It was a beautiful Sunday in October when Thomas made the decision to skip his habitual game of football with his friends and step into a Latter-day Saint meetinghouse.
Despite previous invitations, this was the first time Thomas and his young daughter, Jennifer, had been to sacrament meeting. Neither of them knew it was also the Primary program.
Sitting on the back row, Jennifer, dressed in a white dress, white sandals, and a white bow, was the epitome of Sunday dress for others her age. But Thomas was in his white shirt, blue jeans, and gym shoes, and he began to feel uncomfortable amid the ties, dress shirts, and slacks of other men his age.
"As I watched them come in, I decided I needed to get out and get out quick," Thomas remembers. "As I picked up my daughter to make the escape, sure enough, she was gone. She had crawled underneath the back bench and ended up way at the other end of the bench."
Thomas grew mortified as he noticed the people at the other end of the bench look toward their feet as Jennifer crawled away from him.
But before Thomas could begin desperately searching under the pew for his daughter, he saw the bishop stand up and introduce himself, making it more difficult to leave the service unnoticed. Then the sacrament was passed and the bishop stood up again to invite the children to the stand for the Primary Program.
Thomas watched for the next 45-minutes as children a little older than his own bore their testimonies of the Restored Gospel and Jesus Christ in front of a congregation full of adults.
"I was astounded," he shares. "I thought, 'Who are these children? Are they a special group from Salt Lake City they shipped all over the country?'"
When Thomas found out these were just average Latter-day Saint children from the ward, not a traveling group, it left a life-changing impression on him.
"I made a decision that day I wanted my children to have the same opportunities as these children to bear their testimony. I decided that I would be coming back," Thomas says.
Because of that decision, Thomas never did go back to playing football with his friends on Sundays. In fact, because of that decision to go back, Thomas was baptized. His children were baptized. His children served missions. His children were married in the temple--all because of that Primary Program.
Looking back, Thomas is grateful to all the Primary teachers and leaders who sacrificed their time and energy to make that life-changing Primary program happen.
That's because, though he still likes to sit on the back row, he does sit on the stand for one very special occasion—the Primary program.
"In 10 days, I will be sitting on the stand with other people. For I have the best calling that I could have in the Church. I'll be sitting next to my Primary class. My calling is a Primary teacher. And I say that it's the best calling that I could have. Not that it's better than any other calling, but it's the calling that my Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ have called me to teach."
Lead image from Getty Images
For more stories about how Primary Programs have changed lives, listen to episode two of LDS Living's This Is the Gospel podcast.