attending most of my life. I mean, I feel more attached to the reality of the pioneer-era practices (where they didn’t even have stakes), somehow. Of course I also have more trouble with grasping the fight between AC and DC current, than innovations amongst French button-makers in the 18th century. It could just be that this stuff is too recent to really engage me. ^_^

    Incidentally, children like repetitive songs with concrete language because that’s how their brains are built. I am all for propaganda (I just don’t see any reason to categorize the Tooth Bugs as propaganda and Choose the Right Way as not.) The dissertation I linked (which I love, by the way,) did interviews with Primary children and included some information about cognitive development and musical education. I felt much relief after seeing that random 5-year-olds in Sandy, UT, have the exact same attitude towards “Scripture Power” that our junior Primary does (i.e., it’s fun, it goes “Scripture Power!… umm… I can’t remember…” and so forth.) My favorite songs from childhood were all along those same lines: there was an entire series of tapes that were supposed to develop a love of following rules and washing your hair (each tape had a theme and a book.) My dad tried to instill a love of 1960s rock but what really stuck was the inane preachy stuff. On balance this is a good thing, since kids at that age are also much more suited towards memorization-for-later-retrieval than any kind of grown-up style analysis. I say embrace the propaganda, and make sure they all learn the Articles of Faith before they get old enough to hate it.

    By the way, for JKP haters: she did some extensive interviews for that same dissertation. Some of the stuff you all don’t like, you can’t exactly blame her for. Also, I’d really love to hear what the original “I Belong to the Church of Jesus Christ” song sounded like (apparently the only thing they kept from her version was the first line, i.e. “I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”) Amongst other things, she keeps trying to make songs more exciting and interesting, and the music committee tones it all down.

  34. KyleM
    January 26, 2007 at 6:20 pm

    One question for the older people (I went to weekday primary, but don’t remember it):

    Why was sacrament served in Sunday School instead of Sacrament Meeting?

  35. jab
    January 26, 2007 at 6:23 pm

    A few songs probably disappeared just b/c of social changes. I remember one from Sing With Me that I really liked as a kid. I don\’t remember the title (something about the Merry yodeler or the Alps or something). I do remember the words, though. \”I\’m a gay tra-la-la, with my fa-la-la-la and my bright and my gay tra-la-lee! With a laugh ha-ha-ha and a ring ting-ting-ling and I sing tra-la-la-la-la-lee!\” I can just imagine the reaction of the older kids to singing that song today. :)

  36. DavidH
    January 26, 2007 at 6:34 pm

    “Why was sacrament served in Sunday School instead of Sacrament Meeting?”

    It was served in both. I do not know why–perhaps because some people could attend one meeting and not the other?

  37. January 26, 2007 at 7:08 pm

    Coffinberry and random me: you can’t bring up our fond memories of watching “The Wonderful World of Disney” without also mentioning its beloved 1970s Sunday evening companion in syndication, “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.” Dang, I loved that show.

  38. Paula
    January 26, 2007 at 7:10 pm

    At least in the rural part of Utah where I grew up, it was not as expected for everyone to attend meetings, all the time, as it is now. Mothers stayed home because of advanced pregnancy, or small babies, or even toddlers, for example. So I think that’s why there was sacrament at both meetings. But careful now, if you ask too many questions, I may start to reminisce about the Singing Mothers.

  39. January 26, 2007 at 7:33 pm

    ++ Russell. I used to get so mad if Dad had meetings after church as I’d miss Disney.

  40. Mark B.
    January 26, 2007 at 7:44 pm

    The real question about the sacrament was: why have the sacrament in the Junior Sunday School where all the children are under 8 and therefore not baptized? I remember Pres. McKay giving an answer to that question somewhere–maybe in “The Instructor.” It had something to do with teaching the little nippers.

  41. KyleM
    January 26, 2007 at 7:46 pm

    Does it speak volumes about my spirituality if I admit that I remember Wild Kingdom, but not weekday primary? Not that I’m admiting that.

