Growing up in a small branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Iceland, Elín Guðnason said attending For the Strength of Youth conferences as a youth gave her “something to hold on to.”
As she gathered with fellow youth from Iceland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway, she gained the spiritual strength she needed to return to her town where the Church was small. Her testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ grew. She felt inspired to serve a mission and dreamed of returning one day to FSY as a counselor.
“FSY does that to you, where you can be so strengthened. … You can’t find such a strength anywhere else,” said Guðnason, who served in the Utah Salt Lake City Temple Square Mission before serving as an FSY counselor in Germany this summer.
As a counselor, she watched youth gain a similar spiritual strength from FSY. “The youth were so strengthened by having other members around them,” she said. “I feel like FSY helps truly to open their eyes … like, ‘I’m not as lonely as I thought I was in the gospel.’”
The youth she served in Germany are a few of the record 150,000 youth worldwide who are expected to attend FSY in 2022.
FSY — a five-day gathering that includes activities, devotionals and classes — is designed to help strengthen faith in Jesus Christ. Modeled after Brigham Young University’s Especially for Youth program, FSY has been held internationally for more than 15 years.
This summer marked the first time FSY expanded to the United States and Canada — giving youth around the globe the same opportunity to participate in this key part of the Children and Youth program.
The Young Women and Young Men general presidencies witnessed the far-reaching influence of FSY while visiting some of the conferences this summer.
“I’m grateful that the growth wasn’t just exclusive for the youth,” said Young Women General President Bonnie H. Cordon. “The growth was actually for anyone who touched FSY. Everyone who even went to observe FSY came to know the Savior better. It truly was a sacred ground, whether it was in Arkansas or Alaska or even in Germany, because we had youth all over the world going to FSY.”
Young Men General President Steven J. Lund said: “I experienced firsthand what President Cordon was talking about. My testimony changed as I saw how active the Spirit was. … It was like Heavenly Father and His Spirit seemed to follow these kids around, waiting for just the right teachable moment. And then intelligence would just pour into them. …
“They went through an arc of growth … ending in a place of real hope, real testimony, real conviction and real commitment.”
What FSY has done for the youth and YSAs
Sister Rebecca L. Craven, second counselor in the Young Women general presidency, said FSY provided a sense of belonging for many youth. They left behind their identities in school, sports and extracurricular activities and embraced each other as fellow children of God.
“They just came and loved each other and became best friends without any preconception of what their past was, what their other interests were, the other labels that they were carrying — they just supported each other,” Sister Craven said.
She continued: “We are hearing life-changing experiences from youth and their YSA counselors. They are going home with new habits and testimonies that they may not have recognized in the past.”
While in Mexico, Brother Ahmad S. Corbitt, first counselor in the Young Men general presidency, asked youth about their experience at FSY. Like Guðnason saw in Germany, Brother Corbitt said youth in Mexico also found strength in spiritual experiences as well as numbers — something they weren’t used to with few Church members at their schools.
At an FSY conference in Salt Lake City, Brother Bradley R. Wilcox, second counselor in the Young Men general presidency, observed about the youth: “They’re seeing role models in the counselors, and in the teachers, and in some of the other youth. And those role models are helping them understand that they can be close to the Church, they can be strong in the Church, and they can still be cool.”
For many, FSY was a chance to see that the gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of joy, said Sister Michelle D. Craig, first counselor in the Young Women general presidency. “I think they experienced how living the gospel can be fun. It is fun, it is joyful. Being fun and being spiritual are not mutually exclusive.”
Keep the momentum of FSY going
Sister Craig noted, “We have a remarkable opportunity as families and leaders and friends who love our youth and YSAs to keep that experience alive in their hearts and to build on what was started at FSY.”
Referencing what President Russell M. Nelson taught about the power of spiritual momentum, President Lund said: “This momentum that comes out of FSY just can’t be overlooked. … These young people have come out of FSY having made genuine commitments with God.
“Let’s find ways in our weekly activities, in our Sunday lessons and so forth, to always make sure that we’re building upon that, reminding them who they are and reassuring them that they really had that experience. … If we just let it sit for two years until they can go again, they can forget. These are perishable learnings, perishable skills.”
President Cordon suggested asking youth questions, such as “What did you learn?” “What were the goals that you set?” “How do you want FSY to move forward in your life this year?” “What would you tell your younger brothers and sisters about FSY?” “How could I know Christ better like you did at FSY?”
Remind them about their experiences, President Cordon encouraged, “but also allow them to remind each other. I think many times we discount what the youth already know. Give them a voice. Let them have a voice of FSY. So many times we want to remind them of what they know, but they were there. They will testify and they will bring others back.
“Allow them to build your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ,” she said.
What youth and YSA are saying about FSY
Below are quotes from youth and YSA counselors around the world who participated in FSY this year.
The gospel can help in difficult times
“I feel very grateful for FSY; it is a blessing for me. It has had an impact on my life, especially the things we learned about the eternal family. FSY has also helped me prepare for my mission. One important thing I have learned here is how the gospel can help me through difficult times, when you have faith and listen to the Spirit and you will be able to overcome the challenges in your life.”
— Jatmiko, attended FSY in Bogor, Indonesia
Getting out of comfort zone
“FSY was a great opportunity to make friends, have fun with other youth and get out of your comfort zone. I felt the Spirit and learned how to share my testimony and strengthen it.”
— Jacqueline, attended FSY in Brisbane, Australia
Centering life on Christ brings joy
“Everything I did as a counselor was pointing me to the Savior — serving the youth, attending devotionals and classes, testifying and teaching of Christ, interacting with other Spirit-filled people and setting aside time for daily personal study and prayer. I learned that as I am intentional about centering my life on Christ I am able to feel true joy.”
— Abby Crane, FSY counselor in Utah and Indiana
Finding an answer to concerns
“The reason I participated in FSY was because I had a lot of worries about the entrance exam and career path. These days, I have been neglecting Church activities due to my studies, and I could not get an answer even after consulting my parents and Church leaders about whether it was right for me. … Then, when I heard that FSY was being held, I [decided to attend], and I was surprised to see the FSY’s theme verse [Proverbs 3:5-6]. That scripture provided an answer to my concerns.”
— Garam Baek, attended FSY in Gwangju, South Korea
Change through Christ
“We are deepening our testimonies of Jesus Christ through this FSY program. We have seen each other strengthen and grow through sharing times, especially during the For the Strength of Youth sessions. ... I was touched to see all the middle and high school students preparing to become missionaries. With this FSY program, the youth can change through Jesus Christ.”
— Miyu Ohata, FSY counselor in Japan
“I learned a lot from FSY, especially boosting my self-confidence in terms of sharing my ideas with others. My faith in God also grew stronger and deeper, and I have gained a desire to serve a mission.”
— Rey Jared Apilado, attended FSY in the Philippines
Hearing the Lord’s voice
“At FSY I not only saw my own testimony being strengthened but others’ testimonies around me as well. It was powerful to see how everyone hears the Lord’s voice in distinctive ways and feels the Spirit differently.”
— Addi Jorgensen, attended FSY in Georgia
‘Let God prevail’
“Everything that I taught was something that I needed to feel and believe myself. It’s not as if I could say ‘You should read the scriptures everyday’ and not do it myself. … It gave me a different perspective of how important it is, how President [Russell M.] Nelson said it, ‘Let God prevail’ in your life.”
— Elín Guðnason, FSY counselor in Germany