The fun, spiritual event that united thousands of Latter-day Saint youth across 4 South American countries

The Church’s South America South Area held its first MeetUp, a one-day youth conference, simultaneously in more than 100 locations in Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay

More than 20,000 Latter-day Saint youth participants, support staff and leaders came together for a fun and spiritual activity that spanned over 100 locations across four South American countries on Nov. 19, 2022.

The event was the area’s first MeetUp, a one-day youth conference held simultaneously in Church meetinghouses in over 40 cities in Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay, countries within the South America South Area of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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Among the thousands of participants were many friends of Church members.

The successful event involved work and cooperation of many volunteers, youth and adult leaders, including the South America South Area presidency, as well as using graphics that had a video game feel to help teach gospel principles, said Juan Jose and Monica Levrino, the lead couple who helped organize the event.

“The purpose of the program was to strengthen the youth through a fun activity,” Juan Jose Levrino said. “The main objective was to strengthen their faith in Jesus Christ.”

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The event’s activities incorporated aspects of the Church’s Children and Youth program. Some of the youth participants performed musical talents while others played games, such as using blocks or cubes to build structures. All activities were designed to help the young people understand and feel the importance of belonging and learn gospel principles centered on Jesus Christ.

“It was truly a wonderful experience,” said Nahiara Torales, an 18-year-old member of the Encarnación Paraguay District.

Youth participants from the Congreso and Belgrano stakes in Buenos Aires, Argentina, posted photos of the activity on Instagram.

The activity concluded with video messages from Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and his wife, Sister Ruth Renlund, each delivered using Spanish translators.

Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, speaks to Latter-day Saint youth with the assistance of Spanish translator Alex Melecio.
Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks to Latter-day Saint youth with the assistance of Spanish translator Alex Melecio. | Screenshot from YouTube

Kayaking and spiritual momentum

Elder Renlund related an experience from kayaking while on a family vacation in Hawaii.

The family joined a group with plans to kayak around two islands and return. Elder Renlund had kayaked before and didn’t expect a problem, but he found the kayaks were different from what he had used before and was less steady in the water.

Elder Renlund paddled out in front of his family, but as he stopped to wait, his kayak was hit from the side by a small ocean wave, measuring no more than a few inches. He was out of breath when he finally remounted, but was soon flipped over again by another tiny wave.

Their experienced guide rescued him and towed him to the first island, where his wife and daughter were waiting.

The guide explained the need for Elder Renlund to keep paddling and maintain his forward momentum, which allowed the kayak to remain upright in the water. He followed this counsel and completed the activity without further trouble.

Elder Renlund remembered the kayaking experience when President Russell M. Nelson taught about spiritual momentum in the April 2022 general conference.

“To maintain momentum in a kayak, we continue paddling. That way when the waves hit, we remain upright and continue toward our destination,” Elder Renlund said. “In life, we maintain our spiritual momentum by keeping our testimonies of Jesus Christ and the Restoration of His Church strong.”

Elder Renlund echoed the Prophet’s counsel by urging the youth to take charge of their own testimonies of Jesus Christ and His gospel. The Apostle also encouraged them to seek the spiritual gift to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who was crucified for the sins of the world.

“The waves that hit us as we paddle our metaphorical kayaks through this life are big enough to flip us and prevent us from reaching our eternal destination,” he said. “To avoid that, we maintain our spiritual momentum by owning and taking charge of our testimonies.”

He closed with his witness of Jesus Christ as the Savior and Redeemer of the World.

For the Strength of Youth

Sister Renlund discussed the newly revisedFor the Strength of Youth” guide for making choices and how it enables youth of the Church to do their best to improve each day.

“This guidebook recognizes that you have agency, and [leaders and parents] trust you to make good choices with that agency,” she said. “When your choices are based on eternal truths, taught by the gospel of Jesus Christ, you can feel sure that your Heavenly Father is proud of the way you are living your life.”

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Making the right simple decisions, such as what to wear and where to go, helped Sister Renlund prepare to make more important decisions later in life, such as who to marry and which career to pursue.

When she met Elder Renlund, she knew she liked him and he made her laugh, she said, but should she marry him? Heavenly guidance for this important decision came after she offered many earnest prayers.

“He [Heavenly Father] helped me know that Elder Renlund was the right man for me,” she said. “I’ve been blessed every day by making that choice and by turning to the Lord for help and guidance. The marvelous thing is that God wants to reveal things to you about the best way to live your life and to be happy.”

Sister Renlund invited the youth to “carefully read and reread” the new “For the Strength of Youth” guidebook and discuss it with family and friends.

“When you base your decisions on the teachings of Jesus Christ and keep your covenants, you will be blessed with inspiration through the Holy Ghost,” she said. “Decide now to make Jesus Christ your strength and helper in every choice you face. His gospel is the joyful way back to your heavenly home.”

‘Jesus Christ will help us’

Many who participated in the MeetUp came away from the experience with their faith and testimonies strengthened. Many appreciated the opportunity to unite with other Latter-day Saint youth who share the same beliefs and values.

One Latter-day Saint sister who assisted with the Plaza Ward, Durazno Uruguay Stake, MeetUp reported that her two granddaughters decided after attending the event to serve missions.

One young Latter-day Saint invited a high school friend with agnostic beliefs to the MeetUp. Afterward the young man was grateful he attended and said he appreciated the opportunity to be around good friends. He accepted an invitation to participate in future activities.

Bautista Moyano, 15, from the Escobar Argentina Stake, said he enjoyed the building activity and its doctrinal lessons, as well as messages from Elder Renlund and Sister Renlund.

“It helped me to know that Jesus Christ always helps and accompanies me at all times and in all places, that He is our friend and eternal companion, and that we can always count on Him.” — Bautista Moyano, 15, Escobar Argentina Stake

“It helped me to know that Jesus Christ always helps and accompanies me at all times and in all places, that He is our friend and eternal companion, and that we can always count on Him,” Moyano said. “From Elder Renlund’s remarks, I was inspired by the fact that goals help us improve, to make better decisions and to know what to do in the most difficult ones. Jesus Christ will help us reach our destination.”

Julia Nahir Adur, also 15, from the Buenos Aires Argentina Congreso Stake, said she felt the influence of the Holy Spirit as she learned how to make good decisions and find answers to her questions. She also appreciated meeting new friends her age.

“It is very difficult in these times to make good friends,” she said. “The MeetUp was very special for me because I was able to invite my two best friends. Although they have similar values, they do not have my same beliefs. But they accompanied me at my baptism and other important moments in my life. They really liked this activity and want to attend FSY [For the Strength of Youth conference]. ... I am really happy to have participated and be able to show my friends what makes me happy.”

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