In Episode 88 of the Church News podcast, Young Men General President Steven J. Lund and Sister Rebecca L. Craven, second counselor in the Young Women general presidency, share what they have learned preparing for and launching For the Strength of Youth conferences in the United States and Canada.|
In Episode 88 of the Church News podcast, Young Men General President Steven J. Lund and Sister Rebecca L. Craven, second counselor in the Young Women general presidency, share what they have learned preparing for and launching For the Strength of Youth conferences in the United States and Canada.
Counselors and staff prepare for the For the Strength of Youth conference at BYU in Provo, Utah, in the summer of 2022.
Sister Kalleen Lund, left, and President Steven J. Lund, Young Men general president, smile to the attendees after the For the Strength of Youth Conference at BYU in Provo, Utah on Friday, June 3, 2022.
Credit: Mengshin Lin, Deseret News
Sister Becky Craven makes a comment in a joint discussion between the Young Women and Young Men general presidencies on the development of the 2020 youth theme Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019, at the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City.
Credit: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Young women study the scriptures during a For the Strength of the Youth Conference in 2015.
Credit: Intellectual Reserve
In July 2019, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced an extensive new Children and Youth program to strengthen the rising generation’s faith in Christ. This effort includes expanding For the Strength of Youth conferences, also known as FSY, in countries across the globe. These popular five-day events consist of a series of devotionals, classes and activities geared toward youth ages 14-18 years old. This June, after a pandemic delay, the first sessions in the United States and Canada have run at full strength.
Young Men General President Steven J. Lund and Sister Rebecca L. Craven, second counselor in the Young Women general presidency, join this episode of the Church News podcast — with guest host Ryan Jensen, Church News director of audience and reach — to share what they have learned preparing for and launching For the Strength of Youth conferences in the United States and Canada. They also discuss how both parents and leaders can help youth to prepare for and sustain spiritual momentum after attending FSY.
President Steven J. Lund: We have a Young Men’s Aaronic priesthood quorum theme and there’s a Young Women’s theme and at FSY they teach to that theme and these young people learn that this isn’t a poem that we recite when we get together. This is truth. I am a beloved Son of God. I am a beloved daughter of Heavenly Parents. That’s not an aria. That’s truth and they can learn it in this place by coming under the influence of the Spirit for this period of time. We hope that every youth activity feels like what we’re describing here, where the Spirit is plentiful and where the young people are looking for each other, but when we can stack those events, day after day after day for five days and have them feel it with that kind of intensity, their souls kind of catch up with their bodies before they go home and they go home changed.
Sarah Jane Weaver: I’m Sarah Jane Weaver, editor of The Church News. Welcome to The Church News podcast. We are taking you on a journey of connection as we discuss news and events of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In July 2019, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced an extensive new children and youth program to strengthen the rising generations’ faith in Jesus Christ. This effort includes expanding For the Strength of Youth conferences, also known as FSY in countries across the globe. These popular five-day events consist of a series of devotionals, classes and activities geared towards youth aged 14 to 18 years old, modeled after BYU’s Especially for Youth sessions. Now in June 2022, after a pandemic delay, the first sessions in the United States and Canada have run at full strength for the first time. On this episode of The Church News podcast, Ryan Jensen, Church News director of audience and reach, serves as guest host talking about the importance of these historic conferences with Young Men General President Stephen J. Lund and Sister Rebecca L. Craven, the second counselor in the Young Women general presidency. Welcome all three of you today to The Church News podcast.
Jon Ryan Jensen: Thanks, Sarah. President Lund, Sister Craven, I’m really excited to get to talk with you today. My first experience with FSY actually came five years ago when I attended an FSY conference in Guatemala and from there, I thought, “Wow, this is a really, really powerful thing that the Church is doing for the youth,” and then it was announced that it was going to happen here in the United States in 2019, but it’s taken a little bit longer than anticipated to come about. So, with the two of you, help us remember what the purpose is of FSY conferences and what we hope the youth will get out of these?
President Steven J. Lund: There’s a reason that the Lord’s suggested that it’s a good idea for us to come together, to meet together in Church, to have a community of Saints come together, because together, we can draw upon each other’s strengths and knowledge and testimonies, and everybody gets uplifted. Well, that’s the basic foundation of the For Strength of Youth conferences. This is a place where kids can come out of the world for five days and come under the influence of the Spirit and then remain there long enough for that Spirit to soak all the way into their bones and during that period of time they make commitments and make decisions and discover a little bit of who they are and what their place is in the Kingdom of God and as a result, they go away on a much higher plane, better able to deal with the realities of the real world.
