Sunday, March 27, 2022

Home-church talks

We're still home-churching our younger crew, which is getting a little tiresome after two years. But the pandemic is *checks notes* still a thing, and our metric for "returning" remains having our entire family vaccinated. A high bar to set, I realize, since there isn't even a vaccine for five and under. And yet, it's the bar. Although I know many people think I'm overreacting, I think that statistic shows that I'm...kind of not.

Without much fanfare, we've reached one million (1,000,000) deaths in the USA. 

And I know that kids "don't" get seriously ill from COVID and's in the top 15 causes of death for children 0–4, 5–9, and 10–14 (as per the CDC), so *shrugs* we're still at home. 

This week there was no zoom sacrament meeting (which we've been fortunate to have still) because the person in charge of setting up the Zoom meeting was out of town this week and one weird, unintended consequence of this pandemic has been that absolutely no one knows how to use Zoom. 

Just kidding. Everybody knows how to use Zoom now, I think. I mean, I felt a little top-of-the-line using Zoom for the little writing class I took a few years ago, before COVID, before moving to Georgia, right after Karen passed away. Now I feel run-of-the-mill using Zoom. 

But, we didn't have a Zoom sacrament meeting today so I was all on my own for both sacrament meeting and primary. Which is fine. Staying home is my choice. 

I thought about experiences the kids have been missing out on by not attending primary in person and realized that one thing they were missing out on was being assigned talks! Because while we can drag a television into the primary room to show the kids a movie, we're not going to allow a child to deliver a talk through a computer screen (that wouldn't make any sense; we wouldn't want to be too accessible). 

Sorry I'm feeling snarky. I'm really fine. But I also just feel a little bit like...I don't understand what the problem is with making things accessible to folks. 

For example, attending conferences is wonderful. You get to hear the newest ideas and interact with like-minded people. It's pretty cool.

But also, going to conferences is tough for many populations. Stay-at-home mothers is one such population, which I happen to be a part of (but there are others). Offering streamed sessions of conference is a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful gift. I can't afford to leave my kids with a sitter every time I want to run off to a conference (though I do appreciate Grandpa for watching our kids while I went to the children's literature conference). I can't afford to fly out and stay in a hotel every time I want to attend a conference. It's just not feasible. 

Also, COVID. 

This week I got to attend AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) online. The sessions I attended were wonderful. I didn't have to get a babysitter. I didn't get COVID. Win. Win. Win. 

Another excellent example of streaming a conference to make it accessible to a larger population will be General Conference next weekend. Having lived outside of Utah for many years, I've long had a testimony of streaming conferences. It makes it so that everybody can attend, even if they can only attend eventually. (When I lived in Russia we had to wait for conference to be mailed to us on VHS tapes...yup...those were the days). 

Let's just say that I like to watch conferences from home, often while wearing pyjamas, often with babies crawling all over me. For my personality there's little difference watching a meeting through a screen versus watching a meeting in real life because I wouldn't interact with anyone if I went in person, anyway. 

I know this because we stopped by our neighbour's house for a little marshmallow roast (outside, socially distanced!) this evening and, uh, I barely said two words. It was nice to be there, sure. But I'm not a conversationalist. 

Anyway, where were we?

We were home-churching and realizing that the kids hadn't been given many opportunities to deliver a "talk" over the pulpit. So, we spent our church hours preparing talks. I wrote a number of topics on the board for the kids to choose (along with related scripture references) and gave them a bulleted list of things to include in their talk:

  • introduce yourself and your topic
  • tell the scripture story in your own words
  • quote directly from the scriptures
  • find an outside source to quote (a song, a General Conference message, a poem, etc.)
  • explain why this topic matters to you, what truths you find in it
  • share a personal story about your topic

It took us the full two hours to get everyone's drafts polished up, so we didn't get any singing time in (which is probably fine because some weeks we get extra singing time in) and the kids got to give their talks before our home-sacrament meeting when Daddy and the big girls got home.

Here's Alexander's talk:

My name is Alex. I'm in the Heiss family. I am four years old and I'm learning how to read. I like to try to whistle and I really like owls. My grandpa just moved here. His stuff came in a big moving truck. I helped my grandpa move his things into his house. This was hard work because his driveway is all cracky and very steep. I wasn't able to carry anything big because I am small, but Grandpa found little things for me to carry so I could still help. I carried all of the toilet paper! I was so worn out when we were finished!

I learned that even though I am small, I can still be a helper. From the scriptures we learn that God calls us to do His work despite our inadequacies. Jacob 4:7 says, "God showeth us our weakness that we may know that it is by his grace...that we have power to do these things," whatever "these things" may be. Right now, I mostly need to do small things because I am small. But I just like my Grandpa found a way to have me help, God also finds way to help me do what I need to do.

There is a primary song—you probably know it—called 'Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam." It starts like this, "Jesus wants me for a sunbeam to shine for him each day. In every way try to please him at home, at school, at play!" 

Jesus only needs me to try. If I try, he will help me. There's another song related to this song that I like. It's from 'Daniel Tiger' and it goes like this: "Keep trying! You'll get better! Try, try, try!" I know that when we try our best the Lord will make up for the rest.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. 

Here's Zoë's talk: 

Hi! My name is Zoë Heiss and I have 5 siblings: 2 brothers and 3 sisters. Their names are Rachel, Miriam, and Phoebe. My brothers’ names are Benjamin and Alex. With so many siblings, I know what it’s like to not get along! Sometimes we fight. Sometimes the older siblings boss the younger siblings around. Sometimes the younger siblings are super annoying. But, it’s important that we learn to forgive each other and how to improve our relationships, despite driving each other berserk every now and then.

