Primary Organization Research GuidePrimary Organization Time Line

Primary Organization Time Line

Primary Organization Research Guide

Providing definitive dates for firsts can be challenging. It is important to note that many of the activities associated with the Primary (or other children’s programs) initially began in the wards and stakes and then were adopted by the general organization.

This time line is not comprehensive but provides a basic understanding of how the Primary organization started and evolved to meet the changing needs of a global Church.

1878 – First local Primary meeting held in the Farmington (Utah) Rock Chapel with Aurelia Spencer Rogers

1880 – Primary organized at the general Church level, with Louie B. Felt called as Primary General President

1890 – Free Public School Act passed in Utah1

1895 – Primary begins dividing into grades, first with the Salt Lake City Eleventh Ward2

1902 – Children’s Friend first published3

1905  The Primary Song Book published4

1908 – Grades implemented in Primary organization (grades 1–5)

1913 – Twelve- to 13-year-old boys begin attending Young Men Mutual Improvement Association (Y.M.M.I.A), with the option of staying in Primary5

1915 – Term “grade” replaced with “group”

1919  The Art of Teaching teacher training course introduced6

1921  Primary Children’s Hospital opened in Salt Lake City

1922  Seagull program introduced for girls ages 12–13

1922 – Fundraising program “Birthday Pennies for the LDS Children’s Convalescent Hospital” (Primary Children’s Hospital) introduced7

1925 – Trail Building program introduced for boys ages 10–11

1928 – Children’s Jubilee held to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Primary8

1929 – “Religion” classes discontinued; Primary takes over spiritual education for children

1930 – First Primary handbook printed9

1930 – Primary joins in the June conferences held by the Mutual Improvement Association (M.I.A.)

1934 – Twelve- to 13-year-old girls begin attending Young Women Mutual Improvement Association (Y.W.M.I.A.)

1936 – The Guide Patrol, a youth group designed to prepare boys to receive the priesthood, is introduced

1939 – Ward and stake funds begin financing local Primary organizations

1940 – Primary seal, colors, and themes introduced

1941  First nursery class (children under four years of age)

1941 – Mural of the first Primary placed in the Farmington Ward chapel

1946 – Children’s Friend of the Air first broadcasted over radio10

1946 – Children collected 122,794 articles, including children’s clothing and toys, to Saints in Europe

1947 – Primary children donate 33,000 nickels to help fund This Is the Place Monument11

1948 – Junior Council television show first aired12

1949 – First Primary teachers’ manual published13

1949 – Primary children donate dimes to the “Buy a Brick” campaign to raise money for the new Primary Children’s Hospital; the children donate more than $20,00014

1950 – Eleven-year-old Primary boys become involved in the Boys Scouts of America

1951 – The Children Sing introduced15

1952 – Arnold Friberg Book of Mormon paintings commissioned, the first appearing in the Children’s Friend in 1953 and the last in 196016

1952 – Opening of new Primary Children’s Hospital; children help with donating pennies, purchasing bricks, and saving money to purchase President Heber J. Grant’s silver dollar paperweights17

1952 – Cub Scouting assigned to Primary

1955 – Reverence project introduced; it is replaced by a reverence standard in 1958

1956 – Primary Script newsletter introduced (continuing through 1973)18

1956 – The name “Younger groups” is changed to “Junior groups” (3- to 6-year-olds)

1957 – New song “I Am a Child of God” introduced

1960 – Three Steps to Good Teaching, a resource for Primary teachers, introduced

1961 – The name “Junior groups” is changed to “Skylets” (3- to 6-year-olds)

1966 – The How Book, a resource for Primary teachers, introduced

1966 – Dividing of singing time for large Primaries

1970 – Introduction of new correlated program for Primary children

1970 – Sing with Me published19

1970 – CTR ring introduced20

1971 – Priesthood Preview program introduced21

1971 – Friend magazine replaces the Children’s Friend

1973 – Primary Script becomes the Primary Dispatch (through 1980)22

1975 – Last general Primary conference held

1976 – Primary children in the United States hold bicentennial celebrations to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

1978 – 100th anniversary of Primary celebrated by Primaries around the world23

1979 – Birthday Pennies program discontinued24

1980 – New consolidated ward meeting schedule and new Primary curriculum; sharing time, as part of the new consolidated schedule, introduced

