there’s a calling in the Church that is pure service, it’s
adults who work there begin the gospel teaching of the 18-month-old
children — but let’s not pretend that they’re not
also babysitters, freeing up the parents of these toddlers so they
can serve in other callings during the second and third hour of our
only people in the ward who know you haven’t gone inactive —
or died — are the parents of the toddlers.
know you, because they spend the first few months helping their child
get used to nursery — looking for the first opportunity to
sneak out without their child going berserk with terror at being left
alone with these strange adults and scary bigger kids.
children themselves won’t remember you, because most people
have few or no memories from the time before they turned three —
precisely the time when they leave the nursery.
even though you get to know these children very well, and usually
come to love them as you guide them through the early stages of
socialization with other children and teach them how to behave in a
classroom at church, there will be no special relationship with them
as they get older.
know them, watching them grow through Primary, Young Men and Young
Women; you’ll watch them go off on missions, head out for
college. You’ll remember who they were when they were one and
two years old, how their personalities were already visible. But
they won’t remember that they ever knew you.
like, “I used to take you to your parents whenever you pooped
in your diapers,” will not go over well when they’re in
their teens. Nor will they be delighted to learn that they were
famous for bashing other kids over the head with plastic building
Nursery is a calling that is not carried out to be “seen of
men.” In the end, you’ll find that hardly anybody knew
you even had the calling.
that doesn’t mean that the calling doesn’t have its
rewards. Even if they don’t thank you when they get older, you
get to see these children as they learn how to be human.
they’re not responding to the impulse of the moment —
fear, anger, hunger, sleepiness — they act out what they have
seen their parents do.
in our ward’s nursery a few weeks ago, little Gabriela Zeller
decided to take the baby dolls on a car ride. It wasn’t enough
to line them up as if in a car — Gabriela insisted that a
nursery teacher go through the motions of buckling the children into
their car seats, because she knew that the car wasn’t going
anywhere till everybody was securely belted in.
Joshua Lowe put “food” in the toy microwave, he knew that
it went beyond closing the door. He had to push buttons, though he
had no idea why. That was just what Mommy and Daddy did, so he would
do it, too.
there was the little boy who tenderly covered the baby dolls and then
kissed each doll good-night. It was what his father did. How could
he do otherwise?
Galiotti noticed that the door on a plastic dollhouse in the nursery
was broken. She brought the door to the nursery teacher — but
she also brought a plastic toy hammer. She knew that when you needed
to fix something, you had to have a tool.
the play of these little children, their family’s patterns are
being acted out. They won’t remember these toddler games when
they’re older, but the patterns they learned from their parents
are already deeply imprinted in their minds and hearts.
boys will no doubt leave the dolls behind — but when they’re
grown up and married and have children of their own, they won’t
feel right until they’ve tucked their children in and kissed
soon learn which buttons to push to microwave the popcorn or heat up
know that it’s the parents’ job to have tools and know
how to use them, so they can fix things when they break.
girls will get taller and wear much cooler clothes that they picked
out themselves. But when they start riding in cars without their
parents, they’ll still fasten their seatbelts because those who
love them taught them to be safe.
their nursery leaders are also teaching them patterns. How to sit
quietly for minutes at a time, to hear stories, to sing songs.
Gradually, they’ll learn to rein in their emotions and not act
on the negative ones; gradually, they’ll learn to get along
with each other well enough to move on into Sunbeam class.
who are these nursery teachers? In our ward, there’s Sister
Harward. She and her husband were serving as nursery leaders
together, when he was called up and began a tour of duty in a combat
zone. Since he’s been gone, she has continued in the calling
they fulfilled together.
you can’t take care of the nursery alone. After a succession
of substitutes and temps, the bishopric realized that the kind of
people that the ward needed to have in the nursery — reliable,
patient, wise, kind — were not going to be sitting around with
a Nursery-Ready label on them.
were going to be doing a calling already, and doing it well; they
were going to be the kind of people the bishopric and other ward
leaders were already relying on, and didn’t want to see
released from their current callings.
needed the kind of people who were prominent enough in the ward that
the message would be clear: Serving in the nursery is a calling that
is given to our best people, not to people who “won’t be
each of the bishop’s counselors proposed to the bishop that his
wife be called for a one-year tour of duty in the nursery. They
weren’t stupid — they had already talked to their wives
and knew that they were willing.
the ward clerk got wind of what was being talked about, he said, “My
wife has said many times that nursery was a calling she’d love
to have. Why not include her, too?”
are three women of great faith and talent, whose good works are
already known to all. They have joined Sister Harward, who presides
over this faculty, and now the pattern is that on any given Sunday,
one of them will have the week off — so she can attend Relief
Society and Sunday School.
it comes time to replace them, there is no chance that the newly
called ward member will think, resentfully, “Is nursery the
best thing you could find for me to do?”
the contrary, they’ll know that they’re taking the places
of the best and the brightest, because that’s what our little
children need, that’s what they deserve, and that’s what
children will not remember how these nursery teachers loved and cared
for them. The parents may not really understand — after all,
their job was to sneak out of nursery at the first opportunity.
the Savior knows who is looking after the little children. “Behold
your little ones,” he said (3 Ne 17:23). “Suffer little
children to come unto me ... for of such is the kingdom of God”
(Mark 10:14; Luke 18:16).
he said, “Inasmuch as ye do it unto the least of these, ye do
it unto me” (D&C 42:38). “And thy Father, who seeth
in secret, shall reward thee openly” (2 Ne 13:4, 6, 18; Matthew
6:4, 6, 18).
Orson Scott Card is the author of the novels Ender's Game, Ender's
Shadow, and Speaker for the Dead, which are widely read by adults and
younger readers, and are increasingly used in schools.
Besides these and other science fiction novels, Card writes contemporary
fantasy (Magic Street,Enchantment,Lost Boys), biblical novels (Stone Tables,Rachel and Leah), the American frontier fantasy series The Tales of Alvin Maker
(beginning with Seventh Son), poetry (An Open Book), and many plays and
Card was born in Washington and grew up in California, Arizona, and
Utah. He served a mission for the LDS Church in Brazil in the early 1970s.
Besides his writing, he teaches occasional classes and workshops and directs
plays. He also teaches writing and literature at Southern Virginia University.
Card currently lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife,
Kristine Allen Card, and their youngest child, Zina Margaret.