Sister Rebecca L. Craven: President Lund will, I’m sure, agree with me about this, but the number one question that we receive from youth, wherever we go, anywhere in the world, is, “How do I know that I’m feeling the Spirit?” “How do I know what the voice of the Lord sounds like?” Because they know that President Nelson has asked all of us to learn how to hear the voice of the Lord and that we would need that Spirit, the Holy Ghost, to help us in the trying times that we’re in and those times that are ahead and this is a great opportunity for our youth, as President Lund said, to come out of the world and be in an environment where they are with other youth. They’re with young single adult counselors. They’re in a space that they’re surrounded by the Spirit and they will have opportunities, then, to internalize that and see for themselves what it means to live the covenants that they made at baptism and draw upon that gift of the Holy Ghost that they were given at that time to help them throughout their lives.
Jon Ryan Jensen: I really appreciate how both of you explained that. One of the things that I’ve heard from youth and parents, is sometimes when we describe what FSY looks like, is that it sounds like we’re sending them, to like, a mini MTC. They’re going to go to this, you know, “How to Be a Good Youth Training Center” and so there’s scripture reading all day long and listening to conference talks all day long, but yet, that’s not what the actual experience is, from day to day. Can the two of you share what you’ve seen as you’ve attended the conferences and the environment that they’re actually in?
Sister Rebecca L. Craven: Well, they are in a spiritual environment, but can’t you feel the Spirit in a dance, or during pizza night, or playing games, the same way as maybe you would feel the Spirit in another activity or in a class or in a devotional? Because when they are together, when they’re gathered together, and they’re bonding with other youth who have made similar covenants that they have made, the Spirit can be felt in a whole variety of ways and activities. We have to remember that the Spirit is very individual, because we are so individual, and our youth are so individual. They will have an opportunity, as they are with other like-minded youth, to feel the Spirit in a lot of the things that they do and so unlike the MTC, they will have dances, and they will play games, and they will run around and they will do spiritual things, as well, but this is meant to be fun, because the gospel of Jesus Christ is the gospel of joy and we forget that sometimes; that regardless of what we are doing, when we have the Spirit with us, it can be fun, as I think the youth would describe it, we know it as joy. That’s the way the scriptures describe it, but it’s a place really to feel that Spirit, no matter what they’re doing.
President Steven J. Lund: I heard a young man talking to some counselors at one of the sessions last week and he said, “Wow, this is so great.” He says, “You know, I’ve never seen fun and Church have never existed in the same universe in my life. This is the first time I’ve ever seen fun, and Church meld together to where I can enjoy them both together.” So, that’s the goal there, is to have activities that are so interactive and engaging, that everybody’s happy they’re there, while at the same time they’re talking about important things and bonding together around important themes that are really transformative in their lives.
Jon Ryan Jensen: Let’s talk a little bit about those themes. FSY has been positioned as the cornerstone program of the Children and Youth Program, which has four specific areas where youth grow. How do the youth who participated in FSY grow in those four areas of emphasis?
President Steven J. Lund: You know, we’ve kind of stopped talking about the four areas of emphasis so much, because it’s paralyzing to people. When our leaders and our youth get together and think about, “OK, we got to get these four areas, what are they again?” You know, it ends up kind of binding them up, but you’re right, that at this conference it’s not one dimensional. The one major thing we hope will happen at every Children and Youth activity, Young Men, Young Women, is that they will feel the presence of the Spirit and draw closer to the Savior and come to better understand His relationship with them and theirs to Him. So, that’s job one, and it happens. That comes in lots of ways, doesn’t it, that can happen, you know, amazingly, even on a dance floor, in that environment, but out playing games and doing things for each other. There’s a talent night, you know, which you think that checks one of those boxes, you know, about personal development or whatever, but it actually crosses all of the barriers, because it’s stunning to me how quickly these kids fall in love with each other. Somebody will get up and they’re playing a ukulele and singing a Scottish ballad, or they’re doing a karate demonstration that might get rocks thrown out at their high school, but whatever it is, they would get to the end of their performance and these kids would come out of their chairs like they had just cured cancer The support and the love and the embrace, suddenly there are kids coming out of their chairs to come up and perform who never in the world would have dared do this, but this is such a safe environment. So, the Spirit that gets created there, the culture of acceptance, and you know, we’re all in this together and this thing that we’re about is bigger than we are, is truly a transformative thing. That’s, the Spirit of God resting on his people.
