This month focuses entirely on the restoration of Christ's church (I talk more about preparing for the month in general here). We start out with the gospel as Christ taught it and how He organized His church, next moving into the apostasy that occurred after His death. Then, we learn about the restoration, how it happened and some of the most important pieces of the gospel that were restored. It's going to be a pretty great month (and for those of you who have older kids in the youth programs, they are also studying the apostasy and restoration this month, so don't forget to include them in your discussions)!
As there are only three weeks of primary this month with General Conference (is was AWESOME, by the way!), there needs to be either some form of combination or cutting out. As I've read through the lesson and read helps and ideas online, I think the best way would be to combine Week 1 with a little bit of Week 2 and then finished off Week 2 combined with Week 3. Does that make sense? It will end up being a lesson and a half (ish) each week for the next two weeks.
I found a great website that teaches simply what dispensation, apostasy and restoration mean. I would start by asking the kids if they know what a dispensation means? If no one knows, I'd maybe have them say it with me (especially with the junior primary) and then tell them it's a period of time where the gospel is on the earth. Many of them may have heard that this is the last dispensation and you can see how many others they can think of (Adam, Enoch, Noah...).
After that you can ask about Jesus' dispensation, what did He do? How did He organize His church?
I really liked the idea on Pergler's Place, but I don't have lots of empty (or empty-able) bins laying around my house, I do, however, have cups. I found a few different versions and the one I like the best is on Sugardoodle here (this one is pretty good too, but I like the idea of the apostles being the base with everything else built on top better). Scroll down to the version by Kelly Buchanon (or read them both and do the one that you like).
If you're sitting there asking yourself something along the lines of "What in the heck is that girl talking about?" I apologize. I'll tell you. To talk about the dispensation Christ set up, you use cups and pictures (or printed out words). You would have a total of 19 cups. The bottom row has 6 cups with pictures of the 12 apostles (2 on each cup). The next row has 5 and has different gospel principles taught in the church. The third row are 4 important ordinances, followed by the three-fold mission of the church. Last is just one cup, with the Savior on it for the top, the head of the pyramid and the church. You can get ideas for all the levels by reading through Kelly's idea on sugardoodle.
We are trying to incorporate the scriptures more in primary, partly because the scriptures are an amazing teaching tool and partly because many of our kids are very unfamiliar with them. We not only read to them, but have the kids look up and find the scriptures with us so they are finding, hearing and reading which hopefully increases the learning. To start talking about the apostasy, look up 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3. Ask what falling away means and then you can get into my favorite part of the cup object lesson.
Talk about how once Christ died, the apostles were able to grow the church, but unfortunately, when they died, they took Christ's authority with them because the people were too wicked. Slowly pull off one of the apostle cups, if you're careful, you can do it without the whole tower falling down. Talk about how slowly it happened, it wasn't overnight, but slowly they lost their connection with Heavenly Father and then they were just going on their own.
I saw a cute idea about playing telephone to show how easily it is to get information mixed up when you aren't plugged in directly to the source. Christ taught the apostles and they taught others, but once they were gone, they couldn't fix any misunderstandings that popped up in the church.
Now you can ask what happened next? If someone mentioned the last dispensation earlier, now might be a good time to go back to them, ask about it again and how it got started? The authority to run God's church was restored all because a boy learned and lived the gospel (if you have an armor of god guy, you could motion towards and mention him here). He learned about prayer and then he prayed, trusting in God. Through Joseph Smith, the church was able to be built again.
Have the kids look up and read D&C 1:30. Who knows what the word foundation means? Have one of the kids teach the others, or you teach them and then ask: what is the foundation of our church today, what would be our base if we we're going to build our tower again? You can stick today's apostles on the back side of the same cups you used earlier (you'll have to stick a few more per cup when you include the 1st Presidency) to build it to look just like the church did in Christ's day.
Bear your testimony and then encourage the kids to gain their own testimonies of the restoration of Christ's church. A lot of my challenges center on prayer for two reasons, first it fits easiest with many of the gospel principles we are teaching and second, it has the sneaky side-affect of encouraging the kids to pray. Encourage them to pray about Joseph Smith, the first vision, or that this is truly Christ's church re-established today. The most important thing is to get them talking with their Heavenly Father and feeling the Holy Ghost in their lives!
If you want to learn a little more about the apostasy and restoration, just for your own information (although, I find the more I know, the more excited I am about sharing and teaching), check out Elder Oak's great talk on the subject.
Have a great week!
PS. If you have a great idea I didn't mention, I'd love to hear about it!