One of the things I love about Primary is that it’s incredibly forgiving. Kids are very patient with adults’ mistakes, and (for the most part) vice versa. It’s pretty rare that I find myself truly uncomfortable in Primary. Total acceptance is the norm.
However, there are a couple of things that I wish, wish, wish, I could make disappear from Primary forever.
One is sticking two fingers behind your head (“feathers”) as the hand signal for “Lamanites” in the song “Book of Mormon Stories.” Sheesh. In 2012, I can’t believe this still happens or that it passes as okay without any comment or notice in the vast majority of LDS Primaries. It’s a demeaning sign, and it should just go away. In our ward, we swapped it for the American Sign Language sign for “Lamanites,” which is a letter L held near your right ear. That, at least, has the advantage of not being saddled with a lot of racist baggage. (I also wish the song said that their “parents” came from far across the sea, since it would be a really short civilization if only the “fathers” came, but I guess I can’t have everything).
The other is playing “hangman” in Sharing Time or in class. Anyone who’s studied American history and has an inkling about the long history of lynching in America, and the decades-long struggle to end it, can no longer see a group of (usually white) children playing “hangman” without feeling a little ill. Need a substitute idea? Just make a “man.” You can still build a person, one piece at a time… just don’t string him up. That’s barbaric and there’s nothing gospel-promoting about it.
Some of you will no doubt think that I’m overreacting with either or both of these. But believe me, they send awful unintended messages to very impressionable young people, and insult the memory of disadvantaged groups in our collective past. And, they make some of us cringe every single time they happen. Sometimes, a gentle word, or just doing it a different way, is all that’s needed to make things a little less squirmy.