Jon Ryan Jensen: That reminds me of an experience that we had last week. I attended a Friday, the end of a session with you at BYU, and there was a young man and a young woman who were invited up to the stage. He looked like a very shy young man. It reminded me a little bit of myself. I would not have been a big performer when I was in high school and that music started and the two of them did some ballroom dancing that just absolutely brought down the house and you know that not given the opportunity, he might not have been willing to do that in front of 1700 people who he had not met previous to that Monday, but there they were dancing their hearts out.
President Steven J. Lund: Yeah, that was fun and that’s an example of this, that you don’t have to be a rock star to be appreciated in that kind of an environment.
Jon Ryan Jensen: FSY is a program is one that the Church is offering for youth to attend twice, from the time they turn 14 till the time they leave the Young Men and Young Women program. Can you talk a little bit about why that frequency and, you know, maybe some of what you hope happens in the in between years?
President Steven J. Lund: The timing could even work out, they might have a window three times, come along between, you know, the year they turn 12 and the year that they turn 19, but the idea is, we have learned through Church research that young people who have this experience end up on just a healthier trajectory. Obviously, you don’t have to go to FSY conference to attain salvation. It’s not a saving ordinance, but the strength of testimony, the commitment, the understanding of what the covenant path looks like, is so powerfully demonstrated in this place, that those young people just find it easier to find themselves on missions, in the temple, you know, getting married and staying on the covenant path than those who haven’t had that expensive vision and so, in the past, though, it’s been hard to get to these. They’re been kind of scattered around, it was expensive, there was a lot of travel involved and seeing what a wonderful experience it is for them, the Senior Brethren determined, “Well, this ought not to be about money, not to be about place” and their objective quickly became, as we were putting together the Children Youth program that Sister Craven was part of, was to allow every young person in the Church the opportunity once, or twice or three times in their youth years to have this intensive bolus of spiritual experience and of unity that comes from these kinds of activities so that it can propel them into the big, life-changing decision making period of life that follows right behind their teenage years.
Sister Rebecca L. Craven: FSY is actually a major part of the Children in Youth program and, so, that’s one of the reasons we are just trying to have all of our youth participate as often as they are able to and hoping that parents and leaders will move Heaven and Earth to get the youth there. Children and Youth has three parts to it. It’s gospel living, service and activities, and it’s personal development. And all of these three aspects of Children and Youth are practiced there. They’re demonstrated there and the devotionals, and the personal scripture study, and the group study and sharing testimonies, the youth are strengthening their gospel living. Of course, there’s great service and activities that happen at FSY, anywhere from, as you’ve mentioned, the talent show, to pizza night. So, that is a really fun part of FSY. That is part of the Children and Youth program and then that aspect of personal development also was greatly emphasized as the youth learn how to set goals there. They goal sat and they go home with new things that they’re going to do and try and it’s actually a great support to the Children and Youth program.
President Steven J. Lund: It’s a place where they can discover the righteous desires of their heart, the things that will actually bring them joy and actually start developing some goals around those righteous desires. You know, one of the fun things that I saw last week, they held these dances, and like any youth dance, there are those that are out participating and then there’s a ring of maybe hundreds of kids, you know, on the outside without really having the confidence to move forward and there was this one boy who was sitting there reading during the dance. Everybody’s jumping up and down alongside and he’s reading and so a couple of counselors go over and try to pull him out of the deal and he says, “Hey, FSY did this to me. I’ve never been interested in the scriptures and now I can’t put them down and you want me to put them down and go dance. Alright, fine.” You know, and he closed the book. “You did this to me.”
Sister Rebecca L. Craven: I was talking to a young woman this past Friday night after she had been through a goal setting session and I just asked her, I said, “So, you’re going to go home tomorrow and what are you taking with you?” and she says, “You know what, I am going to go home, and I am no longer going to be acted upon.” I said, “Well, what do you mean by that?” She says, “My brothers and sisters do things that bug me and so I have these pet peeves and I let the things that they do bug me and so, I am reacting to somebody else’s actions.” She says, “I’m not going to let that happen anymore, because I’ve realized while I’ve been at FSY, that I’ve been really unhappy and I think by changing this one thing, by allowing myself to determine how I’m going to be happy and how I’m going to react to things that others do, that this is going to change me and I’m going to be happy and it’s going to change how things run in my family.” So, of all the things she could have said, or could have told me, and there were probably other things that she had learned at FSY, but that was your takeaway, “I am no longer going to let other people’s actions determine my happiness.”