  42. January 26, 2007 at 8:02 pm

    P/Starfoxy (8) — Marches were common in weekday (alias “real”) Primary. Sometimes a class marched around the classroom, singing a short verse, as a form of rest exercise so that everybody could get the wiggles out before settling down to hear another story about the tooth bugs. I remember one lesson in Stars (5 year olds, then, isn’t it younger now?) — and yeah, I’m old enough to have taught for years in weekday Primary after having graduated from it — that involved a couple of weeks’ preparation for a Star Party that involved marching around the gymnasium. We also marched in mini-parades (as in three times around the church building, or from the church to the elementary school and back) for Pioneer Day or Mother’s Day or almost anything else.

    I can imagine some readers rolling their eyes and thinking that we were regimented little Hitler Youth or something akin to it. Our marching was absolutely free and without any meaning other than to burn off a little energy. Lots of weekday Primary activities were like that — jumping, and sitting cross-legged on the floor for an Indian story, and doing little dances, not as THE activity the way Activity Days today are centered around a single thing, but simply as one of a variety of ways to spend the time learning and doing in ways that are deemed inappropriate for Sundays today. We painted, and built stuff with salt clay, and made Indian headdresses with construction paper feathers, and sock dolls, and babysitting kits, too. We learned embroidery and knitting and crocheting (well, those whose mothers hadn’t already taught us those skills much younger, as my mother had done for me).

    I like to leaf through the old Primary manuals in the church history library to remember, and to look for ideas for the rare occasions when I have any contact with kids.

    And another of the nice things about weekday Primary is that my 4th grade teacher couldn’t make me stay after school on Wednesdays to punish me for whatever freaky thing I had done that day. She’d have gotten in trouble with just about everybody for making me miss Primary!

  43. Kristine Haglund Harris
    January 26, 2007 at 8:23 pm

    It’s snotty, but if nobody else is going to, I’ll mention my article on Primary songbooks in the Winter 2004 Dialogue–I wrote a lot about the changes in doctrinal emphasis over time, etc.

    One of the things I can’t figure out is why the hygiene songs are all in the 1939 book–I would have expected them earlier in the Utah period, when kids were getting paid for swatting flies. None of those songs, btw, are by LDS authors–one of these days I will get around to another paper about the American context for children’s songs that begin “In a right way or a wrong way, washing dishes may be done.” (!)

  44. Costanza
    January 26, 2007 at 8:35 pm

    I second Kristine’s suggestion to read her article. It’s very well done. Russell, man, I had totally forgotten about Wild Kingdom. I would always unwind after a hard sabbath at primary by watching Wild Kingdom. Oh, and also In Search Of with Leonard Nimoy.

  45. January 26, 2007 at 9:03 pm


    “I used to get so mad if Dad had meetings after church as I’d miss Disney.”

    You mean, you father made you stay at church? For us, it was the opposite; we saw Disney and Wild Kingdom the most when my dad had meetings, such as when he was in the bishopric. Then, while he stayed after sacrament meeting, we’d all go home to catch Disney or whatever at 7 or 8pm. When Dad came home with us, half the time he’d say no to Sunday television. (Unless the Wizard of Oz or The Ten Commandments was on–those were once a year treats.)


    “Does it speak volumes about my spirituality if I admit that I remember Wild Kingdom, but not weekday primary?”

    Give yourself a break: who could forget Marlin Perkins’s and Jim Fowler’s tag-team act? They were like Ernie and Bert, only with gorillas.


    “Oh, and also In Search Of with Leonard Nimoy.”

    The greatest pseudo-nonfiction television series ever.

  46. Starfoxy
    January 26, 2007 at 11:16 pm

    Thanks Ardis. My dad did some kinds of competetive marching when he was a kid. He has a pretty low opinion of the marching skills required by the armed forces today. :)

    For those who are interested I uploaded a midi of the music for Tooth Bugs here. Contact my via email (starfoxy7 at gmail) if you want a PDF with lyrics- for private and personal use only ( remember, copyright violation is STEALING!).

  47. Marjorie Conder
    January 26, 2007 at 11:40 pm

    What great fun– all around–Primary memories, Jr. Sunday School, songs that are only a dim memory for some of us (Little Brother Vegetable, or the Primary Penny Song, for example) and totally off the radar for most of you.

