A look at the history of Face to Face events: Topics, audiences, locations and international reach

As Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Susan Bednar, prepared for their first Face to Face event in May 2015, they prayed the Holy Ghost would inspire them and all who would participate in that event. 

“We knew the instruction received from the Holy Ghost would be far more important than anything we would share with the youth,” Elder Bednar reflected in a recent social media post.

Originating from the Church Office Building lobby in Salt Lake City, the live worldwide broadcast included participation from a seminary class in the Philippines and a youth group in Guatemala speaking Spanish. Questions came in from youth around the world, and the event was streamed in 10 languages.  

Elder and Sister Bednar referenced scriptures and shared personal experiences as they answered questions about developing an appropriate sense of individual worth, dealing with pride and doubts and learning to recognize promptings of the Spirit. 

“Many of my questions are answered in this video,” wrote a young man named Manuel on YouTube. “Thank you.” 

Elder David A. Bednar and his wife, Sister Susan Bednar, walk in together to a Face to Face event for youth broadcast from the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City on May 12, 2015.
Elder David A. Bednar and his wife, Sister Susan Bednar, walk in together to a Face to Face event for youth broadcast from the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City on May 12, 2015. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

This month, Elder and Sister Bednar will again host a Face to Face event, this time for young adults, single or married. In preparation for the Sept. 12 event, Elder Bednar invited his social media followers to share a lesson learned from the Spirit during a previous Face to Face event.

Face to Face timeline: Watch videos and read summaries of past events

The interactive question-and-answer sessions began in 2014 in an effort to connect youth worldwide with Church leaders and with each other. Since then, Face to Face events have expanded to other audiences. 

As the Sept. 12 event with Elder and Sister Bednar approaches, here is a look back at previous Face to Face broadcasts and their topics, locations, audiences and international reach. 

Topics

Though traditionally a candid discussion based on questions submitted prior to and during the broadcast, some Face to Face events have focused on specific topics. 

During the January 2016 event, Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, then-Young Women General President Bonnie L. Oscarson and then-Young Men General President Stephen W. Owen highlighted the 2016 youth theme — “Press Forward With Steadfastness in Christ” — as they answered questions about challenges facing youth. 

“The leaders of this Church are no strangers to your issues and your concerns and to your challenges,” said Elder Rasband, who had been sustained as an Apostle only three months before. “We have children, we have grandchildren, we are often meeting with youth all over the world, and we’re praying for you. We are praying for you in the most sacred places and we love you.”

President Henry B. Eyring, then first counselor in the First Presidency, and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles emphasized prayer and the 2017 youth theme “Ask of God” as they answered questions during the March 2017 Face to Face broadcast from Palmyra, New York. 

From the foot of the Nauvoo Illinois Temple, a worldwide Face to Face broadcast focuses on the history of the Church on Sept. 9, 2018. Participating were Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Church historians Kate Holbrook and Matt Grow.
From the foot of the Nauvoo Illinois Temple, a worldwide Face to Face broadcast focuses on the history of the Church on Sept. 9, 2018. Participating were Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Church historians Kate Holbrook and Matt Grow.

Church history was the focus of the September 2018 Face to Face with Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Church historians Kate Holbrook and Matt Grow. With the Nauvoo Illinois Temple as a backdrop, Elder Cook promised young adults that studying the history of the Church will deepen their faith and their desire to live the gospel more fully.

“In learning more, we will bind our hearts together with Saints of yesterday and today,” Elder Cook testified. “We will find examples of imperfect people who went forward with faith and allowed God to work through them to accomplish his work.”

Church leaders used two Face to Face events — one in November 2019 and the other in February 2020 — to explain key elements of the new Children and Youth program

In the November 2019 event, Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, along with Young Women General President Bonnie H. Cordon, then-Primary General President Joy D. Jones and President Owen, centered on the components of service and activities, personal development and gospel learning. 

Three months later, President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, and his wife, Sister Kristen M. Oaks, taught children, youth, parents and leaders about effective goal-setting and how to utilize personal revelation in the Children and Youth program. 

