Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Religious Tolerance: A 1955 Primary Lesson

Religious Tolerance: A 1955 Primary Lesson

By: Ardis E. Parshall - April 05, 2013

The lesson below was taught to Seagulls (11-year-old Primary girls) in November 1955. If the lesson were taught today, we’d probably update it somewhat: the examples and discussion play to the experience of girls in the Mormon heartland who were familiar with immigrants, many of them refugees from post-war Europe, coming to their neighborhoods specifically to live among other Latter-day Saints. Today’s immigrants usually come for other reasons, and a great many of our Latter-day Saint preteens live where they are in the minority.

Other than that somewhat vintage flavor, what do you think of the lesson? Would you define “religious tolerance” any differently than the lesson does? Do we, or should we, teach anything similar today?



For Your Inspiration

To be tolerant of others, it is not necessary to partake of their beliefs or of their manner of living. In fact, one may be tolerant of a man and still vigorously oppose everything he represents, yet grant him his right to represent it and to believe and think as he wishes. Sometimes our young people make the mistake of supposing that tolerance means that they must do the things that other people do. They who suppose this have not learned the great truth, the vital and fundamental truth, that a man may be tolerant without compromising himself, or his own traditions or background or beliefs or convictions or habits of life. Tolerance without compromise is one of the great needs of the hour. – This Day and Always, Richard L. Evans

For your Instruction

The purpose of this lesson is twofold:

1. To make the girls feel that people of all nations are children of our Father in heaven, and that it is our responsibility as members of the Church to make them feel happy and welcome when they come into our wards. This is a part of living up to the 11th Article of Faith, for one cannot worship where or how he pleases if he is surrounded by prejudice and intolerance.

2. To make the girls feel that to be tolerant of the beliefs and practices of other churches is part of our religion; that to extend the hand of fellowship and friendliness to non-members who move into our communities is not only our privilege, but also our duty, for in doing so we lay a foundation that may later result in an interest in the Church.

The group process is the special activity for this lesson. The girls should quickly be divided into groups of three or four. Havethemnumberthemselves1-2-3(or 4), 1-2-3 and go to a group according to number. Be sure that they understand what is to be discussed and that conclusions are to be reached and reported to the group. Otherwise, the time may be wasted and little of value accomplished. Three or four minutes should be sufficient time for this group work.

A reminder: Try to develop the girls’ independence in finding passages of scripture. Though telling them the exact page may save time, it deprives the girls of their privilege to develop in ability to know their scriptures. It is also fun to see who can be first to find a certain passage in a designated book of the New Testament.


From Seagull Lesson Enrichments

World map
11th Article of Faith Chart

From Other Sources

New Testaments, red pencils and bookmarks
Blackboard and chalk


To help the girls feel a need for being more kind and understanding of people who come to our wards from the different nations of the world; and to be more tolerant for the beliefs and practices of people belonging to other churches.


Repeat Articles of Faith nos. 5, 6, and 7. (Use pictures.)

Show the girls some Indian craft such as beadwork, sand painting, rug weaving, etc. and point out the excellence of the craftsmanship. Help the girls to realize the great skill the Indians have achieved in these arts; that they have done much to command our respect for them. Proceed somewhat as follows:

The following letter was written by [i.e., to] Elder Spencer W. Kimball of the Council of the Twelve by a woman who felt that Indians should not be allowed to participate in our Church activities. She said:

I never dreamed I would live to see the day when the Church would invite an Indian buck to talk in the Salt Lake Tabernacle, an Indian buck to be appointed bishop, an Indian squaw to talk in the Ogden Tabernacle; Indians to go through the Salt Lake Temple – General Conference, April, 1954.


Do you think this woman was justified in feeling the way she did?

Do you think that Jesus would deny Indians the privilege of worshiping in His Church?

Jesus poured out His love upon all of God’s children no matter who they were, or where they lived, or what they believed. In speaking of Jesus, Nephi says:

… he doeth that which is good among the children of men; … and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile. – II Nephi 26:33

People from all nations are sons and daughters of God, and no one has the right to set himself or herself up as being better than his or her brother or sister.


From what country did your people come to America? (Allow time for each girl to express herself, then comment on the number of different nations represented.)