    I’m glad you all finally sorted out the sacrament in Jr. Sunday School and not weekday Primary. Part of the rational for the Sacrament in Sunday School, both Jr. and Sr. is that attendance at Sacrament meeting was often quite low up through WWII. After the war there was a realization that a whole generation who had seldom attended Sacrament Meeting as children also didn’t come as adults. In an effort to reverse this trend the Church experiemented with “cry-rooms”. A good idea in theory but abyssmal in practice. Nobody, including the adults with babies and toddlers and certainly not the teenagers who snuck off up there listened to anything going on in the meetings. But there was also a real sense by many of an older generation that children just didn’t belong in Sac. Mtg. In the early 60s, with two toddlers in tow, my husband in the bishopric, and doing my best to manage alone, an older member of the ward said to me, “don’t you know children don’t belong in Church?” Actually I didn’t.

    Just one other comment, I wonder why Sarah thinks there weren’t Stakes in pioneer times? Virtually every place in Utah, for example, was part of a stake from early settlement times. Some of these stakes were huge, especially in area. There were also stakes pre-Utah era. In fact stakes are scriptural, wards are not.

  48. Mark B.
    January 27, 2007 at 12:19 am

    The other thing, with February 4 just a week away: back in those days, you could go to Sunday school, go home, have dinner, watch the super bowl, and get back to church in time for sacrament meeting. I actually remember Leo Thomsen giving a talk on that fateful Sunday in January 1969, and making a reference to Joe Namath and his jet set from New York beating up on his Baltimore Colts.

    Those were the days, my friends.

  49. January 27, 2007 at 6:09 am

    Wish I could find my old The Children Sing – I know it\’s in that wardrobe somewhere – but I have in it a slip of paper with an even older verse of the Handcart Song that we have found quite intriguing as Primary music leaders in England. It isn\’t particularly pleasant about Merry Olde England, and there\’s a line in it that says \”Where rich men\’s dogs are better fed\”. That might still be true, of course, in some places, on either side of the Atlantic. The immigrant children might well have needed the Tooth Bugs song. Dental hygiene showed some very real socio-economic differences in England even a generation ago when I arrived, but I testify with enthusiasm that the children in my ward in England today have beautiful smiles, sing like angels in several languages, and march with the best of them. I can\’t think of a single obese one either.

    In thinking of lyrics to smile about, I kind of miss singing Yoo Hoo unto Jesus, and a sacrament meeting fell into complete and delicious disarray once in my teenaged years when I played the organ at a special servicemen\’s meeting on the local army base. The chorister had picked We Are All Enlisted for one of the hymns. We didn\’t get past the first line. Who would want to be in any other church?

  50. January 27, 2007 at 10:28 am

    “THE activity the way Activity Days today are centered around a single thing”

    Ardis, my observation about how Activity Days (or Cub Scouts or a Primary Class) go is that the only limitation is the teacher’s ability to pair his or her imagination with the gifts of the Spirit.

    I’ve spent the better part of the last 24 years teaching Primary at one level or another, and a sensitivity to the children’s need for variety in teaching methods is the name of the (Spirit’s) game. Unfortunately, many primary teachers have this idea that they have to keep the kids sitting still all the time (where they get *that* idea, I don’t know, though I could speculate) and that good behavior should be ensured by candy. Makes me insane. Once, as a member of our Stake Primary Pres., I was invited to teach an inservice meeting for one of our wards (I think the topic was “teaching children with disabilities”). A teacher raised his hand describe his trouble with his class of two little boys: they only wanted to sit under the table, never in the chairs. I told him to sit down and teach under the table. His eyes opened wide as he exclaimed “I can do that?”

    *steps off soapbox* *returns to studying*

  51. January 27, 2007 at 11:08 am

    “His eyes opened wide as he exclaimed ‘I can do that?'”

