SALT LAKE CITY — A new exhibition at the Museum of Church History and Art celebrates the 125th anniversary of the Primary, an organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that teaches children about the gospel of Jesus Christ. Primary Makes Me Happy is currently on display and will continue through Sunday, 16 November 2003.
The exhibition in the museum’s entrance foyer features a wide range of historical memorabilia that reflect the changes made in the Primary organization since its beginnings in the 19th century. It notes the contributions of Aurelia Spencer Rogers, the founder of the Primary, and commemorates the work of Eliza R. Snow, who helped organize local Primaries and instructed new presidencies.
Curator Marjorie Draper Conder said that the exhibit is designed to help both young and old step back into their Primary days and share memories about their experiences. She said, “Whether you were a ZeeBee or a Blazer, a Lark or a Targeteer, there will be something on display that triggers a memory about Primary.”
Conder said she had a difficult time finding objects for the exhibit until she put out a public request for memorabilia. Afterwards, she was flooded with calls from people who had saved special items from their years in Primary.
One of the most unusual items collected for the exhibit is a model of the Nauvoo Temple created by a Primary teacher in North Carolina. The model took months to make and was used to help children learn the history of the Nauvoo Temple. It represents the love and dedication Primary teachers all over the world have in their assignments to teach children.
The exhibit details the Primary’s curriculum changes through the years by displaying a large collection of printed materials created to help teachers prepare and present lessons.
Some of the earliest printed items on display are small books of catechisms written by Eliza R. Snow, George Q. Cannon and John Jacques. Memorizing catechisms was a popular teaching method in the 19th century.
Music has also played a major role in the Primary throughout the years. A hymnal prepared by Eliza R. Snow is featured as one of the first music resources used for children before the Primary produced its first official Primary Songbook in 1905.
Visitors of all ages are invited to write down the titles of their favorite Primary songs. The favorites will be updated and posted on a weekly basis.
One of the most colorful and unusual items in the exhibit is a parade float. It was used in the early 1980s in one of the children’s parades held every year in Salt Lake City around 24 July. The float was made to help celebrate children and their contributions to the community.
One section of the exhibit recounts briefly the history of the Friend magazine. Originally published in 1902 for adult primary teachers and leaders, the magazine has gradually changed its format. Today, it is almost exclusively for children.
For many years, children all over the Church brought birthday pennies to class and deposited them in special penny banks to help raise funds for the Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City. A bank in the shape of the hospital is on display. It represents the sacrifices Primary children made to help the sick and injured and the emphasis the Primary placed on teaching compassion and love for others.
Primary Makes Me Happy can be seen at the museum any day of the week. The museum is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and Saturday, Sunday and most holidays from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. The museum is located at 45 North West Temple Street in downtown Salt Lake City, just one-half block north of the Temple Square TRAX station. Admission is free. For recorded information on exhibits and activities call 801-240-3310.