News Release

During Pandemic, Latter-day Saint Caribbean Youth Attend First-ever Virtual FSY Conference 

Over 3,000 Latter-day Saint youth and friends of the faith from more than 27 countries and territories in the Caribbean participated in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ first-ever five-day virtual For the Strength of Youth conference.

Traditionally, For the Strength of Youth (FSY) conferences include on-site recreational activities, devotionals, and classes designed to help strengthen faith in Jesus Christ and provide opportunities for youth to grow spiritually, socially, physically, and intellectually.

Downloadable resources for the media: B-roll

 

“When I first heard about it, I wanted to go immediately,” said Diamond Delecia Johnson, a 13-year-old Latter-day Saint from Mandeville, Jamaica. “When I heard we could do it through technology, I was pretty excited.”

This year, concerns associated with COVID-19’s spread influenced the Church’s Caribbean Area Presidency’s decision to fully transition what was traditionally an in-person conference to an entirely online and streamed experience.

“We want to follow the prophet in his priority of caring for the youth, so we held this virtual event for the first time,” said Elder Jorge Alvarado, second counselor of the Caribbean Area Presidency. “This will ideally contribute to their missionary preparation, bearing good fruit to society as men and women of God.”

Virtual FSY Conference
Latter-day Saint youth and their counselors are interviewed by Church Newsroom and Church News via Zoom video conference on Friday, June 26, 2020. Over 3,000 youth from more than 27 Caribbean countries and territories participated in the first-ever online For the Strength of Youth conference held on June 22-26, 2020.2020 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
                                       

“We have classes over Zoom, we study scriptures and we have interactive family history classes,” said 26-year-old Rosa Espinal, an FSY counselor from the Dominican Republic.

Espinal and other youth counselors that help fill logistical and leadership roles at FSY conferences explained that each day, youth conference-goers watched streamed sessions with the event’s guest speakers, joined gospel-centered classes using different web channels and interacted using a variety of social media platforms.

“I was very excited because despite of everything [COVID-19], I attended the conference,” said Jennifer Fortuné, a 17-year-old from Saint-Marc, Haiti.

“[Heavenly Father] inspired our leaders to find a way to communicate with us because He knew we were in great need to have this conference,” added Fortuné.

24-year-old Joseph Brigham Dupont, from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, expressed his appreciation to serve as a youth counselor, especially during a worldwide pandemic.

“This special conference reminded me, the Lord said that ‘I will not forget the islands of the sea’ … despite all of the changes that we are facing, He shows us that He remembers us and will always be there for us,” said Dupont.

FSY messages and learning opportunities taught youth participants about the event’s theme, “The Lord always prepares a way,” and gospel-related principles to guide them in their youth.

“It was a teaching for them that the gospel does not stop, but rather adjusts the way of carrying out the work,” said Elder Cándido Fortuna, a Church Area Seventy.

“Our circumstances don’t define us, our choices do,” said Dale G. Renlund, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who was accompanied by his wife, Ruth, in his message delivered from Salt Lake City, Utah to the virtual FSY audience in the Caribbean.

“Those obstacles that come, we can overcome and as we do, we learn who we are and that hearkens back to our eternal destiny and identity,” he added.

Other Church leaders that spoke during the five-day conference included Bonnie Cordon, Young Women General President; Steven G. Lund, Young Men General President; members of the Caribbean Area Presidency including Elder José L. Alonso, president; Elder Eduardo Gavarret, first counselor; Elder Jorge M. Alvarado, second counselor; among other local Church leaders.

Shortly after each faith-building experience, Espinal explained that she and her assigned youth group reconnected online through social media.

“We have interactions through WhatsApp, to talk about what we learned in classes,” she said.

In addition, the conference’s program was interpreted in and made available for English, Dutch, French, Haitian and Spanish-speaking youth.

Jeri-Ann Jenkins, a 23-year-old FSY counselor from Mandeville, Jamaica, explained that the diversity of the youth she guided during the conference made it a memorable experience.

“This was such a beautiful experience because we have kids representing three or four countries in my group,” said Jenkins. “They realized they’re not the only Saints in the Caribbean. Different languages, cultures, accents — that believe the same way I do.”

“We are lucky, as this generation, to be born with technology and connect during this pandemic,” said 16-year-old Sae-Yeong Achee, a Latter-day Saint who lives in New Amsterdam, Guyana.

The program also included live and prerecorded musical numbers prepared and performed by Latter-day Saints in the same age group (14-17 years old) from the region and a virtual performance by Nik Day, a well-known Latter-day Saint singer and songwriter of youth songs including, “Peace in Christ,” and “I Will Go and Do.”

In some instances, Latter-day Saint youth performed self-authored music and shared their various types of talents including dancing and playing instruments.

Virtual FSY June 2020
Juliette Martínez, a Latter-day Saint youth from the Caribbean, executes a grand jeté with the ocean in the background, as part of a pre-recorded musical performance for the first-ever online FSY (For the Strength of Youth) conference held June 22-26, 2020.2020 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
                                      

Juliette Martinez, a 14-year-old Latter-day Saint from Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, chose to share her talent as a ballerina and performed a dance to the song, “What Does He Think?”

Alanis Acosta Rosario, also from the Dominican Republic, sang “He Will Never Change.” The songs’ lyrics emphasize the importance of never losing hope in Jesus Christ during difficult times.

Leading up to the conference, Latter-day Saint youth were invited to extend the opportunity to attend the digital conference to friends who are not of their faith — so they too, could learn about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ beliefs.

“My family is Catholic, but my family is open to other religions and me taking my own path,” said 17-year-old Rosibel De Jesus, from La Romana, Dominican Republic.

De Jesus shared that she accepted the invitation to attend the FSY conference from her Latter-day Saint friend.

“In my family history class, they mentioned [proxy] baptisms for the dead and they explained it to me,” said De Jesus.

“I will never forget that I can help my ancestors. The law of chastity also caught my attention, I always believed in that,” she added.

“Any feelings of loneliness in the world, I think that was eradicated [by] knowing that there’s somebody else … going through the same exact things,” said Jenkins, shortly before the conference wrapped up. “It made the world a bit smaller and connected.”

Newsroom will continue to update this story with video resources.

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