    Great story, Coffinberry (what a handle, by the way). The man’s only model for teaching has been school (but not kindergarten) and Sunday School. If he’d ever taught with the old Primary manuals, you know he would have read explicit instructions for standing, lying on the lawn to watch clouds, stretching, crawling like a bear, playing catch with beanbags to ask/answer questions, wearing simple costumes (wigs, crepe-paper capes) to act out a story on the stage, sitting under the table (with sheet draped from table to make a cave), kneeling — almost every imaginable position.

    One reason why Julie’s primary supplement posts here on T&S are so great is because she suggests ways for teachers to go beyond the sit-in-the-chair-and-be-lectured-to lesson model that is all most teachers have ever seen. She’s limited a bit by the Sunday setting and being more bound to the classroom, but the variety of teaching activities and the games with a little physical movement come closer to the spirit of the old Primary than the Sunday School, er, Primary manuals do.

  52. meems
    January 27, 2007 at 1:39 pm

    Thanks for this post. I love all the reminiscing – I had totally forgotten about taking Sacrament in Jr Sunday School with my Sunday School teacher and class! I also think that we really should include more of these actifvity songs in Primary today. Both my children dread Primary – they are bored to tears. We’re in a small branch with teachers who are non-native English speakers and they complain that they can’t understand what’s being said. Also, the teaching is very very “old-school” – sit and listen. If we had some of these activities and fun times of old primary, they might enjoy it a lot more.

    Of course, Priamry was not hte be-all and end-all for me either. I remember getting in trouble for not going to Tuesday afternoon primary once when I was at a friend’s house and her older sister took us to a pool hall. Not only did I have to explain why I missed Primary that day, but I missed it because I was at a POOL HALL!

  53. Costanza
    January 27, 2007 at 7:23 pm

    Hey, if you’re going to skip Primary, you might as well hang out in a pool hall. Some of the ruffians I went to Primary with would have been more comfortable there!

  54. Paula
    January 28, 2007 at 12:14 am

    Bev P, you can find those lyrics here:

    It’s the actual pioneer version. If I remember right it was published in the Millennial Star. Paula

  55. Paula
    January 28, 2007 at 12:15 am

    Bev P, you can find those lyrics here:;ttPUSHPULL.html

    It’s the actual pioneer version. If I remember right it was published in the Millennial Star.

  56. January 29, 2007 at 2:36 pm

    Many thanks, Paula, that keeps me from having to dismantle the whole dining room to find it. I shall pass it on to our current Primary music leader. It’s a very satisfying way of acknowledging having been around for rather a long time, relishing this romp through the oldish days. My first calling was Primary music leader, at the age of 15, but they didn’t know I wasn’t a member yet when they called me, and it didn’t occur to me to question it. It’s also very satisfying to note that our stake president [whose wife is the current music leader] is of the next generation down, and the next generation down from them performed the latest baptism in our ward. It’s OK to get old, the Church is in good hands!

  57. j.a.t.
    January 30, 2007 at 9:01 pm

    My memories of Primary:
    Flannel boards
    Crayons and kneeling in front of metal folding chairs . . . coloring on the seats. The artwork would inevitably be pinned to our shirts for transport home.

    Here’s probably what’s running through a 3 year old’s mind while we’re fussing over the nuances of primary music:
    “We believe in being honest true and chased by elephants”
    “And parents kind of weird”

  58. Claire Young
    April 9, 2007 at 4:51 pm

    I was so excited to find this site. My mom has been telling us about \”The Tooth Bug Song\” for years and frankly, we thought she had made it up. I was so glad to find these words, when I showed my mother the words she was excited to order the above mentioned book but was very disappointed to find that the song was not in the version she ordered. We are looking for the music for this song. I teach kindergarten and would love to teach it to my little ones during a unit on dental care. Can anyone help?

  59. Starfoxy
    April 9, 2007 at 5:03 pm

    Claire- send me an email (starfoxy7 at gmail dot com) and I’ll email you a PDF with the music.

  60. Claire Young
    May 8, 2007 at 6:47 pm

    I am still in search of the music for “The Tooth Bug Song”. I tried to email the above address but never received an answer so do not know if my email was received. PLEASE HELP!!

  61. Starfoxy
    May 8, 2007 at 10:26 pm

    Claire, I never got the email. I put the PDF online here. Let me know if you’re able to get it alright.

  62. Claire Young
    May 11, 2007 at 10:34 am

    I am forever in your debt!! My mom was so excited to see this. I think it will be a fun song for my kindergarten class to learn during our dental unit in helath. Again, thanks a MILLION!

  63. Roxie L. Roes
    May 21, 2007 at 12:55 am

    I would love to have a copy of \”Little Brother Vegetable.\” I can only remember some of the words. I could remember all the words to the toothbug song, but not Little Brother vegetable. I also loved Halloween. They are all songs I have taught my children but can\’t find copies of. Where can I get copies? Anyone Know??

  64. Roxie L. Roes
    May 21, 2007 at 1:31 am

    I just read some of the other posts after I had posted before about finding some songs I want. It sounds like I am older than the majority of postees. I was born in 1953 and went all of my primary days to weekday primary meetings. I learned to knit, crochet and crosstich. I had and still have my green bandelo. No, sacrament was not served at primary but in Jr. SS on Sunday mornings. My mother told me it was to help the children learn to partake of the sacrament regularly and to teach them what the sacrament was for, to remember Jesus and learn to repent of their sins. I am sure it helped some. We had to memorize scriptures each year to earn diamonds on our bandelos. The boys were Trailbuilders and the church did not sponsor cub scouts at that time. The boys also had bandelos and I think they were blue. We celebrated all holidays, yes, even Halloween with songs from the green Children Sing and the old copper colored Primary song book which is the one that had Toothbugs. Sometimes there were new songs published in The Children’s Friend, which is what it used to be called before it became just The Friend. That is where we first learned I am a Child of God and I Wonder When He comes Again, is from them being published in The Children’s Friend. We also collected birthday pennies for the Primary Children’s Hospital. In the month when you had your birthday you brought a penny for every year you were old and there was a time in opening exercises when they collected the pennies. You could bring pennies when in wasn’t your birthday because it was for the crippled children. That is another song I would like to find is the one that starts “5 pennies make a nickel 2 nickels make a dime 10 dimes will make a dollar how we’ll make it shine. It’s for the crippled children who cannot walk or run but have to stay in bed all day and cannot join the fun.” My memory gets fuzzy after that about the words. I would love to have all of these songs. It is good to rememeber and it gives me ideas about things I need to write down in my life history for my children about my childhood in the church. Sorry this got so long. Roxie

  65. May 22, 2007 at 3:09 am

    It has been fun to read comments about the \”good old\” Primary songs that I learned when I was in Primary awhile back!! I am the Primary Music Leader in my ward and remembered that I had a copy of \”Little Brother Vegetable\” and \”Tooth Bugs\” plus some other old songs. I went ahead and taught the children \”Little Brother Vegetable\”, the kids loved it. I gave them carrot and celery sticks after we sang the song. \”Tooth Bugs\” in on my schedule to teach next Sunday. I figure if I was taught those songs in Primary, when I was young, then they are still okay to teach to the children now. I don\’t see anything wrong with teaching them a wholesome variety of good \”stuff\” in Primary. I would love to get hold of the music to the \”Primary Penny Song\”. That is one of my favorite songs. If anyone has that music I would sure like to have a copy of it. Thanks so much and happy singing! Susan Y.

  66. May 22, 2007 at 3:24 am

    Roxie, Here are the words to “Little Brother Vegetable”: (First Verse) Little Brother Vegetable sat within a dish, Cooked and seasoned spicily as you’d ever wish, Said Little Brother Vegetable, “Just you look at me! I’m the food of hidden treasure; Eat me and you’ll see!”
    (Second Verse) Little Brother Vegetable, Brings good health to you, Cheeks grow red as any rosebud, Eyes will sparkle too, If you want lots of vim and pep For your work and play, Better eat your vegetables Every single day! Hope that you can remember the tune. This is such a cute song! Hope that we both can come by the words to the Primary Penny Song; Five pennys make a nickel, two nickels make a dime. . I am looking for that one also. Gald to help you out with “Little Brother Vegetable”. Have fun singing. Susan Y.

  67. May 22, 2007 at 9:17 am

    Five pennies make a nickel,
    Two nickels make a dime,
    Ten dimes will make a dollar,
    How we’ll make it shine.
    It’s for the crippled children
    Who cannot walk or run;
    Who have to lie in bed all day,
    And cannot join our fun.

    Roxie, Susan, this one is from the 1939 Primary Song Book (that’s its title – p. 160). I don’t have a way to post the music, sorry. Here’s a possibility: Go to — about the church — church history — church history library and archives — contact us. You can use that form to send a request to the Church History Library. Since you have a specific book and page to ask for, perhaps they will be willing to photocopy and mail it to you.

  68. May 22, 2007 at 2:05 pm

    Ardis, Thanks for the info. on the Primany Penny Song. I will do as you suggest. I do remember all the words to that song up to the point of which you sent but after that I can’t remember the rest. I can also remember the tune, if only the rest of words would come to me. Hopefully I will have success contacting -church history. As I am thinking about the rest of the song, I think that it goes something like this: “So let us be unselfish and bring our pennies here to help the crippled children to grow better year by year” . . . . Then I don’t know what comes next. Thanks again Ardis. I will let you know if I have any luck finding the music. If you have all the words to that song please post them on this site. As I said before, I do remember the tune so the rest of the words would be great. Heres to great singing, Susan Y.

  69. Starfoxy
    May 22, 2007 at 2:30 pm

    “So let us be unselfish, and bring our pennies here.
    To help the crippled children become stronger year by year,
    Let’s marxh along and sing our song, and pray that they may be,
    a little better ev’ry day, because of you and me.”

  70. May 22, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    Starfoxy, Wow, thanks for the rest of the words to the “Primary Penny Song”. I am anxious to teach them to my little granddaughter. This has been a great site to have stumbled on to. I hope that through it I can be of help to others in bringing back old memories, etc. of our younger years and church topics. Thanks again, Susan Y.

  71. June 4, 2007 at 2:05 am

    Hi Ardis, I did as you suggested and went to church history and requested the music for the Primary Penny Song. In a couple of days, via e-mail, I received a copy of the sheet music. Thanks for that idea. Over the past few weeks I have taught the “Little Brother Vegetable” song and the “Tooth Bug” song in Primany at the end of singing time. I gave the children carrot and celery sticks when we sang “Little Brother Vegetable” and I gave each one of them a tooth brush when we sang “Tooth Bugs”. They loved it! I found packs of tooth brushes, eight for a dollar, at our local variety store. We have a small primary so it only costs me four dollars and then I had some tooth brushes left over. I put each tooth brush in a sandwich baggie to keep it clean. I also found some great pictures to go with the song. How fun to relive some of the old Primary songs from “my days” in Primary. I have some pretty neat ideas for Primary music. I will share if anyone is interested. Just let me know what song you are teaching and I will tell you what I have done with it. Susan

  72. Stephen
    June 12, 2008 at 1:51 am

    Here\’s how I remember the song from singing it in the 1960s and 70s:

    Five pennies make a nickel,
    Two nickels make a dime.
    Ten dimes will make a dollar,
    And we will make it shine.
    It\’s for the crippled children
    Who cannot walk or run,
    Who have to stay in bed all day
    And cannot join our fun.

    So come, little children,
    A-bring your pennies here
    To help the crippled children
    Grow stronger year by year.

    We march along and sing our song
    And pray that they may be
    A little stronger every day
    Because of you and me.

    [Insert comments between children about how \”A penny will make them *this* much better, but a nickel will make them *THIS* much better,\” and discussions about why some magnanimous rich person doesn\’t just give a million dollars and make them all better.]

  73. July 1, 2008 at 9:49 am

    Thank you for this article! We are putting together a songbook for our family reunion of songs my husband\’s parents sang to their children and the Toothbug song was one of them. We were excited to have the correct words! I can see why the church has gone to the more spiritual songs especially since primary is on Sundays now. But, in the olden days when it was held on weekdays, I can see why they sang the fun songs with the kids.

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