“God will help you,” President Oaks said. “He wants you to succeed. Your leaders, your parents want you to succeed. But there’s some things that you just have to do on your own. And setting goals and accumulating the desire to do what the Lord wants you to do is something that only you can do.”

In a September 2020 Face to Face, Elder Rasband and his wife, Sister Melanie Rasband, answered questions and shared insights on the Restoration of the gospel and the bicentennial proclamation read by President Russell M. Nelson during the April 2020 general conference. 

The Young Women general presidency used the November 2020 Face to Face to culminate the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Young Women organization. In a prerecorded video message shared during the event, President Nelson extended a special invitation to young women, asking them to focus on four key areas to help with the gathering of Israel: Live the gospel, care for those in need, invite others to come unto Christ and unite families for eternity. 

Young women including Ashlyn Peterson, Lexi Walker, Josie Killpack, Alora Davis, Kenadi Dodds and members of the BYU Cougarettes perform to “Glorious” as part of a Face to Face event for young women on Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020. The program includes musical numbers, a Q&A session with the Church’s Young Women organization’s leaders and Christ-centered discussions.
Young women including Ashlyn Peterson, Lexi Walker, Josie Killpack, Alora Davis, Kenadi Dodds and members of the BYU Cougarettes perform to “Glorious” as part of a Face to Face event for young women on Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020. The program includes musical numbers, a Q&A session with the Church’s Young Women organization’s leaders and Christ-centered discussions. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

“If you will be prayerful about helping to gather Israel, the Lord will inspire you,” President Nelson promised. “He will strengthen you to meet your own challenges and fill your life with joy.”

The most recent Face to Face event — held June 13 and hosted by Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Relief Society General President Jean B. Bingham and her first counselor, Sister Sharon Eubank — featured nine single adults who shared personal experiences of faith. They discussed President Nelson’s April 2021 general conference message “Christ Is Risen; Faith in Him Will Move Mountains.”

Locations

Most Face to Face events have originated from a location other than Temple Square in Salt Lake City. 

The March 2016 event with Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Sister Carole M. Stephens, then first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, and Elder Donald L. Hallstrom, then of the Presidency of the Seventy, originated from the Grande Ballroom at Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah. 

President Dallin H. Oaks and President M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles answer questions from young single adults during a Face to Face event on Nov. 20, 2017, in Logan, Utah.
President Dallin H. Oaks and President M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles answer questions from young single adults during a Face to Face event on Nov. 20, 2017, in Logan, Utah. Credit: Intellectual Reserves, Inc.

President Oaks and President M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles led the November 2017 Face to Face event from the Morgan Theatre at Utah State University in Logan, Utah. 

Following the Face to Face events broadcast from Palmyra in March 2017 with President Eyring and Elder Holland and from Nauvoo in September 2018 with Elder Cook, the September 2020 event with Elder and Sister Rasband was originally planned for the Sacred Grove in Palmyra. 

COVID-19 travel restrictions forced a venue change and the Face to Face was broadcast from Goshen, Utah, on a film-production set replicating ancient Jerusalem. A nearby wildfire and resulting power outage delayed the start of the event, which was then broadcast using a generator. Elder Rasband highlighted this miracle in his April 2021 general conference talk.

Young adults perform a musical number during a Face to Face event broadcast from a set replica of ancient Jerusalem in Goshen, Utah, on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020.
Young adults perform a musical number during a Face to Face event broadcast from a set replica of ancient Jerusalem in Goshen, Utah, on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

The Logan Utah Temple was the backdrop for the June Face to Face event with Elder Andersen. 

Audiences

The Church’s first Face to Face event was held in June 2014 and featured “American Idol” finalist David Archuleta. Sister Oscarson and then-Young Men General President David L. Beck hosted the live video chat and Q&A on the Church’s youth Facebook page. Archuleta, who had recently returned from his mission to Chile, highlighted how music played a role in his ability to reach people in the mission field. 

