by Sara K.S. Hanks
Purpose: To held each child understand that we can choose the right because Heavenly Father gave us agency.
Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ Want Us To Choose For Ourselves
The manual suggests starting out the lesson by having the children choose something, like a candy or a colored rock, from a bowl. This is something I’ll definitely be implementing in my CTR4 classroom. We have a tradition of snacking on Skittles in our primary class, and they end up being great tools for object lessons and positive reinforcement. My opinion is that unobtrusive, low-key treats like Skittles are appropriate for younger kids, though they may be distracting or ill-advised for older kids. My class always loves choosing the colors of Skittles that they like most, so I think this agency activity will be a good way for us to get going.
The Skittles activity (as I’ll refer to it — it can of course be done with other candies or with non-edible items as well) illustrates an important facet of agency: that we can choose not only between right and wrong, but between several options that are equally good. After all, when it comes to Skittles, there’s no right and wrong; there are only personal preferences. Life has many parallel instances where we need to make choices based on our own needs and situations, not necessarily based on moral rights and wrongs.
After each child has chosen their own Skittle(s), you as a teacher might want to talk about how they just used their agency to make a choice. You can explain that a choice means picking between different things you can do, deciding which thing you will do, etc. Talk about how, in this situation, they chose the Skittles they wanted depending on colors and flavors. All of their choices were great! You can ask the kids why they chose the ones they did. It might be a good idea to give other examples of times when there are many good choices, like choosing between movies to watch, choosing what shoes to wear, choosing different ways to help their family members at home, etc.
Tell the children that today, you’re going to learn about another kind of choice — choosing between right and wrong.
Agency and CTR
Between sharing times and in-class lessons over the past few weeks, “agency” and “CTR” will probably be familiar terms to the children in your class. You can review these ideas in whatever way is appropriate, depending on the age and size of your class.
This lesson, like last week’s, refers to the premortal existence and the Council in Heaven, stories and concepts that are central to our church’s understanding of life on earth. I love that the primary children get to have some insight into this incredibly daring and “grown-up” piece of doctrine through these lessons. This week’s outline mentions the dichotomy between Jesus’s and Lucifer’s plans for us — Jesus wanting to protect agency and be an example of righteous living, Lucifer wanting to “force everyone to keep the commandments” (as the lesson says).
I have vivid memories of learning about Jesus and Lucifer when I was a child. I’m not sure how many of you can relate, but in my youth, I remember feeling a lot of sympathy for Lucifer’s plan and for all the people who had chosen to follow it. It seemed like even though they chose the wrong path, they at least had a good intention: the desire that everyone, all of God’s children, would be able to return to Heaven and live together eternally. It seemed like a pretty good deal to me! Since I remember having that experience when I was little, I’m going to make an effort in teaching this lesson to talk about how Jesus was following Heavenly Father’s plan, while Lucifer was presenting a different plan that would not have worked. I want to emphasize that agency is absolutely essential to God’s plan, because the whole point of being alive is making choices and learning from them. I’m not sure how much of this will sink in with four-year-olds, but it doesn’t hurt to try!
I’ll finish up this section of the lesson by talking about how Jesus wants us to make our own choices and that he came to earth so he could show us how to make right choices.
Activity — Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down
Because I teach the CTR4 class, I try to include attention-grabbing activities as much as possible. Lesson 5 gives a great activity where the kids give a thumbs up or a thumbs down to different choices — choosing to be reverent in church, choosing to be helpful, choosing to be mean to other kids, etc. I think the kids in my class will get a kick out of this. In order to keep Christ as the center of the lesson, I’ll frame the “thumbs up/thumbs down” activity as a “thumbs up” for the right choices that Jesus wants us to make and a “thumbs down” for the wrong choices that Jesus wishes we wouldn’t make.
Finishing Up — Repentance and Testimony
I’ve felt for a long time that no discussion of agency is really complete without a reference to repentance. After all, in our quests to choose the right, it is inevitable that we will sometimes choose the wrong, and as children of God, we need to know how to deal with our own failings. When it comes to 4-7 year olds, who haven’t yet reached the age of accountability, I’m not sure that thorough discussions of sin and repentance are really necessary. However, it’s important for kids to learn that (a) they will make mistakes and (b) when that happens, they need to say they’re sorry and try to do better next time. For this particular lesson, I think I’ll talk with the children about what to do when they make a mistake and how they always have a new choice to do what’s right. I’ll bear my testimony of how wonderful it is to have the gift of agency and that I’m so grateful we can become like our Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother by working hard to do what’s right.