President Steven J. Lund: Isn’t that great?
Rebecca L. Craven: Isn’t that wonderful?
Jon Ryan Jensen: It’s a great story. One of the contributing factors to the youth having a good time and a good experience at FSY is the counselors that they have and both of you have touched on this a little bit, but they have young adult counselors who are there, who in many cases they’ve never met before, but yet we see youth really bond with them over this five-day period. Can you describe what that relationship is like and what happens in order to help the youth through these young adults at each of these sessions?
Sister Rebecca L. Craven: Well, I think one thing is that the short age difference between a 16- or 17-year-old and maybe a 20, or 21 year-old or a little bit older, young, single adult, really helps the youth connect with them. There’s this cool factor that they have that allows the youth to look at them on a short range and say, “Oh, I can be like them. They’re having fun, but they’re also spiritual and they’re doing really great things with their lives and maybe I can do that, too.” So we think we’re cool, don’t we, but I don’t think that the youth think that we’re that cool, because we’re just a little older.
President Steven J. Lund: We are way cool.
Sister Rebecca L. Craven: We are, I just don’t think we know that.
President Steven J. Lund: We are only ones who know that. That is one of the great things. These young single adults that are mentoring these kids there are the definition of role model. We’ve chosen them carefully. We’ve prayed these young people into place and you walk around and see them and they just radiate goodness that rubs off on these young people who are able to look at somebody who’s two, or three, or four, or five years older than them, and say, “Alright, they’ve figured out how to do this, how to live the gospel and find joy on the covenant path. I can do this too. You know, and in fact, I could do worse than they grew up to look like that. I want to be that.”
Jon Ryan Jensen: I spoke with one young woman last week, who pretty much said just that same thing. Her mom had just picked her up, I’m speaking with the two of them, and I said, “What was the experience with your counselor?” and she said, “I loved my counselor and she counseled me to do this and did not do that and to do this and that I would be happier” and her mom said, “Well, I say all those same things to you” and she said, “Yeah, but she was just in high school, Mom.” You know, she recognized that same thing and if she was just in high school and could achieve that level that I want to aspire to be like, then yes, “I will listen to you” does not displace the role of parents, but certainly does give them that short term, objective to say, “I can be like that counselor, who I really enjoyed spending this week with.”
President Steven J. Lund: You know, there’s another value proposition to these YSA showing up. That is, you know, this year, we have over 100,000 young people who’ve signed up in the United States and Canada to attend these and a couple of thousand young single adults coming to serve. So, these are a couple of thousands of young single adults who are maybe our least well-tapped, utilized, most overlooked resource in the church, who are directly powerful impact players and building the Kingdom through these young people and so, the more that we can engage our young single adults and our young adults across the spectrum in helping do this lift of engaging our young people and having them feel like they’re part of the community of Christ together, the faster the Kingdom is going to grow.
Jon Ryan Jensen: What recently returned missionary doesn’t love having a captive audience to talk about mission experiences with and you see that happen in these FSY groups, and temple experiences. If they’ve taken that next step on the covenant path, they’re sharing that experience with the youth, as well, and you can just see the youth registering, “I am close to being able to do that exact same thing.”
Sister Rebecca L. Craven: Well, I think also the rate of conversion is much higher at FSY than it probably was for some missionaries who were serving before.
President Steven J. Lund: That’s what we tell the young single adults, “Oh, if you’re just coming off a mission you’re going to love this. These people actually want to listen to you.” They’re actually interested and what a great reset it is for these young people who’ve just come off of missions and are being drawn back into the world with the worldly cares and, you know, trying to figure out who they are and now that they’re home from their missions and yet, in an old environment where they’re used to being somebody else, to come and get this reset of feeling the Spirit again for extended periods of time in order to help, you know, establish their moorings. It’s a wonderful thing.
Jon Ryan Jensen: Well, five days of fun activities, service, prayer, scripture study, amazing counselors, all of that is really beneficial, but at the end of the day, these youth are going to go home. When they do get home, what do you hope that their parents and leaders do to help sustain that spiritual growth of the youth have seen after FSY?