Five months later, in November, Sister Oscarson and Brother Beck hosted an online video chat with dancing violinist and YouTube artist Lindsey Stirling. Stirling performed her hit song “Crystallize” and answered questions about overcoming adversity in her personal life and her career. 

Following this broadcast, the Church asked youth on social media and the youth website for suggestions about who they would like to see as future guests, according to a January 2015 Church News article.

The two most requested groups, The Piano Guys and members of the BYU sketch comedy group Studio C, were featured in Face to Face events in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Four youth artists — Lexi Walker, Patch Crowe, Nicole Luz and Madilyn Paige — later starred in an October 2017 Face to Face event. Each of these events was hosted by a male youth and a female youth. 

The March 2016 Face to Face with Elder Holland, Elder Hallstrom and Sister Stephens was the first for young single adults. Topics Church leaders discussed included marriage, finding peace, missionary service and same-sex attraction.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder Donald L. Hallstrom of the Presidency of the Seventy answer a question during a Face to Face event on March 8, 2016.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder Donald L. Hallstrom of the Presidency of the Seventy answer a question during a Face to Face event on March 8, 2016. Credit: August Miller, UVU Marketing

“Wherever you are, there are millions who are cheering for you, in your age group, in your category of life,” Elder Holland told young single adults. “So take strength, and feel that brotherhood and sisterhood in what is represented here tonight.”

President Oaks and President Ballard addressed young single adults again in November 2017 and discussed pornography, Church history, dating and personal revelation, among other topics.  

Face to Face events for young adults, single or married, include the September 2018 event with Elder Cook; the September 2019 event with Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder Craig C. Christensen, General Authority Seventy; and the September 2020 event with Elder and Sister Rasband. 

The year 2021 was historic for two Face to Face events in terms of audience — the first Face to Face-style event for children called the Friend to Friend was held in February by the Primary general presidency, and the June Face to Face with Elder Andersen was the first for single adults ages 31 and older. 

International reach

Beginning with its inaugural event seven years ago, Face to Face broadcasts have reached well beyond an English-only North American audience. Archuleta’s video chat was streamed in English and Spanish. Most events have included participation from youth or young adults watching live from locations around the world, asking questions in their native languages. 

The November 2019 event with Elder Gong on the Children and Youth program was broadcast in a record-breaking 18 languages to more than 140 countries — the Church’s largest Face to Face at that date. 

During the Face to Face event two months prior, Elder Soares and Elder Christensen answered a few questions in Portuguese and Spanish — another Face to Face first for a worldwide event. They greeted members around the world in their respective languages. Elder Soares’ wife, Sister Rosana Soares, also answered a question in Portuguese. 

Church leaders have also participated in some regional Face to Face events. 

Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Kathy Christofferson, were featured in a Face to Face in Guatemala in December 2016 broadcast throughout Latin America. It was the first Face to Face originating outside of the United States, and Elder Christofferson spoke in Spanish. 

African youth gather for a Face to Face event with Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Ruth Renlund, on Aug. 5, 2017. The event was broadcast from the Ghana Missionary Training Center.
African youth gather for a Face to Face event with Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Ruth Renlund, on Aug. 5, 2017. The event was broadcast from the Ghana Missionary Training Center. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Ruth Renlund, participated in a Face to Face for African youth in August 2017, and Elder Gary E. Stevenson and his wife, Sister Lesa Stevenson, hosted a Face to Face for youth in Asia in August 2018. 

“You are representing over half the population of the world,” Elder Stevenson told the youth across the Asia Area. “In just the broadcast we are having today, my heart is just thrilled to think of young men and young women seated in all these countries tuned in today being uplifted and inspired as we are.”

The upcoming Face to Face with Elder and Sister Bednar — titled “Ask, Seek, Knock” — will be broadcast on Sunday, Sept. 12, at 4 p.m. MDT on the Church satellite system, Broadcasts.ChurchofJesusChrist.org, YouTube, Latter-day Saints Channel and other digital channels. It will be available in ASL, Cantonese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.