Tens of thousands answered the Prophet’s invitation to come to the Conference Center for a worldwide young adult devotional.
Jovany Fortes, 24, was in the crowd hoping to still get inside at 5:30 Sunday evening, May 15. “This is like a concert. It’s crazy!” he said with a laugh.
More than 24,000 young adults filled Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City for the Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults with the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Russell M. Nelson, and his wife, Sister Wendy W. Nelson.
It marked the first time since March 2020 that the Conference Center was filled to capacity. Thousands of people who could not get in went to overflow areas in the Assembly Hall and Tabernacle — or sat on the grass in the shade and viewed on their phones — joining the others who watched online around the world.
Jovany Fortes and his fiancée, Areli Anguiano, 23, both said how impressed they were by the huge crowd. For Anguiano, who is from Mexico City, Mexico, and attends Ensign College, “It feels like a power, this group of people, all the same age with different backgrounds and languages. Something like this unites people.”
Even among so many other people, each person listening heard a message from the Prophet that was meant for them individually, said Kiahna Siufanua, 22, from Orem, Utah. She felt reminded of her worth and who she really is.
“The Savior will always be there and be the Light to lead us back and show us our potential and show us our main goal to be at the celestial kingdom again,” she said.
Kyla Sutton, 17, Provo, Utah, is graduating this week from high school, so she was among the youngest invited to the devotional. She has Tourette syndrome and said she has been focusing on wanting to be a disciple of Christ, “and wanting Him to be proud of me.”
Then she heard President Nelson say how each person’s first identifiers are: a son or daughter of God, a child of the covenant and a disciple of Jesus Christ. And that resonated with her. “Being worthy and being children of God, it’s already in us. We don’t have to earn that. I thought that was so special. And be able to realize, we are good enough. God loves us just for who we are right now. He made us that way.”
Michael Jensen, 24, Dallas, Texas, also wrote down those first three identities in his phone to remember: “Child of god, child of the covenant and disciple of Jesus Christ,” he quoted. “I love it because not only are we a child of God, but it’s through the covenants that we get the blessings and become joint-heirs with Christ.”
Jensen agreed with what President Nelson said about how labels are limiting. “Those isms are super popular with the young adults, we love to be separate and unique,” said Jensen. “But what’s really important is that we are children of God, children of the covenant and disciples of Jesus Christ.”
Jensen and his wife, Sierra, have been attending BYU, and have a 4-month-old baby. At first they thought the devotional was only for young single adults, but they were thrilled when they realized married young adults were also invited. While they were inside the Conference Center, Sierra Jensen’s parents played with baby Ellis on Temple Square.
Sierra Jensen said she loved hearing Sister Nelson’s message about what would a holy young adult do. “She brought things up in any circumstance. Being a student and a mom and a wife, that’s a question I asked myself — ‘How can I care for my child or do my studies holier?’ was something that struck me.”
Coming early, staying late
The sidewalks around Temple Square were packed with people walking together before and after the devotional. Many of the young adults took part in activities around Temple Square from 3 to 9 p.m. Groups of Utah State University students, for example, carpooled and arrived early. A group from the Copper Hills YSA Ward in West Jordan, Utah, picnicked on a blanket on the grass afterward and talked about what they learned.
The Jensens and their friends, Caden and Courtney Ellis, toured Temple Square and took pictures at historical spots around the area as part of a photo scavenger hunt. They also went to the Family History Library to learn more about where their ancestors were from.
Fortes and Anguiano watched the First Vision film at the Church History Museum and were impressed by the audio and the story-telling. Fortes said seeing so many others also taking part in the activities impressed him.
“There are lots of things youth and young adults could be doing on a Sunday, but this is one of the best ways to spend their time,” he said.