PROVO, Utah — Emma Turner, 16, came into the week feeling For the Strength of Youth conference would be like a Young Women camp experience or something similar.
“I hoped to have a chance to build my testimony and hear others’ testimonies,” she said.
Her testimony had been challenged over the past year after the passing of her father, Reed Turner, in December.
“I really wanted to feel my dad,” she said. “I went because I knew he would want me to go.”
Emma’s mother, Lisa Turner, wasn’t worried about her daughter being safe or having a good time. Like her daughter, she hoped for spiritual experiences that would strengthen Emma’s testimony.
“When I picked her up, she talked a lot about the experience and said she had felt the Spirit a lot,” Lisa Turner said.
One activity during the week that stood out to Emma was where the youth learned about different ways to share the gospel. One method they talked about is writing letters to ancestors.
“I wrote a letter to my dad,” she said. “I told him I’m continuing the work that he started on earth.”
For Lisa Turner, this is the type of thing she hopes her children will continue to learn and do.
“I want my kids to have opportunities to have a testimony for themselves and not just live off of mine and their dad’s,” she said. “The gospel is huge, and the gospel is real, and I want my kids to have their own testimony of that.”
The weeks and months after her dad’s death, Emma said, she found strength as she made decisions for herself.
“It’s been really hard not having his influence here,” she said. “It’s become really my own choice to go to church.”
So she has. And in attending FSY, she chose to attend with a close friend but made many new friends throughout the week.
“I allowed myself to be with new people and connect with other people.”
Lisa Turner said it is important for parents and leaders to recognize that this part can be challenging for a lot of youth.
“Sometimes it’s hard to be there. There can be homesickness, but sometimes that’s good,” she said. “It can be harder than you think it’s going to be.”
Outside of making new friends, Emma also benefitted from having a counselor she learned to trust, as well.
Addie Hewlett, Emma’s young adult counselor during the session, gave Emma a much-needed perspective.
“She shared lots of stories from her high school experience,” Emma said. “She shared how holding on to the gospel has made a big difference to her.”
Emma said that knowing Hewlett had recently been in high school and faced similar challenges to hers helped Emma realize the blessings that can come from living the gospel.
Now that Emma is home, she said she feels better prepared to not only live the gospel, but to also share it with others.
“I can start sharing the gospel more loudly and clearly,” she said. “I’ll do personal gospel study every day, ponder and write down my thoughts.”
She knows not everyone will have the same experience she had, but Emma had one piece of advice for those who will go in the future.
“FSY is whatever you make it,” she said.