Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

Control Our Tongues, Primary 7, Lesson 41

Posted by robf on November 26, 2007

I was called in to substitute in Primary yesterday and ended up with two classes, the 10 and 11 year olds. This lesson focuses on scriptures in James and elsewhere “to help the children learn to control the things they say and think.”

I started the class with one of my favorite attention getters–I scrambled each word in James 1:26 and wrote the scrambled verse on the board:


I then invited the class to come up and unscramble each word. This takes about ten minutes, during which they are reading and rereading the scripture that they are trying to unscramble. At some point when they had figured out a few key words I suggested that maybe they could use the Topical Guide to find the scripture and help them figure out the last few words. BTW, I’ve used this for ages 8-16 and it almost always works to get the kids focussed on the topic of the lesson.

After they found the verse, we started to talk about it. We talked about what a bridle is to explain that this is a metaphor about controlling our tongues. Then I asked the kids why not controlling our tongues would make our religion vain.

In reviewing the lesson material, I had several possible activities and points of discussion thought out, but that all went out the window when we started talking about vain religion. I asked the kids what it meant for a religion to be vain, and they came up with it meaning that a vain religion would be worthless or not work. I then asked them what that would mean. What is religion, I asked?

I wrote religion on the board, and the Latin word it might come from–religare. I helped them figure out that religion could mean something like “re-connect or bind together”. I then asked them to list some stuff we should be connected to–God, families, each other, the earth. We then talked about how our religion does this through temple ordinances and the sacrament. We talked about being created in God’s image–and read about that in Genesis 1:27 and how we are to be like God. We talked about speaking in the name of God–and how our religion makes that possible and read about it in D&C 1. We talked about sealing in the temple, and the restoration of the priesthood as mentioned in Moroni’s recital of Malachi to Joseph Smith. We then brought it back to James’ description of pure religion in James 1:27–and I emphasized (especially to the girls in the class) that we don’t have to be ordained to the priesthood to do that kind of service.

The point was that true religion binds us together and gives us the opportunity to act in the name of the LORD, to take upon us his name and to speak and act for him. Then I brought it back to our tongues. How we need to use our tongues to perform ordinances and to serve others, and how that is incompatible with swearing or saying mean things to people.

Then time was up. The spirit was very strong in the class, so I pointed that out to the kids and bore my testimony.

It was an amazing class. The kids were totally into it. They listened, they looked up scriptures, they read, they asked questions, they answered questions. They seemed to just eat it all up. Some of the kids are pretty rambunctious, but they were all raptly paying attention and participating. We were really feasting on the word. I was amazed, though I probably shouldn’t have been, that they were so accepting and interested in what some might consider difficult or meaty gospel topics. While I used vocabulary and examples that were age appropriate, I think the discussion was deeper than many Gospel Doctrine classes I’ve been in. It was amazing. It softened my heart, showing me many of my own weaknesses, and edifying all of us. I think the kids were amazed. A couple kids commented on how it was a great lesson.

Perhaps we try to hard to make Primary entertaining, when what the kids really need is the best scriptural feast we can give them.

13 Responses to “Control Our Tongues, Primary 7, Lesson 41”

  1. Susan M said

    Great post. I just taught this lesson myself, and thought it went well, but yours sounds much more successful. I have trouble with my primary class because they’re so far beyond the lesson manual. Of course, in a few weeks, half will be moving up to YWs anyway.

  2. Robert C. said

    Rob, thanks for sharing this. I struggle to keep the attention of my 12-13 year olds (a few of the boys esp.), and this gives me some good ideas—I esp. like how you used the etymology of religion to think deeper about the meaning of religion. When I focus in on words like this, it tends to go well—I think I’ll try doing that more (or, to be more precise: I think I’ll try to be more open to the Spirit suggesting I do that more…).

  3. robf said

    SusanM, usually if I’m teaching the YM/YW or Primary I read the lesson in the manual. I try to read the scriptures listed there and think about them, as well as any good questions the manual brings up. I read the suggested activities, but rarely actually do that part–though I think about it. In this case, I was ready to use the activity listing good and bad types of communication. I had thought I would use the chalkboard instead of cutouts as described in the manual.

    But when I found out that the kids really had no idea what religion was or the purpose of religion, we headed off in that direction for awhile. I’m always suspicious that kids don’t really get the bigger picture from all the separate lessons they get, or that they haven’t been challenged to really think about what it all means. In this case, the kids knew at some level that going to Church was about more than just seeing their Church friends once a week, but they hadn’t seemed to have thought much about it. I think helping them see how everything fits together was a real eye-opener.

  4. Susan M said

    My girls get it. They’ve gotten it for years. One Sunday I was having the toughest time getting them to listen, and when I finally got one to answer a question, she rattled off everything the lesson was supposed to cover. They’re amazing. And frustrating.

    I’m looking forward to next week’s lesson—the conversion of Paul.

