Here’s how the Utah Area Young Single Adult Conference went

From a concert and a dance to a devotional given by an Apostle, young single adults in Utah had plenty to enjoy throughout August

Young single adults in Utah had plenty to enjoy throughout August, from a concert and a dance to a devotional given by Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

It was all part of the 2023 Utah Area Young Single Adult Conference. Carly Clark, co-chair of the conference committee, said organizers initially pictured something small and local; but with the “ideas and enthusiasm” of young single adults, the event “exploded.”

The concept was then brought to the Church’s Utah Area presidency, which “welcomed and supported” it becoming something for all young single adults in Utah, Clark said.

Speaking during the closing devotional Aug. 20, Elder Christofferson commented on the conference’s theme, “Together in Christ.”

“To me, ‘Together in Christ’ suggests that our individual commitment and loyalty to Christ quite naturally draw us together,” he said.

Here’s a look at Church News’ coverage of the 2023 Utah Area Young Single Adult Conference.

The concert

Sabrina Feilbach and Rachel Feilbach dance at the Together in Christ Concert at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Aug. 5, 2023.
Left to right, Sabrina Feilbach and Rachel Feilbach dance at the “Together in Christ” concert in the Delta Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Aug. 5, 2023. The concert kicked off the Utah Area Young Single Adult Conference. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News

A concert with OneRepublic seemed to be the right choice in kicking off the monthlong Utah Area YSA conference.

Many young adults at the “Together in Christ” concert called the event “unprecedented.” The Aug. 5 concert sold out weeks in advance and was relocated from Provo to the Delta Center in Salt Lake City. 

Nearly 13,600 attended the event, including a 1,000-person choir of young adults from Salt Lake City, Provo, Heber Valley and Vernal, who performed with opening artists Jordan Smith and Jordin Sparks.

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The concert started with a drone light show, and new videos from the Church were shown throughout the event, sparking a lot of cheering from the young adult audience. Before OneRepublic hit the stage, a private group of dancers — including dancers from the BYU Cougarettes — coordinated by Shaundee Bull performed with a drone light show above them.

One video during the concert talked about the loneliness felt among young adults — sharing that 61% of young adults suffer from it. A portion of the crowd’s bracelets began glowing orange, and the narrator of the video asked those whose bracelets were glowing to raise their hands. The glowing bracelets represented the percentage of the attendees who fall into the statistic.

However, the video ended with hope: “[Jesus Christ] suffered so no one has to be alone.”

The dance

Alec Ahlstrom dips Miranda Tan dance on the dance floor at the Utah Area YSA Conference dance at Mountain America Expo Center in Sandy on Friday, Aug. 11, 2023.
Alec Ahlstrom dips Miranda Tan dance on the dance floor at the Utah Area YSA Conference dance at Mountain America Expo Center in Sandy, Utah, on Friday, Aug. 11, 2023. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News

Young single adults joined in the Mountain America Expo Center in Sandy, Utah, to have fun and strengthen each others’ faith during the “Together In Christ” dance on Friday, Aug. 11.

DA Dent, a California-based DJ, provided music for the first half of the event. After DA Dent, music for the second half was provided by Kaskade, a songwriter, singer, producer and remixer who has received several Grammy nominations and two America’s Best DJ awards from DJ magazine.

The YSA participants danced and jumped in a large crowd inside the expo center among the loud music and bright stage lights.

In addition to the dance, the venue also housed several game rooms for the attendees to play board and video games together, or just hang out.

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The fun run

Single adults participate in the Utah Area YSA Conference 5K sunset fun run at the Saratoga Springs Utah Temple on Saturday, Aug. 12, 2023.
Single adults participate in the Utah Area YSA Conference 5K sunset fun run at the Saratoga Springs Utah Temple on Saturday, Aug. 12, 2023. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Sister Kristin M. Yee, second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, addressed hundreds of YSAs before they ran in the 5K sunset fun run on Aug. 12.

The run started and ended at the Saratoga Springs Utah Temple, which was dedicated the following morning, on Sunday, Aug. 13.

Volunteers handed out glow sticks and small flashlights as runners assembled beneath a blow-up arch that marked the starting line. A second blow-up arch nearby marked the finish line.

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To avoid overcrowding on the route, runners were released in staggered groups. YSAs cheered for each other as each group went out, and some people even stood along the route with supportive signs.

As runners finished, they were greeted with snacks, shaved ice and more cheers. A DJ played music in a nearby parking lot for a dance that capped off the night.

Utah Area YSA Conference committee member Rachel Shaw said running in the dark toward the temple, carrying glow sticks and flashlights, symbolizes walking the gospel path in a fallen world. In real life, carrying the light means focusing on the Savior.

The Gather Together Conference

Relief Society General President Camille N. Johnson speaks 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.
Relief Society General President Camille N. Johnson speaks at the Gather Together Conference, part of the Utah Area YSA Conference, in the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News

The 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Gather Together Conference was Saturday, Aug. 19, in the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City.

