Featured Stories

Summer of Gathering: FSY Conferences Begin in U.S., Canada

‘These events are an anchor, a cornerstone of the Children and Youth program,’ says Young Men General President

This story appears here courtesy of TheChurchNews.com. It is not for use by other media.

By Christine Rappleye, Church News

For the Strength of Youth conferences have begun for the summer, marking a new part of the Church’s Children and Youth program for youth in the United States and Canada

FSY conferences are “an anchor, a cornerstone of the Children and Youth program,” Young Men General President Steven J. Lund said. The FSY conferences give “them a week of immersion under the Spirit, which changes them.” 

While FSY conferences have been happening internationally for several years, this is the first year the conferences will be available for youth turning 14 years old in the U.S. and Canada. The conferences were postponed two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of the international conferences have been postponed or were virtual the last couple of years, also due to pandemic conditions and restrictions. 

Young Women General President Bonnie H. Cordon said, “Each area is handling it a little bit differently. In some areas they will have to do it virtually, but the gathering of the youth so that they can gather each other to Christ is happening all over.” 

A group of young men study together at a For the Strength of Youth conference at Brigham Young University on August 12, 2021. Photo by Jon Ryan Jensen, courtesy of Church News.Copyright 2022 Deseret News Publishing Company.

Youth at FSY 

FSY conferences are modeled after BYU’s Especially for Youth program (EFY) and include music, devotionals, classes, games, dances, variety shows and other activities

“After this conference, the confidence in the Spirit, confidence in themselves knowing who they are and that they can hear the voice of the Lord is huge,” President Cordon said.

Stakes in the U.S. and Canada have been assigned to even years or odd years. Registration has been open for those in stakes assigned to even years, and registration recently opened for graduating seniors who are in stakes assigned to attend during odd years. 

The effects of a week in a spiritual environment with other youth are more than simply a week away from home, President Lund said. 

“Our research shows us that youth who have this opportunity end up on a healthier trajectory, on average, than others who may not have been able to do this. We tend to see more of them catch a vision of who they are and what their relationship is to heaven that turns into more of them going on missions, more of them being endowed, more of them in marriages in the temple and so forth,” President Lund said. 

As organizers have planned for the 150,000 youth expected at FSY conferences in the U.S. and Canada at more than 60 college campuses, they’re planning for enough space for all of the youth in the Church’s records and then some. 

FSY attendees gather with their counselor at a For the Strength of Youth conference at BYU in the summer of 2022. Photo by BYU Photo, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.

“Bring your friends and bring any who are less active,” said Sister Rebecca L. Craven, Second Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency. Those bringing a friend will need to go through their local bishops to ensure friends understand the standards at the events and for registration.  

As they gather at the conferences, Brother Ahmad S. Corbitt, First Counselor in the Young Men General Presidency, said, “FSY conferences will help the youth to answer the prophet’s call to help gather Israel on both side of the veil.”

President Cordon said, “Can you imagine going to an event that the First Presidency had invited all youth to go through because that is part of the Children and Youth Program? What an exciting time. So we’re excited to invite and see all the youth there. And next year, it will see the rest of you.” 

Finding Counselors 

About 2,300 young single adults are assisting with FSY events in the United States and Canada, including 1,900 as counselors.

The Young Men and Young Women General Presidencies spent time at the beginning of the year reaching out to young single adults about being FSY counselors. These efforts included 20 devotionals in several states from Massachusetts and Virginia to Wyoming and Arizona, communicating with mission presidents and missionaries who would be released by the end of May and visiting religion classes at BYU and BYU–Idaho in advance of the March application deadlines for the paid counselor positions. They also asked the young single adults to think of others who would be interested and available to be counselors. 

“These people are so talented, they have choices,” President Lund said. “And so many of them are making sacrifices so they could go back for money someplace else, or they could have great experiences somewhere else. And they’re choosing to do this anyway.”

At FSY, the youth are placed in counselor groups with about 10 youth from the same age group and a counselor, and possibly an assistant counselor, of the same sex. Two or three counselor groups comprise a company. 

Counselors and staff prepare for the FSY conferences at BYU in May 2022. Photo by BYU Photo, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.

“There’s a magic that happens because those young adult counselors are just older than the youth,” said Brother Bradley R. Wilcox, Second Counselor in the Young Men General Presidency. “So the youth still consider them very cool, and they connect with them.” 