Rebecca L. Craven: I first hope that the parents will ask them what their experience was and not just throw them back into their chores and everything else that they have to do. I think there’s a tendency to have the children come home, or these youth come home, and just not acknowledged the life-changing experience that they had. So, hopefully, parents and families and leaders will build upon the experiences that the youth had and continue to strengthen them and learn from them, as well. There are a lot of youth that will go home to families that aren’t very strong, that have some challenges and if they will just listen and ask questions, what they can learn from their youth, returning into their homes can really strengthen their homes, as well, and strengthen their Priesthood quorums, it can strengthen their Young Women classes, it can strengthen their wards, if we build upon what they’ve learned. So, we hope it doesn’t just go by the wayside. I mean, there’s some activities that are built-in already. There are some pre-activities that the stake is supposed to do before the youth go to FSY to help prepare them. There’s also some activities when they get back to build upon them. I think one of the differences between this and say, Youth Conference, is that the youth all go together. They’re hearing the same messages. They’re having the same activities and so, when they come back, it’s one message. It’s not a fragmented message that parents and leaders are trying to put together, but they can build upon just this one, single message and strengthen them throughout the year.
President Steven J. Lund: You know, families who send their youth off to these activities, can’t really understand or appreciate what’s gone on there and when they come home, they won’t always recognize that somebody different has come around. My wife was a Young Women’s president for many years and she used to shock people a little bit on the Sunday night before they’d go off to girls camp, she would tell the parents, “When you drop them off on Tuesday morning, you hug them tight, and you kiss him goodbye, because they’re not coming back” and everybody’s all shocked and she would say, “When you drop them off on Tuesday, they’re going to be one way and we’re going to spend a week praying with, them and teaching the gospel, and bearing testimonies, and serving each other, and doing stuff, and the Spirit is going to, you know, bathe them in uplifting atmospherics while they’re gone and Saturday, when they come home, they’re going to be changed creatures. They’ll come from a different place and if you treat them on Saturday, like the Tuesday girls you dropped off, you’re really missing something. You new need to pick them up from the place that they land coming home and build them from there, because they will come home having made different commitments than they went away with.” And that’s our hope for these activities too. These kids are going to come home ready to continue to progress and move forward together.
Jon Ryan Jensen: You’ve been able to see two years of this program being tested here in the United States through one of the most trying periods of the country’s history and especially for these youth where they’ve been through so many unique experiences in an unprecedented time. Are there stories, are there specific things that have stood out to you where you say that, that’s what we hoped we would see, we’re so glad to see that happening so that they can come out of this time period with the positive momentum that President Russell M. Nelson has encouraged them to have?
Sister Rebecca L. Craven: COVID was pretty rough on our youth. So, gathering them together has been a great focus and yet a lot of them are hesitant. There’s some anxiety, because they haven’t been gathering that much. So, getting them to attend FSY has been a little bit of a challenge and last year, and I will say this year, too, just in my limited experience so far this year, is that some of those youth come very, very reluctantly and they’re the ones that are sitting on the wall in front of the cafeteria that aren’t engaging in any way shape or form on day one and they’re there and they will admit it under duress and that mom dropped him off at the corner and said, “I’ll see you Saturday” and yet, a day or two in, they’re crying, because they don’t want to go home on Saturday. Just this last week I spoke to a counselor who told an experience of a young man in his group, who was very standoffish, and actually was acting out a little bit. He did not want to be there and was not participating in any way, but the rest of the company and the rest of his group kept reaching out to him and bringing him in and little by little, he started to participate and his counselor said by Wednesday, he was leading the group and by the time he was ready to leave the next morning, his counselor said, that this young man told me, he says, “I feel like I belong and I really want this to last.” And that’s one of the things that we really hope that FSY will do is help our youth belong to each other, see that there are more youth with those same ideals and hopes and desires to build their testimonies, that there are more youth than they perceive just in their own selves. If they actually get outside themselves and they share the gospel with others and their testimonies, but there’s a sense of belonging that happens and a sense of “I’m needed” that happens at FSY that I think we’re seeing pretty consistently, aren’t we?