1980 – Achievement Days begin as a quarterly activity for girls

1981 – Sharing time ideas included in the Friend

1982 – Gospel in Action award introduced25

1984 – Teaching the Scripture Readers introduced

1988 – Themes for sacrament programs published in the Friend magazine

1989 – Children’s Songbook published

1993 – New song “If the Savior Stood Beside Me” introduced

1994 – Special First Presidency broadcast “Focus on Children” aired; “Teach the Child” video introduced during the broadcast

1995 – New structured curriculum introduced26

1995 – Eight- and nine-year-old children included in Gospel in Action and Achievement Days27

1995 – “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” issued

2002 – Special video presentation for Primary by President Gordon B. Hinckley28

2003 – Faith in God program introduced, replaces Gospel in Action and Achievement Days29

2003 – 125th anniversary of Primary commemorated by a special satellite broadcast30

2004 – 75th anniversary of Cub Scouts

2009 – Gospel Art Book published

2018 – Change in age advancement31 

2019 – New Children and Youth program introduced32

2019 – New song “I Will Walk with Jesus” introduced33

2019 – Discontinued partnership with Boy Scouts of America

2019Any baptized member of the Church can serve as a witness of living person baptisms

2020 – With the new two-hour block schedule, singing time replaces sharing time

2020 – As part of the new Children and Youth program, Achievement Days and Faith in God programs are replaced with Primary Activities34


1. A bill to establish a free public school system in certain cities of the Territory of Utah ([Salt Lake City]: [publisher not identified], 1890), accessed May 11, 2020.

3. The Children's Friend (Salt Lake City: Primary Association of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1902–1970), accessed May 11, 2020.

4. The Primary Song Book (Salt Lake City: The General Board of Primary Associations, 1905), accessed May 11, 2020.

5. Y.M.M.I.A. Hand Book, 3rd ed. (Salt Lake City: General Board, 1917), 20, accessed May 19, 2020, Church History Library, Salt Lake City; Improvement Era, Jan. 1914, accessed May 19, 2020, Church History Library, Salt Lake City.

7. “Hospital Born of Compassion,” Church News, Sept. 27, 1997, 5, accessed June 17, 2020.

8. Children's Jubilee of the Primary Association, June 8–10, 1928, accessed May 11, 2020, Church History Library, Salt Lake City.

10. Kay Smith, “The Mormon Trail,” Church News, June 29, 1946.

11. “50,000 Primary Children Participate in Summer Activities,” Church News, July 19, 1947.

12. LaVern W. Parmley, “From a Little Rock Church to the World: The Growth of the Primary Association,” Improvement Era, Nov. 1956, 806–7, 842, accessed May 11, 2020; “‘Junior Council Birthday’: Primary T-V Show Completes Fifth Year,” Church News, May 23, 1953, 5.

14.  Janet Peterson and LaRene Gaunt, The Children’s Friends: Primary Presidents and Their Lives of Service (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1996), 73.

15. The Children Sing: designed for children everywhere, but primarily prepared for use of children of the Junior Sunday School and Primary organizations ([Salt Lake City]: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1951), accessed May 11, 2020.

16. “Friberg’s Book of Mormon Art: ‘Brother of Jared’ Painting Finished,” Church News, Dec. 27, 1952.

17. Carol Cornwall Madsen and Susan Staker Oman, Sisters and Little Saints: One Hundred Years of Primary (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1979), 129–30.

20. The new CTR curriculum, including the CTR shield and ring, was introduced during the Primary conference of September 1970. See Laura G. Cole, “The Fall Primary Program Introduces New Courses,” Church News, Sept. 19, 1970; “Choose the Right: Preparing for Responsible Membership,” Church News, Aug. 28, 1976.

21. Brian Woodford, “Primary Outlines Priesthood Preview Program,” Church News, Apr. 3, 1971, 10.

25. Gerry Avant, “Emblem, Incentive Program Are Introduced by Primary,” Church News, Jan. 30, 1982, 6.

26. “Primary Curriculum to Be Implemented in 1995” (letter from the Priesthood Department, Oct. 12, 1994).

28. “Sharing time with President Gordon B. Hinckley [videorecording]” ([Salt Lake City]: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, c2002), accessed May 18, 2020.

29. Friend to Friend: The Faith in God Guidebooks,” Friend, Jul 2003, 7–9, accessed May 12, 2020.

32. “Leaders Outline Church’s New Children and Youth Program,” Newsroom, Nov. 17, 2019, accessed June 17, 2020,

33. Face to Face Music,” Music Library, accessed May 14, 2020.

34. Children and Youth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Children and Youth, accessed May 14, 2020.