My work in the Primary of the Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints began when I was nineteen years old in the year1949. Tafta, our first born child, was just five months old. I was called to be the Primary Chorister. I look back now and laugh at how ill prepared I was in music. I did not even know how to beat music patterns. The lady who was the pianist, taught me the beat of four-four, three-four and other time patterns. This was certainly a growing and learning
experience for me and I am grateful the calling came.
I tried my level best to fill this musical call to the fullest. At that time we could even teach holiday songs, as well as, songs from the Primary Song Book. We had a wonderful time and everyone seemed to enjoy the musical experience, teachers, children, presidency, and myself.
When I was twenty-two years old I became President of the Eleventh Ward Primary. Norma Gale, Arva Rowley and Sylvia Carter were counselors to me at various times. Elva Brailsford was the Secretary and she was very good. Bishop Harrison Scott was the Priesthood leader who extended the call to me.
I was very young to be the President of such a high and holy organization and first class effort, on my behalf, was put forth in the work. We loved one another as a Presidency and worked so hard together. The monthly Stake Primary Meetings were a source of uplift and help to our ward. We challenged to the teachers to have one hundred percent attendance at next Stake Meetings. The teachers did their best to support us and the attendance was always very high, but it seemed someone was always missing at the meetings. Finally, we promised the dear ones that we, the Presidency, would make Cream Puffs as a treat for their valance and effort in all being at the next stake meeting..
Our teachers gave great effort and sincerely tried. In the month of February we lacked two teachers, one was sick and the other had a sick child. Finally, in the month of March we reached our goal and every one of our wonderful instructors was at the West Utah Stake Meeting. We were all very pleased and proud and had such a good time in reaching our goal.
The following week the Presidency all went to Norma Gale’s home and made the treats. The following Primary day, wondrous big Cream Puffs filled with vanilla pudding and topped with luscious hot caramel topping was given to the teachers. We served it to our darling sisters during Prayer meeting. In my book, that is a Devine tasty treat and the sisters were touched and grateful.
I think I served for three years and I was released to get our new baby, Wesley Sowards. We built our new red brick home on the Grandview Hill in Provo, Utah in 1957. And of course, I began to serve in the Primary as soon as we moved into our home. I was called again as a Chorister. But this time I knew how to lead music and I hit the ground running. We had so very much fun and the kids did not have a choice, but to sing and sing we did. Brad Wilcox quoted me in his adult years. “Sister Johnson told use the Lord gave a us a voice to sing with. Now, you open your mouth and you come out with beautiful music. And, we did just that,” he quoted.
Our Primary was preparing the Primary Sacrament Program and we were practicing in the chapel of our ward house. I had done some fun changes to the way we presented the songs and the children were really putting forth effort and having a great time. Some stake personnel heard us practice and asked our ward to present the music at the next stake meeting so the wards could get new ideal for their individual ward presentations. Our ward Primary followed the stakes wishes. The Presidency and teachers helped in the endeavor and we had a great, fun experience.
One calling in the Primary that was especially dear to me was to teach the nine year old Blazer Boys class. I taught them for seven straight years. I even arranged my classed at the Brigham Young University so I could continue teaching the Blazers. One year I had thirteen Blazer boys in my class. Our son Kerry Ray was one of those boys and he was a joy to have in that group. The West Utah Stake leaders told our Seventeenth Ward Presidency that thirteen nine year
old boys was too many boys in one class.
The Presidency came me and wanted to know which boys I wanted to keep in my class. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. We had no problems in the class room and the boys were so darn good and learning. We loved one another and there were no problems at all. My reply to the Presidency, “You are not going to divide my boys. I love them all and we are having no problems. So, you stop worrying about us!” That was the last I heard about the situation.
Oh, it did filter back to me the Stake said “Well, Arleen Johnson can teach thirteen boys, but other classes in the stake must not be that large.”
Another wonderful experience I had with my thirteen boys was concerning Hoskie Upshaw. Hoskie was a Navaho Limonite boy Glen and Elaine Ellis had in their home through the Limonite Exchange Program. As the class began in the fall, I realized I was not reaching Hoskie. Now don’t get me wrong, he was no discipline problem nor did he cause any trouble. He just looked around the room and stared into space and I could not seem to touch his soul.
I began to pray over the problem and ask the Lord for help. The answer came to me. The boys needed some hands on activity. We took the Articles of Faith cards and put a plastic cover over the front so the card would stay clean as the boys studied and handled that important piece of paper. Next holes were punched around the edge of the two layers at a distance of one inch apart. Plastic boondoggle strings were then twined between the holes going in each direction.
That activity was the very thing that healed the problem. Hoskies fingers moved rapidly and fluently along the edges. His card looked smooth and beautiful. He then turned to the other members of the class. He helped and gave assistance to the boys who were struggling and the twine kept tangling as they worked. Hoskie was completely engrossed and had a marvelous time assisting others. He was quiet and kind and efficient.
That activity performed a miracle. It brought Hoskie out of his shell and he became an active part of our class. What a miraculous experience. I was so glad Hoskie was such an important part of our class and we all loved and respected him. Thanks be to God for small wonders performed in our behalf.
At one point in my primary life, I came to realize I had spent twenty-five years working in the Primary organization. It must truthfully be admitted, the gain from my Primary experience was much greater on my end of the deal. What a true blessing in my life. Thanks be to God.