They can see how the young single adults dance, enjoy games and still live the gospel, he added. 

“In an FSY, there’s power in letting them find a touchable hero, somebody that’s close enough to their age that can become a real hero to them,” Brother Wilcox said. 

President Cordon said, “These YSAs are remarkable individuals, many of them have come off of missions or life experiences that are just a step beyond what these youths are going to experience.” 

With these experiences, the young single adults have a way to teach about Jesus Christ and help with specific situations. 

“It will be a revelatory summer for these YSAs because anytime you bring someone to the Savior, you come to know Him better,” she said.  

Also at FSY conferences, volunteer assistant counselors are available for those who may have a week or two in a specific area. Assistant counselors help accompany youth as they travel to and from the conferences from their stake areas and help out at the conference during the week. They are needed all across the country. 

“The assistant counselors will be that first ‘spirit of FSY’ that those youth will see as they get on the buses,” President Cordon said. 

For information about FSY counselors and volunteer assistant counselors see FSYcounselors.ChurchofJesusChrist.org

Having Fun and Spiritual Experiences 

It was an EFY session as a teenager that helped Tyler Dawes understand more about his relationship with Heavenly Father through the questions and frustrations he was experiencing. 

“That week at EFY, I learned that God was real, that He was my Heavenly Father and that I was His son,” said Dawes. “My life completely changed around. I felt the conviction that God is real … and it’s changed the rest of my life.”

Dawes, 24 and a senior at BYU, applied to be an EFY counselor after he returned from serving a mission and while he was studying at BYU. He was a counselor for 10 sessions in 2019. Dawes worked in the FSY office as an assistant coordinator with the pilot sessions last year and will be a coordinator this summer. 

Counselors and staff prepare for the For the Strength of Youth conferences at BYU in the summer of 2022. Photo by BYU Photo, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.

As a counselor, he shares his experiences and helps the youth to be able to have their own spiritual experiences, too. 

“You can have fun and still feel the Spirit,” Dawes said of the conferences.

He’s seen counselors with a variety of talents and abilities — ranging from bubbly and energetic to quiet and reserved — and how they’ve been able to help and connect with the youth in their groups.  

“Ultimately, I’ve seen it impact my life far beyond what I thought was possible, and I’ve seen it impact the lives of others,” he said. 

Nikita Ramos served a mission in San Francisco, California. Afterward, while studying at BYU–Hawaii, she applied to be a counselor, since attending a conference as a teenager helped her when she was trying to figure out if the gospel was true.

“It was a fun experience, but I wasn’t planning on doing it again,” said 26-year-old Ramos, a BYU–Hawaii graduate who now teaches second grade. That fall, she picked up her scripture case, and the notes from the participants she worked with fell out. She figured she would do it one more time. It turned into several more times as a counselor. She also been an assistant coordinator.

As a counselor, she wanted to be ready for gospel conversations, but she also wanted to “learn how to help others learn for themselves.”

“You get out of it what you put into it,” she said. “FSY has created a place where the Spirit is felt.” 

While the conferences are designed for the youth, she’s seen in herself and others how the counselors have grown and benefited from what they’ve learned.

Young men head to class at a For the Strength of Youth conference on August 12, 2021. Photo by Jon Ryan Jensen, courtesy of Church News.Copyright 2022 Deseret News Publishing Company.

How Leaders and Parents Can Help

“There are lots of ways for people to get involved without necessarily being a counselor,” Brother Wilcox said. Many others, including married young adults, have expressed interest in helping with FSY. 

“We’re encouraging them to get involved in their wards and stake in helping young people as they prepare to go and then as they come home and bring that experience home with them,” Brother Wilcox said. 

That can range from helping youth who might feel nervous about being away from home for several days to working with youth to prepare to participate in the FSY variety show, he said. 

Pointing to having events canceled or postponed for the last couple of years due to the pandemic, Sister Michelle D. Craig, First Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency, said, “We need each other and we need to gather. So for our youth, for the YSAs, then as they go home with their families — this can strengthen all of us.”

For information on FSY, including registration, see FSY.ChurchofJesusChrist.org/. For information about counselors, see FSYcounselors.ChurchofJesusChrist.org

Copyright 2022 Deseret News Publishing Company.

Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.