Hundreds of young single adults from the Salt Lake and Davis counties gathered to the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on April 26 to learn about the upcoming changes to student wards and stakes. As of May 1, "student" units will no longer be in existence, and 12 new stakes will be established. Tuesday's meeting was the first of three, determined by geographic areas, to discuss the changes and new boundaries.
The plans to eliminate all current "student" units to form young single adult wards and stakes is an effort to increase accountability and foster activity for the 18-30 year-old demographic of the Church, leaders said.
"The Lord trusts you young people," Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve said during the meeting. "Your Heavenly Father loves you, as do all of the other leaders. ... Lock it in your minds and take the steps necessary to prepare yourselves."
Elder Ballard spoke of the important responsibility young single adults have to look to the future and participate in doing the work needed in the Lord's kingdom.
"Responsibilities are what sustain us to become," Elder Ballard said. "You must see yourselves as stake presidencies, bishoprics, Young Women presidencies, Primary presidencies of the Church 20-25 years from now. ...
"For you will carry on your shoulders the future of the Kingdom of God. You have a lot of work to do in preparing for the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, and we need you to be prepared and think in terms for the future."
Elder Ballard gave every young single adult an assignment to find someone — in their new geographical ward or stake boundaries who should be a member of their ward — and reach out to them by the beginning of next year.
"To bring one soul back into the flock in the eternity of the Lord Jesus Christ's Church is a great thing to do," he said.
Elder Ronald Rasband of the Presidency of the Seventy spoke of the great privilege it is to be a part of modern revelation given to leaders in the senior councils of the Church. He also spoke of the great responsibility young adults have in heeding the counsel given by President Monson to reach out to those who aren't currently active in Church activities.
"The young single adults are free to really go forward and rescue your friends," Elder Rasband said. "We are inviting you to go to the rescue to those who have stumbled along the wayside."
Elder David F. Evans of the Seventy shared the history of the student singles ward, focusing on the revelatory process it took to create them, just as it is in changing them today.
"With so many options, members try to find the best fit and in the process get lost," Elder Evans said. "We need stable, active attendance in one ward."
He mentioned young single adults currently living at home who attend church with their families in a traditional family ward.
"We are not recruiting any young single adults who are attending church at a home ward," he said. "But we are inviting all to participate in activities and service projects."
Elder Michael T. Ringwood shared statistics from stakes that were reorganized and created last spring in other parts of Utah, showing that many "unknown" YSA's were located, and more than a thousand have returned to activity in the Church. He also showed maps and boundaries for the new stakes to be created on Sunday and in the coming weeks. The new stakes will include 121 wards in 12 new stakes. More will be created in Utah County in the coming weeks.
With the changes, leaders hope for opportunities for young members to grow, meet others, and become faithful disciples of Jesus Christ who are willing to step up to the charge as they move forward and productively in life.
"These are wise and inspired decisions," Sister Julie B. Beck, Relief Society general president said. "We see this as being the Lord's way of blessing you in your lives."
In addition to more accountability of young single adults and coordination with local priesthood leaders of the Church, leaders hope that the new units will provide leadership and service opportunities and facilitate mingling with other singles.