SALZBURG, Austria Nested in the green hills of Salzburg, by the picturesque lake at Obertrum, young single adults from the three German-speaking countries of Austria, Germany and Switzerland gathered from July 31 to Aug. 5 for spiritual renewal and to build friendships.
Shortly after Elder Wolfgang H. Paul of the Seventy began his remarks to open the conference, rain began to fall so fiercely on the tent where the meeting was held that no one could hear him speak. When he was unable to continue, the more than 1,100 young people began to sing. It became a contest to outsing the storm.
When Elder Paul resumed his remarks, it seemed that nature itself had felt the vitality of this new generation of European members.
They came by bus, train, car and airplane with the purpose of becoming a new generation of faith in central Europe.
The conference became the natural extension of the Outreach Initiative that was emphasized during Elder L. Tom Perry's leadership while serving as president of the Europe Central Area. The Outreach Initiative serves the young people in Europe as place to meet, a safe haven for socializing as well as for spiritual instruction through the institute of religion.
There are 23 Institute Outreach Centers in Central Europe today.
The year 2006 is a year of celebration in Salzburg, renowned for its beauty and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart who was born here 250 years ago. To join in the celebration, the "Kammerchor Vocalis," composed of young adults from northern and central Germany, led by Sonja Sperling of Frankfurt, performed a benefit concert in the Universitatskirche in the central old town of Salzburg.
For an hour and a half the choir performed Mozart, Mendelssohn and excerpts from Handel's Messiah.
The audience of more than 300 was particularly reverent when the choir sang, "Ich wei?, da? Mein Erloser lebt" (I Know that My Redeemer Lives).
Each morning and afternoon, groups of young people traveled the short distance to the historic old city to join with local full-time missionaries in greeting and befriending residents and tourists on the streets.
This is the third Young Single Adult conference of this nature. A conference was held in Fiesch, Switzerland, in 2004 with 400 attending. In 2005, an estimated 800 attended a conference in Kiel, Germany.
The 2006 conference in Salzburg was organized by the Young Single Adult Council: Julia Roth, Katharina Lerchner, Rahel Grunauer, Elische Grunauer, Bernhard Martins, Barbara Wambacher, David Egger, Jasmin Zechmann, Elisabeth Kainzbauer and Lukas Roth. Members of the Salzburg stake also assisted.
In a quiet, intimate setting, Elder Bruce C. Hafen of the Seventy and president of the Europe Central Area taught the meaning and importance of the Atonement. The young adults demonstrated their desire to understand by asking meaningful questions.
Each day included 10 instructional classes.
As part of the Literatur Haus, eight authors discussed topics they had written about, such as Dr. Alan Keele of BYU who spoke about Helmuth Hubener and his stalwartness during the Nazi era. He asked the young people to consider how they would act in such an environment.
Rains fell each day but the cultural desire of Germanic peoples to "wander" whenever in the countryside took over as hundreds of young people and adult leaders took multiple hikes of various lengths and rigor into the beauty of the Austrian mountains.
One greatly anticipated tradition each conference is the formal ball. The tent in the meadow was filled with women in beautiful dresses, while the men wore suits with crisp white shirts. They danced until the early morning in familiar Salzburg fashion.
These conferences are important in a land where young adults are often isolated and bombarded by the environment around them. Eva Jamima-Fiedler, 22, recently returned as a missionary to Madagascar. She is a fourth-generation member of the Church in Kiel. "A mission changes you, when you return you strive to keep the attributes in your life and it is all in your hands," she said. She is representative of the young adults at the conference, typical and fun loving but with a serious consciousness that the Lord loves them.
Another young woman said, "It is surprising how quickly and intensively the Holy Ghost can impact a group or a person." A man said, "It is so nice to be together, some of us are isolated. The young single adults want to be together. They are serious about the gospel."
The young people are bright, clean, modestly dressed and happy to be together. They are serious about their futures and confident that the Lord knows them.
When the last evening ended with all 1,100 present for the closing fireside in the tent, the storm again unleashed its fury, which only heightened the climax of the night.
Quilts that had been sewn, some by the men, were displayed to the applause of the crowd. Chairs that had been painted in creative and colorful ways for a needy school were held up to cheers. An orchestra that had been formed during the week accompanied the "Kammerchor Vocalis," performing a moving rendition of Mozart's "Ave Verum," a fitting close to the conference in the city of Mozart's birth.
The conference ended with tears of joy and sadness as the young people boarded trains, buses, cars and airplanes until they meet next year in Bern, Switzerland.