President Steven J. Lund: Yeah, healing from the negative effects of the COVID lockdown is one of the, you know, maybe unexpected outcomes of these activities. You know, one story I heard was, there was one group were 18, boys and girls, nine and nine, all strangers, none of them knew each other showed up and the first day, they’re kind of hugging the opposite walls in the place and trying to get as far away from each other as they could and as far away from the opposite gender as they could. By Wednesday, they had an activity planned where boys were going one way for a pizza party and girls were going another way for the pizza party and there was kind of a fight about that, because they wanted to go together. You know, “Why would you break us up? We’re a team here,” and so just that quickly, to transition from this COVID, you know, feeling of isolation to, you know, being ready to, you know, to lock arms and be part of a greater whole is just a wonderful thing. I think they go home and they don’t see the world the way they did before they came into this environment, because they’ve discovered that they can fight their way through the anxieties maybe that had grown over the years.
Sister Rebecca L. Craven: I think they find a safe place to be a little bit vulnerable, as well. We talked to a couple of youth who bore their testimonies for the first time and yet, when they sat in that testimony meeting, they couldn’t be refrained from getting up. One young man just said, “I haven’t born my testimony for eight years.” I did the math and it didn’t quite work, but I think what he was saying…
President Steven J. Lund: So, it was Primary.
Sister Rebecca L. Craven: Exactly, I think what he was saying is, “I can’t remember the last time I bore my testimony.” But he said, “I sat there and I couldn’t sit in my seat.” But he also admitted that that would have been really difficult to do again for the first time after a long time, at home, but now having done that, having had that experience of following the Spirit and being able to share a simple testimony, he said, “Now gives me courage to go home and know that I can do that. I don’t have to go home and give a talk. I can stand up and I can bear testimony about Jesus Christ.”
Jon Ryan Jensen: I love that. Thank you for sharing those experiences. President Lund Sister Craven, within the scope of each of your stewardships, your responsibilities, could you share maybe the one thing President Lund that you hope young men will get out of attending FSY – Sister Craven, the one thing that you really hope that young women will get out of attending FSY?
President Steven J. Lund: Of course, the leading thing that we hope they’ll get out of this is a better awareness of their place in the Kingdom of God, that there’s a God in Heaven who loves them and this is a place where they can come to know that and one of the ways they come to know that is by looking out for each other and our hope is that before they ever go to the FSY experience this summer that they will already have engaged in this. We’re hoping that our quorum presidencies and the class presidencies are thinking hard today, it’s not too late to sign up, of course, there’s still lots of seats. Anybody out there who’s willing to go, we’ll find a place to go and do this thing and the hope is that quorum presidencies are in their weekly presidency meetings, on their knees praying about, “How can we get all of us together, go find that shy person in the class that’s afraid to go and put an arm around them and say, ‘We’ll go together and we’ll get through this together,’” and by looking out for each other and kind of carrying each other there and through, well, Heavenly Father accompanies them on that little journey. There’s another arm around their shoulders as they go there. So, that’s maybe the most powerful thing that they will learn there is that when they go about serving Heavenly Father, He always comes with them.
Jon Ryan Jensen: As the father of a 14-year-old, who’s about to attend FSY for the first time, I really appreciate that thought, that sentiment.
Sister Rebecca L. Craven: We hope also that they have a deepened sense of who they are, you know, that just basic doctrine, that they are children of God, because it really changes everything and youth are questioning who they are right now and wondering where they fit in God’s plan. He has a perfect plan for them and in all of their individuality and the different paths that they might be on, we hope that they can see that they can be also firmly on the covenant path back to Him. And when they start to really internalize who they are, they also treat other people, as sons and daughters of a Heavenly Father, as well, of Heavenly Parents and it breaks down all kinds of barriers, as they see each other as brothers and sisters and they realize that they have this great responsibility to help gather everybody together. The Prophet has said the most important thing going on in the earth right now is gathering Israel and FSY gives them an opportunity to do that. They are growing very close to the groups that they’re in and these companies that they’re in. They go home and they have new friends. A lot of them stay in touch with each other and, you know, these are probably kids that they would not have gravitated to, maybe, at school, because of the different interests they have, but when they come to FSY, they set all of that aside and they come to learn and grow and, again, be a little bit vulnerable, and build those relationships and, hopefully, going home, understanding that who they are and that they have this great purpose in life and they don’t get caught in the distractions that are everywhere around them. They can have a singular focus back.
