At the end of this month, I will have spent five consecutive years serving in various primary callings, and I couldn't be more pleased about it. I love the primary. I love focusing on the core of the gospel. I love seeing the gospel from a different perspective as I see it through the kids' eyes. I love how you never quite know what it going to come out of a kid's mouth. But most of all, I love the impact great teachers have had on my own children. I have Aurelia Read Spencer Rogers to thank for that.
Aurelia Read Spencer Rogers was not impressed with the boys in her Farmington, Utah community. Words like “hoodlum” and “carelessness in the extreme, not only in regard to religion, but also to morality” were thrown around. She couldn't get it out of her mind. While praying, she states, “A fire seemed to burn within me …. The query then arose in my mind could there not be an organization for little boys wherein they could be taught everything good, and how to behave.”
Why not indeed? She met with the unstoppable Eliza R. Snow and Emmeline B. Wells, and told them about her concerns and proposed solution. Snow brought it to John Taylor, who approved the proposal, who then explained the plan to the Farmington bishop, who then asked Rogers to preside over the organization. Although the original focus had been on the hoodlum boys, Rogers quickly expanded her vision of the program to include girls as well.
The organization began in the Farmington Ward, and began to expand into other wards and stakes in the church. And for any of you that have struggled to keep the primary kids' interest, don't worry – Rogers talks about having some of the same problems. In 1880, Louie B. Felt became the general primary president (with Rogers' full endorsement). Rogers served for nine years as the Farmington Ward Primary president, and upon her release, and went on to serve as the Davis Stake primary president and worked diligently in the woman suffrage movement.
I admire Rogers' proactiveness. She could have shaken her head and said “boys will be boys.” She could have just circled the wagons around her own kids. She could have been annoyed with her bishop for approaching the problem entirely the wrong way. (She stated that the bishop's original solution to the hoodlum youth problem was to “[throw] the responsibility upon the sisters to look after their daughters,” and she wrote that “I felt then if he had called the Brethren together also, to advise together with them it would have been better”). No, she pondered, prayed, and then did something about the inspiration she received.
Over one million children in the current primary organization, and thousands before them, have been blessed by her proactive spirit.
Benson, RoseAnn. “For the Best Good of the Children,” in Women of Faith in the Latter Days, Volume Two, 1821-1845, eds. Richard E. Turley, Jr. and Brittany A. Chapman.
Rogers, Aurelia. Life Sketches of Orson Spencer and Others, and History of the Primary Work.