The day’s lineup included:

During her keynote address, President Johnson said she was riding the London “tube” recently when she heard a voice over a loudspeaker instructing passengers to “mind the gap.”

This phrase, she said, helped her realize that Jesus Christ “minds the gap” between her capacity and what He’s called her to do; between her dreams and her reality; and between the natural woman in her who sins and the version of herself that seeks a change of heart.

“Will you think about when and how the Savior minds the gap for you?” President Johnson asked. “Perhaps He minds the gap of uncertainty or loneliness. Maybe He minds the gap in a family relationship. Or He minds the gap when you find yourself standing alone, trying to do the right thing.

“What I know is that He minds the gaps for covenant keepers. And that is one of the many reasons I stay faithful to Him, to His gospel and to His Church.”

President Johnson said making and keeping covenants increases a person’s access to Jesus Christ — and therefore increases the ways in which He “minds the gap.”

She encouraged YSAs to not wait until marriage to receive their temple endowment, and said their desire for positive change is evidence of their willingness to make covenants. “It is a sign that you are ready to take His eyes upon you, to see like Him; to take His ears upon you, to listen like Him; to take His lips upon you, to speak like Him. And as you do that, you will come to know Him, become like Him and be blessed by His power,” she said.

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The Gather Together Conference also featured 30-minute TED Talk-style messages called “Christ Daily,” given by Latter-day Saint leaders, professionals and public figures. Each addressed the theme, “Together In Christ.”

Following are summaries of some of the “Christ Daily” messages:

Elder Kevin W. Pearson

Elder Kevin W. Pearson, a General Authority Seventy and Utah Area president, testified to young single adults about staying faithful.

“Staying is an intentional choice,” he said. “I did not stay by accident, default or because it was easy. I stayed because I knew it was true.”

He shared that, after receiving a call to serve as mission president of the Washington Tacoma Mission, he explained to the senior executives of his company that he would need time off to serve a mission.

“They were incredulous as to why I would walk away from my career at that time, and asked when I had made the decision to do so,” he said. “It came powerfully to my mind that I actually made that decision when I was a 19-year-old boy in a temple 30 years earlier. Those covenants have shaped my life.”

He went on to encourage the young single adults to stay faithful to their covenants and keep an eternal perspective.

Elder Pearson ended his talk by testifying of the reasons why he stays, saying, “I stay because I know Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. He is the Savior and Redeemer of mankind.”

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Elder Brian K. Taylor

Elder Brian K. Taylor, a General Authority Seventy and second counselor in the Utah Area presidency, showed the audience a rock coated with mud and dirt.

“As we pass through life, sometimes we’re soiled by the dirt and the mud of mortality,” he said. The dirt and mud could represent difficulties, trials, temptations, sins or addictions, he said.

He then cleaned the rock in a container of water to reveal that, under the layers of dirt and mud, the rock was, in fact, a replica of a diamond.

“Was this diamond worth anything less when it was caked in the mud and soil and dirt? ... Why would we think we’re worthless?” he asked.

Elder Taylor then read the sacrament prayer, reminding the young single adults that Jesus Christ’s Atonement is the water that can wash the dirt and mud of mortality away from them, revealing their true worth.

“You may often not feel like a jewel,” he said, “but just like this diamond was not worth one penny less when it was soiled, I witness to you that neither are we as children.”

Elder Ahmad S. Corbitt

Elder Ahmad S. Corbitt, a General Authority Seventy, taught how the Book of Mormon models faith in Jesus Christ “in a uniquely powerful way.”

Alma 5:15 asks two questions, Elder Corbitt said. The first is, “Do you exercise faith in the redemption of Him who created you?”

The second question is more complex. Elder Corbitt broke it into parts: “Do you look forward with an eye of faith and view this body raised in immortality, and this body raised with incorruption? Do you see yourself resurrected, standing before God to be judged according to the deeds you’ve done in your mortal body?”

In essence, Alma is asking each person to look and learn, Elder Corbitt said. That’s why it’s important to look forward and not get stuck looking in the wrong direction.

Even when looking forward, individuals can look “beyond the mark,” Elder Corbitt continued. For instance, someone might become casual about Church attendance or scripture study. Although they’re technically looking in the right direction, the Spirit isn’t fully sinking into their heart.

But every person on earth chose Heavenly Father’s plan in the premortal life, Elder Corbitt said, and he believes every person can choose Heavenly Father’s plan again.

“You trusted in our Heavenly Father and in Jehovah and in Their promises, and that is your heritage,” he said. “As you acquire faith in this life … you are awakening, activating, reengaging an immense power that you already used once successfully against our common adversary here on this earth. God bless you to be able to do that again.”

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Sister Kristin M. Yee

When a person graduates college, they might hang up their degree or sell their textbooks, signaling the end of that period of their lives.

In contrast, after making temple covenants, “we are not done learning about covenants and priesthood power,” said Sister Kristin M. Yee, second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency. 

