Nordic YSA conference cultivates ‘spiritual community’ through devotionals and parties

Young single adults from Nordic countries make new friends and grow spiritually during Festinord, a yearly YSA conference

The Utah Area YSA Conference, “Together in Christ,” starts this Saturday, with a goal to help young single adults in Utah build their faith and make new friendships.

Halfway around the world, a similar event took place last week in Denmark: Festinord is a yearly Nordic YSA conference that held its 49th iteration July 25-29. Each year, Festinord is held in a different Nordic country — Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Iceland or Norway — and, after young single adults from the Nordic countries and the Baltic States register, open spots for the event are extended to YSAs from anywhere in the world.

During Festinord 2023, more than 600 Latter-day Saint young single adults from the Nordic countries — and from other countries, including Germany, Australia, and the United States — made new friends, attended devotionals and partied throughout a week of fun and spiritual activities.

A group of young adults socializing in an open, outdoor area.
Young single adults socialize at Festinord 2023, in Copenhagen, Denmark, July 25-29. | Provided by Ann-Mari Lindberg

Benji Lindberg, of Denmark, who recently turned 18, attended the event for the first time.

“It was super fun, and I got to know a lot of new people — not just from Denmark — from all around the world. There’s people from Australia, America, everywhere. It was really fun,” he said.

Making friends and feeling the Spirit during Festinord was easy, said Lindberg, because “everyone has the same beliefs and the same standards.”

Attendees at Festinord stay together in a central location, such as a hotel or a rented school space, where all participants can socialize between each day’s events, which usually start with an institute class or devotional, continue into daytime activities like temple trips and sightseeing around the host city, and always end with a party.

Ann-Mari Lindberg, Benji’s mom and a part of the main organizing committee for Festinord 2023, said Festinord is different from other conventions because of the time the participants get to spend with each other.

“Here, you’re able to actually connect over several days,” she said. “Some people from smaller countries get together and get to be with that many YSAs that share the common values, the common faith, and they go participate in classes together and get to know each other. One guy called it ‘magical.’”

Ann-Mari Lindberg poses with Danish pastries at a lunch during Festinord 2023.
Ann-Mari Lindberg, who helped organize Festinord 2023, poses with Danish pastries at one of the event’s lunches in Copenhagen, Denmark. | Provided by Ann-Mari Lindberg

She said many of the participants told her they loved Festinord for the parties and the morning devotional classes, which covered topics she described as “spiritually uplifting.”

“It’s finding this spiritual community and just being in that, together with like-minded [individuals]. I think they just feel very secure and nice in that environment,” she said.

One day activity included a trip to the Copenhagen Denmark Temple, where the YSAs participated in temple ordinances.

She told the story of a young single adult from Iceland at the event who had been baptized a member of the Church around four months prior. He didn’t know there was a temple in Denmark, and because there is no temple in Iceland, he didn’t know he could go to the temple. The temple president was able to make arrangements so the young single adult could participate in baptisms with the group.

Young single adults stand on the steps of the Copenhagen Denmark Temple as a part of Festinord 2023.
Young single adults pose for a picture during a temple trip to the Copenhagen Denmark Temple as a part of Festinord 2023, which was held July 25-29. | Provided by Ann-Mari Lindberg

“He was just really loving that part. ... some other [participants] told him about it and helped him,” she explained.

The temple trip was just one of thousands of service projects that were a part of the conference. An activity called “1,000 acts of service” during Festinord had the YSAs performing acts of service for each other in order to get puzzle pieces that, when all thousand were assembled, formed a picture of Christ.

They reported on the puzzle progress each morning during the devotional, where they also read notes the YSAs would write about the services they performed.

“It was a very spiritual moment during the devotional to hear what people had done for each other,” she said.

“There’s a big push all over the world to strengthen the rising generation,” she continued, “and this is one of the places where they’re strengthened — that spiritual community that they can feel at a place like this, and also having fun.”

Young single adults attend a formal gala for Festinord 2023.
A group of young single adults attends a gala event at Festinord 2023 in Copenhagen, Denmark, held July 25-29. MiKayla Nelson, right, from Lehi, Utah, heard about the event from her Danish friend she met on her full-time mission in Vancouver, British Columbia. | Provided by Ann-Marie Lindberg

Lindberg met a man from Sweden at Festinord when she was younger, and they’ve been married for 30 years.

“I feel strongly that Festinord has been such an institution in the Nordic countries for such a long time, and it’s really something that people are looking forward to every year,” she said.

Being a Church member is not a requirement to enter Festinord; as long as participants are willing to act by Church standards during the event, they’re welcome to attend.

“It’s a place where people feel comfortable and safe and casual enough to come no matter their situation,” she said.

MiKayla Nelson, a young single adult from Lehi, Utah, was grateful to have attended the conference.

“I liked the amount of spirituality that was there, ways that you can grow closer to Christ,” she said.

“It’s so awesome to be in a place with so many people that have the same standards as you, and have the same goals, and they want to be closer to Jesus Christ. There’s just a light and a feeling there that you can’t find anywhere else.”

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