  5. robf said

    Joseph Smith stated that “It has always been my province to dig up hidden mysteries-new things-for my hearers” (TPJS 363). While of course we aren’t supposed to teach new doctrine, surely there are ways to think about gospel principles that your 11 and 12 year olds haven’t heard? Connections they haven’t made? Relevant scriptures they haven’t considered? Teachings of Latter-day Prophets they haven’t fully thought about? Practical applications that they have yet to make? Maybe we should have a whole thread about this. How can we make the gospel “new” so that kids, youth, or whoever we are teaching will be edified–will have their understanding expanded?

    I think a great danger in the Church is the idea that we’ve “gotten it” already. Is the job of the teacher to dig up new ways of looking at things so that the students are brought to understand that they are maybe now just starting to “get it”?

  6. Susan M said

    Yeah. The trouble is getting them to listen and participate. The scrambled word thing will probably work occasionally, but if I do it all the time it’d get old. I’ve been getting really creative lately with keeping their attention.

  7. robf said

    Yeah, sucking them in at the beginning is important. I appreciate the activities in the manual, but some seem a little too obviously to be exercises to get their attention, and kids these days are pretty skeptical about anything they think may be contrived. But starting with some kind of game seems to always work. When I was teaching 12 and 13 year olds every week, we always started with a game. Either this scramble thing. Or sometimes a code they had to crack. Or even hangman. Or a scripture chase. Nothing that would take more than a few minutes, and always something that would lead them towards a discussion of the lesson topic somehow.

    Other youth/primary teachers have thoughts on this?

  8. Jim F. said

    Just a nit-picky note: If “religion” does come from “religare,” then the “re-” prefix probably doesn’t suggest repetition. Instead, it probably suggests the same kind of thing it does in words like “resound,” namely continuance. I’m not sure that would matter in your lesson. It sounds like that went very, very well. But I thought it might be interesting to note.

    I think the problem that Susan M mentions is widespread: Students in our Sunday School classes, whether 10-year-olds or adults already know most of the “facts” that we try to teach them. Because we most often approach teaching Sunday School as if it were a matter of conveying facts, that means that they cannot but be frustrated and bored.

    However, I believe that if we teach with the goal of sharing an experience in which we find ourselves brought up short by the scripturess (or related material), made to rethink how we see the world in light of the good news about Jesus Christ–as robf seems to have done–then almost every student will be interested.

  9. cherylem said

    JimF#8, Yes. Agreed. While I don’t have much to add, if anything, of substance, I’ve been thinking about this post and the subsequent comments since they appeared. I’ve recently started teaching my 16 year old (our last!) one on one . . . he’s been having some issues and something more – something to grab his mind – is needed. I’ve been thinking a lot, as a result, of how much he doesn’t know or doesn’t think to question, after a lifetime of church, seminary, etc. I think I personally have failed him (suffering parental burnout, but that is no excuse), depending on the rote lessons he gets in church instead, and even EFY, which lessons and experiences have not converted him.

    Anyway, I gave him the choice of 3 scriptures: the BOM, the Gospels, or a study of Paul, and he chose the Gospels. So we are starting with Mark. Starting really from square one – he wasn’t sure whether the Gospels were in the New or Old Testaments.

    Well, he is learning fast. Our discussions and readings so far have been excellent. But . . . your post on how to get the students’ attention and engagement engaged me. We need more of this, so very badly.

  10. robf said

    Cherylem, thanks for sharing and good luck. My oldest is 10 and I’m feeling some of my own failings as a parent. I’m trying to get her to finally finish reading the Book of Mormon, and need to recommit myself to more outside-of-family-home-evening gospel teaching at home.

  11. Robert C. said

    I can’t agree enthusiastically enough with these thoughts about finding new ways to think about and read scripture and finding ways to challenge our youth esp.

    I’ve only recently begun to appreciate the importance of the challenges that the scriptures pose for us, as opposed to simply valuing, say, the teachings of the scriptures. As I’ve fought my tendency to explain the scriptures to my young students (including the posing of questions that I feel I have a pretty good explanation for) and, instead, ask more questions that I feel I don’t have a good explanation for, and allow such questions to go unresolved, I’ve been able to capture and maintain the interest of my students much more effectively.

    (I’m hoping to address this more directly in my next post on Ricoeur—soon, I hope—since his thought is what has helped me the most in terms of really seeing this in ways I couldn’t see before….)

  12. Joe Spencer said

    If anyone wants to dig all the way back that far into the blog’s history, I wrote a post on using aporia to “grab attention” with youth, etc. I find that it works remarkably well.

  13. Gina said

    I understand what you’re saying, robf. I finally learned the lesson myself about teaching the children from the scriptures. In fact recently I asked the class if they would do more games or keep on with what I’ve been doing which is teaching from the scriptures. My 10-11 year old class unanimously chose the scriptures! This says a lot about this generation which our Father has saved for these times! Thank you, robf, for your insight. They will definitely enjoy using a game in this fashion because they’ll learn the scripture along with it. I appreciate your ideas!

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