not in Primary anymore

a kinder, gentler lyric

guest post by David Mason


Early this year the primary president in my Memphis ward distributed the music chosen by Salt Lake City for every unit’s sacrament meeting primary program (a convention also perpetuated by SLC).  As usual, the battery of designated music that all primary children everywhere were to learn was mostly selected from the Church’s own primary songbook with the addition of a new, original song.

This year, that song was “The Family Is of God.”  My role as primary pianist expected me to accompany this song as our primary prepared to sing it in church.  But I found the second and third verses of this tune to be so aggressively, callously, unnecessarily ideological that I finally had to concede that I could not, in good conscience, be a part of teaching them to very young children.

In the end, our primary chose to skip the middle two verses, altogether.  But, following the example of my daughter, who recently wrote a series of new, women-centered lyrics for “Follow the Prophet” — posted on YMF this past October 5th — I did write alternatives for these middle verses.  These alternatives seem perfectly singable to me, and less determined to manipulate children while they are getting instruction in gospel principles away from parents who are not comfortable with what they see as archaic and exploitative gender roles.


“God Gave Us Families”

[alternate lyrics for the second and third verses]

2. Fathers can lead their fam’lies’ prayers,

They care,

About all their family members’ welfare.

They’re careful never to command,


They love without reservation.

3. Mothers can guide their families,

They see,

How ev’ryone can serve each other.

They show us how to make our way,

Each day,

Through all their heav’nly endeavors.


[Original lyrics]

2. A father’s place is to preside, provide,

To love and teach the gospel to his children.

A father leads in fam’ly prayer to share

Their love for Father in Heaven.

3. A mother’s purpose is to care, prepare,

To nurture and to strengthen all her children.

She teaches children to obey, to pray,

To love and serve in the fam’ly.



David Mason is the author of Brigham Young: Sovereign in America and Theatre and Religion on Krishna’s Stage.  He also writes the Aestheism blog for  He is Chair of Theatre and Director of Asian Studies at Rhodes College in Memphis, TN.

8 Responses to “a kinder, gentler lyric”

  1. Linda

    Our ward chorister told the Primary President that she would not teach the 2nd and 3rd verses and the President was fine with that. I’m fortunate to live in a ward where members thoughts and comments are appreciated and taken seriously.
    I’ve had other people tell me similar stories-about refusing to teach the last 2 verses or not singing them.

  2. S. M.

    Super cool. And I will add that Professor Mason wrote the lyrics to the first three verses of the female Follow The Prophet alternatives. I wrote the other three.

    • D.M.

      No, no. We batted about some ideas on a Sunday afternoon, but SM wrote those lyrics. I’m responsible for the line about dropping the tent spike, but the rest is all SM.

  3. Jordan

    So… should we also stop hanging the Family Proclamation in our homes? Even though it’s official church doctrine? All this song does is back up what’s already accepted as doctrine. Obviously not everyone will have a home situation with those gender roles, but that doesn’t mean that we should fight it. I disagree with this post. And so does the Lord.

    • ElizaM.

      “Obviously not everyone will have a home situation with those gender roles” –> Exactly. Many, many people do not.
      Also, I’m not sure if the Lord would actually disagree considering that He reached out to a woman taken into adultery, publicans, sinners, all manner of non-traditional folk, and was pretty non-traditional Himself.


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