How the Utah Area conference built faith and testimony for young single adults

Events at the Gather Together Conference of the Utah Area YSA Conference that strengthened faith of Latter-day Saints

Near one wall at the Salt Palace Convention Center stood a sign with three simple words: “Why I Stay.” Those words were joined with hundreds more as YSAs from across Utah added sticky notes anonymously declaring their answer.

“Because it is home,” wrote one young single adult. “Peace is only found here,” wrote another.

Many responses highlighted personal change through the gospel, like “The peace I receive from the forgiving grace of God” and “I have experienced a mighty change of heart,” or simply “Because it makes me happy :)”

Some highlighted the joy of gospel living and the strength from covenant keeping: “Because the only peace and joy I find in this world is through Jesus Christ and living His gospel,” one wrote. “through the pain and struggles, I was not alone,” said another.

Many other responses underscored an unbreakable connection to Christ that the conference revolved around: “Because no one believes in me the way He believes in me!” one wrote. Another said, “Because Christ never left me, so I’ll never leave Him.”

These faith-filled messages were amplified through faith- and testimony-building classes and activities at the Gather Together Conference in Salt Lake City, the second-to-last event in the Together in Christ Utah Area YSA Conference.

Austin Lamberth, a young single adult who traveled from Reno, Nevada, to attend the conference, said that the relatability of the classes made for faith-building experiences unlike any other.

“I feel like I’ve gained more from the content that I’ve gotten from here than where I would go anywhere else,” he said. “Here, ‘Together in Christ’ is an awesome experience. The content I received here, I take it with me to build on my faith personally.”

A line of young single adults sitting and listening.
Attendees listen to keynote speaker Relief Society General President Camille N. Johnson at the Gather Together Conference, part of the Utah Area YSA Conference, at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News

Church Leaders talk about ‘Preach My Gospel’ and serving after the mission

When asked what advice they would give to missionaries returning home, Sister Andrea Muñoz Spannaus, second counselor in the Young Women general presidency, mentioned that sharing the gospel is going to look different.

She also noted that “people are looking for relief, people are looking for love, people are looking for a calm life.”

Other people don’t have the gospel and the knowledge that Latter-day Saints have that bring them peace during life’s difficulties, she explained. 

When members of the Church understand that they have extra help, they will want to help others, said Sister Spannaus.

Although it can be intimidating to continue sharing the gospel, “Trust God,” she advised. God can help guide members to those they can help. “Have the desire to continue helping others. Open your eyes and your ears to the promptings of the Holy Ghost in your everyday life. He will put the right people in your way.”

Related Stories
‘Preach My Gospel,’ 2nd edition; messages from 2023 Seminar for New Mission Leaders
Episode 146: Messages from the 2023 Seminar for New Mission Leaders, part 1 — the second edition of ‘Preach My Gospel’ is for every member and missionary

Sean Dixon — director of the Utah Valley Institute in Orem, Utah, and a host of the Preach My Gospel Mission Prep Podcast — asked the Church leaders present what the intent was behind changing the title to the new edition of “Preach My Gospel.”

Sister Amy A. Wright, first counselor of Primary general presidency and a member of the Missionary Executive Counsel, spoke first. “That is a great question. I just wanted to begin by saying that it was such a sacred and holy and revelatory experience. And there was a small army that worked on that.”

In the early stages of re-creating “Preach My Gospel,” there were many things to consider because of technology and how much the world is changing. “The way we teach the gospel needs to change and adapt.”

She continued, saying that “the first thing that was determined was that ‘Jesus Christ’ needed to be in the title, because this is His work and His glory. ... Once that was established, revelation just started to flow.”

Wright explained that the change in the title allows ‘Preach my Gospel’ to be for every member of the Church — not just missionaries — and helps everyone to know how to help with gathering Israel, even if they are not full-time missionaries.

Jared Halverson speaking at the front of a large room with many young adults seated.
Jared Halverson speaks about how to better overcome a faith crisis, at the Together in Christ Utah Area YSA Conference at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023. | Joel Randall, Church News

Facing Faith Questions

Jared Halverson, an associate professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University, taught a class called “Facing Faith Questions.” He addressed how those with questions or doubts about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can seek to overcome their uncertainty.

Halverson outlined a three-stage journey that everyone takes or retakes in many matters of their life, including in their faith: “Creation, Fall, Atonement.” Corresponding three supernal events in the world’s history, these stages are a process of the following:

  • Creation: Life is great, and faith is untested.
  • Fall: Faith is tested, and a faith crisis may occur.
  • Atonement: The crisis is overcome through faith, effort and turning to the Lord.

When a crisis in life or faith occurs, some get stuck in the Fall stage, where actions like suicide, divorce and leaving the Church can reside. However, Saints can move forward with faith and action to make it to the Atonement stage. Here, tested faith is stronger than before.

A PowerPoint slide with a line that has the words Creation, Fall and Atonement.
Jared Halverson explains the personal process of “Creation, Fall, Atonement” at the Together in Christ Utah Area YSA Conference at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023. | Joel Randall, Church News

“I would take your conviction over your assumption any day,” said Halverson, “even if you have to ask some questions in between.”

Young adults, he said, can seek God’s help to turn a faith crisis into a stronger testimony: “There’s something higher and holier that we need to be aiming for, but we have to fall ... to realize that we’re insufficient on our own, that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can progress.”

Colin Henderson, who visited the conference from La Mesa, California, said he wants to stay in the Atonement stage, “where I can move forward with faith and not let my doubts stop me.”

A group of people standing next to a replica of a laver of water.
Sister Kayle Flake, a sister missionary, shares about the ancient tabernacle while attendees walk through a full-size replica of the Old Testament Tabernacle at the Gather Together Conference, part of the Utah Area YSA Conference, at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
Related Stories
Seek living water, let Jesus Christ ‘mind the gap,’ President Johnson tells young single adults
Young single adult conference fosters social connections through games, speed dating and more
Here’s what Church leaders and others taught during ‘Christ Daily’ talks at young single adult conference
Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed