This month’s Primary Sharing Time outline provides two weeks to cover the topic of the Sabbath. Because our presidency covered the topic well last week, I’ve created an alternate Sharing Time lesson plan. Given recent events in the US, I focused the lesson on respect for human difference and universal equality. The lesson draws on scriptures, topics, and techniques included throughout the yearly Sharing Time curriculum, bringing them together into a single lesson to underscore the importance of Christ-like love. The lesson reflects my limited North American perspective in its language, techniques, and assumptions, but I hope Primary presidencies around the world, if they encounter this post, will feel free to transform it for their Primaries. In writing the lesson, I consulted the church’s Sharing Time outline, and the websites shouldertothewheel.org and Blacksinthescriptures.com, as well as this article. By citing these resources, I do not imply personal endorsement of every idea therein, but I found them to be helpful in stimulating my own thoughts. I created separate lesson plans for Junior (ages 3-8) and Senior (ages 8-11) Primary, because older children are generally ready for a more developed treatment of the topic. I hope readers will find these lessons useful in whole or in part, this week or any time they are relevant. I invite further suggestions or variations in the comments. Feel free to share the content in any form or forum. Enjoy!
- Attention activity: Tell the children that somebody very important is coming to Primary today! This person has done amazing things in their life, and they have a very important job to do in the world. They have a famous mother and father, and someday this person will be as powerful as their parents. Ask the children to guess who the person might be. Ask the children how we can show respect for this very important person, and suggest that giving flowers is often a sign of respect. Instruct the children to look under their chairs, where you have previously taped colorful paper flowers. Instruct each child to give their flower to the child sitting beside them: that’s the important person! Each child is an amazing person, with an important role in our community, powerful Heavenly Parents, and an exciting future.
- Using a puppet, tell the story of a child walking through a garden. The child sees many flowers, but they are all the same color (use the blackboard to post monochromatic paper flowers). The child decides to plant a flower garden with many different color flowers. The child takes good care of the seeds, and the plants grow into a beautiful garden. Invite some children up to post their paper flowers in the new garden, and admire the diversity of color. Differences make the world beautiful.
- Explain the Doctrine: If available, show the children the cover of the book Our Heavenly Family, Our Earthly Families, with artwork by Caitlin Connolly.* Explain that our Heavenly Parents are the parents of all humans, and we are all brothers and sisters. They created their children in all different shapes, sizes, colors, and abilities, and when they finished, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Heavenly Father created his children to look and be different from each other.
- Encourage Application: Explain that Jesus taught us to show kindness and respect to all of God’s children, no matter how their bodies work, what they look like, or what country or family they are from. Using foam letter tiles spelling out L-O-V-E (or any other object you choose), select children to come up and match the letter to its base. On the back of each letter, write a scenario in which the child can show kindness. Ask the children to stand up when they hear the answer that Jesus would choose. For instance: There is a new child in your class who just moved to our country with their family. At lunch, some other kids are making fun of the unusual food they brought in their lunch. Should you: a) not join in, and sit quietly eating your lunch; b) tell the others, “That’s not kind,” and ask the new child about their favorite food; or c) plug your nose, because the food smells funny.
- Attention activity: Humorously tell the children that you wrote your sharing time lesson earlier in the week, but your handwriting is so messy that now you can’t tell what words you wrote. Post the following on the board, and invite the children to decipher its meaning:
La vunna nubber as cheeses lazoo. Titus so kine nessa nall dachoo doo. Beej enter en lubb eenin dee dad enfawt, forties arduff eens cheeses dot.
“Love one another as Jesus loves you. Try to show kindness in all that you do. Be gentle and loving in deed and thought, for these are the things Jesus taught.”
- Explain the Doctrine: One of Jesus’s most important teachings is that we are all equal in his eyes, no matter our race, gender, nationality, or religion. Invite the children to compete with the teachers in locating 2 Nephi 26:33 in their scriptures: “[The Lord] inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.” Explain the difficult terms in that scripture (bond, heathen, Gentile). With sensitivity to the composition of your Primary, explain that racism and other kinds of discrimination exist in the world, but that the gospel condemns it. The gospel teaches that we are all equal brothers and sisters.
Show the children a picture of Jane Manning James, like this one. Invite a child to come forward and put on a simple dark dress, as in the photo. Briefly explain Jane’s conversion story and harrowing journey to Nauvoo. Ask the child representing Jane to read the following quote from Jane James’s autobiography:
When we found [the Smith home in Nauvoo], Sister Emma was standing in the door and she kindly said, “Come in. Come in!” Brother Joseph said to some white sisters that was present, “Sisters, I want you to occupy this room this evening with some brothers and sisters that have just arrived.” … He then said, “God bless you! Now I would like you to relate your experience in your travels.” I related to them all that I have above stated and a great deal more minutely, as many incidents has passed from my memory since then. … [Brother Joseph] then said, “God bless you. You are among friends now and you will be protected.”
Show the children a photo of President Hinckley like this one. Invite a child to come forward, don hat, glasses, jacket and tie, and read the following quote from the microphone: “No man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ. Nor can he consider himself to be in harmony with the teachings of the Church of Christ.”
5. Encourage application: Talk about bystanders, who might witness racism but do little to stop it, versus upstanders, who stand up for anybody who is being mistreated. Play the game “Last One Standing”: Invite all children to stand, then issue a series of quick statements like “I have two sisters,” “I have read the Book of Mormon cover to cover,” or “I speak another language.” Any child to whom the statement does not apply must sit down. The last person standing will share something that he or she can do to “stand up” for those who may be mistreated. Repeat as time allows.