Brisbane Conference Yields Aspirations to Excellence for 1,150 Teens
Put 1,150 youth together for six days, with 200 devoted Young Single Adults as shepherds; add scriptures, devotionals, workshops on gospel themes, testimonies, inspiring speakers, a lot of action and fun, and what do you get? Brisbane's Special Multi-Stake Youth Conference!
With the theme “Believe, Hope, Endure,” the event was held at the University of Queensland in January, setting minds and hearts aglow with the light of Gospel truths. Conference directors, Chantal and Kendall Pitman, spent two and a half years preparing the event.
Elder F. Michael Watson of the Seventy and counsellor in the Pacific Area Presidency and his wife, Sister Jolene M. Watson, spoke in two devotionals on the theme of the Conference, the importance of becoming students of the scriptures and following the Spirit as guides in coping with the challenges facing the rising generation.
Elder Jeffrey Cummings, Area Seventy, urged the youth to be vigilant in adhering to the teachings of the prophets. He also told them, “My wife reminded me I needed a haircut before coming to Youth Conference—that it was a requirement to attend. Even an Area Seventy needs to follow the 'Strength of Youth' standards.”
President and Sister Wheelwright of BYU Hawaii attended and shared the importance of education. Elders William Hopoate and Kyle Wilson, missionaries serving in the Brisbane Mission, also addressed the youth.
The young attendees, on their registration forms, wrote that they came hoping to make new friends, feel the Spirit, learn to deal with peer pressure or family struggles, or gain strength to live the gospel. Most went home at the end of the week with all that and much more.
Sulianna Fa, one of the participants, commented after the conference, “A couple of months ago I bought a ticket to a concert; but since Youth Conference I know it is something the Lord does not want me to be a part of, and it is somewhere I know I shouldn't be.”
“I feel a deep love and connection with the leaders who helped me become a better priesthood holder,” said Sam Walker, “and I hope all the guys in my 'Company' serve an honourable full-time mission. This has been the best week of my life.”
Tammy Munro, one of the coordinators, recounted the themes most commonly expressed by the youth in their testimonies:
• For the first time in my life I felt what the Spirit feels like.
• I no longer feel alone in living the standards in the face of peer pressure.
• I want to make my life better.
• I am determined to serve a mission
• If I'm not getting married in the temple, I'm not getting married.
• I am a different person from the one who came here.
The youth were organized into groups of ten males or females and assigned to a Young Single Adult group leader for the week. Four groups formed a Company. At first they knew few if any of their group or company mates, but by end of the week, they were fast friends.
Two hundred pre-trained Young Single Adults served as counsellors, coordinators, health mentors and audio visual specialists. Most were returned missionaries, all were temple worthy, and all taught devotionals, shared testimonies, lived the church standards with the youth and inspired them to be better.
Daily morning scripture sessions—individual study for thirty minutes followed by group discussion for thirty minutes—gave many youth their first taste of the power of personal scripture study.
Service activities, dances, a variety show, gospel classes by guest instructors, and Strength of Youth sessions rounded out the days that Tammy Munro described as being filled with “an excited buzz.”
The Conference was originally to be held in January of 2011, but the University of Queensland accommodation was rendered unusable by severe flooding the week before the event. Many of the youth and YSA, their plans disrupted, rolled up their sleeves and spent that week assisting with clean-up efforts. Surely to them, this Conference was all the better.