Sister Yee said when someone is bound to God through covenants, they will never exhaust His patience and He will never stop trying to help them.

No matter a person’s background or marital status, the Lord desires to partner with them, she said.

“As a sister who has not yet married, this loving and merciful covenant relationship with my Father in Heaven and the Savior has a powerful place in my life,” Sister Yee said. “It has been and is my greatest source of relief and peace. It brings me unspeakable comfort and a deep, abiding assurance that I am loved as His daughter and that I belong to His eternal family.”

Sister Yee also shared a story of hiking in southern Utah. While there, she noticed a dark and bumpy crust around the trails, which she later learned is called biological soil crust. It contains cyanobacteria that’s dormant when dry; but when wet, the bacteria leaves behind fibers that join soil particles together, making it resistant to erosion and storing water that allows organisms to grow.

Together, the bacteria and the organisms create a continuous living crust that supports desert life in a place where there should be no life, Sister Yee said.

“Just as this continuous living crust sustains life … our covenant relationship with God creates a personal, life-giving ecosystem that can nourish us and those around us in the dry deserts of our lives,” she said.

Sister Tracy Y. Browning

Sister Tracy Y. Browning, second counselor in the Primary general presidency, gave an address titled “Leaning Into the Light of Jesus Christ.”

A few weeks earlier, in a cruise ship’s restaurant, her family enjoyed a pleasant hour of conversation. They finished their meal and were about to leave when a nearby couple told Sister Browning’s 17-year-old son they were proud of him for how he enjoyed talking and laughing with his family.

As they furthered their conversation and got to know one another, Sister Browning told the man that they were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The man then said, “Ah, that’s the reason why.”

“When Jesus Christ is at the center of our lives ... we become filled with Christ’s light through the companionship of the Holy Spirit,” Sister Browning said. “And that light can become so bright within us that it is perceptible to others.”

Keeping covenants can allow others to see the glow of Christ through His disciples, she said, even in seemingly ordinary moments of life.

Choosing righteousness “allows me to gather light enough to share, because that potential to draw someone near to the Savior, even for a moment, is worth my effort to strive to keep my covenants.”

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Sister J. Anette Dennis

While serving as a mission leader with her husband in the Ecuador Guayaquil West Mission, Sister J. Anette Dennis, first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, said they felt it was important to prepare their missionaries for an earthquake.

Two years after beginning their preparation, an earthquake did strike the area of their mission. “Our entire mission was affected,” said Sister Dennis. “My husband and I were 300 miles away from the epicenter and it felt like the building we were in was going to collapse because the shaking was so strong.”

Roughly 80% of the city at the epicenter of the earthquake was destroyed. “And one-third of our missionaries were in areas of greatest destruction. Buildings collapsed around them and there was great chaos, death and devastation,” she explained.

“But, not one of our missionaries was hurt.”

Not only did their physical preparation for an earthquake bring them peace, the missionaries had felt peace and strength because of their spiritual preparation and connection to Jesus Christ, said Sister Dennis.

“When your spiritual foundation is built solidly upon Jesus Christ you really do have no need to fear the earthquakes that will come into your life — whether they be physical earthquakes, emotional earthquakes or spiritual earthquakes.”

The devotional

Elder Christofferson in a suit, standing at a pulpit and smiling.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson at the Utah Area YSA Conference in Provo, Utah, in BYU’s Marriott Center on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023. | Rebeca Fuentes, for the Deseret News

The Utah Area YSA Conference ended Sunday, Aug. 20, with a devotional given by Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

He spoke on the topic of unity, including how young single adults can gather together in Christ by being armed with righteousness. His devotional was given in the Marriott Center at Brigham Young University.

“Being ‘armed with righteousness’ (1 Nephi 14:14), we want to gather others likewise ‘armed with righteousness’ and invite everyone who will to come together with us in Christ,” Elder Christofferson said.

He drew on an example from the Book of Mormon. After natural destruction in the Western Hemisphere from the Savior’s death, He visited the Americas and told the survivors they were “spared because ye were more righteous than they” (3 Nephi 9:13), suggesting there are degrees of righteousness.

“It is a progression along a path of increasing faithfulness, uprightness and devotion to God,” Elder Christofferson said. “... We can be righteous and, by more completely turning to the Lord, progress to higher levels of righteousness.”

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He invited his wife, Sister Kathy Christofferson, to share how to pursue greater personal righteousness. She encouraged the congregation not to feel like they’re failures because of imperfection.

“If you’re moving forward on that [covenant] path, then you’re probably in really good shape,” said Sister Christofferson. She encouraged listeners to ask Heavenly Father in daily prayer what they can do to reach others. “As we try to follow those promptings and follow them with good haste, He knows that you’re serious about receiving direction from Him.”

Elder Christofferson encouraged listeners to “put on the whole armour of God” (Ephesians 6:11). “If you are to be ‘armed with righteousness,’” he said, “you cannot afford to lay down any of this armor, even for just a little while.”

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