Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Friday that stakes in the United States and Canada will sponsor biennial conferences modeled after Brigham Young University’s Especially for Youth program.
Beginning in 2020, some 292 stakes will begin holding For the Strength of Youth conferences as part of the Church’s efforts to unify its programs for Children and Youth around the world.
FSY conferences, which have been held outside the United States and Canada for more than a decade, “have proven to be a strength to youth and also to the young single adults who serve as counselors,” said the July 19 Church notice sent to General Authorities, general officers, area seventies, stake presidents, mission presidents, district presidents, bishops and ward and branch leaders.
Deviating from traditional youth conferences, the FSY conferences are directed by young single adults who are called as counselors to serve with the youth, meaning adult leaders do not attend FSY conferences with the youth from their wards and stakes.
“Beginning in 2020, BYU will no longer administer traditional EFY sessions in order to assist the Church in facilitating FSY,” wrote EFY organizers on the the official “Especially for Youth (EFY)” Facebook page after the announcement. “In the United States and Canada, FSY Conferences will be provided by the Church and held locally with the support of BYU. Areas outside of the United States and Canada will continue holding FSY Conferences as they have in the past.”
BYU will continue to offer EFY Special Edition sessions at Church historical sites (Nauvoo, Palmyra, Independence, Salt Lake City) as well as EFY Express Sessions as they have in the past, according to the Facebook post.
The announcement came on the heels of a notice sent to Church leaders earlier this week, on July 15, which outlined the timeline and process for rolling out the new “Children and Youth” program slated to replace current youth programs — including Scouting, Personal Progress, Duty to God and Faith in God — beginning in January 2020.
The new Children and Youth program — including the announcement for the implementation of FSY conferences in the United States and Canada — offers members a first look at the Church’s efforts to align programs for youth and children with the home-centered, Church-supported initiatives that have been the driving force behind curriculum and organizational changes over the last year and a half.
“The principles taught in this effort for children and youth represent a higher, holier way to encourage the rising generation to follow Jesus Christ and apply His gospel in all areas of their lives,” wrote the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in a statement included in the introduction of a new guidebook for the Children and Youth program. “This major effort will include gospel learning, the privilege of service, personal development, and exciting activities.”
What is FSY and why is it being implemented in the U.S. and Canada?
The FSY conferences — modeled after Brigham Young University’s EFY conferences, in operation for more than 40 years — bring together large groups of youth (around 500) to participate in a five-day series of devotionals, classes and activities designed to help build and strengthen their faith in Jesus Christ. The conferences also provide opportunities for youth to grow spiritually, intellectually, socially and physically, according to the information sent to Church leaders.
As the conferences are implemented, youth in the United States and Canada will be eligible to attend FSY every other year between the year they turn 14 and the year they graduate from high school.
According to the July 19 Church notice, young men and young women from the 292 pre-selected stakes from throughout the United States and Canada will be invited to participate in a small number of FSY conferences in 2020. Then, beginning in 2021 and 2022, all stakes in the United States and Canada will be invited to participate in FSY conferences every other year as they are fully implemented.
The pre-selected stakes for 2020 have been asked not to plan treks or other youth conferences to be held during the year — although Young Women and Young Men camps are encouraged to be held as usual.
Additionally, BYU will be available to offer administrative support and training for local congregations participating in the expanded program throughout the United States and Canada while the Church’s area leaders outside of the two countries will continue holding FSY conferences as they have in the past.
What does the roll-out for the Children and Youth program look like?
In September, a special broadcast by President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, will be made available for stakes and wards to introduce the details of the new program a meeting for adults, children and youth.
Additionally, a special “Face to Face” event with Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles will be held for children and youth on Nov. 17 and will be broadcast in 18 languages around the world. During this event, more details will also be released about the FSY program.
Printed copies of the new program books — “Personal Development: Children’s Guidebook” and “Personal Development: Youth Guidebook” — are expected to be shipped to Church units between November and December.
To help leaders prepare for the upcoming changes, the Church has published a website at ChildrenandYouthLeaders.ChurchofJesusChrist.org, which contains resources explaining the program changes and how to implement them. The site, currently only available for those in designated leadership positions, will be made more widely available beginning in September and includes an introductory guide to the program for parents as well as one for children and youth.
In September, the website initially will be available in Cebuano, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Samoan, Spanish, Tagalog and Tongan.
Beginning in March 2020, the website and other resources will also be made available in Albanian, Arabic, Armenian, Bislama, Bulgarian, Cambodian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Estonian, Fijian, Finnish, Greek, Haitian, Hungarian, Indonesian, Kekchi, Kiribati, Latvian, Lithuanian, Malagasy, Malay, Marshallese, Mongolian, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Swahili, Swedish, Tahitian, Thai, Ukrainian and Vietnamese.
Efforts in Scouting, Personal Progress, Duty to God and Faith in God should be completed by Dec. 31, according to the notice. However, exceptions can be made for those who need additional time, with the various honors and awards available for order through March 1.
For information about the future of BYU’s EFY program, see efy.byu.edu.