How would you feel, if such a letter as we just read were written about the people from which your family came?

Every year the Church sends hundreds of missionaries into the world to preach the gospel. Name some of the forty-four countries to which they go. After mounting the world map in the enrichment set on cardboard and covering with plastic, allow the girls to draw a line with crayon from Salt Lake City to each of the following countries to which the Church has sent missionaries, or to some of the other forty-four countries where we have missionaries. The crayon marks may be erased with dry cleaner. (Hawaii, Japan, Mexico, various countries of South America, Germany, France, England, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, South Africa, Australia, and many other countries.)

Many of the people to whom these missionaries preach accept the gospel. Some even leave their homeland and come to America so that they might be near other members of the Church.

How do we treat these people when they come into our wards?

Today I want you to pretend that you are your great-great-grandmother, or whoever it was who first received the gospel and came to this country. Try to realize that you gave up everything for the sake of the gospel – your family, your friends, your home, your property, your precious things – and came to this country so that you might be with those who believed as you did. Everything was strange – strange customs, strange clothes and a strange language. Now pretend that you are in church for the first time since you arrived. You have been looking forward to the time when you would meet the people. Judging from the way that you and your friends have treated people who have recently arrived from other countries, try to answer the following questions as if you were your great-great-grandmother.

Were you overly conscious of your strange clothes and your poor English?

Did you feel welcome, or did you feel lonely and shy?

Did you feel the spirit of the gospel and feel that it was worth the sacrifice you had made to be with those who believed as you did, or did you wish you had stayed in your own country/

Now let us quit pretending and talk about this problem for a few minutes.

Do you think that to make people who come from other nations feel welcome and happy in our wards is part of our religion? Why?

The last part of the 11th Article of Faith tells us why. Let us repeat this Article of Faith together, paying special attention to the last half. (Display the entire11th Article of Faith.)

We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege; let them worship how, where, or what they may.

To what does this last half of the 11th Article of Faith refer?

The last part of this Article of Faith refers to religious tolerance. Tolerance may be a new word to you. it is a very important word to Latter-day Saints, because our Church is made up of people from all nations. To be tolerant means to allow people to be different in nationality, in manners, customs, dress, speech, or religion without opposition. Tolerance is a form of love, while intolerance is a form of hate. In our Church people from many different nations travel hundreds of miles, sometimes even thousands of miles, in order to be with members of the Church. When members of the Church receive these people from different nations with open arms and welcome them into their wards, they are tolerant. When they snub them and make them feel inferior because of their clothes, their broken English or their dark skins, they are intolerant.

Can a person be intolerant and still live up to the 11th Article of Faith?

One cannot worship, where or how he wishes if he is surrounded by intolerance and prejudice, and unless we allow all men the privilege of worshiping where or how they may, without any opposition from us, we are not living up to the 11th Article of Faith. Let’s repeat this Article of Faith again.

Can you give an example of a person who is truly tolerant?


The Lamanites and the Nephites had been at war with each other for generations. The Lamanites hated the Nephites; they stole from them, murdered them, and did all manner of evil against them. One day Ammon, a son of the Nephite king, went to some of the Lamanites as a missionary of the gospel, and he succeeded in converting them. After the Lamanites were converted, they were so repentant of their wrongdoings that they covenanted with the Lord that they would never again go to war against their fellow men. Their king spoke to them and said:

“Since God hath taken away our stains, and our swords have become bright, then let us stain our swords no more with the blood of our brethren.”

After the king had finished speaking, all the people took their swords and all the weapons which were used for the shedding of man’s blood and buried them in the earth. This they did as a testimony to God and also to men that they never would use weapons again for the shedding of man’s blood, and thus they did covenant with God that rather than shed the blood of their brethren they would give up their own lives. Then these Lamanites changed their name to Anti-Nephi-Lehies.

Those Lamanites who had not been converted were angry with their brethren for joining the Church, and came upon them for the purpose of destroying them, but the Anti-Nephi-Lehies would not lift a hand to defend themselves and more than a thousand were killed. Ammon felt he could not stand by and let the people whom he loved be destroyed, and so he went to the king and said, “Let us gather together this people of the Lord and go down to the land of Zarahemla to our brethren the Nephites, and flee out of the hands of our enemies.”

