Tommy came about simply through inspiration based on an original idea from my children's primary school.
As a new Primary Presidency, we were meeting together and brainstorming ways to encourage our primary members to be reverent, and invite more participation. We also, were wanting to encourage and reinforce a pattern at home with regular prayer and scripture reading.
For the senior primary we expanded on the B.E.A.R.S – Be Excited About Reading Scriptures program I had discovered on sugardoodle. If you would to see the expansion you can follow this link. [This will become live within the next week, sorry for the delay. I am rebuilding it as the original final is doing odd things?!].
As for the junior primary, the following idea just 'popped' for me, simply because I had just had 'Ruper Bear' visit from school. [Ruper comes home to spend a week with a child in, the then, 'Master 4's' class at school. We take photos and journal what Ruper and 'Master 4' had done together to take back the following week to share with his class]. And having just done this with Ruper, during our brainstorming session 'Tommy' came to mind. Although at the time I didn't have a name.
Tommy is a large, approximately 40cm tall, snuggly teddy bear. He has his own bag packed with a pair of pjs, two changes of clothes [t-shirts and denim overalls], church clothes [including trousers, white shirt and tie], a hat and scarf for winter, and a cap for summer. He also has his own toothbrush, set of scriptures and journal.
His full name is 'Tommy Monson Bear.' And was named such in memory of our prophet President Monson who, tells a story of how as a boy, he too was disruptive in Primary.
When I first explained this to 'Master 4' I didn't do an especially good job, and he thought that the prophet had become the bear to visit with him. The absolute look of awe and loving hug given to the bear as he spoke 'you chose to stay with me?!' was priceless. And heart breaking because I did need to clarify and in-turn probably burst his bubble. Thankfully he understood, and wasn't the least bit 'bubble burst.'
For over a year now the the junior children have sat smartly, reverently and enthusiastically participated as Tommy bear has quietly sat watching and 'choosing' who he will go home with for the coming week. [We actually keep a track of who has him so that no-one misses out].
The child who Tommy selects, by whispering to the primary leader, gets to take Tommy home and take care of him. They all know he is very little and still learning, so the child responsible for Tommy that week will show him how to say his prayers and help him to read his scriptures. A journal is provided for photographs, hand drawn pictures or any another items collected to help journal Tommy's week with that child.
All our children and parents alike have responded very well to this program we started. And as this year's theme 'I know the scriptures are true' is upon us. We thought it a perfect opportunity to 'upgrade' Tommy.
Instead of just letting him go home with a child and have fun at home with them, we have assigned Tommy tasks. Each week a question is given to Tommy by a member of the presidency, that correlates directly with the theme topic from that Sunday.
For example, the first week Tommy was let home this year, his assignment was as follows:
Tommy, the scriptures are unlike any other book because they are written by God's prophets and are the word of God. This week can you please find your favourite scripture story, and read it from the scriptures.
I would like you to tell me what story you chose and which book did you find it in?
Love you, Sister Horne ox
Then directly beneath this assignment Tommy has a problem for them to solve...
I'm a bit worried, my favourite scripture story is about Captain Moroni and I don't know how to find it! I opened my Book of Mormon and found I was in the Doctrine and Covenants?! Why did that happen, and what happened to Captain Moroni? Please help me I'm confused.
For this particular week, when the journal was returned, the child was able to share what they had learnt with Tommy, and then show the primary the 'Title of Liberty' they had made together with Tommy. There were photographs documenting the activity and the follow on games played as a result.
We also have Tommy participating with the worldwide Primary 2011 challenge and he too has a paper chain of his own. Except his link has a teddy bear graphic attached with the words 'Tommy read with [child's name]' for the child to attach.
2011 Journal Assignments for Tommy Bear