Young Women, Young Men general leaders join 20,000 youth at RootsTech for family history activities

More than 20,000 youth filled the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Wednesday night, Feb. 26, to participate in interactive family history activities planned just for them.

The RootsTech youth night — one part of the four-day conference that kicked off Wednesday with a 10-year celebration — included activities such as a virtual reality homeland experience, an escape room, family history Twister, ancestor games and 9-square, among others. 

As a special surprise for the youth, the Young Women and Young Men general presidencies attended and participated in activities at the event.

The Young Women general presidency, Sisters Bonnie H. Cordon (center), Becky Craven (left) and Michelle Craig (right), take part in a stick pull as the Young Women and Young Men general presidencies visit the RootsTech youth night at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020.
The Young Women general presidency, Sisters Bonnie H. Cordon (center), Becky Craven (left) and Michelle Craig (right), take part in a stick pull as the Young Women and Young Men general presidencies visit the RootsTech youth night at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. Credit: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

“There is a fire in these youth because of their covenants,” said Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, Young Women general president, following the event.

Youth love to gather, they want to connect, and they feel like they belong, she said.

“These youth have a vision for the potential and power of family history,” she said. “They want to be part of a cause, and when their cause is the gospel of Jesus Christ and gathering Israel, they truly are the mighty youth battalion President Nelson invited them to be.”

Sister Becky Craven, second counselor in the Young Women general presidency said it is overwhelming to see the number of youth that love family history. “This used to be something just for their grandmas, and now they have pretty well taken over.” 

Thousands attend the RootsTech youth night at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020.
Thousands attend the RootsTech youth night at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. Credit: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

She continued, “Just to stop and talk to the youth about who’s involved in family history, who’s going to the temple, who’s finding names — they are actively involved. They are part of the gathering.”

Elle Gregersen, Wynter Williams and Grace Redington came to the RootsTech youth activities with their Young Women group and couldn’t wait to try out the escape room.

“My favorite part about family history is the cool stories,” Williams said. 

Gregersen said, “I like learning about family and finding new relatives.”

Said Brother Stephen W. Owen, Young Men general president: “It amazes me how many youth are here. … They are engaging with all of these events, and it’s been remarkable for me to be able to see this.”

Brother Stephen W. Owen, Young Men general president, reaches out to help Fatai Tuiono after the pair participated in a stick pull as the Young Men and Young Women general presidencies attended the RootsTech youth night at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020.
Brother Stephen W. Owen, Young Men general president, reaches out to help Fatai Tuiono after the pair participated in a stick pull as the Young Men and Young Women general presidencies attended the RootsTech youth night at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. Credit: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

“There is great energy and excitement,” added Sister Michelle Craig, first counselor in the Young Women general presidency. “If they are not doing family history, hopefully this can hook them. They can see that it’s really fun.”

Carter Hansen, 12, had an ear-to-ear smile on his face when Brother Douglas D. Holmes greeted him during one of the activities. “Today is my birthday,” he said, and meeting the first counselor in the Young Men general presidency was the best birthday present. “It was amazing.”

Brother Holmes, too, felt the energy in the youth. “They are excited and energetic. They are just loving it. … I love what Elder Bednar said a long time ago, that youth will lead family history to a whole new level. We’re seeing another indication of it here tonight.”

Brother Stephen W. Owen, Young Men general president, takes a selfie with Quinlan Hart as the Young Men and Young Women general presidencies attended the RootsTech youth night at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020.
Brother Stephen W. Owen, Young Men general president, takes a selfie with Quinlan Hart as the Young Men and Young Women general presidencies attended the RootsTech youth night at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. Credit: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Laura Zimmerman, 18, and her friend, Marie Davidson, 18, said they spotted Sister Craig from across the room and were thrilled with the chance to talk with her. She had “that glow,” they said.

“We’re 18, and we have a ton of life decisions coming up,” Zimmerman said. “We were talking about how important it is to start with belief in Christ and work from there. It really helped me.”

Davidson added, “She was so relatable and so down to earth. I felt the Spirit from her.”

Emily Johnson and Rachael Nufer write their feelings about the Church and what it means to them on notebooks on a wall as attend RootsTech youth night at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020.
Emily Johnson and Rachael Nufer write their feelings about the Church and what it means to them on notebooks on a wall as attend RootsTech youth night at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. Credit: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Reflecting on her experience with the youth, Sister Cordon said, “Our youth already set the standard when it comes to family history and temple work. They lead the way and rally their parents and leaders to finish the incredible work they have started.”