YSA gathering in New York for tri-state conference


Single members of the Church should not be marking time, waiting for life to happen, but continue preparing to serve God and receive His blessings. “As men and women of covenant, our goal is to go forward and develop nurturing and caring hearts that will prepare us for our roles as parents in the eternities,” Sister Kristen M. Oaks told more than 600 young adults gathered Sept. 12 for an annual Tri-State Regional YSA Conference.

Addressing the theme “Faith Always Triumphs: Maintaining Perspective on What Matters Most,” Sister Oaks spoke at a Saturday evening devotional at the Lincoln Square chapel, in the same building that houses the Manhattan New York Temple.

Young single adults from a dozen stakes in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, along with several who traveled from Boston, Washington, D.C., Montreal, and Toronto, spent the day participating in workshops, service projects, and meals and held a combined sacrament meeting Sunday afternoon.

The conference concluded with a Worldwide CES Devotional, broadcast live from the Lincoln Square chapel, featuring Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the Presidency of the Seventy.

Sister Oaks, who was 53 when she married Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve apostles, quipped that her many years as a single member of the Church “qualified me to marry an Apostle,” although “I always thought I’d marry someone with hair.”

The young-adult audience seemed to appreciate her candor as well as her advice; many said afterward they felt she could relate to their struggles.

“Don’t waste one minute being sad because you’re not married,” she said. Singlehood is a time to develop habits, attributes, attitudes, skills and testimony that will enable young adults to enjoy every blessing God has promised — in His time. Urging obedience to baptismal and temple covenants, she quoted Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “Faith is a gift of God bestowed as a reward for personal righteousness.”

Sister Oaks shared a personal experience of requesting a blessing from her bishop when she was discouraged about life as a single woman. She was stunned, she said, when she was told in the blessing, “If you cannot bear the difficulties and challenges of single life, you will never be able to bear the difficulties and challenges of married life.” She realized that she could choose happiness and began to make some changes.

Being “the target of worldy enterprises” leads to unrealistic expectations of ourselves and others, she said. “If you are not married, there is nothing wrong with you. If you are doing what the Lord wants you to do, you are wonderful.”

Instead of asking what one is doing wrong, she said, “Ask, 'What more can I do that is right?’” Among her suggestions for improvement: prayer, scripture study, compassion and service. She promised listeners they would be blessed if they would attend sacrament meeting every week and partake of the sacrament worthily.

Knowing and understanding our identity as children of God is essential to happiness, said Sister Oaks. Mentioning current trends to delay or forgo marriage, Sister Oaks observed, “Both genders have been seduced with the doctrine of self-fulfillment.”

She reiterated that priesthood power is the authority of God given to bless all men, women and children. She urged the young adult men in the audience to remain worthy to hold and use that power.

“We have a Heavenly Father who loves us, and He has a plan for us,” she stated. “We are meant to go back to Him.”

Sister Oaks was accompanied by a friend, Sister Nan Greene Hunter, former matron of the California Oakland Temple. Sister Hunter echoed the theme “Faith Always Triumphs” by saying, “To return to God is the most powerful promise made to mankind, and all who are worthy — not perfect, but worthy — can enjoy His blessings.”