My wife and I held our own service this morning– we read a scripture, listened to several conference talks– and it was uplifting, but perhaps less of an investment than on most Sundays; so this evening my wife said, “Let’s sing some hymns.” So we went to the piano, and then she said, “Let’s sing some Primary songs,” so we got out the big blue book and sang for maybe an hour, just the two of us.
“Can a little child like me/ thank the Father fittingly?”
“He sent his son.”
“I feel my Savior’s love.”
“Love one another.”
I’m not much of a singer, but the songs “took me back,” as they say. Took me back to when my Mom was Primary president and we sang some of those same songs– back before the Sexual Revolution or the Beatles or even the Beach Boys. Those seem like such simple, innocent times. Took me back to my many years as Primary pianist, more than a decade in all, in more than one ward. I used to sit at the piano and watch the children and think how pure and precious they are, and how innocent– and how things are going to get so much more complicated for them as they grow older.
By now all of them are grown and mostly gone. A few still live in the ward or nearby, and although I don’t do Facebook, my wife does, so I still hear news of quite a few of them. All of them sang “I will follow God’s plan.” Some have done that; some haven’t. Some have gone through difficult times, through things they thought they couldn’t endure, except what choice did they have? Some are in that condition now. I think about the mostly happy, innocent children and wish they could be back in that period. Singing, whole-heartedly, “We will be the Lord’s missionaries/ to bring the world His truth.”
I partly wish that I myself could go back and enjoy the innocence of a Primary child. My parents or my Primary teachers or the bishop told me about God and the Gospel, and I just believed. (Mostly. I do remember, when I was about seven, looking at a mail-in contest on the back of a cereal box and thinking, we all know the chance of being one of the winners is almost zero; and then I thought, of all the people in the world and all the churches, what are the odds that I would be a winner who was just born into “the true church”? But mostly I believed.) Today I know that just because an adult says something– even a nice adult with a good heart and good intentions– that doesn’t make it true. Things are so much more complicated than they are in the Primary songs.
Jesus said that we should be like little children. But Paul said that when we become a man or woman, we should put away childish things. I’m not completely sure how to reconcile these instructions. I am pretty sure that I and the kids I watched from the piano bench can’t just go back to being children again. We’ve learned too much, seen too much, for that.
Even so, I’m pretty sure that the Primary songs are in some sense true. They are true in some sense that is more real and important than all of the doubts and questions that plague my compromised consciousness. I can’t just make those questions go away. In the meantime, though, I can still pray . . .
“Teach me to walk in the light of His love.”