Today, I’m going to talk to you about Jacob and Esau. 

Jacob and Esau were twin brothers that didn’t get along very well. Jacob tricked Esau into giving him his birthright and then later Jacob tricked their father into giving him all of Esau’s blessings. Esau was so mad he threatened to kill Jacob, so Jacob left and stayed away for many years. The whole time he was gone, Jacob thought Esau was mad at him—and with good reason! Jacob had mistreated Esau, so Jacob worried that when it came time for him to go home that Esau would still be angry.

But Esau had forgiven Jacob a long time ago and even missed him. When Jacob returned home, Esau ran to embrace him. 

I’m sure the two brothers regretted all those years they spent apart because they were mad at each other. They sure seemed to be happy being together again.

Jesus set an example of being forgiving. When he was on the cross, he said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Nephi is another good example of being forgiving. His brothers tied him to a post in a boat, which hurt him. When they untied him, he “frankly” forgave them, which means he did it quickly and honestly (1 Nephi 7:21). 

One time, I was watching my brother Benjamin have a nerf gun fight with his friends. I wasn’t even part of the battle. I was just watching! But Benjamin aimed his nerf gun at me and shot me in the stomach. This made me feel mad and sad and a little hurt. I started crying and the battle paused. Benjamin apologized and I forgave him a little. I’m still a little mad about it, so I have some work to do. But I know that forgiveness is important. 

There’s a primary song that goes like this, “Help me, dear Father, to freely forgive all who may seem unkind to me. Help me each day, Father, I pray; help me live nearer, nearer to thee.”

I know that Heavenly Father can help us to forgive others when they wrong us. And I know that when we forgive it will improve our relationships, helping us feel closer to each other and to God. Forgiveness is very important.

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

And here's Benjamin's talk:
Hello everyone. My name is Benjamin and I am nine years old. I have 4 sisters and 1 brother. I am a Minecraft pro and I love playing outside. When I grow up I would like to be a national park ranger. I’m not in boy scouts, but I do feel like the boy scout motto—Be Prepared—is a good thing to keep in mind as a potential park ranger.

Once when someone heard about the motto, they asked Baden-Powell (the founder of the scouting program), “Prepared for what?” to which Baden-Powell replied, “Why, for any old thing.”
In Scouting for Boys, Baden-Powell wrote that to Be Prepared means “you are always in a state of readiness in mind and body to do your duty.”

Being prepared is important. To teach more about this, I am going to tell you the story of Joseph and the Amazing Technicoloured Dreamcoat in my own words. Here I go:

In the land of Canaan, there was an old man named Jacob and he had 12 sons. The second youngest was his favorite. Jacob loved Joseph so much he gave Joseph a rainbow coat and his brothers grew so jealous that they sold him to Egypt after tearing up his cloak.

Okay. I am going to fast-forward to the preparation part.

In prison in Egypt, Joseph interpreted some of Pharaoh's dreams about a famine that was going to strike Egypt. Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of all the crops and food storage in order to prepare for the famine, so Joseph put up huge stores of wheat and barley and the people had plenty of food to live on during the seven years of famine. Joseph was even able to help his own family live through the famine. 

Preparing for a crisis is important, even if it’s just a food shortage or fire or something.

At the beginning of the pandemic when all of the stores were running out of supplies like toilet paper and some foods like flour, we had plenty of these things in our storage room to live off of until the stores were restocked. We didn’t have to stress or worry about whether we had enough to eat during those few weeks. We simply used our food storage and were safe and secure. We have to always be building up and rotating our food storage so that we’re ready for crisis, whenever it strikes. 

We also need to be prepared spiritually so that we can face the storms of life and be ready to serve others when they need help. There is a primary song that talks about the importance of preparation. It says, “Though a boy I may appear, yet a man I soon will be. If I prepare and live clean in every thought, word, and deed, I will be worthy to hold the sacred priesthood of God. So I now prepare myself; I will serve my fellowmen. Being armed with the truth, with the scriptures my guide. I’ll go forward, a young man prepared.”

This song means that if you prepare by reading the scriptures and living well, you’ll be prepared for spiritual challenges that might come your way. Importantly, as I practice serving others when I’m young, I’ll be better prepared to help others when I’m older. 

I bear my testimony that I know that preparation is important because you’ll be ready to face physical or spiritual challenges that come your way. 

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
So that's a little sneak peek into our home-church today. 

I said we didn't have any singing time, but Zoë did get down her ukulele and played 'Clementine' for Phoebe about a million times over while I was helping their brothers. And we sang 'Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam' and 'A Young Man Prepared' and Zoë's song about forgiveness, which I can't remember the title of. So, we got some singing under our belts. 

We also sang, "Keep trying! You'll get better! Try, try, try!" though I think I was trying to get Alexander to recall the song 'Jesus Once Was a Little Child,' which also has the chorus of "try, try, try!"

And both Rachel and Daddy separately pointed out that Benjamin could have also selected to quote from The Lion King: "Yes, our teeth and ambitions are bared. Be prepared!" but I think that would have been stretching it a little bit. 

Quoting Daniel Tiger in church is one thing. 

Quoting Scar is quite another.


  1. I dunno, the Cheshire Cat gets quoted frequently at conference and he's kind of terrible.

  2. Replies
    1. But you did not ask WHERE and that might be the most interesting part! Did you know that Diana and I shared a bedroom? True story!

      I went to Voronezh, Russia, with ILP the semester before Diana went. We had the same host family! What are the odds, right? :)