Sunday, November 13, 2011

Rachel's first primary presentation

As I've mentioned a couple of times in the past few weeks, the children's primary presentation was today. For those of you who know what a primary presentation is, you know it can be very nerve wracking for those poor little primary children. For those of you who don't know what a primary presentation is, I'll tell you. That was you can be equally aware of how terrifying it is for children.

Once a year the primary children in our church (children ages 3–11) are asked to give a presentation in front of the entire congregation. The primary presentation gives the primary children the opportunity to bear testimony to their families (and the entire congregation) about what they've learned about the gospel throughout the year. They sing songs, recite scriptures, and give talks. In front of the entire congregation.

It's that last part that is the scariest, I think. I remember walking through the church halls when I was little, trying to make my way through the sea of legs to find my parents. I knew who a few adults were—my teachers, the bishop, my friends' parents—but beyond that everyone else was stranger-danger.

Rachel was as nervous as a girl could be—crying through rehearsal, needing her mommy, mumbling through her talk—but when she got up to give her talk today she marched up to the stand brimming with confidence and started her talk without any prompting from me.

"Today I want to talk about temples," she said, "The Nauvoo temple. Because my family went there for a fwip [trip] and saw many places that were special to my ancestors."

She was on fire. I only helped her a few times. I was so proud of her.

I'm not sure what made her behave so bravely—I guess she had spent so much time being nervous that she'd used up all her nervous energy by the time she actually needed to give her talk. That and we've been praying daily for her to have the faith and courage to do this. And she did! She spoke clearly and with conviction. 

To help her remember what to say we turned her talk into a comic strip of sorts. I am not an artist by any means, but it seemed to help her a lot.



We spent a lot of time whittling down her talk to something manageable for a girl her size. When we first got her assignment, we spent a while talking about it before bedtime, and then after she went to bed I did a bit of research and wrote up a talk of monolithic proportion (for a four-year-old):
Many of my pioneer ancestors helped to build temples in places like Kirtland, Ohio; Farwest, Missouri; Nauvoo, Illinois; and several places in Utah. today I want to talk about the Nauvoo temple because my family went on a trip to Nauvoo this summer and saw many places that were special to my ancestors.
The most special place of all was the temple. Pioneers gave of their time, money, and talents to help build the temple. "Men tithed their time by working on the temple on day in ten," and women were "encouraged...to pledge one penny a week to buy glass and nails for the temple," and also to provide food and clothes for the men working on the temple.*
My fourth-great-grandfather, Solomon Hancock, was very musical. When the cornerstone for the Nauvoo temple was laid, a band was formed for the occasion. Solomon played his fife with the band. The Times and Seasons reported that the band's "soul stirring strains met harmoniously the rising emotions that swelled in each bosom" of the audience.**
My third-great-grandfather, Joseph Curtis, and his father, Nahum, "helped to polish the stones used in building the Nauvoo Temple. It sometimes took days to polish a single one. Sand was poured on a cut stone, then another large flat stone was laid on top and ground back and forth until the bottom stone was polished."*** It was a lot of hard work to build temples but the pioneers gladly helped because they wanted the blessings of making temple covenants.
At the General Relief Society meeting in October 2002, Sister Kathleen H. Hughes spoke about her great-great-grandmother, Charlotte Gaily Clark, who is my fourth-great-grandmother. Charlotte was "one of the last...people to receive their covenants in the Nauvoo Temple prior to beginning the great exodus west.... [Charlotte] and her husband [Thomas Henry Clark, Sr.] would be leading [their] family west, and [they] wanted [their] covenants with [them] before [they] set out on that journey.... I someday want to say to her, 'Grandma, thank you for keeping your covenants. I am so blessed to be your granddaughter. Your faithfulness has blessed me and my family—and will continue to bless all of us throughout the generations.'"#
I am grateful for the sacrifices my pioneer ancestors made to build temples and to stay true to the covenants they made in the temple. I know that it is still important for us to build temples today, even though we aren't asked to sacrifice the same way the pioneers were. At the October 1908 General Conference, Elder Clawson said, "We are a temple building people. Whenever...the Lord has a people on the earth, He has required them to build a temple...."## Instead of polishing stones to help build temples, I can pay my tithing. And we can all help celebrate new temples with music and dancing, just like the pioners used to!
It is also important for us to attend the temple to make sacred covenants. In this year's April General Conference, President Monson said, "...most of us do not have to suffer great hardships in order to attend the temple," and that, instead, our "sacrifice could be setting aside the time in [our] busy lives to visit the temple regularly."###
I love living here in Utah, where temples surround us. I know the temple is the House of God. It's a place of love and beauty. I hope to be able to go to the temple one day. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
* Kimberly Webb, "The Nauvoo Temple," Friend, Jun 2002, p. 26.
** Michael hicks, "Mormonism and Music: A History," University of Illinois Press, 2003, p. 56.
***http://www.themorrisclan.com/GENEALOGY/CURTIS%20Nahum%20F68a.html
# Kathleen H. Hughes, "Blessing Our Families Through Our Covenants," Ensign, Nov. 2002, accessed online.
## Rudger Clawson, "The Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine," vol. IV, 1913, p. 121.
### President Thomas S. Monson, "The Holy Temple—A Beacon to the World," Ensign, Nov. 2011, accessed online.
In no way did I expect her to recite that whole block of text, but we read it together a few times and then I had her tell me what she could remember and I wrote that down (and then we took out more and more and more). I felt like every time we came home from a rehearsal we cut out more lines—a paragraph here, a sentence there. We kept the parts she liked (and could remember and pronounce) and chucked everything else. I don't think a minute of research was wasted, though, because it was fun for me to learn more about my and Andrew's ancestors. Research is never wasted, in my opinion, at least not when learning takes place.