The king said, “Behold the Nephites will destroy us because of the many murders and sins we have committed against them.”

And Ammon said, “I will go and inquire of the Lord.”

Ammon went and inquired of the Lord, and the Lord said unto him, “Get this people out of this land, that they perish not.”

Ammon went and told the king what the Lord had said, and they gathered together all their people and departed out of the land and came into the wilderness. When they came near the borders of the land of Zarahemla, Ammon told the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi to remain there while he went into the city of Zarahemla to see whether or not the people would accept them. Ammon went to the chief judge of the Nephites and told him all the things that had happened among their brethren the Lamanites. The chief judge sent a proclamation throughout all the land desiring the voice of the people concerning the admittance of their brethren who were the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi. And the voice of the people came saying:

Wewill give up the land of Jershon … unto our brethren for an inheritance. … We will set our armies between the land of Jershon and the land of Nephi, that we may protect our brethren in the land of Jershon … on condition that they will give us a portion of their substance to assist us that we may maintain our armies.

Now when Ammon had heard this, he returned to the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi and made known unto them all these things. And it did cause great joy among them. – Alma 27


In what way did these people show tolerance? (They not only accepted the people of another nation, but also a people who had previously harmed them. They not only gave these people land, but also they protected them with their armies.)

Tolerance is a matter of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. Let us open our New Testaments and read the words of Jesus from Matthew 7:12. (Put reference on the blackboard.)

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.

So far today we have only talked about how the 11th Article of Faith applies to our attitude towards members of the Church. Does it not also refer to our attitude towards people who are members of other churches?


Joan was a young girl when she moved with her family into a community where there were not other members of the Church. During her first day at school, the subject of the Mormons came up. The children delighted in telling weird tales that they had heard about the Mormons. Joan stood it as long as she could, and then she said, “The things you say about the Mormons are not true. I am a Mormon and I know.” At first the children were shocked, and then embarrassed. The result was that Joan found it difficult for some time after that to make friends. She was unhappy and lonely.

Let’s think of Joan’s situation in reverse. Suppose a non-Mormon girl came into one of our Mormon communities and discovered that she was the only girl in school who was not a member of the Church. What could we do to make her feel welcome and happy?

To the teacher: Divide the girls into two or more groups and let them discuss the problem for a short time. Have a chairman from each group report back to the class. If necessary, supplement their reports so that the following points will be brought out:

1. Do not criticize her church.

2. Do not criticize her parents even though they do not live up to our stands. Remember they have not been taught as we have.

3. Listen to her when she wants to talk about her religion.

4. Invite her to go to Primary and Sunday School, but do not criticize her for refusing. Remember she has her own church.

5. Invite her to join the crowd and help her to become acquainted.

6. Create a friendly, happy relationship. This may later lead to an interest in the Church.


One summer four young women of widely different religious beliefs went to Columbia University in New York City to study. There was a Mormon girl, a Catholic girl, a Hindu girl, and a Baptist girl. These young women stayed in the same rooming house and during the summer became very well acquainted. Because they were all deeply religious, they enjoyed talking about religion. Their religious discussions seemed to draw them closer together because each listened with interest when one of the others talked about her religion and respected her sincerity in regard to it, even though she did not believe the same.

One day the Mormon girl lost her wallet in a taxi cab. It had $30 in it, and it was a very real loss to her. She was with the Catholic girl at the time. When they got home, the Catholic girl went to her room, while the Mormon girl went to the telephone to call the taxi company to see if the wallet had been turned in. When she had finished phoning, she was met by her Catholic friend who said, “I have been praying that you would find your wallet.” The Mormon girl knew that the Catholic girl prayed in a different manner than she had been taught to pray, nevertheless, she respected her for her kindness, her thoughtfulness and for her sincerity, and she thanked her from the bottom of her heart.

This is what we mean in our 11th Article of Faith when we say, “and allow all men the sane privilege. Let them worship how, where or what they may.” The Mormon girl had her wallet returned, and this was a testimony to her that we are all the children of our Father in heaven, and that he loves us all, and hears and answers all of our prayers. Let us repeat the eleventh Article of Faith.

We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege; let them worship how, where, or what they may.


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