President Steven J. Lund: They really do fall in love with each other while they’re there and there’s a sense of Zion community that creates, which is pretty wonderful. You inspire me to answer my question a little differently than I did and that is, we have a young men’s Aaronic Priesthood quorum theme and there’s a Young Women’s theme and at FSY, they teach to that theme and these young people learn that this isn’t a poem that we recite when we get together. This is truth, that this is foundational truth. “I am a beloved Son of God.” “I am a beloved daughter of Heavenly Parents.” That’s not an aria. That’s truth, hardened and fast truth and they can learn it in this place by coming under the influence of the Spirit for this period of time. I was talking to a relative last night who spent an extended period of time in Southeast Asia recently and somebody said to him there that your soul arrives in a place about a week after your body. You have to be there for a while for the atmospherics to really soak in and that’s the beauty of this. We hope that every youth activity feels like what we’re describing here, where the Spirit is plentiful and where the young people are looking to each other, but when we can stack those events, day, after day, after day, for five days and have them feel it in, with that kind of intensity, their souls kind of catch up with their bodies, before they go home and they go home changed.
Sister Rebecca L. Craven: We ought to mention that the theme for this year is taken from Proverbs 3:5-6, which is, “Trust in Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding and all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths” and so that’s what we’re going to talk about for that week and we’re not going to get all the answers. We’re going to try to reiterate who they are and this great purpose that they have and their divine roles as sons and daughters and they’re going to go home and probably not have all the answers that they are seeking and they’re going to have many more questions as they go through life, but we hope that they will learn that regardless of the things that they don’t know or that they don’t understand that they can trust in the Lord. Those things that they do know, those things that are deep in their heart, that identity, will help them trust the Lord and continue on that covenant path.
President Steven J. Lund: And those understandings are so powerful that our common cause here, right now and into the immediate future, is getting every young person there who can come. We’re recording this at the beginning of June. These conferences are going on from now through July and into August. There are young people in every ward in the Church who aren’t going who should be who would so benefit from this and somehow, the light hasn’t been turned on to them and we just urge that if you have to walk through fire, do what you have to do, but don’t miss this experience.
Sister Rebecca L. Craven: Don’t leave anybody behind. We have planned for 110% of our youth to be there and we’re a little bit shy of that and we don’t want anybody to be left out or missing.
President Steven J. Lund: Which means we’ve got empty chairs that we’re ready to fill. So, we hope anybody listening to this will think about, “Who do I know that I need to go and pummel a little bit, hug and encourage?”
Sister Rebecca L. Craven: Bring a friend.
President Steven J. Lund: Yeah.
Jon Ryan Jensen: And if they need information, they can go to fsy.churchofjesuschrist.org to get registration information for their location, as well. Before we end, we have a tradition here at The Church News podcast where we like to give our guests the last word and we like to do that by asking a simple question and that is, “What do you know now?” Will the two of you be willing to share what you know now that you have been working on this FSY project?
Sister Rebecca L. Craven: This is not something new that I know, but it is, maybe, reinforced and deepened and that is that Heavenly Father loves his youth and He needs them and He wants them to return to Him and He’s provided FSY as a resource. It’s not the end all, but this is a resource to help them feel the Spirit and know what it feels like to have the Spirit in their lives and I have just have a deeper sense of how much He cares about His children.
President Steven J. Lund: I suppose as I think about things that I’ve learned and learned better, recently, one might be that President Russell M. Nelson wasn’t being dramatic when he invited the young people of the Church into the Lord’s youth battalions. He was being strategic. These young people have more capacity to do good and they will find more joy in doing that good than anything else that they can be doing in this life. Their abilities astonish us all the time. When they’re asked to step up and lead in planning their activities and going after the one and, you know, finding their way together as quorums and classes, it’s just so much fun to watch. As our adult leaders gradually, you know, find the courage to let them lead a little bit, these young people can feel inspiration and they can follow inspiration and so, there’s a God in Heaven who loves us, loves them, and He will help them to find their way.
Sarah Jane Weaver: You have been listening to The Church News podcast. I’m your host, Church News editor Sarah Jane Weaver. I hope you have learned something today about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by peering with me through The Church News window. Please remember to subscribe to this podcast and if you enjoyed the messages we shared today, please make sure you share the podcast with others. Thanks to our guests, to my producer, KellieAnn Halvorsen, and others who make this podcast possible. Join us every week for a new episode. Find us on your favorite podcasting channel or with other news and updates about the Church on thechurchnews.com.