Here is how Rachel's talk ended up, more or less:

Today I want to talk about the Nauvoo temple because my family went there this summer and saw many places that were special to my ancestors.
The most special place of all was the temple. My ancestors who lived in Nauvoo got to help build the temple. Some of my ancestors helped to polish the stones for the temple. One of my ancestors helped guard the temple at night.^ Another one of my ancestors played his fife in a band to help celebrate the building of the temple.
Building temples is important because inside the temple we make special covenants with Heavenly Father that allow us to return to live with him again.
I know that it is still important for us to build temples today even though we aren't asked to sacrifice the same way pioneers were. Instead of polishing stones to help build temples, I can pay my tithing. And we can all help celebrate new temples with music and dancing, just like the pioneers used to!
I love living here in Utah where temples surround us. I know the temple is the House of God. It's a place of love and beauty. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
^ This ancestor was added later after Karen did some more research for us. The only thing I could find on any of Andrew's Nauvoo relatives was the bit I took from Kathleen Hughes' talk. Karen has a book about her ancestor, Joseph Stacy Murdock, called Advancing the Mormon Frontier: The Life and Times of Joseph Stacy Murdock-Pioneer, Colonizer, Peacemaker (by George A. Thompson). I'd have to read it to find the page number...and I will...but, seriously, my friend just leant me Mockingjay, so...
This was a much better length for her. She did have to come sit on my lap after she finished singing a trio—I Am a Child of God—with her Sunbeams class so that she could calm down before giving her talk...at the very end of the program. Andrew and I were both on the stand with our class so she didn't have far to walk.

I'm not sure I can say enough of how proud I am of Rachel. It was a lot to expect from a four-year-old girl but she did amazingly well. Children were chickening out left and right. One of her friends started running off the stand. Another froze for what seemed like a full five minutes before he finally just went and sat down. Another could only manage a few incomprehensible squeaks and mumbles before she returned to her seat. Rachel, though, was phenomenal. She swallowed her fear, took the bull by the horns, and did the very best job that she could.

And she did so awesome!

To think she was on her deathbed yesterday with the stomach flu...we didn't practice all weekend and she still remembered her lines!

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