YSAs connect with their ancestors, each other in family history events at the Utah Area YSA conference

Young single adults at Gather Together Conference on Aug. 19 connected with each other and their own family history in the conference’s Family History series of events

Young single adults at the Gather Together Conference on Aug. 19 connected with each other and their own family history in the Family History series of events at the convention-style culminating event of the 2023 Utah Area Young Single Adult Conference.

The Aug. 19 conference was held in the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah, with one of the rooms in the convention center dedicated to family history activities, including experience booths, cultural celebrations and speakers dedicated to gathering scattered Israel.

Learn more about these activities below.

Experience booths

Young people interacting with screens in an interactive experience booth.
Eight “Experience Booths” were set up across the room at the Gather Together Conference on Aug. 19, 2023, for the young single adults in attendance to connect with their ancestors and each other. | Ryker Eggenberger, Church News

Eight “Experience Booths” were set up across the room, some of which were dedicated to helping participants learn more about their genealogy while others focused more on connecting the user with their friends.

For instance, one booth featured multiple screens with QR codes that participants could scan to log in to their FamilySearch account, bringing up an interactive world map with icons for each of their ancestors that were stored in the FamilySearch database. Each of the icons could be expanded for further study on each particular ancestor.

The activities also featured photo booths with green screen backgrounds and opportunities to journal and ponder. There was also a booth with laptops and volunteers, who helped participants research their ancestry on FamilySearch.

Cultural dances

A group of Polynesian women in traditional clothing performing a dance number.
The Malialole Dance Company and the South Jordan 11th YSA Ward performed traditional and contemporary Polynesian cultural dances at the Utah Area YSA conference on Aug. 19, 2023. | Ryker Eggenberger, Church News

In addition to the experience booths, the family history room also featured cultural dance performances from the Ngoma y’African Cultural Center and the Malialole Dance Company ( which was joined by the South Jordan 11th YSA Ward). Both groups performed traditional and contemporary Polynesian dances.

James Johnson, a young single adult from Provo, Utah, attended both the African and Polynesian cultural dances, said the activities were helping to unite the children of God.

“Bringing more cultures from around the world together and sharing makes us more human and connected,” he said.

Sister Tracy Y. Browning

Two women sit on a stage and hold microphones in front of a crowd of young people.
Sister Tracy Y. Browning, second counselor in the Primary general presidency, spoke in the family history room about the importance of gathering scattered Israel — although in a way that not many young single adults have heard it before. | Ryker Eggenberger, Church News

Sister Tracy Y. Browning, second counselor in the Primary general presidency, spoke in the family history room about the importance of gathering scattered Israel — although in a way that not many young single adults have heard it before.

“Every time we hear those words, I think it can be complex — it feels complex. ‘Gathering of Israel’ feels like we’re talking about ancient Israel,” she said.

She quoted the 2021 “Friend to Friend” broadcast in which President Russell M. Nelson asked Primary children what they thought the gathering of scattered Israel is.

“He said the gathering of Israel is learning the teachings of Jesus Christ and abiding by them, ... keeping the commandments, helping someone in need, sharing what you know about the Savior and preparing now to go to the temple to be baptized for an ancestor,” she said.

She included that, for young single adults, it might also include performing additional sacred ordinances in the holy temple.

“What I love about this is it really does simplify, ‘what is the gathering of scattered Israel?’”

She said that taking intentional steps to fulfill those criteria outlined by President Nelson is part of everyone’s purpose as children of God, and doing so will bring “us connection in a special way.”

“We all have a purpose from God,” she said. “And in our purpose, we have to be quite intentional.”

Elder Corbitt: Running from gangs to running towards Christ

Brother Ahmad S. Corbitt, a General Authority Seventy, was asked how understanding his cultural identity has helped him connect with other people and share the gospel.

Elder Corbitt, who was sustained as a General Authority in April general conference after serving in the Young Men general presidency, shared his conversion story with the audience. “Believe it or not, my cultural identity is secondary in my mind and in my heart.”

He said his first identity is being a child of God. “Nothing about me goes above that.”

And he hoped the same for everyone in the audience. 

“I was born to parents who were affiliated with the nation of Islam. I was held by Malcom X as a baby, and we lived in communities that were … very dangerous. I ran for my life on 10 or 12 occasions — if I had been caught I wouldn’t be here.”

“How does a guy go from that type of intense racial identity to absolutely knowing that he is first and foremost a child of God?” Elder Corbitt asked.

“It takes time,” he said, answering his own question. “But it comes by living the gospel and embracing the gospel of Christ.”

He said the real question is how to keep our cultural identities secondary to being a child of God and disciple of Jesus Christ. “It may not happen all at once … but I testify if you work at it — if we work at it — over time, we become what the Lord sees as most important in us. 

Elder Corbitt said he wasn’t saying that cultural identity is not important; “cultural identity is important — it just needs to be in the context of eternity.”

When members put eternal identities first, Elder Corbitt says their cultural identity will “become richer.”

He said that this is because “you see why God sent you to the culture, the ethnicity, the race, the gender that He did. You see it in an eternal context.” 

He called it a “cultural mission.”

Elder Hugo E. Martinez

Elder Hugo E. Martinez, first counselor in the Utah Area Presidency, and his wife, Sister Nuria Alva de Martinez, spoke about the joy they’ve found through doing family history.

“It brought me to tears,” Elder Martinez said, especially as he and Sister Martinez began completing temple work for their ancestors. It was not until 2022, that there was a temple in their home of Puerto Rico.

Sister Martinez said before joining the Church, she believed that her unbaptized ancestors resided in a state of “limbo” after death.

But then she discovered that the Church cares about those who came before, she said.

“I think that this is the only Church in the world that goes back to look at those who have died, to bring them into the fold [and offer] ordinances,” Sister Martinez said. “.They have the same chance that I have … to go back to our heavenly home. I find that really exceptional and moving.”

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